When it is time to award the best in films each year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences include three categories of short films in their Oscar® presentations. Most people don’t get to see many shorts. They play at festivals, and occasionally in front of a feature film. But short films are an art form worth attention. Many (probably most) feature filmmakers started out making short films. To tell a story in such a brief format takes skill. All the Oscar®-nominated short films will be playing in theaters and on virtual cinema in special programs.
Let’s take a look at the Oscar®-nominated animated shorts.
Burrow (6 minutes, directed by Madeline Sharafian). This Disney/Pixar entry features a young rabbit who wants to build the home of her dreams, but really doesn’t know what she’s doing. The more she digs, the more trouble she gets into until her neighbors step in to lend a hand. It’s fun. It has the cuteness one associates with Disney, but it doesn’t quite have the heart.
Genius Loci (16 minutes, directed by Adrien Mérigeau). Waiting for a sign, a young loner experience the urban chaos around her. Will it lead her to joy or destruction? The key thing in this piece is the artwork, that brings in elements of surrealism, cubism, and abstract expressionism. The narrative nature is a bit slow and disjointed.
If Anything Happens I Love You (13 minutes, directed by Michael Govier and Will McCormack). We see two grieving parents as they struggle to cope after the loss of a child. They drift apart. They comfort each other. They have pain together and separately. They have memories that fill them with joy and pain at the same time. The film comes to a very powerful ending that finally gives us a context for all this grief.
Opera (9 minutes, directed by Erick Oh). A mesmerizing world of tiny people in a pyramidal hierarchy. Each little section is busy with its own activity. It portrays history and society with all its beauty and absurdity. There’s working, worship, war, and rebirth. What a pleasure to explore!
Yes-People (9 minutes, directed by Gísli Darri Halldórson). A day in the life of three families in an apartment building. Each in their own way are trying to deal with the mundane nature of life. It is somewhat difficult to make the mundane interesting.
BONUS: Because the nominated films are so brief, the program is filled out with a few of the “highly recommended” films that were shortlisted, but not nominated:
Kapaemahu (9 minutes, directed by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu). A Hawaiian legend of god-like visitors from Tahiti who brought healing gifts and left them is special boulders, only to have the legend forgotten—until now. A very engaging retelling.
The Snail and the Whale (26 minutes, directed by Max Lang and Daniel Snaddon). A snail that is dissatisfied with life on its rock in the harbor, hitches a ride with a friendly humpback whale that allows it to see the wonders of the world. But in time, the whale needs the snail’s help. A wonderful feel good story based on a children’s picture book.
To: Gerard (7 minutes, directed by Taylor Meacham). An postal worker spends his day sorting letters, but dreams of being a magician. As a child he was fascinated by a magician who gave him a magic coin. He has tried to master the craft, but never really found an audience. But one day a little girl wanders into his work area and finds his magic coin. After some slight of hand, he gives her the coin. Many years later he gets an invitation to a magic show…
Of the nominated films, my favorite by far is Opera. When I first saw it as part of the Slamdance festival this year, I had to watch it more than once just to get a start at all the things it is showing us about who we are. I’ll give an Honorable Mention to If Anything Happens I Love You because it is such a great touchstone for the emotions of grief and has such a powerful (if difficult) ending.
Of the bonus films, I really liked The Snail and the Whale for the way it took us on a spectacular journey just as it does the snail.
To see trailers or to find where you can see these shorts, go to https://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/