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Oscar Nominated Short Films 2019: Animation & Live Action (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Oscar Nominated Short Films 2019 – Live Action & Animated



(Estimated Running Time: 108 minutes)

Detainment – Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon, 30 mins.

Fauve – Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon, 17 mins.

Skin – Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman, 20 mins.

Mother – Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado, 19 mins.

Marguerite – Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset, 9 mins.

Dear Academy,

What the hell have you done? What are these live action shorts that you have nominated for 2019? Is it a reaction to the current climate of the world? Each film felt more horrifying than the next, with a focus in four of the five films on traumatized young boys. I applaud the actors, each and every one. As the viewer, I was genuinely distressed for each of them, and cannot imagine how they were able to take on these incredibly difficult roles without experiencing trauma of their own right.

Perhaps the first short that I viewed set the tone and expectation (and fear for what was to come). The first live action short that I watched was “Detainment.” This Irish film tells the story of the youngest convicted murderers of the 20th century (well, to this point). The content is based on the transcripts from the police interrogations of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were both ten years old when they abducted and murdered two-year-old James Bulger in 1993. Ely Solan really stood out in his portrayal of Jon, with his sweet face and horrified tears – but you never know if it is because of his actions or because they got caught. With a 30-minute run time, this was the longest of the 5 films. Thankfully, they do not reenact the murder, but the content is still so awful that you find yourself wondering if they were worthy of having their story told. Worse, it appears that maybe the mother of the two-year-old never gave her permission for the film.

So admittedly, I started Canadian short, “Fauve,” already upset about the first film. I was perhaps looking or hoping for something to cleanse my brain after “Detainment.” “Fauve” was not the remedy. The story, again, centers on two young boys. They are in the throes of a game of one-upmanship, where points are earned on tricking their opponent. Your brain knows that it feels a whole lot like it is going to have a boy who cried wolf kind of ending. It is not quite that literal, in spite of its title (which by the way, means “wildcat,” a poignant title quite fitting with the film), but it does not end well. “Fauve” is bleak and horrifying in its own quiet way.

“Madre” starts with a little more promise. The opening shot is an incredible pan of the beach, a beautiful, tranquil beach, taking up over one-and-a-half minutes of the film’s just under 18-minute run time. A woman and her mother are making conversation after a day out when the woman receives a call…from her six-year-old son. Yeah, again, a young boy is the central at-risk subject of this short. This is definitely the thriller/mystery of the grouping and was gripping throughout. On its own, I would have really loved and appreciated this film – it had a very clear storyline and tension throughout, playing to the fear of a mother whose child is lost, with the same feel that made the original Taken so relatable.

So, it was with great trepidation that I hit play on “Skin,” a movie that makes 2017’s Get Out look like a children’s film. Once again, the evil that is occurring involves young boys, and the grown men that raise them. In what starts out looking like a story about a dad and his son, the audience is tricked into feeling a bit of empathy for this heavily tattooed man, giving his son a haircut. Then the whole family goes off on an adventure to a… shooting range. I still thought, okay, maybe this is trying to open my mind to not jump to conclusions about the way someone looks, even if they are wielding guns. But no, a playful moment between a man of color at a register of a grocery store quickly escalates into hate, and then rapidly progresses into a nightmare beating of the man, in from of his wife and young son. Then, the beaten man’s friends, with the young son, take matters into their own hands. I was not prepared for the twist and turns and will likely not forget for a long time, if ever. This short has been picked up by Fox Searchlight.

“Marguerite” was the only film of the five not centrally focused on a young boy in jeopardy. The film was nostalgic and sweet. It centered on an elderly woman reminiscing about life and considering potential regrets, as she listens in with interest to her home nurse’s interactions with her significant other. The film is a reminder that humans are biopsychosocial sexual beings and not to discount human needs, even as a person ages. Having said that, and again, perhaps it was my mind already suffering trauma from earlier shorts, but I found the film getting close to or actually crossing the line of professionalism as the film reached its end. But, “Marguerite” was thought provoking and sweet overall.

2018’s grouping of live action shorts was the first that I had watched in full. There were films that were funny and uplifting. The 2019 list is absent of any humor or any attempt to uplift humanity. A sign of our times or a desert in need of cultivating?


(Estimated Running Time: 75 minutes)

Bao – Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb, 8 mins.

Late Afternoon – Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco, 10 mins.

Animal Behaviour – Alison Snowden and David Fine, 14 mins.

Weekends – Trevor Jimenez, 16 mins.

One Small Step – Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, 8 mins.

In comparison to the 2019 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts, I have far fewer feelings overall about the Nominated Animated Shorts. And for the most part, the feelings that I do have are more positive, for even when a film brought me to tears, they were tears for good reasons – joy, pride, love.

The first film that I watched I remember from its time in the theaters, opening for Incredibles 2. “Bao” – created by Domee Shi and Becky Neimann-Cobb, from the USA – is a touching silent short, driven by music and its visual story rather than dialogue. I remember, at that first viewing, feeling mesmerized and a bit horrified as what started as a delicious looking Bao dumpling came to life into an aging woman’s child. With affection, it was easy to suspend any sense of belief and time as the young bao “grew” older and older, adding glasses and even facial hair. His mother wanted only his company but watched as the young Bao found love and threatened to leave with his human fiancée. In a twist that led to my audience’s collective gasp, we caught on to the truth of the mother’s sense of loss and then watched as the family once again becomes whole. The film continued to hold its own on my repeat watch.

Irish short “Late Afternoon” (Louise Bagnall and Nuria Gonzalez Blanco) was one of my favorite shorts of the selection. With its poignant story filled with uplifting music, simple line figure animation filled with colorful background imagery and few words, “Late Afternoon” brought me to tears. I watched the main character, an elderly woman, diving into memories when given small triggers, like a cup of tea with a biscuit. Or a photo that reconnects her to her present as her house is being packed up, presumably to move to a more assisted location. “Late Afternoon” is timely as our population ages and humanizes dementia/memory loss/aging.

“Animal Behaviour” (Alison Snowden and David Fine) is the class clown of the group, centering on an unlikely group therapy session of animals. These include a grasshopper, an ape, a pig, and a leech, led by the canine therapist who has overcome his obsessive butt sniffing behavior and now lives to help others overcome their difficulties. What could these characters possibly have in common? A deep inner need for introspection and self-love. In “Animal Behaviour,” we get to be a fly on the wall watching animals personified, attending a group therapy session. This 14-minute Canadian short is relatable and super funny as the therapy session plays out, leading to newcomer, Victor (the ape) with clear anger issues to resolve.  When the animals revert to their animal behaviors, chaos ensues. Will they find the inner peace they are looking for? This short is dedicated to the medical staff at Vancouver General Hospital, a nice touch.

“Weekends” (Trevor Jimenez) felt a little surreal in both its animation and fine details telling the story of a little boy as he is moved from his mother during the week to his father on the weekends. We watch these transitions through the eyes of the young boy, his perspective of normalcy with his mother, artistic mystery with his father. Over time, and as his parents grow and get involved in other relationships. At 16 minutes, this is the longest of the animated shorts, as it chronicles the good and bad of these relationships, and how both parent and child fit into each other’s new lives.

Finally, “One Small Step” (Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas) plays like the montage from Up, uplifting, playful, and poignant. Dedicated to those who support our dreams, “One Small Step” timelines one girl’s journey from childhood to astronaut, supported by her cobbler father.  We watch the little girl grow and persevere as she pursues her dream, age appropriately focusing on her studies and goal more than her father. “One Small Step” is joyful but sad. Thinking back on the short film, I continue to well with tears. This was one of my favorites of the shorts, likely for its positive message of perseverance in following your dreams.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: February 8, 2019.


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