With just under a month left before the 91st Academy Awards air on ABC, the scramble to watch as many of the nominees as possible is well underway. For those of us excited to share in the joy and outrage that will inevitably erupt in response to the Oscar results, this is our last chance to catch up on all that we may have missed in 2018. Although the nominated feature films tend to populate theaters nationwide or are available on–demand via streaming services, the 15 nominees in the short categories are often left out of the conversation. While many of these shorts may require screenings at specialty theaters, six of the 15 are available online. 

Here’s your guide to the most accessible of this year’s Oscar–nominated shorts, in a recommended viewing order.

A Night at the Garden – Nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Available on Vimeo 

A Night at the Garden is a haunting arrangement of footage from a massive gathering of Nazis at Madison Square Garden in 1939, just before the start of the second World War. The iconic center of American culture and entertainment takes on completely new meaning in the black–and–white archival footage, marked by symbols of both nationalism and antisemitism. The short documentary is a tremendously disturbing but valuable means of approaching our own history of hate, and its presence in the spaces we perceive as benign today. 

Black Sheep – Nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Available on Youtube

To follow up A Night at the Garden, Black Sheep explores racism in contemporary Britain through the eyes of Cornelius Walker, a young Nigerian–English man. As a storyteller, Walker is extremely vulnerable. He discusses the diffusion of hate and violence that he experienced as a black boy in a profoundly racist Essex after his family left London, and what he had to do to survive that hate. Like many of the short films on this list, Black Sheep is difficult to watch. It handles the disturbing reality of internalized racism with extreme sensitivity and honesty, combining reenactments with footage of Walker looking out at us so that we see the pain that he has endured.

Fauve – Nominated for Short Film (Live Action)

Available on Vimeo

Fauve is the only live action short film available to stream among the five nominees. Despite the spirit of childhood levity that the film opens with, this tale of two young Quebecois boys navigating their natural surroundings takes a dark turn. In our proposed viewing order, this film works as a break between the two sets of documentaries, which have been organized by subject matter. Its bleakness matches the pattern of emotionally wrenching material in this year’s nominees, but, as fiction, it provides distance from the very real notions of tragedy and death as they are explored in the next two documentary shorts. 

LIFEBOAT – Nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Available on Youtube

LIFEBOAT follows the rescue mission of a German non–profit organization operating in the Mediterranean, where refugees depart Libya on sinking rafts. The documentary draws interviews from both the refugees themselves and the volunteers working with them. LIFEBOAT gives faces and voices to victims of the refugee crisis reeling from unspeakable crimes they endured in Libya. The short is not colored by glamorized hope, but instead the reality of the refugee crisis, painting as effective a picture as possible in the constraints of a 40 minute film. 

End Game – Nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Available on Netflix

Netflix’s End Game navigates the management and implications of end–of–life care, through the experiences of patients with terminal illness, their families, and the doctors and caretakers who are charged with confronting death. End Game doesn’t sugarcoat the process. It shows families struggling to cope with their loved ones slipping away from them, and individuals very near to death attempting to find peace in the inevitable. End Game doesn’t hide the suffering from us, but shares it, and, in being so raw, manages to capture the genuine love with which its subjects leave the world. 

One Small Step – Nominated for Short Film (Animated)

Available on Youtube

The documentary format is a tremendously effective at illuminating the trials of life that we ordinarily avoid thinking about. These films may be challenging to watch, but they are worth taking the time to reflect on. Once these previous shorts are internalized, it's fitting to end with the only animated short currently available to stream, One Small Step. As charming and sentimental as Pixar’s Bao, One Small Step beautifully brings to life the power of parental love in guiding us toward our dreams. It captures all that short–format storytelling ought to be. 

There are many other nominated shorts that deserve a watch before February 24th, but these online options are certainly a good start to discuss, contemplate, and reflect on. By bringing these short works to the spotlight, the Academy Awards have prompted us to seek out more complex, challenging pieces produced at a smaller scale, rewarding those who labor over these thought–provoking works of short–form cinema. There is a lot that a 30 minute runtime can do. 


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