The shorts have endured a long history throughout the Oscars. From years of being handed out during the technical awards ceremony before the telecast to being prominently featured alongside the major awards and now being showcased in theaters, the shorts have had to go through many changes in order to get where they are today. It is remarkable to be able to say you’ve seen the nominees from the Live Action, Documentary and Animated Shorts categories before Oscar night because most often those winners are the ones you can tell upon their acceptance speeches what they’ve truly went through in order to get their story told. It’s even more remarkable how powerful the medium of shorts can be; delivering an intentional message, evoking a certain feeling or even posing a moral question and all of this in under 30 minutes. This year I have had the pleasure of being able to see all of the Live Action and Animated Shorts while still working on the Documentary ones (those are the hardest to nail down) and below is a quick assessment of my opinions for each of the nominees.
If you do want to see these shorts, Itunes makes them available for rent/purchase closer to the Oscars ceremony so keeping checking back to see when they are available.
World of Tomorrow – available on Netflix
Ave Maria –
Five nuns living in the West Bank find their routine disrupted when the car of a family of Israeli settlers breaks down outside the convent. Unable to use the telephone due to Sabbath restrictions, the family needs help from the nuns, but the sisters’ vow of silence requires them to work with their visitors to find an unorthodox solution.
This short had a good story with good acting. It was funny while showing the importance of the observance of beliefs. The entire short was actor driven and focused less on the aesthetics of the camera lens and more on how the actors drove a scene. Word on the street is that this is the frontrunner to win the Oscar. I could see it, but there are others just as good in my opinion.
Day One –
On the heels of a painful divorce, an Afghan-American woman joins the U.S. military as an interpreter and is sent to Afghanistan. On her first mission, she accompanies troops pursuing a bomb-maker, and must bridge the gender and culture gap to help the man’s pregnant wife when she goes into labor.
This short definitely deserved its nomination and is an intense story bolstered by a moral defining premise. While the premise is simple, it’s the actors who push the dialogue and story to a place even better than expected where you begin to actually feel what they are portraying onscreen.
Everything Will Be Okay –
Michael, a divorced father devoted to his eight-year-old daughter, Lea, picks her up for their usual weekend together. At first it feels like a normal visit, but Lea soon realizes that something is different, and so begins a fateful journey.
It is very clear to see why this short was nominated. The actor who plays the father did an exceptional job as well as the daughter. This possessed a very strong story, but is not the strongest nominee in this category. (They can’t all be winners) The abrupt ending leaves you wanting after getting your heart broken while watching the father’s descent into madness.
In Kosovo in 1998, two young boys are best friends living normal lives, but as war engulfs their country, their daily existence becomes filled with violence and fear. Soon, the choices they make threaten not only their friendship, but their families and their lives.
This short physically hurt to watch. It was that moving. You see the ending coming a mile away and that’s what did me in. They didn’t try to hide it. What stood out even beyond the excellent child actors and story was the manner in which it was shot. The cinematography was beautiful as well as the intense imagery of a man reflecting on a time with his closest friend. This one is my favorite out of the nominees.
For a lonely typographer, an online relationship has provided a much-needed connection without revealing the speech impediment that has kept him isolated. Now, however, he is faced with the proposition of meeting his online paramour in the flesh, and thereby revealing the truth about himself.
A close tie between this one and Shok, Stutterer manages to take a simple premise and humanize it in such a way where the viewer is able to literally climb into the head of someone that has a crippling speech impediment and understand what it’s like to be them. While doing all of this, Stutterer still managed to tell a wonderful story with a bit of humor that was solid from start to finish.
Bear Story –
Every day, a melancholy old bear takes a mechanical diorama that he has created out to his street corner. For a coin, passersby can look into the peephole of his invention, which tells the story of a circus bear who longs to escape and return to the family from which he was taken.
This short featured absolutely stunning animation alongside a heartbreaking story told in a very interesting way. I enjoyed it thoroughly but also have to admit that it’s not the leader in this category, however, it’s nomination is most certainly deserved.
2,400 years ago, four warriors — two Spartan and two Athenian — battle to the death in an intense struggle witnessed by a little girl, who then runs to her grandmother for comfort.
The animation that was achieved in making this short is nothing short of incredible. It almost appears as if it’s an optical illusion, however, the story is lacking tremendously and the ending is too abrupt to make any sense of what was witnessed prior.
Sanjay’s Super Team –
Young Sanjay, a first-generation Indian-American, is obsessed with television, cartoons and his superhero action figures. He is reluctant to spend time in daily prayers with his devout Hindu father, but a flight of imagination helps him develop a new perspective that he and his father can both embrace.
It’s made by Pixar. That’s all you really need to know. The story is nice and from what I read this short is the frontrunner to win the Oscar, which I highly disagree with. The coloring and animation is just what you’d expect from a Pixar effort, which in my opinion is not a good thing for this category because it gives the feeling of having seen more of the same thing in past years.
We Can’t Live Without The Cosmos –
Two best friends have dreamed since childhood of becoming cosmonauts, and together they endure the rigors of training and public scrutiny, and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their shared goal.
Well drawn with subtle humor, We Can’t Live Without The Cosmos was quite a surprise for me. I thought it would be just a simple story about astronauts in space, however, I could not have been more mistaken. With no dialogue, the story relied on the exceptional music and character’s expressions to drive the narrative. This resulted in the best story of all the nominees.
World of Tomorrow –