By: Henry J. Fromage –
This year boasted a surprisingly strong showing across the categories- it will be quite tough to forecast most of these races.
The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated
This short from two of L.A.’s favorite adopted sons, Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane, may well be the front-runner, but it’s also the shortest and to my money leaves the least impact (no Lakers fan here, and, well, Kobe).
This exquisitely animated to the point of near photorealism gem has it all- cute frogs, apparently social commentary, a real Last Man on Earth apocalyptic vibe- and one disgusting punchline, which didn’t ruin it for me, but likely did its serious Oscar chances. Still the best in my book.
This is your classic Pixar/Disney amuse bouche, professionally animated in the house style, cleverly original, and boasting a sweet lesson that isn’t necessarily an earth-shattering insight. We might be getting too used to 1-3 of these a year (but please, more of these and less of that horrible straight-to-DVD-quality Frozen thing).
The most adult-minded of the entries, and the only stop-motion film in the running. This also has a pretty dark punchline based around the packing of suitcases of all things, but it’s buildup is unfortunately predictable- like something out a Charlie Kaufman lampoon of an Oscar-nominated short.
My second favorite, and the more likely to prevail over Garden Party, this has the misfortune of being the longest (only in this category, folks), but its dark and kinky Roald Dahl spin on fairytales was certain to please any who stuck out the 30 minutes.
The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action
The class of the joint, perhaps insurmountably so. This short packs more tension and heart into 20 minutes than most Hollywood directors could hope to do in 100. One hell of a calling card for Reed Van Dyk- like Martin McDonagh before him, expect to hear his name again.
My Nephew Emmett
Emmett’s surname is Till, which doesn’t take long to surmise, but doesn’t diminish the power of this technically polished recounting of the night he was taken by a lynch mob from the point of view of his Minister uncle.
The Eleven O’Clock
There’s always one dramatic short that tends towards the comedic side, and this “but, who’s the real psychiatrist?” farce is quite funny despite being pretty predictable. It’s always good to have a film like this in the lineup, although it rarely wins.
The Silent Child
The weakest for my money, this one tells the story of a deaf girl who has the (mis)fortune of being born into a wealthy British family. The tutor hired to help her makes great gains, but then she is sent to public school and we are given statistics about how few schools have specialized care for deaf children (even if they’re rich?)
Watu Wote (All of Us)
Based on a true story of a busload of Kenyan Muslims protecting the Christians among them when they are waylaid by Islamic extremist militants, this short tugs the heartstrings and tells an important story of human solidarity despite differences that it’s always timely to hear, but perhaps particularly now.
The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Edith + Eddie
On one hand, this is an incredibly sweet portrait of two people who found love in their 90s, and on the other a heart-breaking recounting of the forces that pulled them apart. What makes it the least of these films is its clear choice of the villains in the story, without any idea of their perspective of events and whose dastardly motivations are only ever spoken by the parties in opposition to them. Maybe they’re really the worst people in the world, or maybe this documentary short is too partisan.
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
This portrait of Mindy Alper, a greatly talented Los Angeles artist who has undergone some horrible struggles in her life with mental illness, her family situation, depression, and anxiety. This is a woman who could too easily be sleeping under an newspaper, huddled in a doorway you hurry past, but who instead, with some help she movingly documents in her stunning art, is one of the top artists in the city and by extension the country.
This might be the front-runner, and is certainly my favorite of the group. As the Opiod Epidemic rages and fills political soundbites across the nation, no community has been hit harder than Huntington, West Virginia. Three women fight to save as many lives as they can in their own unique and humblingly selfless ways- a fire chief, a judge, and a woman who drives the night looking for prostitutes to help get off the streets.
This documentary tells the story of Edwin’s Restaurant in Cleveland, which teaches a class of ex-inmates haute French cuisine and service and aims to be the best French restaurant in the country. It’s a very unvarnished look at the difficult time ex-cons have re-assimilating into a society that tells them at every step how unwanted they are, but there’s beauty in the struggle and the triumph of these incredibly resilient men and women.
This one is really difficult for me, an admittedly white male, but one who grew up in a predominantly black lower-middle-class and below neighborhood (we were in that below range for much of it). I don’t trust the police because nobody I grew up with trusted the police, and have seen with my own eyes with good reason. However, I will tell you that every single inhabitant of my neighborhood would have expected nothing different than being tossed roughly to the ground if they dared to try the sad gambit of pretending to pull into a restaurant parking lot to avoid the policeman trying to pull you over, then get out of your car, refuse to get all the way back into it, and mouth off to the cop the whole time he’s trying to write you a speeding ticket. Of all the horrific and sickening dashcam footage showing clear miscarriages of justice and the price society pays for our un-fucking-deniable systemic racism, why tell this story? This lady is no hero, and barely a victim, complete racist idiot of a (different) cop who drove her to jail notwithstanding.