The Oscar Project
Today is the last post of the week and the last of the smaller categories in my Year in Review. If you missed any of the other posts, please be sure to check them out at the links below.
For this post, I’m not separating short films into smaller categories but including everything in one: live action narrative, documentary, and animated. So, without further ado, let’s get into the top five short films I saw this year. If you're interested in watching them for yourself, the movie titles link to the films except "Boxballet" which is just the trailer.
This fun animated short film was one of five nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the Oscars earlier this year. It is a brief love story, a bit reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, between a hulking boxer and a dainty ballerina. The visual style is so different from what we normally see in animation, and that’s what made it one of my favorites I saw this year.
4: The Queen of Basketball
Let me tell you, I loved meeting Lusia Harris in this film. Harris is the star of this short documentary that won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject this year and even in her 60s, she was a vibrant personality in the interview portions of this film.
Chronicling her college basketball career during which she won three national championships and a silver medal at the Olympics. She would go on to become the first African American woman inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sadly, Harris passed away in January 2022 just a few months before this film received its Oscar.
3: Robin Robin
Another animated short film that was nominated for Best Animated Short Film earlier this year, “Robin Robin” is so much fun and I’ve watched it several times with my kids and when I went to the theater to see the full slate of animated short film nominees.
he film is stop-motion animation, and features voice talents of Richard E. Grant and Gillian Anderson, but the true star is Robin, the young robin who grew up in a family of mice. She makes a terrible mouse (mainly because she’s a bird) but tries to prove to her mouse family that she belongs by sneaking into the Who-Man house at Christmas to steal the star from the top of their tree.
Fire this one up on Netflix this holiday season to kick off your next movie night.
This film actually lost out to “The Queen of Basketball” in the Best Documentary Short Subject at the Oscars this year, but I put it slightly ahead on my own list.
This one is just on the limit for consideration in that category, but looks at the story of Amaree McKenstry-Hall, a deaf football player at the Maryland School for the Deaf as he and his teammates and friends deal with the pressures of performing on the field, while mourning the loss of a close friend to suicide. Any one part of that description could make a great film on its own but putting them all together and in a short film is truly amazing and fully deserving of the nomination it received.
1: Lynching Postcards: ‘Token of A Great Day’
Just like last year, my top film on this list is extremely difficult to watch, but for completely different reasons. “Lynching Postcards” is a tight 15 minutes but speaks volumes in how it covers its subject matter.
The film documents the history of “lynching postcards,” small souvenirs people could send to relatives and friends to celebrate their role in or attendance at public lynchings of African Americans throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. I sat and watched this film in disgust, amazed at the cruelty that could lead people to do these things in the name of hate and fear, but was forced to draw a line straight to the social media of today.
While it is an incredibly difficult film to watch, it is necessary, and I highly recommend anyone taking some time to watch for themselves.
I am starting off our deeper dive coverage of the films nominated for Oscars this year with a look at the three short film categories, Best Documentary Short Film, Best Animated Short Film, and Best Live Action Short Film.
I personally love these categories because you often get a wide range of stories all packed into small packages. Many of the films, especially in the animated category, are less than ten minutes long, so you can sit down and watch the entire category in less time than it takes to watch a full feature film, if you can find them that is.
That's the true struggle with these films. They rarely get released to theaters outside of film festivals, but with the rise of online streaming services and sites like Vimeo and YouTube, many of these are more accessible than ever. Out of the 15 nominees across the three short film categories, seven are readily available on YouTube, Netflix and Disney+. The remaining eight do not currently have distribution as of this writing, but may be released publicly prior to the Academy Award ceremony.
Best Documentary Short Film
With four of these five films available online, I was able to sit down and watch them back to back. I wish I could say these documentaries were uplifting and lighthearted, but with subjects ranging from anti-government protests in Hong Kong to the murder of a young girl to a WWII French Resistance fighter visiting the concentration camp where her brother died, you won't find much levity here. About the closest you'll come is the conversation between a grandfather and grandson on the eve of the younger man's concerto debut in concert.
These films are all fantastic. As I have some more time to digest them and think about them, I'm sure one or two may rise to the surface as my favorite to win the award, but right now they are all too fresh in my mind to make a pick.
Best Animated Short Film
The animated short film category is one that has been owned by Pixar shorts off and on for some time. However, as cute as "Burrow" is, I don't think it is strong enough to take home the prize this year. I say this having only seen that and "If Anything Happens I Love You," but already that film has my vote for the award. Fair warning, don't read anything about it before you watch, not even my summary below. The best way to watch that short is to go in blind.
I am hoping to get a chance to see the other three films, especially "Opera" which brings a very intriguing premise. As I am able to view them, I will update here with my thoughts as well as short reviews of each.
Best Live Action Short Film
As of this writing, I've only seen one film from this group but it is fantastic. The premise of "Feeling Through" is truly unique and once again, I went in knowing very little of what it was about.
I am also intrigued to see "The Letter Room" which stars Hollywood actor Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars, Inside Llewyn Davis) He has been seen in a number of big budget films over the last decade or so, that I look forward to seeing what he is able to do in a short film format.
Finally, I recently heard an interview with Lawrence Bender, the producer of "Two Distant Strangers" as well as Joey Bada$$ who stars in the film. The story sounds like an intriguing look at police brutality in America mixed with a concept familiar to anyone who has seen Palm Springs (review) or Groundhog Day.
I have to say, these have become some of my favorite categories the more attention I've paid to the Oscars over the last few years. They are so often over looked, but often provide some incredible films contained in very small packages.
Today I am predicting the nominees for Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Short Film, and Best Live Action Short Film.
Please go back and check the previous posts I've done earlier in the week and look for the last few posts coming tomorrow and Monday before the announcement of the nominees on Tuesday morning!
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?