David’s Thoughts On The Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

4 Mar

This year, for the first time in my life, I had the privilege of seeing the Oscar nominated live-action short films.  The short films have always been one of the categories that I know nothing about, my opinions of them based solely on the short clips shown during the awards ceremony.  And, unfortunately, those brief clips will have to suffice again this year in the animated short film category.  However, I have seen the live action selections; I have formed opinions about them. I may even make a prediction as to which will take home the Oscar.

There are five short films nominated in the live action category.  They are:  The Door, Instead of Abracadabra, Kavi, Miracle Fish, and The New Tenants.  They’re all fantastic.  I loved watching all of them.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t really know a whole lot about short films.  I have not watched a great number of them.  I don’t know any of the theories about how they are supposed to work.  None of that went into the viewing with me.  And, obviously, none of it came out of the viewing with me either.  Consequently, I have had way more conversations with my wife about these short films than I usually do after we see a movie.

The following is what I think I’ve figured out through these conversations.  I am not going to give you a plot breakdown of all five films and review them each individually.  That would take a long time, and I’m too lazy to do it.  Plus, I’m way more interested in what I am going to talk about.

With full-length features the filmmaker has around two hours to explain a point to the viewer.  This is done through the characters, the setting, the action; just like a novel, everything in this roughly two-hour production helps to drive toward a theme.  Short films aren’t usually long enough to develop a theme in the same way .  It seems to me that they tried to simply make a point instead.  Kavi was about how horrible slavery is in India.  Miracle Fish was about how painful and jarring growing up can be.  Yes, obviously, there’s a lot more to these stories than just that.  But there’s a lot less to them than there is to a full-length feature.


I also noticed that most of the films seemed to be pointing out a social injustice.  Whether it was slavery in India or the Chernobyl disaster (The Door), we got to see a twenty-minute clip of what is wrong with the world.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.  They made their points, and they were good ones.

However, my two favorite shorts were the ones that didn’t follow this convention.  Instead of Abracadabra didn’t fit the trend because it’s a straight up comedy.  About a guy in his late twenties/early thirties who still lives with his parents and dreams of being a magician,  I laughed out loud and thoroughly enjoyed the entire film.  It also has nothing to do with what I’m discussing. It was completely different from all the other short films.

Instead of Abracadabra

The other film that stood out to me was The New Tenants.  This is the story of two guys who move into an apartment and slowly meet their increasingly insane neighbors.  I loved this short film.  It was so different because it seemed to pointing out the exact same things that other non-comedic short films were pointing out, but it had a completely different conclusion.  I felt like The Door, Kavi, and Miracle Fish all spent twenty minutes pulling at my heartstrings in order to make me think about the issues they were dealing with.  The New Tenants spent twenty minutes showing me why life is good in spite of all the terrible things that happen to totally random and innocent people.  It pulled at my heart and made me feel the same things the other films had, and then ended in a note of joy.  Maybe I’m just being totally lame, but I like that.  I think that way.  And I liked having someone point it out to me.

The New Tenants

So in conclusion, all five of these short films are wonderful.  However, if you only have the opportunity to see one of them, watch The New Tenants, directed by Joachim Back.  It’s wonderful.  And I hope it wins an Oscar on Sunday.


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