Big Things, Small Packages

The Oscar Nominated Short Films

by George Wolf

Several years back, someone who deserved a promotion came up with the idea of packaging the year’s Oscar nominated short films into three separate features, and making them available to theaters. Every year, it’s a wonderful chance to get the local big screen experience for films often only available through festivals or smaller screen streaming.

And again this year, the programs are well worth seeking out.

Animated Block

An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It Australia 11 mins. Writer/Director: Lachlan Pendragon

It had you at the title, didn’t it? In a bit of Office Space meets Wallace and Grommit absurdity, an online toaster salesman gets red-pilled by a wise flightless bird. A stop-motion gem.

Ice Merchants Portugal 14 mins. Writer/Director: João Gonzalez

In this lovely short, a father and son live in a frigid house attached to a cliff, parachuting down each day to a village where they sell their ice. On its face, a parable on climate change, but works real magic through the abstract nature of a late surprise. Our pick for the hardware.

My Year of Dicks Unted States/Iceland Writer: Pamela Ribon Director: Sara Gunnarsdóttir

Another arresting title. And this nominee, based on Ribon’s memoir, is a charmingly honest look back at one young woman’s attempts to get some. Utilizing a mix of animation styles, the film speaks sweetly to how friendship can often help get us through those awkward years.

The Flying Sailor Canada 8 mins. Writers/Directors: Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby

Based on an incredibly true event from 1917, a sailor is blown skyward from an accidental explosion, soaring naked as he contemplates life in a state of near-death. The latest from a Palme d’Or-winning duo is eight minutes of surprising profundity.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse United Kingdom 32 mins. Writers: Jon Croker (from the book by Charlie Mackesy) Directors: Peter Baynton, Charlie Mackesy

Was unable to preview this one.

Live Action Block

An Irish Goodbye Ireland 23 mins. Writers/Directors: Tom Berkeley, Ross White

With Banshees of Inisherin all over the feature nominations, this one gives the Emerald Isle some short subject love. In rural Northern Ireland, two brothers reunite after their mother’s passing. One brother wants to quickly sell the house and leave, while the other aims to complete Mom’s bucket list. Two fine performances drive a warm and human tale.

Night Ride (Nattrikken) 15 mins. Norway Writer/Director: Eirik Tveiten

On a very cold winter night, Ebba is force to wait outside for a tram while the driver takes a break. Some unlikely events later, she’s driving the tram and picking up a few other passengers. What begins with hi-jinks becomes a poignant lesson in empathy.

The Red Suitcase 18 mins. Luxembourg Writers: Guillaume Levil, Cyrus Neshvad Director: Cyrus Neshvad

A 16-year old Iranian girl is hesitant to pick up her suitcase from baggage claim at the Luxembourg airport. The new life that the girl’s father has arranged for her is a life she does not want, and the film becomes an effectively tense attempt to evade the man waiting at the gate with flowers.

Ivalu 16 mins. Denmark Writers: Anders Walter, Morten Dürr (graphic novel) Directors: Anders Walter, Pipaluk K. Jørgensen

Pipaluk is desperate to find her sister Ivalu, who has suddenly vanished. Though their father seems unconcerned, Pipaluk begins a search through the wilderness, where memories may reveal painful secrets. It’s a bit obvious, but beautifully realized.

Le Pupille 38 mins. Italy Writers: Alice Rohrwacher, Carmela Covino Director: Alice Rohrwacher

From Disney and producer Alfonso Cuarón comes a Christmas story based on a letter that the Italian writer Elsa Morante wrote to a friend. Set in Italy at a Catholic boarding school for girls during WWII, the film employs gentle humor and wonderful performances to comment on religion, power, sacrifice, mercy and the lure of lusciously moist cake. The likely winner.

Documentary Block

The Elephant Whisperers India 41 mins. Writers: Kartiki Gonsalves, Priscilla Gonsalves, Garima Pura Patiyaalvi Director: Kartiki Gonsalves

This touching doc takes us to South India, where a couple raises orphaned elephants as if they were their own children. It’s a beautiful testament to an intelligent and sensitive species, and to the bond possible between humans and the animal world.

Haulout 25mins. United Kingdom/Russia Writers/Directors: Maxim Arbugaev, Evgenia Arbugaeva

For ten years, scientist Maxim Arbugaev made an annual trek to a small hut in the Russian Arctic to observe walrus migration. What he found over the years is heartbreaking, and (hopefully) eye-opening. Haulout stands as an intimate example of just one stark consequence of our warming oceans.

How Do You Measure a Year? 29 mins. United States Director: Jay Rosenblatt

From the time his daughter Ella was two, until the day she turned eighteen, Jay Rosenblatt filmed an annual question-and-answer session between them. What is power? What are dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up? Sure, it’s a sweet and personal keepsake of their relationship, bit it’s also a universal look at how our children become their own unique selves. Parents, get ready for the feels.

The Martha Mitchell Effect 40 mins. United States Directors: Anne Alvergue, Debra McClutchy

The title refers to a real psychological term for when a patient’s accurate perception of events is misdiagnosed as delusional. If you don’t remember Martha and her role in the Watergate scandal, this will be a fascinating introduction. And if you lived through those endless news reports, the film is a must-see closeup on an angle you may have glossed over.

Stranger at the Gate 29 mins. United States Director: Joshua Seftel

What happens when a former U.S. Marine meets the very individuals he was planning to kill with a homemade bomb? A simply jaw-dropping story of forgiveness, enlightenment, and how the ignorance of blind hatred can be healed. The Oscar favorite.

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