Every time I make my Oscar picks, I always go through Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, and Adapted Screenplay and then I just start guessing. Cinematography? Well, let’s just go with whatever I picked for Best Picture. Editing? Same. Animated Feature? The Pixar one. Best Song? Best Score? Uh… Best Costume Design? Which is the period piece? Makeup? Are there any aliens in any of the movies? Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are different categories? Oh yeah, they explain why every year and I forget every year. Production Design? I gotta go with Best Picture again. Visual Effects? My Best Picture pick. I find that when filling out your Oscar predictions, your Best Picture pick is like a face card in black jack, assume it’s coming. Play the odds, hope for a sweep.
Then it comes to the other movies and I’m just picking a title. Documentary, Documentary Short, Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live Action), and Foreign Language Film. These have always been blind guesses.
This year, though, IFC and The Alamo Drafthouse are both showing the Oscar Nominated Live Action and Animated Short films. Last night, I saw the Live Action Shorts. They were all pretty fantastic.
Based on actual events that happened in Atlanta, this film was jarring to start off the night. If you’re familiar with America and school and what often happens in American schools that never happens in any other country, you’ll know what this is about. But what emerges is a touching character piece between two people, one who is lost, and one who has recently started to come back from being lost herself.
The Silent Child
This is a touching story about a teacher working with a deaf child in England. The story arc is pretty standard and it gets unnecessarily didactic at the end. But the movie shines with the relationship between the teacher Joanne (Rachel Shenton) and the child Libby (Maisie Sly). Watching the little girl come alive was wonderful.
My Nephew Emmett
I honestly didn’t get what this short set in Mississippi in the 50’s would be about. But is that Whitely from A Different World? (Yes, it is in fact Jasmine Guy.) Then a couple of minutes into the movie a character tells Mose Wright that his nephew sure can whistle. Oh no. 1950’s. Mississippi. Emmett. Whistling. Mose (L.B. Williams) knows immediately how the story ends and we wait with him. The confrontation between Mose and J.W. Milam (Dane Rhoades) before Milam takes Emmett Till out into the night is so powerful in its humiliation.
The Eleven O’Clock
Thank God there’s a funny one. This Australian seventies-styled short is like a great Mitchell and Webb sketch about a psychiatrist treating a patient with the delusion that he’s a psychiatrist. There’s some great word play but what sets it apart from a sketch is a poignant session with a different patient at the end that puts everything in a different light.
Watu Wote/All Of Us
This is also based on a true story. It’s hard to talk about without giving away what happens (real life spoiler here) but what I can say is that it’s about a journey in Kenya that shows the often deadly conflict between Christians and Muslims. It’s hopeful and tragic and I was riveted by the exchanges between the Christian passenger (Adelyne Wairimu) and the Muslim professor Salah Farah (Abdiwali Farrah).
I enjoyed The Eleven O’Clock but I don’t think the funny one will win this year (Fun Fact: Steven Wright won an Academy Award in this category for The Appointments of Dennis Jennings in 1988, so, it happens sometimes). The Silent Child was great but it hammered home its point a little too hard. My Nephew Emmet and Wotu Wote/All Of Us are both fantastic films but this year I’ll be picking Dekalb Elementary. Steven (Bo Mitchell) and Cassandra (Tarra Riggs) were both so compelling in such an unexpected way. I loved it.
We’ll see if I have any idea what I’m talking about or if I’m still just guessing.