By: Henry J. Fromage –
This year is a bit weaker than the typical year, or perhaps I’m a bit more cynical and attuned to what voters usual go for in these categories. Still, there are some stand-outs and clear favorites (and the doc shorts prove the strongest slate as usual).
The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated
This is undoubtedly the slightest of the shorts in this category this year- predicated on a pretty simple concept- animals are in an emotional support group and keep regressing to their species-specific tendencies. There are some fun moments, but this is no Bojack Horseman-style insightful animal metaphor, but rather more of a newspaper comics page-level of humor. Four Beers.
Pixar’s latest heart-tugger of a short adapts and modernizes a Chinese fairy tale and has a both intriguingly Chinese and still universal perspective that adds shading to its emotional crescendo. Almost certainly your winner here. Two Beers.
If any animation studio will join the ranks of Pixar and Studio Ghibli, Irish Cartoon Saloon is the one. Here they get into the animated shorts game with a beautiful journey through the mind and memories of a woman slipping into dementia. The emotional punch at the end of this one is probably the strongest this year even if the buildup isn’t quite to the level of the climax. Two Beers.
One Small Step
It’s clear that those heart-breaking opening minutes of Up redefined the animated short film game, and while the results have been largely been promising (like Late Afternoon above), you also get shorts that feel dissected and reconstituted to achieve that same effect like this one. It’s clear precisely what heartstrings they’ll tug from the outset. Four Beers.
An impressionistic, autobiographical recounting of a divorce between a child ping-ponging between his mother and father’s abodes is the artistic pick of the year, with some truly hellacious dream imagery bespeaking another level of trauma later on. Excellent. Two Beers.
The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action
This story of the youngest convicted murderers and the heinous crime the committed, taken from real interview transcripts, does feel nigh unbearable to sit through and perhaps some brand of exploitative, but this is an undoubtedly powerful film in total. Two Beers.
I probably liked this other tale of young boys encountering death and existential dread a bit more because it was a scant 7 minutes long and the apocalyptic quarry setting is arresting. Hard to say what voters will think or if they’ll cancel each other out. Two Beers.
One of these is not like the other. Marguerite is refreshingly violence-free, which may end up being a difference-maker to voters. It also carries a progressive message and features two strong central performances, but for me it’s also the least ambitious of the group. Three Beers.
The weakest for my money, this does have ambition (single-setting, phone conversation-driven thriller theatrics not far off of this year’s excellent The Guilty). However, what it lacks is execution, leading up to an ending that unexpectedly keeps up the theme of this category out of nowhere. Four Beers.
This may be the front-runner because of both the more recognizable cast, the American History X-style grabby premise, twist, and slick style, and the fact that the feature length adaptation starring Jamie Bell, Vera Farmiga, and Mike Colter has already been greenlit. Two Beers.
The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Documentary
A Night at the Garden
In 1939, 20,000 red-blooded Americans converged on Madison Square Garden to… take part in a Nazi Party of America rally, of course. I don’t know if the clear parallels to Trump rallies (notice how they handle demonstrators) is mitigated by the hope that actual Nazi support in America can never be this brazenly concentrated again …I hope? Two Beers.
This documentary is the story of Cornelius Walker in his own words, namely his story of moving into massively racist English suburbs and finding himself a part of a skinhead gang, hating himself in an effort to fit in somewhere, anywhere. Powerful stuff, made all the more so delivered by Walker himself. Two Beers.
One Oscar documentary short tendency that I’ve probably had my fill of is the examination of end of life and palliative care units. Seriously, Extremis wrecked my world. That’s not saying this isn’t extremely well done- it is the exact proper amount of respectful and even beautiful. But man, it’s rough to watch. Three Beers.
Speaking of rough to watch, another year brings another short film or two about the Migrant Crisis, and particularly the mind-numbing tragedy of barely seaworthy boats and rafts full of desperate migrants in need of rescue when the slightest shift in climate or storm condition tips them into the death traps that they so clearly are. The rescuers in this film are truly doing God’s work, but the scale of their effort truly boggles the mind. Two Beers.
Period. End of Sentence.
This category has the reputation of being a downer and sure is hell upholds it in the rest of the slate, but thankfully here we have the odd optimistic short. The lives of these Indian women, who have to slink in the dark to change their sanitary pads (if they have them, which they usually don’t) and often have to quit school when their periods start just from the lack of a place to change during the day, show how Middle Ages so much of the world still is when it comes to life of women, but the sanitary pad machine the women here are given and what they do with it to lift their own prospects and those for all the women around them is nothing short of inspirational. A Toast.