Live-action shorts a tense collection

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.February 14, 2014 

Peg-Leg Pete, left, attempts to spoil the fun, but Mickey Mouse has a few tricks up his sleeve in the animated short “Get A Horse!” The tale features the voice of Walt Disney as Mickey.

DISNEY

The theme of this year’s Oscar-nominated live-action short films is tension.

All five shorts, even the lone comedy, are set in intense situations with races against the clock:

“Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?”: The shortest (about 7 minutes), funniest and best of the films is a witty slice of Finnish life. The title sentiment is expressed by a harried mother of two who’s trying to get ready for a big event without much cooperation from her clueless husband or rambunctious daughters. Chaotic, hilarious and recognizable to anyone who has ever hustled to get their family out the door, it packs a lot of fun into its brief running time.

“Helium”: Sentimental and dishonest, it’s a Danish drama about a hospital janitor who tries to enliven the final days of a dying boy.

“Just Before Losing Everything”: Some shorts feel overly extended, but this one is more like an entire feature jammed into 29 suspenseful minutes. A French woman gathers her two kids and hides out from her abusive husband, desperately trying to escape his clutches before he figures out what she’s up to.

“That Wasn’t Me”: From Spain, a topical melodrama about doctors who run afoul of terrorists while on a humanitarian mission in Sierra Leone. It’s familiar (there are echoes of “War Witch,” last year’s foreign-language nominee), but the charged action has a couple of smart surprises up its sleeve.

“The Voorman Problem”: For whatever reason, I sometimes conflate British actors Tom Hollander and Martin Freeman. That makes this clever short tricky because it’s essentially a two-character piece featuring those two actors. Freeman (I think) plays a psychiatrist sent to question a madman (Hollander, I think) who claims to be a god. Oh, and to back up his claim, he promises to make Belgium vanish.

OSCAR-NOMINATED LIVE-ACTION SHORTS

These are being distributed as a package, which opens Friday at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma.

Running time: About 100 minutes total for the 5 films.

Rated: Not rated; contain strong violence and language

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