The 89th Academy Awards are fast–approaching, which means that short films are receiving the attention they deserve. Short films are an exceptionally masterful form of film making: they're a compact package perfectly catered to a fast–food audience. 2017’s collection of Oscar–nominated shorts encapsulates themes of modern anxiety and disquietude, through live action, animation and documentary. Luckily enough, The Ritz at the Bourse screened both the live action and animated shorts as part of an annual tradition. Consider this your pre–Oscar briefing.
First, let’s name the contenders. The nominees for Short Film (Animated) are as follows: Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl and Piper. The nominees for Short Film (Live Action) are: Ennemis Intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing and Timecode.
These shorts have tremendous range, stretching from cute to sublime, although they chiefly handle more somber and doleful melodies. Arguably, the strongest and most memorable short is Sing, a Hungarian childhood drama directed by Kristof Deák. Set in a post–socialist Budapest in the 1990s, young Zsofi and Liza experience their first encounter with corruption when their choir instructor deems Zsofi’s singing abilities subpar and commands her to mime singing so that the choir can hold on to its award–winning reputation. The two young girls must make a choice: either to take a stance against a depraved system or to fit quietly into it. The film becomes entirely unpredictable; it's one thing to be surprised and another to be startled by your own surprise.
Timecode showcases another note–worthy live action performance. Directed by Juanjo Giménez Peña, this Spanish short focuses on two parking lot security guards, Luna and Diego. Luna works during the day, and Diego works at night. The two hardly exchange words. Rather, they build an intimacy through the security footage of the parking garages. Because of their quiet yet beautiful intimacy, I predict that either Sing or Timecode will claim the prize next Sunday. You read it here first.
While the live action shorts were nothing short of extraordinary, the animated shorts didn't disappoint. One of the more noteworthy films was Canada’s Blind Vaysha, directed by Theodore Ushev. This short centers on Vaysha, a beautiful young girl born with a left eye that can only see the past and a right eye that can only see the future. Her split vision, though a sagacious metaphor for timeless wisdom and beauty, is viewed by her peers as an irreconcilable curse, since she is unable to see the present. The only other animated short that could perhaps steal the win from this short is Pixar’s Piper, an American entry that depicts a hungry sandpiper hatchling venturing from her nest for the first time. This was the lightest and perhaps the most delightful of the shorts, with animation so advanced and breathtaking that words cannot truly do justice.
Though the viewing experience was an overall triumph, it’s obligatory to ask whether every single member on the academy’s board of governors was drunk when they decided that Pear Cider and Cigarettes was worthy of an Oscar. Firstly, it was repeatedly advertised as being too inappropriate for children, so much so that there was a break in the screening so that any innocents could be ushered out of the theater. However, any raunchy references in the short were cheap, flashy and entirely unnecessary. The dialogue was cheesy, poorly written and completely undeserving of an Oscar nomination. I actively debated leaving the theater in the middle of the short.
Though many of these shorts are no longer in theaters, it's worth trawling the internet (specifically Vimeo) if you're interested in viewing them before the awards show. You can find most of them online and for free, and actually know what's going on in this grossly under–appreciated section of the Oscars.