A guide to the Oscar short films

Trying to decide which box to check on your Oscar Ballot? Here is my take on this year’s short films.

ANIMATED SHORTS

Bao – This is a front runner for sure since Disney/Pixar shorts are hard to beat. Mainly because of the brand but also they have the ability to engage powerful emotion in 10 minutes or less. This one hits home with a look at child rearing and how fast the time flies. It is one of several this year that embrace that subject matter; and with an Asian backdrop.
Late Afternoon – If anything beats Bao it will be this one with its sweeping animation and beautiful styling. The story is emotional and if you can walk away dry eyed you are far stronger than I am. Even though you know exactly what is going on, each reveal still grabs your heart in unexpected ways.
Animal Behaviour – This was my favorite but has little chance of grabbing the Oscar. I loved it because it was so different from the other nominees. It relied on humor to get its story across instead of the heavy emotion of its challengers. The story is about a group of animals gathered in a weekly therapy session. The stereotypes of each or personified perfectly with humorous affect.
Weekends – My least favorite of the five. Although the concept was solid and the points were clear there was too much of a disconnect in the animation and the ability to bring clear emotion. Divorced families know the weekend visits are a part of life and this one looks at it from the kids perspective. Or at least it tries.
One Small Step – This was a third film of the group to focus on the parent child relationship in the area of growing up fast. Also the third with an Asian setting. This one is about a single father and the daughter he is raising. Her desire to reach for the stars is literal and metaphorical. Though a very strong presence the ending was not impactful enough to beat out Bao or Late Afternoon.

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LIVE ACTION SHORTS

Madre – Mama! If this film were any longer than its 19 minutes I am not sure my stress level would have held out. This film could easily take the top honor. When a mother gets a call on her cell phone from her 6-year old son, who is supposed to be on a beach trip with his father, telling her that dad is gone and he is all alone. This begins a frantic race against time for the mom to figure out where her son is before his cell battery runs out. I would be satisfied if this won.
Fauve – There are quite a few gut punches in the live shorts this year; many revolving around young boys. This one is about two young friends who get stuck – literally – in a tough situation. Though well shot and scripted there is little or no redeeming value in this one. It is just a heartbreaking watch and little more.
Marguerite – This is my favorite for the win. Mainly because it is the only one that didn’t leave me devastated. It’s a touching story of an elderly woman and her caregiver. They share a bond that unfolds organically and beautifully. It shows that you can say a lot with no words at all.
Detainment – Based on actual events and recorded footage this short was one of the hardest to watch. The evil in this world has no bounds and this one puts it front and center. The performances by the two young boys may actually rival the best actor categories this year. I can see this winning but I don’t care to see it again.
Skin – This is by far the saddest film of the group. It shows the effect that racism and hatred can have on families; especially the young. Although it is a clever spin on retaliation for hate crimes it also shines a light on a horrible epidemic that still plagues our nation. Part of me wanted to stand up and cheer at the end of this short but another part of me just felt sad for both of the young boys. Innocence lost indeed.