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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A look back at some of Oscar's funniest live-action shorts

In the dark ages before the internet, Oscar-nominated short films could take on a nearly mythic quality: you'd hear about work starring the likes of Peter Sellers, Madeline Kahn, Steve Martin and Steven Wright, but almost never found opportunities to see them. Animated shorts often had touring programs, but the live-action ones would be orphaned. Youtube shows that shorts don't always live up to their legend, but still explore amusing ideas that wouldn't support a feature film.

"How To Sleep" (1935) Humorist Robert Benchley wrote and stars in this Oscar-winning mock-instructional short about the best way to take a snooze.

"The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film" (1959) Peter Sellers and Richard Lester directed this slapstick romp that influenced the likes of Monty Python and The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.

"The Dove" (1968) Character George Coe plays death and directs this droll, black and white Ingmar Bergman parody featuring Madeline Kahn.

"The Absent-Minded Waiter" (1977) Steve Martin stars in this amusing short about an incompetent server, featuring Buck Henry and Teri Garr.

"The Appointments of Dennis Jennings" (1988) Steven Wright plays a droning, self-absorbed loner who discovers that his shrink (Rowan Atkinson) may not have his best interests at heart.

"The Accountant" (2001) Georgia's Ray McKinnon won an Oscar for this darkly comedic Southern tale that evokes the vibe of a Flannery O'Connor short story. Here's a sample scene:

"West Bank Story" (2005) Ari Sandel's silly but pleasant musical Oscar-winner reconceives West Side Story as a conflict between competing falafel stands (Kosher King and Hummus Hut) and the two young lovers who bring them together.

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