The Oscar Project
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.
A film that made you angry
I’m not going too far back in my watch history for this one and it is the only movie released this year that makes my list. It is also the only documentary to appear on my list this month, but one that I hope more people see.
You’ve likely heard of the gymnastics doctor named Larry Nassar and know that he is in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges in 2017. What you might not know is that the problems in the gymnastics world go back much farther than just Nassar and after watching this film, I feel that there are a number of people who should probably be charged in connection with his conduct but have not been to date.
Athlete A goes through the full story of these scandals and presents interviews with several victims across the decades. You get to hear first hand some of the accounts of the acts that were carried out on young girls. These girls were made into pawns in an enormous game, the only goal of which was money and power for those in charge. Even names like Bela and Marta Karolyi, long hailed as the saviors of USA Gymnastics, are not safe in this film. It becomes increasingly clear towards the end of the film that they knew, or at least had some idea of what was happening with Nassar, but said and did nothing, choosing instead to look the other way and continue to put the girls on their teams in harm's way.
It's rare that a film can anger me the way this one did, but having a daughter of my own who is almost three same age as some of these girls were when they started being abused makes it hit home that much more. I can't imagine the outrage I would feel if I ever found out some treated my own daughter, or sons for that matter, the way the people discussed in this film did.
I think this is an important film for people to watch because it shows that what we see on TV during the Olympics is not always the full truth. There is corruption and deception under the surface, sometimes not very fast out of view. We turn a blind eye toward it in the name of patriotism and national pride, but in doing so, we too become part of the problem. And if this film isn't enough to make you angry, I would also recommend a pseudo companion piece in a podcast from ESPN's 30 for 30 series called Heavy Medals. While the film focuses more on Nassar, the podcast focuses almost entirely on the Karolyis and the gymnastics training empire they built over the course of 30 years.
Athlete A is available on Netflix.
Day 21 – A film that you dozed off in | Day 23 – A film made by a director that is dead
I don't normally post information about films on a standalone basis here, but I felt this one deserved a special quick post.
You know Peter Jackson from his work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films as well as his version of King King from 2005. Through the process of making those films, especially the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a number of new technologies were born or vastly improved. From the motion capture used to bring Andy Serkis's Smeagol/Gollum character to life to the battlefield scenes with thousands of individual computer animated characters each fighting their own battle, Jackson and his team not only told their version of a classic story, but in doing so pushed the boundaries of the medium of film at the time.
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?