Countdown to Oscars
The Shorts

By Nathan Edmondson



For the week leading up to the 86th Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is hosting Oscar Week, a series of public events honoring this year’s nominees.  On Tuesday night, I had the privilege of attending the sold-out Animated and Live Action Short Film Program at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The ten films screened over the nearly four hour event are each a testament to the artistic excellence possible with the short film format.

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Wait. It took four hours to watch the short film nominees? Yes.  Andyes, that’s a long time to be sitting in a theater seat. Required to be no more than 40 minutes in length to qualify for the short film categories, most of the nominees fell into the 10 to 20 minute range. Thankfully, host and stand-up comic Kevin Pollack kept the night and the Director Q&A’s rolling, and a ten minute intermission to stretch and run to the corner store for ice cream helped as well.  And did I mention all the films were excellent?

The night consisted of five animated and five live action films from around the world. In fact, only one of the films was produced in the US, the Disney animation short ‘Get a Horse!’ (Many foreign films benefit from direct government funding and support.) Of the animated films, ‘Get a Horse’ set a high technical bar interweaving the animation style of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons with modern 3D animation. Yet, I see ‘Mr. Hublot,’ about an OCD mechanical man and his mechanical dog, or ‘Room on the Broom,’ based on a popular children’s story about a good witch and a whole mess of animals, as the front runners in the animation category for mere emotional engagement and elicitation of joy.

All of the live action short films were powerful. From the violent and war-torn ‘Aquel No Era Yo’ (That Wasn’t Me) about child soldiers in Africa to the playful and fun ‘The Voorman Problem’ about a man who believes he’s God, the stories told were equally varied and engaging.  ‘Avant Que De Tout Perdre’ (Just before losing Everything) is a masterful story of suspense; yet, the sweet and tender ‘Helium’ remains my favorite for the live action short film winner.

Kim Magnusson, ‘Helium’ producer, three time Oscar nominee and one time Oscar winner, pointed out that his company uses the short format to groom up-and- coming talent. He went on to articulate that, in fact, the short form is most effective because it doesn’t have the industry pressures that accompany producing a feature film. As a result, all of the attention can be put on being true to the story and to the short format. Based on the quality of the nominees’ work, I’m sure we’ll be seeing many of these directors in the future.

To find out more information about this year’s short film nominees, please visit Oscars.org/oscarweek.  I hope you are able to catch some of these wonderful films, before or after Sunday’s big event.  Having suffered from limited distribution in the past, short films are gaining in popularity thanks in large part to the internet and VOD.

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