The 2015 oscar-nominated short films
Opening January 30 at IFC Center
Removed as they are from the unforgiving realities of the marketplace for feature-length releases, one might think it at least possible that Academy would use the three short-film categories to reward the sorts of aesthetic values that typically get short shrift in more commercial fare. Such reasoning, this year’s contenders leave little doubt, operates on the rankest naiveté.
Good leading roles for women in movies, especially movies high-profile enough to get Oscar attention, have been hard to come by for years, maybe even decades at this point. But the problem has reached a particular nadir around this year’s Best Actress campaigning. Two of the biggest contenders, including a supposed frontrunner, feel less like actual movies than elaborate shell games built around famous faces. Both Still Alice, with Julianne Moore, and Cake, with Jennifer Aniston, are 2014 releases in name only, festival pick-ups that received minimum qualifying theatrical runs in 2014 (Alice even snuck into Manhattan for a week) before treating back into their hiding spots with dubious awards buzz in their wake. They’ve re-emerged in January (Still Alice out this weekend, Cake next), ready for their close-up, which Alice has received in the form of an Oscar nomination for Moore; Cake was not so lucky. Moreover, though: Who, a month ago, had actually seen Still Alice or Cake? I’m not just talking about the general public, but even film critics and other assorted media snobs. More have seen both movies now, though anecdotal evidence suggests the films, particularly Cake (which hasn’t even screened for the press in some cities), are not particularly easy to come by, considering how many awards movies bend over backwards to get seen by mid-December. They come off more like rumors of films: awards buzz that have taken on the ghostly shape of movies.