The Eagle’s Guide to the 2018 Academy Award Nominated Short Films
The Academy Awards this year have a very diverse set of films across all categories, with the short film section being no exception. Here is The Eagle’s guide to the Oscar-nominated shorts broken down by category (“Animated,” “Live-Action” and “Documentary”) and listed in alphabetical order within those categories.
In this charming short, a runtish dragon competes with two of his larger, stronger and more talented peers in a competition to impress a human audience. The problem is, our small dragon friend has a bit of a sneezing problem, which muddles all of his attempts to impress. Acting as a parable on perseverance while also describing the creation of fireworks, it is a great accompaniment to any Lunar New Year celebrations.
“Dear Basketball” - Won Academy Award for Best Short Film (Animated)
This short film is quite literally a love letter to the game of basketball, created and narrated by recently-retired Lakers player Kobe Bryant. Its hand-drawn animation style illustrates Bryant’s life from his early childhood when he first picked up the game until just before his final season, all while a voice-over by Bryant explains his love for the game. This is a must-see for Lakers fans, but will evoke a heartwarming response from viewers who don’t watch basketball as well. The emotion behind Bryant’s voice is moving, and listening to someone talk about what they love is rewarding in itself.
“Garden Party” is a wonderful animated short exploring the day-to-day life of a few frogs. As the story progresses, following these frogs as they explore a dilapidated home, it becomes clear that their surroundings are much more sinister than they seem. The utter lack of dialogue and a reliance on visual storytelling is what makes this selection stand out, right up until its macabre conclusion.
One of two shorts on this list dealing with a Lost and Found, this purposely drab story revolves around a man and his new robotic companion in the repetitive cycle of the man’s job at the “Lost Property Office.” It focuses on the man’s yearning for a better life, but he seems to also appreciate his job and all of the little trinkets that adorn the shelves within his office. This short’s purpose is difficult to decipher, but still manages to impress with its unique animation style and attention to detail.
This year’s submission by Disney, “Lou,” can be summed up as the story of a well-intentioned “Lost and Found” monster teaching a valuable lesson to a schoolyard bully. Another short devoid of dialogue, “Lou” manages to pull at heartstrings as the viewer explores the bully’s own past, and how he manages to atone for the wrongs he has inflicted on his classmates. The design of the monster itself is enough to keep the viewer engaged, as it morphs into different forms, made of a collection of random “Lost and Found” items. This is a must-see for any fan of animation.
This submission by the French Manuel Cam Studio explores a man’s relationship to his father during his childhood in the only way he knew how: through learning how to pack luggage. The narrator attaches a great deal of sentimental value to such a menial task, as it was all his busy father had time to do before going away on extended business trips. This hyper-focused short is sure to make the viewers feel sentimental.
The longest animated short by far at 29 minutes, “Revolting Rhymes” is a unique take on a handful of classic fairy tales told from the perspective of a Wolf (voiced by Dominic West) who happens to be the uncle and caretaker of the wolves from “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs.” Anyone who is familiar with these tales knows it does not end well for these wolves, but the short makes variations in their untimely deaths as well. Merging together the aforementioned fairy tales and “Snow White,” the filmmakers are able to construct a unique twist on these classic children’s stories to the point where they are clearly no longer meant for children.
“Weeds” is the most concise selection on this list, lasting just under three minutes. It is about a flower on a barren, dying lawn strip who desperately wants to get to greener pastures. With the neighboring lawnstrip flourishing and well-kempt, the flower decides to make a harrowing attempt at migration, uprooting itself and crossing the burning pavement. Clearly there are some intersections between this short and current events involving the Trump administration’s stringent anti-immigration policy, confirmed by the dedication at the end which reads, “to anyone who dares to wish for a better life.” This short is a cute yet convincing story about immigration on a micro scale.
Inspired by true events, this short is a tense 20-minute sequence following a would-be school shooter and an office administrator at an elementary school as she tries to defuse the situation. This intensity begins to melt away as it becomes clear that the shooter is just scared and confused, and the desk clerk tries to help police disarm him. This concise and intense short is well-acted and certainly worth a watch.
As the name implies, this film deals with what is likely the heaviest subject matter in the entire list: the senseless murder of Emmett Till in 1965 at the hands of a pair of white men. From the point of view of Emmett’s uncle Mose Wright, the viewers are shown the final hours of his young nephew’s life, and the climax focuses on the confrontation the uncle had with the murderers prior to Emmett’s death. The short’s one major flaw is that Emmett is briefly present,serving only to push the plot further while the filmmakers choose to linger on his uncle. This takes some of the humanity away from Emmett, and his off-screen death takes away much of the impact, but those familiar with the incident are sure to be touched by this short.
This witty Australian short follows a doctor and his patient who thinks he is also a psychiatrist as they try and navigate a therapy session where they both think the other is the patient. This convoluted short leaves the viewer unsure if they pull off the twist at the end, but it is certainly worth seeing as it plays with dialogue in fascinating ways.
“The Silent Child” - Won Academy Award for Best Film (Live Action)
One of the most endearing shorts in this category, “The Silent Child” is about a woman who is a sign language teacher and babysitter for a small girl in England. Tasked by the girl’s busy mother to help her learn sign language and lip reading, the teacher builds a relationship with the girl which rivals that of the girl with her own family. It serves the purpose of raising awareness about deafness and the ways we can change as a society to ensure those who are deaf are given the resources and opportunities they need and deserve.
Another short based on a true story, “Watu Wote” focuses on the difficult relationship between Muslims and Christians in Kenya. A Christian woman is travelling with a group of Muslims when their bus is halted by a group of Muslim men who have the intent of killing Christians. This short illustrates that there is little difference between us, regardless of religion, and while it could have conveyed the same message in about half the time, the high production value and the strong message makes this a worthwhile watch.
Documentary filmmaker Laura Checkoway follows the lives of a recently married couple, Edith and Eddie (who are 96 and 95 years old, respectively) as they deal with Edith’s daughters, who are fighting over whether or not she should be placed in a home or be left alone. The dispute threatens to separate Edith and Eddie, and with their age, their ability to travel is questionable at best. With Edith objecting to being taken from her husband but the power to do so being in the hands of her guardian, unique and complicated power dynamic is at play throughout this documentary short.
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” - Won Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject)
This short focuses on the incredible story of artist Mindy Alper, who has suffered through many trials including childhood abuse, mental disorders and depression. It chronicles her life from early childhood to now, in her own words, with anecdotes from family and close friends. It is a brilliant portrait of mental health, the boundaries those with mental disorders face and how they can overcome them. This is a powerful story that is engaging from start to finish.
Following the day-to-day duties of several women who work in Huntington, West Virginia combating the opioid epidemic that has plagued their town, “Heroin(e)” is able to put a face to this national crisis. A drug court judge, a first responder and a community activist all work different aspects of the same system, and give a broad picture of the many different ways opioids affect even the smallest communities across the country.
“Knife Skills” is the story of a restaurant owned by an ex-convict, who sets out with the lofty goal of having the best restaurant in America. What makes things even more interesting is that his restaurant, Edwin’s, almost exclusively hires ex-convicts, and has the intention of giving these people an opportunity to rebuild their lives. This operates both as an entertainment piece where a restaurant owner and a chef attempt to train a massive staff with no prior experience, as well as an important piece raising awareness about the incarceration system and the sheer number of people released every day who are looking for employment. It demonstrates that even with a criminal record, many of these people are competent, capable, and willing to work.
In this HBO documentary short, the difficult relationship between police and the African-American community is condensed into a single incident of police brutality involving a black school teacher named Breaion King. At what seemed to be a routine traffic stop, King was violently slammed to the ground by a police officer without explanation, the incident being caught on the officer’s dash cam. “Traffic Stop” manages to address this cultural pandemic while also keeping focus on King herself. With police brutality being such a cultural centerpiece right now, this is a must watch.
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