The Oscars ceremony is tomorrow, and as usual, the media will focus on the big awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay(s), and Best (and Supporting) Actors/Actresses.
But there’s more to the Academy Awards than that. A lot more.
Just recently, I watched the Oscar nominated short films—both the animated films and the live action films. After watching them, my single question is this: why aren’t they given more coverage?
So now I’m going to try to rectify that injustice by talking about the films. And then I’ll predict the winners.
Best Animated Short Film
If you ever wondered what a modern day Aesop’s fable might look like, look no further than Theodore Ushev’s Blind Vaysha. It tells the story of a girl who sees the past out of one eye and the future out of the other. While it relies heavily on narration, the story—coupled with a daring art style—was fascinating to watch and left me with much to ponder.
What would it be like to relive a tragedy? What’s more, what would it be like to relive a tragedy that you caused? Borrowed Time, a Western drama involving a sheriff and his son, asks just those questions. With beautiful landscapes and a moving story, it was a treat to watch—twice.
In a world where people like to forget that choices have consequences, Pear Cider and Cigarettes is a grim look at reality. And yes, it is based off a true story about a guy, who, suffice it to say, makes all the wrong choices. Out of the five animated films, I have to admit that this one was probably the most heartfelt—and the most miserable.
The line between good storytelling and great storytelling sometimes relies on one thing: the point of view. Pearl, then, is a wonder. It’s the story of a girl and her father, told from their car’s point of view. And in this case, the perspective is perfect—and it gives us a window into the lives of the family as they trek across the country.
Pixar’s animation is always top-class—and Piper doesn’t disappoint. With beautiful drawings and a cast of quirky characters, Piper brought humour and amusement to an otherwise sombre list of nominees—reminding us, as always, that comedy does have a place in good film making.
After all of that, I’m going to say that I think Pearl will win this year. Its serious-yet-hopeful tone, portrayed through some of the best storytelling I’ve ever seen, is sure to win fans. And in this case I would have to agree—it was my personal favourite too.
And now, to the live action shorts.
Best Live Action Short Film
Even though it’s set in the 1990s, Ennemis intérieurs sends a powerful message to the present. It tells the story of an Algerian who has lived in France his whole life, and is now having difficulties in trying to become a citizen. The fact that all the action happens in a single room doesn’t deter it from discussing problems much larger: racism, terrorism, nationalism, and religious discrimination. While it’s not timeless, it does send a poignant message to us in the present.
What would it feel like to be left behind while the world moved on? Le Femme et le TGV asks that question before it dives into the life of Elise, a rather crusty old woman who is living in the past. And while she does not want to move on—well, life, and the railway system have another plan for her. Heartwarming and relevant, the film certainly captures the imagination.
In the age of immigration and refugee crises, Silent Nights tells the story of a Danish social worker and a Ghanaian refugee and their rather complicated relationship (ahem, love life). It discusses charity, poverty, racism, homelessness, and in some aspects, it reflects the crisis we are facing in today’s world.
Just because children are small doesn’t mean their problems aren’t as big as the ones adults have. Nor does it mean that they can’t solve those problems. Sing is the story of the relationship between a school choir and their director, and, as it turns out, sometimes the dilemmas children face are as complicated (or even more so) than those adults face. And yet, sometimes their solutions are things adults wouldn’t think of. Which makes them all the more brilliant.
Sometimes friendship can be found in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways. Timecode is a whimsical story of the friendship between two security guards working different shifts in the same building. Like Piper, Timecode is a humorous story, showing again, that humour is just as powerful a feeling as the rest.
We can’t deny it. Hollywood is political. And it loves to hate Donald Trump. With this in mind, I think that Ennemis intérieurs will win this year, with Silent Nights a close second. Both discuss immigrants and citizenship, but I think that Ennemis intérieurs will pull ahead due to the fact that it also tackled racial profiling and Islamic hate, which are, all things considered, a little more in the news lately than the themes Silent Nights considered: interracial love and the refugee crisis. The only reason I can see Silent Nights winning is because of its hope-filled conclusion.
But while they were both good, my personal favourite would have to be Sing—which, aside from the great story, did have some wonderful singing too—and it did raise the most interesting questions.
I guess all I can say now is, “may the best film win”. Right?