Oscar History

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A Look at the Live Action Shorts

Eric here with a look at this year’s nominees for the Live Action Short category. 

Considering the fantastic year we’ve had for cinema, it’s a bit disappointing that the nominees aren’t the equal of their longform cousins, or even as strong as last year’s nominees.  But there’s some nice work.

Here's an overview of the pros and cons for each of the nominees...

Live Action Short
Ennemis Interieurs is essentially a two-hander interview between a French-Algerian man and the government official processing his citizenship documentation.  His inquisition reveals possibilities of terrorism and paranoia.  Visually the film is limited, but director Selim Azzazi calibrates the performances of the actors with assured skill, and the story resonates all too closely with our country’s own politics 

Pro:  Topical and powerful. 
Con:  Basically one long scene in the same setting.

Jane Birkin (Charlotte Gainsbourg's mom!) stars in "La Femme et le TGV"

La Femme et le TGV is quite frankly pretty terrible.  While it’s nice to see French icon Jane Birkin on screen, this story of an elderly woman who waves to the express train that passes her house, and later gets involved with its conductor, feels woefully cliché and saccharine.  It aims for the stylization of Amelie, but has none of that film's artfulness and sophistication. 

Pro:  Birkin & pretty French village setting. 
Con:  Everything else.

Silent Nights follows a Danish girl who volunteers at a homeless shelter and falls in love with a Ghanan refugee.  You can file this in the folder of “stories you haven’t seen before,” which is always cool, but the film feels forced dramatically, and there’s even a touch of “white savior” about it despite its obviously compassionate POV. 

Pro:  Original and timely. 
Con:  Schematic and a little contrived.

Sing, a Hungarian film about two young girls who uncover the true nature of their choir teacher, is undeniably this category’s crowdpleaser.  But it doesn’t earn its stripes cheaply:  the pleasure comes from its subtle intelligence and its subversive conversion of the personal to the political. [Read Nathaniel's interview with the director] 

Pro:  Traditional storytelling with satisfying conclusion. 
Con: None.

TIMECODE Trailer v2 from Rikki Nadir on Vimeo.


Timecode, the shortest film at 15 minutes, centers on two security guards at a parking lot in Spain.  The manner in which the day shift and the night shift come together here is surprising, warm, and funny, and director Juanjo Gimenez finds a way to take a non-visually-exciting environment (security cameras) and make it sing. 

Pro:  Inspired script, told through images and not dialogue. 
Con:  May seem too slight and too romantic.

Will winSing. Oscar voters like to feel good, and the deeply satisfying conclusion to Sing should easily do the trick for the win.

Look out forTimecode.  Its brevity weighs in its favor, and it’s the other film with an exultant ending.  But I still can’t imagine it beating Sing.

Did you get a chance to see these shorts?

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Reader Comments (10)

the key factor at the short film race, is who can afford actual campaigning... I don't recall there's a rule that forces voters to see ALL five nominees to have their vote counted. There's no excuse to not see the five nominated shorts... and your chances increase if you can throw parties, screenings or even just burn screeners to the whole Academy... something that with the tight budget of short films is quite unlikely.

so, normally, the one that has studio or big name backing, wins. That's why I feel The White Helmets is probably unbeatable at the Doc Short competition - despite what the subject matter may superficially indicate, The White Helmets aren't exactly a NGO - and that's why I am still surprised that the UNESCO-backed masterpiece that was "Binta and the Great Idea" by that spanish master called Javier Fesser didn't win the Oscar.

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

Re: Silent Nights
"Silent Nights follows a Danish girl who volunteers at a homeless shelter and falls in love with a Ghanan refugee. You can file this in the folder of “stories you haven’t seen before” ".

-it sounds like the storyline for Samba, the one with Omar Sy and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

I haven't seen the short, but being Danish, I of course have to root for Silent Nights to win!

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Hmmm. I found Silent Nights totally cliche-ridden and unoriginal. And offensive, to boot. None of the other four were anything special, but I'd vote for Timecode. It made me smile

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

@ Jesus

That may be true today, I couldn't say, but it certainly wasn't a quarter century ago. Noooo. ;-)

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

If voters were forced to watch them all, I believe "Sing" (my fave) or "Enemies Within" would win. I think "Enemies" takes it just because of the subject matter... if that's all voters are basing it off of.

"Timecode" was entertaining but slight, as you say.
"Silent Nights"... a little too much credibility-straining.. and she was too forgiving.
"Gainsbourg's Mom"... too goofy.. and how was she getting her messages to him?

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

I didn t think they were overall worse than last year. Comparable quality if you ask me. I agree that the academy will likely go with a crowdpleaser and it's hard to imagine anything beating Sing. It s a good short. Not my favorite. My winner would be Timecode. I think it's deceivingly simple but it is a beautiful metaphor for humans looking for emotional release against the most stale backdrops. I m a sucker for french speaking women on bicyclettes with patisserie. So i m defenseless to the charms of La femme et le TGV but it s a pointless movie. Ennemis Interieurs is compelling but really limited in scope. And not pretty to look at. And silent Lights was horrific. Terribly written, cliche ridden and very uncomfortable for me to sit through as someone who knows the issues addressed first hand.

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

I've said it before in this site but TIMECODE is by far my favorite. And in the year of LA LA LAND, why not right? Plus it was the ONLY film the crowd I saw it with that got wide-spread applause by the end.

But I'm predicting LA FEMME ET LE TGV to win. It's the only one with a recognizable star and I think the older folks in the Academy will be drawn to it.

I think the absolutely shitty SILENT NIGHTS and the much better ENNEMIS INTERIEURS will cancel each other out in the "timely immigrant story" movie. But I also wouldn't be surprised if either won.

And then there's SING, my second favorite film of the lot. Definitely could see it win as well. So... in summary I think they can all win. What do I know?

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

The two immigration woes tales might cancel each other out, but I'm picking the topical "Silent Nights" for the win with "Sing" as a close runner-up. Didn't like the train lady one or the grating Q&A one. "Timecode" intrigued me and could upset, I guess.

February 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

I did see the shorts! I loved Sing, Timecode, and the Jane Birkin one. I wasn't terribly fond of the other two. How cool that they're all foreign!

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Silent Nights is *appalling*.

If they're voting politically, then Enemies Inside would win. If they're voting based on cute, then The Lady and the Train or Timecode. If they're voting based on the best, then Sing. Now watch Silent Nights win because white people are awful.

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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