‘Paperman,’ ‘Curfew,’ ‘Inocente’ win short film Oscars at the Academy Awards

It was a David-versus-Goliath battle for the Best Animated Short Oscar, and the heftier opponent won out as Disney”s black-and-white romance “Paperman” took the award. 

Mainstream appeal also won out in the Best Live Action Short race, as Shawn Christensen’s “Curfew” — the only English-language, American-set nominee in a highly international field — took the award. The Best Documentary Short Oscar, meanwhile, went to Sean Fine and Andrea Nix’s “Inocente.”

The animated short result may seem an obvious outcome, but it”s actually the Mouse House”s first win in the category since “It”s Tough to Be a Bird” in 1969. John Kahrs, a Disney animator who has previously worked on such features as “Tangled” and “Bolt,” directed the whimsical film, about a lowly office clerk who finds love at first sight on the subway, and is surprised to find magical stationery products playing Cupid.

As Kahrs explained in his speech, this was the first time the Academy opened voting in the shorts categories to the entire membership, which many speculated could account for a more populist slant to the outcome. “Paperman” enjoyed the greatest theatrical exposure of the five nominees, having played in front of animated feature nominee “Wreck-It Ralph” upon release. (Only half that double-bill was triumphant tonight, however, as “Ralph” lost its race to Pixar’s “Brave.”

Kahrs was the favorite for the award, having won this category at the animation industry”s Annie Awards recently – though one of his competitors, Minkyu Lee for “Adam and Dog,” won that award last year. Ironically, Lee is also a Disney animator, though his was an independent production.

“Curfew” director Christensen was clearly overwhelmed by his victory for the quirky New York-set dramedy, in which he plays a suicidal junkie given a new lease on life when called upon to babysit his precocious 12-year-old niece for a day.

Amid heartfelt thanks to his family, Christensen singled out his young co-star Fatima Ptacek. “Nobody even remembers I’m in the film because of you,” he quipped. “You’re incredible.”

The award is an auspicious one that has previously been awarded to such eventual feature-film luminaries as Taylor Hackford, Andrea Arnold and Martin McDonagh.

Though Christensen is an Oscar newcomer, the Best Documentary Short winners have been to the dance before: Fine and Nix’s film 2007 film “War Dance” was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature award. They accepted their award onstage together with the eponymous subject of “Inocente,” a teenaged artist whose struggle to overcome homelessness is the subject of this powerful film.

“She’s an artist, and all of you are artists, and we feel like we need to start supporting artists,” said Fine. “Because they’re dying in our community.”