Short movies make big Oscar splash

Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:21pm EST
 
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By Steven Zeitchik

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Sexy Oscar races like best picture and best director may sport prohibitive front-runners. But those looking for intense awards jockeying might turn to . . . live-action shorts?

A surprising amount of manpower is being expended on small races or contenders this year, with the shorts contest in particular a touchstone for how developed -- or overdeveloped -- the Oscar industrial complex has become.

Powerhouse publicity shop agents have been brought on, media are being courted and events are put together for the collection of mini-features.

The Swiss Consulate General is throwing an Oscar week reception at Raleigh Studios for urban-isolation drama "On the Line." The filmmakers behind the German Holocaust short "Toyland" (probably the strongest film in the lot) want you to come to a director reception and Q&A this weekend at either the Laemmle or Raleigh Studios. Irish nominee "New Boy" has PR firm MRPM flogging it. The Danish Film Institute has taken out trade ads promoting "The Pig."

And you thought nominees like "Frost/Nixon" and "The Reader" seemed specialized.

Magnolia and the group Shorts international have teamed up in the past few years to distribute nominated shorts on DVD and in theaters, nobly raising the profile of what's generally a quality crop of films. But the truth is, the Oscar industrial complex was all over it anyway.

The growth in the number of consultants -- and the desire of small entities, particularly foreign film commissions -- to leverage their 15 Oscar minutes is partly responsible for the rise. So is the calendar, which has shifted in a way that's conducive to an escalation.

"There's an influx after the nominations in these specialized categories," said one awards consultant, "because once the season got shortened, there became a very short window when they could influence the process."   Continued...