For those that follow the shorts race closely each year, you already know that when they are done right, they can impact someone far more than one of the larger budgeted nominees from a major category. This isn’t always the case, but the excitement of how the Academy will view each year’s submissions is always exciting. Now that the shorts are becoming more popular among the average Oscar fan and widely available to purchase or rent, here are our rankings of each category along with short reviews of each.
5. Mother – 5/10
There’s a reason why this short is at the bottom of the list. It does such a solid job of creating tension and just when you think it’s about to reach its apex – cut to black, cue credits. A love for closure aside, to not settle on some form of ending didn’t come across as a risky decision but more so an example of its fear to actually make one.
4. Fauve – 5/10
This short did not start off well. Sure, it relies heavily on imagery and thematic elements that allow the viewer to make their own assumptions about the children but in the end it just wasn’t as engaging in the same ways as the others did.
3. Detainment – 6/10
This is hands down the most deeply affecting short. As a father, having to endure a testimony of two young boys who lured a 2yr old boy away from his mother and murdered him made me openly weep and question all that exists in this world. It’s a sad tale that just when you think it will offer a moment of reprieve decides to lean into that evil a little further exposing that what was shown wasn’t even the worst of it. It’s a difficult watch that is painful and in some ways necessary.
2. Skin – 7/10
This short is an interesting commentary about revenge in the face of racism and evoked some strange feelings of rationalization despite wrongdoing. As previously mentioned, it finds a child at the forefront of an adult-sized decision and with his father’s fate flirts with the absurd.
1. Marguerite – 8/10
This short is the most light-hearted of all the nominees – if light-hearted means a dying woman who’s true love for another woman could never emerge at a young age due the immense repression of those feelings in her generation but is now able to see the freedom of that same love through her Hospice nurse’s relationship with her girlfriend. See, I told you. More importantly, it’s not about the neglect, abduction or murder of children which is the subject of the other nominees. So it felt easy to choose in this case.
5. Animal Behavior – 3/10
This short holds the distinction of being the worst because its story was the weakest in comparison to the others and its animation was good but not amazing. It’s a clever concept – various animals in group therapy for different reasons, but where it seemed it would be more comical it chose to double-down on some unrealized deeper meaning.
4. Late Afternoon – 5/10
The story in this short was good but it was hard care for the animation. In truth, it brought out some deeply repressed fear of the Caillou cartoon but that’s for me to handle, not you(shudders). It was sweet and is right to be nominated but does nothing beyond that to supersede the other nominees.
3. Bao – 7/10
This one was easily the silliest of the nominated shorts but that doesn’t make it less dangerous to win this category. Like the others, Bao focuses on familial love and support but reserves unfolding those themes until the final reveal in the end. It’s a clever story but one that seems to be commonplace among PIXAR as it is always able to find a strategic way to tug at your heartstrings. However, this time it just didn’t do enough to stand out above the previous two with the exception of its humor. It is still hard to forget get the image of the mother eating the dumpling for the first time.
2. One Small Step – 8/10
Yet another short that grapples with family issues and at a short runtime manages to accomplish so much. It’s a wonderful story of a father’s love and support both in life and in death towards his daughter which leaves a warm feeling with the viewer at the end.
1. Weekends – 9/10
Choosing this short may go against the norm but it resonated on more of an emotional level than all of the other nominees. While Bao and One Small Step both focused on familial themes of love and support, Weekends managed to exemplify those same themes and more for me. Seeing a child navigate a broken home while watching his parents struggle to do the same was hard but done so in a way where it felt personal and authentic as if it was the director’s own way of processing his life’s story. And not to mention that the animation was wonderful!
5. A Night at the Garden – 4/10
This short is eerie on many different levels and while it should’ve made the shortlist of nominees, this should not occupy one of the top five positions. That being said, there is something very ominous and creepy about the real footage of a white Nationalist convention happening in such a public forum without any repercussions…..then again, Madison Square Gardens has held R. Kelly before…
4. Lifeboat – 5/10
Shining a light on the rescue and treatment of refugees from other countries is always interesting but where this short fell apart was its camerawork. The doc relies heavily on natural footage with little to no explanation of what is occurring to drive its point home and while in some cases that concept works it leaves much information to be desired with Lifeboat. There is the exception of several talking heads throughout but it’s mostly left up to the camera to follow and show the hardships that the refugees endure in order to realize freedom.
3. Period. End of Sentence – 5/10
This is a good documentary short but it left the impression that it could’ve been better. Its subject, Indian women finding economic ways to manufacture and distribute menstrual pads to their fellow villagers. It documents the beginning of an educational revolution not just for the women but more importantly their husbands and brothers that completely misunderstand the concept of self-sanitation. Its uplifting and yet somewhat stark when really thought upon.
2. End Game – 7/10
This short was another difficult watch and a slow burn of inevitability no matter how much you wished the outcome to change by the end credits. What was most impactful was how the true weight of what was happening slowly crept up on the viewer because in the beginning you expected there to be some form of hope or change that would swoop in to at least deliver some reprieve from the perceived outcome. But it never did instead leaving you to increasingly realize the gravity of what the brothers, husbands and sons have to endure seeing their loved ones slip away. The finality of it is incredible and this doc doesn’t flinch when depicting their journey.
1. Black Sheep – 8/10
As with the other predicted winners, Black Sheep touched on an emotional level. Cornelius’ journey through racism and hardship sounds so familiar and yet so strange based on the lengths that he went through just to fit in. But it was a sentiment that felt authentic and haunting as if to exclaim no matter how far we might think we’ve come as people, we still have so much further to go.
For more Oscar coverage, stay tuned to keithlovesmovies.com.