Oscar-Nominated Shorts
April 5-7
NW Film Center
Whitsell Auditorium

Predicting the Academy Awards has practically become a national sport, and millions of citizens take a moment each year to contemplate which Best Supporting Actress will be found most sexually desirable by the elderly members of the Academy. However, for those intrepid souls who persist in making picks in each and every category--not just the easy, major ones--one section always ends up being a total crapshoot: the short films.

Although they're arriving a bit too late to be of any help in collecting an office pool, the screenings at the Northwest Film Center of the Oscar-nominated short films are still worth a gander. The main reason to attend is the Oscar winner for Best Live-Action Short Film, The Accoun-tant. The eponymous number cruncher is a mysterious stranger who arrives one day to help a struggling Southern farmer sort out his tax liability. The accountant ends up recommending that he "cash in" the life insurance policy on his wife to avoid being taken advantage of by a huge Washington-to-Hollywood conspiracy intent on robbing the Southern man of his way of life (whew!). At nearly forty minutes, it's long enough to allow the situation and characters to develop, but short enough not to wear out its one-joke-premise welcome.

Another worthwhile live-action entry, Speed for Thespians, is almost as amusing, as a trio of actors perform a Chekhov short story on a New York public bus. On the animated side, there's little to distinguish the competition behind computer-animated winner, For the Birds, from the corporately funded folks at Pixar, although Canada's Strange Invaders, about a couple who adopt an alien baby, has its moments.

And, in a most extraordinary turn of events, it seems that the little gold statues actually went to the deserving filmmakers for the short films. (It's amazing what can happen when you take the publicists out of the picture).