Now playing in theaters, the Academy Award Nominated Shorts are gaining recognition from the general public. There attendance and box office revenue have been increasing every year. These categories of ‘short films’ are usually reserved for the Oscar enthusiasts and cinema-philes but that’s too bad. Anyone who enjoys movies will want to spend the money to watch these movies. And rightfully so, every short nominated this year is worthy and even better then last year’s selection. Since this is the first year that ALL Academy members are allowed to vote in this category, predicting a winner could be challenging. Usually artistic ones thrive in these categories. That will not be the case this year. Its anyone’s guessing game as to which could win, but I am leaning toward two shorts for the win. Let’s start with the meat and potatoes of the mostly subtitled longer live action shorts followed by the sweet dessert of the animated shorts.
Live Action Shorts:
Henry (directed by Yan England): Sentimental look at a lost love is an emotional entangled affair for the viewer. A man loses his wife only to discover the shocking condition of his own life. Though simplistic compared to the narratives of other nominated films, this could play into the hearts and minds of the Academy as they grow old and reminiscent. To me, its not THE winner in this category.
Buzkashi Boys (directed by Sam French and Ariel Nasr): Two Afghanistan boys Rafi and Ahmad both desire to participate in the Buzkashi which is a more grim and violent version of horse polo. There are some unexpected turns of irony in the story that didn’t move me like it was supposed to. No surprise the longest short bored me the most. However, I liked how this presented a version of Afghanistan I hadn’t experienced before. Kudos for accomplishing that!
Asad (directed by Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura): Asad is a Somali boy who wants to become a pirate. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, he finds out that the pirates life isn’t for him. We see the intricate details of his town and how a community in Somalia function. I will say this short held my attention, but overall I found it underwhelming as a terms of a story and an emotional payoff.
Death of a Shadow (directed by Dood van een Schaduw): Clearly the most original short of the bunch turns out to be the best. Death of a Shadow is a haunting story about a time traveling photographer that captures the shadows of people before they die. These are all collected and stored in a undisclosed chamber on full display similar to a gallery. The macabre story might be a hard sell for the Academy. A shame because this clearly deserves the Oscar.
Curfew (directed by Shawn Christensen, who also stars): A drug addicted uncle (played by Christensen) helps his abused sister take care of her younger girl by watching her daughter/his niece. They bond on a night out in the town with cute comical set ups and endearing moments. He learns to live again. Being the only English language short that has a great feel good ending with humor sporadically laced around the short, cuddly Curfew will likely win the Oscar!
The Animated Shorts:
Fresh Guacamole (directed by PES): Clocking in at under two minutes, this was a very unique and entertaining short ‘short’ about preparing an appetizer of a Grenade turned Guacamole and some (Poker) chips, too. This takes a viewer on a fun ride with a few surprises. One moment you see sliced guacamole, the next second blue Monopoly houses. YouTube was meant for a short like this.
Head Over Heals (directed by Timothy Reckart): A clever clay-mation short about a married couple Walter and Madge who have grown apart; one lives on the floor while the other on the ceiling. Or so it appears. In a symbolic term, they cannot agree who is really on the floor or ceiling. Without spoiling this little gem, they find a nice compromise at the end. Though unique, it gets lost in the shuffle of better animated shorts.
Adam & Dog (directed by Minkyu Lee): WOW! A stunning poetic retelling of Adam & Eve from the perspective of man’s first/only best friend: a dog. With watercolor backdrops, we watch a silent story in the Garden unfold from the perspective of a dog living among the creatures and the first people to roam earth. This easily deserves the Oscar win but might not connect with the Academy. Unexpectedly, this would be suitable viewing for a grade school bible class taught by hipsters.
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare (directed by David Silverman): This cute and humorous short reminded me why The Simpson’s has been so beloved. I’m not a fan of the TV show, but I certainly respect their contribution to social commentary. Maggie spends a day at the Ayn Rand Daycare Center with the average children separated from the gifted ones. She spends the day saving a butterfly from Baby Gerald who smashes them all.
The Paperman (directed by John Kahrs): Not to be confused with the trashy and awful Lee Daniel’s movie, this familiar, whimsical short played before Wreck it Ralph. It has all the trademark Disney Charm; the lighthearted tone, the plucky sincere hero, the doe-eyed damsel and loveable quirky moments. Since the entire Academy is eligible to vote and this one makes references to numerous other features, AND is available online, expect this one to win on Oscar night.
Finally, let me say that what makes all of these animated films truly works of art was the lack of sound and dialogue. Watching animated movies, viewers are used to a lot going on including dialogue and noise. How refreshing in our busy world that most of these have no dialogue, if not any featured. They are impressive stunning animated achievements that need to be watched by the viewer! You’ll glad you watched these. I recommend watch the animated shorts over the live action shorts.