Screener(s) for Short Films Provided by Landmark Theatres
2019 has been one of the best years for filmgoers in recent memory, featuring releases from some of the greatest cinematic legends to ever splash the screen including, but not limited to, Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), and Sam Mendes (1917). But the sheer abundance didn’t just focus on the greatness of the past, in fact far from it, as filmmakers like Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite) released projects that shouted their names from the rooftops and beyond. The same goes for the excellent selection of live-action and animated short films that were nominated for this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, debuting at Atlanta’s Midtown Art Cinema this Friday. Short films are renowned for being the perfect place for “experimentation,” inviting industry-icons and fledgling filmmakers alike and indulging in one of the most precise yet liberating mediums available to cinephiles today.
Indeed, so much goes into each one of the nominated short films, from the brilliant Tunisian Brotherhood to the animated audience favorite Hair Love from Matthew Curry, that it is almost criminal that short films, even ones on the caliber of this year’s selection, are being overshadowed in an admittedly busy awards season. Either way, there is so much to each short film that attempting to review them all in one piece would be a disservice to the respective filmmakers, and it is a good thing too as I strongly suspect that we will be hearing some of these names again in the coming decade. Coupled together, 2019 has been the year of an opus of a short film delight, marking the genesis of what are surely the next auteur filmmakers.
IMAGES from the 2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Shorts.tv)
On the live-action front, experts seem to predict wholeheartedly that it will be Brotherhood who will take home the Oscar come the morning of February 10th, and it is a well-deserved achievement on director Meryan Joobeur’s part. Joobeur’s film embraces themes of forgiveness and maturity, even for much older characters. Mohamed Grayaâ turns in a masterful performance as Mohamed, conveying a man who is much too reluctant to pull away from the past. Presented in a vertically favored aspect ratio akin Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, Brotherhood is dripping in color, fleshing out its beaches with serene camera work. It’s quite possibly my favorite short film out of the bunch this year, and it more than deserves the numerous accolades it has been awarded, outside of the befitting Oscars nomination, being featured at both TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) as well as Sundance.
Highlighting another live-action short, A Sister, from creator Delphine Girard, is a heart-pounding and thrilling fifteen minutes or so that serves as an absolute feat of editing. The sharp cuts between the two decisively different protagonists lend for a ticking urgency that persists throughout. It’s one of those rare pieces where the viewer can be immersed one hundred percent without missing a beat. The quality is a result of a fast-paced script penned by a writer who knows the art of anxious filmmaking like no other, standing toe-to-toe with 2019 releases like Uncut Gems for instance. I wish this Belgium film was grabbing more attention with Academy voters, but it seems Girard may have to just settle for a nomination this time around.
As for the animated short films, they are just as enjoyable, if not more, than their live-action counterparts for their inventive technical ingenuity. Hair Love may be the favorite to nab the golden statue, but every single one of the nominated films wields a fierce flair that makes every frame of the fifty minutes when combining all of the shorts breathtakingly beautiful. Memorable is a clear standout on this level as the French film combines some imaginative sets with startlingly reflective characters. While it is anything but guaranteed that digital animation will further crush the stop-motion field in the new decade, recognized films like Daughter, Memorable, Sister, and hopefully Laika’s Missing Link for the Best Animated Feature category continue the audacity that the pioneers of the expensive genre of animation inspired.
Watching the Oscar-nominated short films is a process for quite literally feasting your eyes on some of the finest filmmaking your two pupils have ever dilated to. While that statement may stray a tad bit into exaggeration, it doesn’t dissuade the truth that short films are the best way to consume bite-sized blocks of entertainment. In an age where streaming platforms overstuffed with “binging” content in TV shows, blockbuster action films, and comedies dominate the industry, short films’ popularity may slip even further, but the genre will never die thanks to the savior Jesus Christ and a legion of filmmakers who are just waiting to fashion the next Brotherhood or Memorable.
Don't miss this rare opportunity to see all the Academy Award nominees in the categories of Best Live Action Short and of Best Animated Short!
The Live Action program includes: Brotherhood (Canada/Tunisia/Qatar/Sweden), about a hardened shepherd living in rural Tunisia who is deeply shaken when his oldest son returns home after a long journey with a mysterious new wife; Nefta Football Club (France/Tunisia), in which two young brothers come across a donkey in the desert—wearing headphones over its ears; The Neighbors’ Window (USA), the story of a frustrated wife and mother whose life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings move in across the street and she discovers that she can see into their apartment; Saria (USA), the tale of two inseparable orphaned sisters as they fight against daily abuse and unimaginable hardship at Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala; and A Sister (Belgium), about a woman in trouble who must make the most important call of her life.
The Animation program includes: Daughter (Czech Republic), about a daughter who recalls a childhood moment when as a little girl she tried to share her experience with an injured bird with her father; Hair Love (USA), a heartfelt story centering around the relationship between an African-American father, his daughter, and the most daunting task a father could ever come across—doing his daughter’s hair for the first time; Kitbull (USA), revealing the unlikely connection that sparks between two creatures: a fiercely independent stray kitten and a pit bull; Mémorable (France), about a painter who begins experiencing strange events—slowly, furniture, objects and people lose their realism, sometimes disintegrating; and Sister (China/USA), in which a man thinks back to his childhood memories of growing up with an annoying little sister in China in the 1990s. What would his life have been like if things had gone differently? This program will be rounded out with the additional animated shorts Henrietta Bulkowski (USA), featuring the voices of Chris Cooper and Ann Dowd, The Bird and the Whale (Ireland), and Hors Piste (France).
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2020: ANIMATION & LIVE ACTION Hits Atlanta's Midtown Art Cinema on January 31st, 2020.