ShortsTV Pre-Oscar Party

The neighborhood was of questionable character and the red carpet had been rolled up due to rain, with only the two steps up into the studio still red for the party. Yet ShortsTV Oscar Award party featured three Oscar winners the night before Oscar Sunday night and had that hipster, campy joy still present in the Hollywood small theater scene.

There were no long lines and we huddled briefly under the two dark canopies before the security guard checked our IDs to make sure we were alcohol-legal. On the screen were montages from the 15 short movies nominated for Oscars–five each for Live Action, Animation and Documentary.

The place was a large hunk of Hollywood history: Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake. The studio originally opened in 1916 with Sennett’s wife, comedienne Mabel Normand becoming one of Hollywood’s first female directors. Laurel and Hardy filmed there. Michael Jackson shot his “Remember the Time” music video there.

Saturday night the crowd was there to celebrate Oscar shorts and golden models–one male and one female–where there for photo ops as the appetizers were passed around. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences categorizes films that run 40 minutes or less, including all the credits, as a short film. Some of these films end up being teasers or promos for potentially longer films such as Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning 2014 “Whiplash” which was an 18-minute short film at Sundance in 2013, winning the short film Jury Award for fiction.

ShortsTV promotes itself as the world’s first and only 24/7 HD channel dedicated to short movies. This is the company that produces and distributes the annual Oscar Nominated Short Film for theatrical screening and provides independent shorts for download through Google Play and Amazon Instant Video.

ShortsTV celebrated each category with a motley band in mismatched uniforms supported by three cheerleaders and a moving platform on the back of a bicycle with a marquee light announcing the category. Representatives for each movie, if they were in attendance, received small awards, but ShortsTV had a few awards of its own.

Jennifer Morrison, who once played Dr. Allison Cameron on “House, MD” (2004-2012) and then Emma Swan in “Once Upon a Time” (2011-2017), was honored with a visionary award. She has been in a few shorts and directed two: “Warning Labels” and “Sun Dogs.” Morrison won a Trailblazer Award at the 2016 HollyShorts Film Festival. Her “Sun Dogs” was the Best Picture and Grand Jury Award winner at this year’s Mammoth Film Festival. Morrison noted she felt “very at home” on the stage where the fiercely mugging band continued to chew up the scenery even as they were playing intro music. She noted that shorts are “an amazing new way” for “ambitious female filmmakers” and congratulated everyone in the room for their “incredible art.”

Doug Jones, who made a swoon-worthy gill-man in Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” was also honored with a visionary award. Jones told the audience, “this is my third pre-Oscar party and my favorite” and he recommended “Don’t be afraid to approach any actor.” As a “goofy, tall, skinny guy” who was hamming it up with the band, he noted that “Sometimes you get to paid very little” if anything, but “that’s okay” if the role is worth it. He recalled playing Otto in “Butterfly Circus” (2009) and thought that short “empowers those who feel different.” Even though Jones was in the movie that went on to win Best Director, Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score and Best Production Design at the Oscars at this year’s Oscars, Jones also acted in three shorts: “The Boogeys” as Sycophant, “Duffy’s Jacket” as the Sentinel of the Woods and “My Friend Max” as Max Mastin in 2017.

ShortsTV also recognized that the India film industry has one of the largest audiences, but still doesn’t have an accredited film festival for its films to qualify. To make up for that, an International Award was given to the Best of India, Chintan Sarda’s “Shunyata,” a story about a remorseful hitman who finds hope in an unusual friendship.

At the Oscars on Sunday, Live Action winner “The Silent Child” details a real problem: Hearing disabilities ignored by parents afraid of being to different or perhaps even too lazy to take on the challenge of sign language.

Local sports hero Kobe Bryant wasn’t at the party and now the Laker has an Oscar for his “Dear Basketball,” the animation short winner that looks how Bryant went from dreaming big boy to basketball great and now must bid farewell to the game that shaped his life.

Just by the title, Los Angelenos can understand there’s a different outlook portrayed in “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405.” The 405 which runs between Irvine, Orange County in the south to the San Fernando Valley in the north is one of the worst freeways in legend. Yet, according to an LA Weekly article (“Traffic on the 405 Isn’t That Bad. Really!” 16 March 2016) the 101 Southbound is much worse. The dreaded 110 (Pasadena to San Pedro) is just a bit worse, too. Yet you don’t have to be from Los Angeles to appreciate the difficulties that this 56-year-old artist Mindy Alper faces in life and within her family.

Walking back to our car and hoping no one broke into it, I reflected on the many sides of Hollywood and the creativity that exists in the smaller theaters that are the otherside of Hollywood–places where “Real Women Have Curves” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” percolated and were first performed as plays.  Movie shorts and the ShortsTV Pre-Oscar Awards embraces that kind of individualism, low-budget determination and hope and a lot of questionable characters that might not fit into the normal big studio roster.

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