By Sean Boelman
Every year, ShortsTV releases the Oscar-nominated short films in theaters, giving audiences the opportunity to see them before the ceremony and pick their favorites for the big night. This year’s crop of live action short films is interesting, with a focus on timely and topical films. Below is our personal ranking of the films.
5. Two Distant Strangers
Although it deals with some very important subject matter, Two Distant Strangers is undeniably the weakest film in the bunch. Taking a Groundhog Day approach to police brutality, the film follows a young Black man who finds himself reliving the same deadly encounter over and over again. It’s a well-intentioned short, but the somewhat exploitative nature of the execution prevents it from ever resonating as it should. Although it is nice to see the Academy recognizing the necessity to talk about this topic, there are definitely better ways that this issue can be approached in film.
4. The Present
There is always at least one short that is absolutely heartbreaking, and this year, it is The Present. Thankfully, the film mostly treads the line between emotional and tear-jerking quite well, but by the end, it ends up feeling like altogether too much. A majority of the film is spent building to a climax that, while effective, is also very to-the-point. It would have been nice to see this short go deeper into some of its political implications.
3. White Eye
The Israeli film White Eye has the most wasted potential of the bunch of short films. It’s a well-made film with a compelling message, but like too many political shorts, it ends up feeling rather one-note. There are some interesting things happening in the character development, but the conflict feels a little bit too on-the-nose for it to be a slam dunk. The highlight of the film is undeniably a layered performance by lead actor Daniel Gad, but this is the type of short film that doesn’t feel like a fully cohesive whole.
2. The Letter Room
The Letter Room has an immediate advantage in the category, and that is the fact that it has a big star as the lead in Oscar Isaac. However, even though this is the film that will probably catch viewers’ (and voters’) immediate attention most easily, it is also probably the least likely to stick with viewers. Compared to the other four films in the category, what it has to say is less important. It is also the longest of the five films, and it is not paced well enough to accommodate.
1. Feeling Through
The clear standout in this year’s batch is Feeling Through, an uplifting film about a disadvantaged teen befriending a deafblind man. It’s a bit melodramatic, but it’s also undeniably sweet and moving. Great performances by Steven Prescod and Robert Tarango ground the film despite its occasionally maudlin elements, and writer-director Doug Roland’s empathetic hand is much welcome. It won’t be hard to get people behind this message of inclusivity, so don’t be surprised to see this one take home the statue come Oscar night.
The 2021 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films hit theaters and virtual cinemas on April 2.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.