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What’s in theaters this week: Oscar shorts at Tampa Theatre, ‘50 Shades Freed,’ ‘Peter Rabbit’

By Steve Persall
Published: February 7, 2018 Updated: February 8, 2018 at 03:21 PM
Disney Pixar Oscar Shortlist for Best Animated Short Film Includes Pixar's "Lou."

Let’s keep the intro short. Tampa Theatre is again presenting the Academy Awards-nominated short subjects divided in three rotating sessions: animated, live action and documentary. Here’s an overview of what to expect and when:


5:45 p.m. Friday; 9 p.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday

One nominee was attached to Disney-Pixar’s Coco; Lou is a rose-colored anti-bullying lesson impressing the least yet could win thanks to its pedigree. Similar buzz surrounds Dear Basketball, a charcoal valentine to the game from NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

I’m pulling for Garden Party, an exercise in digital naturalism in which curious frogs prowl an empty mansion revealed to be a gruesome crime scene. Or maybe Negative Space, a somber, stop-motion bonding of father and son through lessons in how to pack luggage.

Each of those nominees run seven minutes or less, making the half-hour Revolting Rhymes an epic by comparison. It’s a Shrek-noir mashup of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Three Little Pigs with a fair share of laughs and fun voicing by Dominic West of a Big Bad Wolf.

The program is capped with three shorts that weren’t previewed and didn’t make the academy’s short list: Lost Property Office, Coin Operated and Achoo.


8 p.m. Friday; 6:30 p.m. Saturday; 8:15 p.m. Sunday

This year’s lineup is serious drama with the exception of Josh Lawson’s The Eleven O’Clock, a Pythonesque parry between a psychiatrist and a delusional patient believing he’s a psychiatrist.

Another crowd-pleaser is Chris Overton’s The Silent Child starring its writer, Rachel Shenton, as a tutor for a profoundly deaf child (Maisie Sly). Beautifully photographed, the Miracle Worker dynamics proceed a bit too quickly to clutch the heart but subtitles for its already English dialogue evidences the film’s advocacy for deaf rights.

Stirring notes of kind courage in real life are struck in two favorites: Katja Benrath’s Watu Wote/All of Us is based on a 2015 event in Kenya when al-Shabaab terrorists stopped a bus and Muslim passengers kept them from killing Christians on board. DeKalb Elementary is based on a 911 call about a gunman at an Atlanta school, with a terrific performance by Tarra Riggs as Cassandra Rice, a level-headed receptionist talking him down.

Good stuff but they pale next to the true-life My Nephew Emmett by Kevin Wilson Jr., certainly a filmmaker to watch. The title character is Emmett Till, a black youth from Chicago murdered in 1955 Mississippi after a white woman said she was offended by him. Wilson tells the story from the perspective of his uncle Mose Wright (L.B. Williams), a preacher whose home-movie testimony of what happened became a civil rights touchstone.


2 p.m. Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Monday

Get ready to devote three hours plus an intermission to this impressive collection.

Leading off is Traffic Stop, utilizing police dashcam footage of the dramatic arrest of Breaion King, a black teacher from Austin, Texas, by a white officer, and their conversation about race on the way to jail. Director Kate Davis inserts footage of King’s righteous life to make her points clearer.

Frank Stiefel’s Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 offers artist Mindy Alper, whose lifetime of depression and mental disorder includes 10 years without speaking. Her paintings and sculptures reveal an awareness of pain and solitude few survive.

Edith + Eddie follows the United States’ oldest interracial newlyweds, 96 and 95, respectively. Their sweet story that began with a lottery ticket is interrupted when Edith’s daughter in Florida wants her to move there, backed by a court-appointed guardian who never met the senior couple.

Heroin(e) is set in Huntington, W.Va., where three women battle the opioid epidemic as a first responder, drug court judge and minister. Elaine and Kerrin Sheldon’s movie is also available on Netflix.

Saving the best for last, Thomas Lennon’s Knife Skills traces the launch of a French restaurant in Cleveland with a staff of recent prison parolees with scant kitchen experience. The tensions of starting over and starting up make for fascinating viewing; both restaurants and rehabilitation may fail at similar rates. Check (it out), please.



The Fifty Shades franchise is that guilty one-night stand who stuck around for breakfast and is now planning lunch. Just go home already, Fifty Shades Freed (R), starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

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Get off Clint Eastwood’s train. The Oscar-winning director recounts the 2015 terrorist attack halted by three American tourists whom Eastwood cast to play themselves. So, why not Sully?

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James Corden voices the rabbit who, according to trailers, has developed a meaner streak than Beatrix Potter ever expected. Peter does the Home Alone routine on Farmer McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson in the bruised flesh). The voices of Margot Robbie and Daisy Ridley co-star.

In theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 The Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War fantasy leads with 13 Oscar nominations.

2 Call Me by Your Name: Remember the name Timothée Chalamet, an Oscar nominee for best actor.

3 I, Tonya: Margot Robbie is Oscar-nominated as Tonya Harding, skating on thin ice.

4 The Greatest Showman: An original musical about P.T. Barnum starring Hugh Jackman.

5 Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s best picture Oscar nominee, above, also earned directing and writing nods.


(Dates subject to change)

Feb. 16: Black Panther; Early Man

Feb. 23: Annihilation; Game Night; War With Grandpa; Every Day

March 2: Death Wish; Red Sparrow; Alpha

March 9: A Wrinkle in Time; Gringo; The Upside; The Hurricane Heist

March 16: Tomb Raider; Love, Simon

March 23: Isle of Dogs; Pacific Rim: Uprising; Sherlock Gnomes; Midnight Sun