[REVIEWS] Oscar Nominated Shorts

Hello friends! Here’s something you may not know but I love watching shorts- especially groups of shorts. There’s something satisfying about watching a little morsel of storytelling whether it be animated, live action or documentary. The only problem is sometimes the Oscar nominated shorts can be tough to get a-hold of but this year they are available to stream from your neighborhood arthouse theater. For $30 you can watch all 3 slates of shorts and support your local theater, which is an awesome thing to do. Click here to find out more.

Anyway, let me give you my quick thoughts on all of the shorts and what I think should win the Oscar:

Documentary

The documentary branch was my favorite group of nominees. This is much different than the normal feature film documentary branch which is almost always disappointing (including this year with no nomination for Dick Johnson is Dead! Outrageous!).

Nevertheless, I liked all 5 of these documentary shorts and they were all so different it is difficult to rank them.

2021 Oscars Best Documentary Short Subject Predictions - Variety

  1. Hunger Ward- this follows 2 women- a doctor and a nurse- inside a hunger ward in famine stricken Yemen. What I liked about this one is how authentic it felt. There’s no sense of the director manipulating the viewer. They are following the subjects around watching things happen. There’s a particularly devastating scene where an infant dies and the doctor has to go into another room to cry. It’s devastating but very real and moving.
  2. Do Not Split– This 36 minute documentary puts you on the ground with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019-2020. This is another documentary where you feel like a fly on the wall watching what is happening. They don’t try and tell you what to feel but just show the events and leave it at that.
  3. A Love Song for Latasha– a very sweet documentary about the family and friends looking back on the life of Latasha Harlins who’s killing set off what became the LA riots in 1991. I think this one will win and it’s not undeserving.
  4. Colette- this follows a student who is looking to learn more about the Holocaust and meets Colette Catherine a 90 year old Holocaust survivor. Their friendship is very sweet and it’s overall a moving story about a time we can’t forget
  5. A Concerto is a Conversation– Probably the most conventional of the group, this is still a sweet short about composer Kris Bowers as he looks into the history of his Grandfather and his dry cleaning business in Florida.

My favorite is Hunger Ward because it felt the most authentic and moving of the 5 but they are all good. Definitely the strongest grouping of the 3 categories.

Live Action

The live action category of Oscar nominated shorts are the most forgettable of the group. It’s only been a few days since I watched them and they have mostly left my memory but here goes:

  1. The Present– it’s a simple concept. A Palestinian man is trying to buy his wife a birthday present of a fridge but in order to do so he must cross an Israeli security crossing. He does so with his daughter and unfortunately things get tense and uncomfortable.
  2. Two Distant Strangers– with its timely topic I predict this short will win even if I prefer The Present. It tells a time loop story where a Black man is living the same 24 hours where he gets killed by a cop every day. It is a gimmick but it works as a little morality play in a short
  3. Feeling Through– a sweet short about a man who ends up helping a deafblind man to get home off the bus. This is the first film to cast a deafblind actor and the unlikely friendship between the 2 men is endearing and authentic.
  4. White Eye– this follows a man who thinks he has found his stolen bicycle and what happens when he tries to retrieve it from the immigrant who stole it to help his daughter. It was fine but I wasn’t very invested in the story or the 2 unlikable lead characters.
  5. The Letter Room- I’m afraid this short feels like one which received a nomination for its celebrity casting more than the story quality. Oscar Isaac plays a cop in a federal death row penitentiary who is charge of reading letters to the inmates. Despite being warned against it he becomes too invested in the letters and tries to get involved. This one was honestly very dull and I didn’t care about the story or what was happening.

Animated

When you purchase the animated shorts they include 3 bonus shorts with the package and honestly I preferred all 3 of those bonus shorts over any of the 5 nominated shorts. I guess that says something. I would love to ask them why they picked these 5 shorts because there were some exemplary shorts not nominated like Pixar’s Loop and Out.

Who knows? But here’s my thoughts on the nominees:

  1. Burrow– in what looks like a Beatrix Potteresque illustration Burrow tells a very cute story of rabbit who wants to find her own burrow with a bathroom disco and all. On the way she runs into many different burrows and gets offers to live in many places but it is not home.
  2. Yes People– this is a short about 6 people living in an apartment and all you get is the grunts of the highs and lows of their life. I know some of my friends hated the animation but I thought it had a charm to it. It had an every-day living quality to it that I enjoyed.
  3. If Anything Happens I Love You– I love the simple 2D pencil animation of this short and it has a touching message but it is also a bit heavy-handed for 12 minutes. The topic is a school shooting and the grief the parents feel at their great loss. I do think this short will probably win but it wasn’t my favorite even though I appreciate the style and message.
  4. Opera– If all you care about is style than this one might suffice. It takes you into a miniature world with workers making the lights go on and the water run. It was fine but just didn’t do much for me. No real story.
  5. Genius Loci– this is the short I had the most trouble remembering days later. It made no impression on me either visually or message-wise. It’s about mental illness and a young Black woman, her memories and her dog.

So there you have it for the shorts. Did you get to see any of the shorts? What did you think of them? What were your favorites and what do you think will win? Let me know in the comments sections

2 thoughts on “[REVIEWS] Oscar Nominated Shorts

  1. Thanks for writing about the Oscar Shorts programs. I’ve enjoyed them for years at the theater, but it’s been difficult to find showings, especially for the Documentary Shorts. Because of their emotional impact they are difficult to sit through for hours at a time. So I appreciate the ability to take these films in small doses and let their messages sink in.

    I agree with your comments about the Animated films. Yikes! I can’t imagine someone bringing their young child(ren) to see these. “Genius Loci” (what started as I guess a woman’s artistic visions which become more horrifying as you realize she has psychological issues {and the dog isn’t an actual dog}) followed by “Ballet” (with its disturbing imagery including guillotines, pointless war and destruction) followed by the emotional gut-punch of “If Anything Happens…” was tough to take. I don’t hate animation that’s challenging, but it needs some panache. Where’s the beauty and wonder that animation can evoke?

    Thanks goodness for the “Highly Commended” additions like “The Snail and the Whale”.
    (Another thing I didn’t realize — in “Yes-People” the only word spoken by everyone is “Yes”)

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