Barrington’s historic Catlow rolls out red carpet on Oscars’ eve
Barrington Village President Karen Darch and Dave Nelson greet guests at the Catlow Theater's door Saturday. The historic theater screened this year's Oscar-nominated short films for 500 people on the eve of the Academy Awards. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-T
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Updated: April 1, 2013 6:34AM
BARRINGTON — Gathering around the TV to guess which films take home an Academy Award is a family tradition for Kris Trevail.
Long-distance relatives get involved, too, the Barrington resident said. Casting ballots from afar, the Trevail’s compare the family predictions with the live results.
Yet a couple of categories leave everyone stumped.
“Where do you find these short films normally if you don’t go to something like this?” wondered Trevail, who on Saturday had the rare opportunity to view all 10 Oscar-nominated short films in one sitting.
The historic Catlow Theater in downtown Barrington rolled out the red carpet to 575 movie aficionados on the eve of the 85th Academy Awards. The sold-out afternoon showing featured this year’s nominees in the categories of Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short Film.
“The variety is terrific,” said Jack Schaefer of the Barrington Cultural Commission, which co-hosted the event.
If a film didn’t suit someone’s fancy, he said, there was “something else coming around the corner.”
The lineup featured the familiar animation of Disney in the love-at-first-sight story “Paperman,” which ended up earning the Academy Award on Sunday night.
“The Simpsons” characters made an appearance in “The Longest Daycare,” which also was considered among the animated short film front runners leading up to the award show.
But Inverness resident Ritu Sangh was pulling for “Head over Heels,” the tale of a married couple whose disagreements are illustrated by a topsy-turvy house.
She enjoyed all of the films’ to-the-point style, however.
“Most of them had no dialogue but they conveyed a message without being too long,” she said.
Several theatergoers agreed the key to crafting a successful short film is not wasting time. The clever concoction in “Fresh Guacamole” took a pair of hands one minute and 41 seconds to create.
“It’s all about finding a storyline and having the images that convey a sense of economy,” said Martin Wojcik of Chicago. “Short stories are in the moment.”
Heavy themes dominate this year’s list of Best Live Action Short Films nominees, including two stories of children in war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia.
Catlow co-owner Tim O’Connor said the Dutch film “Death of a Shadow” reminded him of “The Twilight Zone.”
“Was that strange or what?” added Schaefer.
On Sunday night, however, “Curfew” won the Academy Award for live action short film.
The Oscars shorts screening was Mark Hutchinson’s first visit to the Catlow since its dramatic audio and visual equipment overhaul in late December.
“Now that it’s digital I hope they do this more often,” said the Barrington resident, who attended the event with his nephew, Patrick Lane, of McHenry.
Hollywood’s move to eliminate film in favor of less-expensive digital formatting had jeopardized the future of the 85-year-old movie house.
But an online fundraising campaign last summer saved the Catlow from digital extinction. About $175,000 poured in from 1,400 people across the country. The amount, nearly double what O’Connor had hoped to collect, allowed him to purchase a digital projector, surround-sound system, speakers, subwoofer and related equipment.
He also upgraded the theater’s heating and air-conditioning units as well as the 1970s-era movie screen. Moviegoers are now treated to new popcorn and butter machines, too.
O’Connor gave his 35mm Simplex projectors to Chicago oldie the Portage Theater. Instead of having to splice film to show five consecutive short movies at a time, O’Connor popped in DVDs and worked from a computer.
“I don’t miss film at all,” he said. “I was born for digital.”
Longtime Barrington resident Barb Day said she’s more than pleased the upgrade worked out for the local theater. The Catlow has been her go-to cinema for 55 years.
“I thought it was phenomenal,” she said of the Oscars shorts event.
As for which films deserve Sunday’s coveted award, Day couldn’t decide. In her eyes, they were all top-notch.
“It will be interesting to see who wins,” she said. “I’ll be watching.”