Since I’m not really doing an Oscar blitz this year (having already seen most of the films I wanted to see when they came out) and because I’m finding it hard to gin up enthusiasm for debating the merits of nominees in specific categories, I won’t be doing an Oscar Blitz series this year.* However, I did want to highlight the stellar line-up of Oscar shorts I saw this past weekend.
For the eighth year in a row, La Maratonista and I took in both the Animated and Live Action Short Film programs at our local Landmark cinema. I’m sad to report this is likely our last such annual outing as she will soon be moving on to bigger and better things. And I don’t mean feature films—she and her husband are literally moving. Farewell, opera buddy, I wish you all the success in the world with your new baby, new degree program, and your new home! I just hope San Francisco will lure you back one day soon.
At least we are going out on a high. Upon leaving the theater, La Maratonista and I agreed that this was the most solid field we’ve ever seen in our years of watching these collections. Both categories were very strong and, while we didn’t love everything, there was nothing we hated. Of course, that makes predictions a little more difficult, but let’s give it a try, shall we?
The nominees are…
Animated Short Film
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
While all the animated films had something in their favor, I’d guess that Piper has this one locked up. As I wrote last summer, the stellar animation in Piper, which played before Finding Dory, only highlighted the weaknesses of the animation in that film. Plus, it has an incredibly sweet story of overcoming your fears and triumphing over adversity.
The only film that comes even close to it in the odds is Blind Vaysha. This film is based on a short story by Georgi Gospodinov and has the look and feel of an Eastern European fairy tale. I didn’t love the animation, but it certainly fit the mood of the piece. The last few lines are incredibly poetic and provoked a strong positive reaction from the crowd in the theater. [Side note for Wonderfalls fans: Caroline Dhavernas does the narration in both the French and English versions.]
As for the other three nominated films, we loved the look of Borrowed Time, but wanted a bit more from it. Pearl was just sort of meh from a story perspective (and I really didn’t love the animation). Pear Cider and Cigarettes earned a strong content warning and played last on the bill, even after the “highly commended” extras, but didn’t really live up to the expectation that such a warning seemed to promise. Frankly, it was a bit boring, although that might be due to the fact that all of the other films in this program ran 6-8 minutes while Pear Cider was a full 35. The extra films added to round out the bill (Asteria, Happy End, La Tête disparaît) were all solid, but didn’t make me feel the wrong films had been nominated.
Live Action Short Film
La Femme et le TGV
The live action films revolved around the theme of connections, whether making or breaking them, and were mostly of the sweet or bittersweet variety. I definitely recommend this program over the animated shorts if you are choosing just one, especially since these films are considerably longer than the animated selections, with almost all of them being 30 minutes or so.
As we felt might be the case on leaving the theater—given the current political climate—Ennemis intérieurs (Enemies Within) is apparently the odds-on favorite with bookmakers. In any other year, this film might be too specifically French to play well with a general audience; however, given that it concerns a long-time Algerian resident applying for French citizenship and being coerced by his beur interviewer into naming names, it may be a chance for the Academy to make a strong statement on the Muslim Ban.
Ennemis intérieurs is followed fairly closely in the odds by Timecode and Sing, both of which I really liked. I won’t spoil either, but suffice it to say that the ending of each is very rewarding. Speaking of rewarding endings, I’m surprised that La Femme et le TGV is not more in the mix, since it stars Jane Birkin and has a very Amélie vibe, but it is well behind the others in the odds, along with Silent Nights. La Maratonista both agreed that Silent Nights is probably the least likely to win. Of course, in the past, this would almost guarantee an Oscar. Really I could see any of these snagging an award and would be fine with the selection. I’m not even sure which one I would vote for if I had the chance. It would probably depend on the day.
As always, I highly encourage you to support these short films by seeking them out at your local theater.
*Never fear, I will be posting an Oscar Wish List later this week as we get closer to the big night.