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A guide to the 2023 Oscar shorts


In recent years, access to the Academy Award-nominated shorts has become a little easier for Oscar completionists, the obsessives who try to watch all the nominated films in every category before the annual airing (March 12 this year). That’s even true with the absence of the National Archives’ free screenings of the Oscar shorts — a favorite of local filmmakers — that haven’t returned since they were suspended during the pandemic. In addition to commercial theaters starting to offer the bite-sized films this weekend, several of this year’s nominees are available to stream online, including a record five films — spanning every category: animation, live action, and documentary — released by the New Yorker and viewable for free on the magazine’s YouTube channel. (See below, as noted, for additional streaming options.)

Netflix is ​​also in with a few nominees, and Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus also have contenders, though the latter, shockingly, has no animated feature in competition. For those looking to get a head start on the Oscar pool, here’s our annual guide to all 15 nominated films, presented in area theaters by ShortsTV, and how we’re stying this year’s race.

This year’s nominees are an unusual bunch, and not just because there’s no entry from Pixar or any of the other major studios. It is especially the wide range that stands out.

At one end of the spectrum is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (available on Apple TV Plus), an absolutely beautiful, poetic, and G-rated meditation on the meaning of family, based on the book by the eponymous by Charlie Mackesy (who co-directed this charmer with Peter Baynton). Voiced by Jude Coward Nicoll, Tom Hollander, Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne respectively, the unlikely group of title characters travel together across a snowy landscape – to better showcase the animation, which mimics the book’s evocative pen drawings – in search of the house of a lost boy.

At the other (far) end is – ahem – “My Year of Dicks” (available on Vimeo). Based on a chapter from Pamela Ribon’s memoir “Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public,” the uncensored and humorous film follows the adventures of a 15-year-old girl (voiced by Brie Tilton) who has decided to give up her virginity. to lose. Appropriately enough, it’s animated by Sara Gunnarsdottir, who created the animations for the 2015 bold, candid live-action film ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’.

Between these extremes lie two hand-drawn and surreal vignettes: “Ice Merchants” and “The Flying Sailor” (both available on the New Yorker’s YouTube channel). The first imagines a father and son – the movie’s titular artisan ice cream vendors, in a fable themed on global warming – who live in a precarious cliff-side cabin, from where they go with the harvest of the day jumping on the floor. The second is loosely based on fact: inspired by the so-called Halifax Explosion of 1917, in which a sailor, Charles Mayers, reportedly survived after being flung more than a mile through the air after two ships collided, causing caused an explosion. .

Critic’s Choice: Call it “The Truman Show” meets “Wallace and Gromit.” In the delightful stop-motion meta story “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It,” an office worker (voiced by filmmaker Lachlan Pendragon) realizes he’s part of a stop-motion movie production, as he himself puts it. says, a box with its own faces. Fans of the stop-motion movies from Aardman and Laika studios will love this one.

Not classified (treat as R). The animated program contains foul language, sexuality, nudity and smoking. 97 minutes.

Disney is changing things up by presenting one of this year’s live-action films: ‘Le Pupille’, a low-key comedy set in an Italian orphanage during the rigors of World War II that explores the mild conflict over a pie between the mother superior (Alba Rohrwacher, sister of the director, Alice Rohrwacher) and a cute little girl (Melissa Falasconi). The film’s Hallmark-y moral – fate works in mysterious ways – is laid out on screen. Equally sweet and uncomplicated is “An Irish Goodbye,” in which estranged brothers (James Martin and Seamus O’Hara) mend their bond in the wake of their mother’s death.

There are heavier offerings, including two from Scandinavia: “Night Ride” (available on the New Yorker’s YouTube channel) is about an incident on a Norwegian streetcar, where a passenger (Ola Hoemsnes Sandum) is harassed by other passengers, and “Ivalu,” by Danish filmmakers Anders Walter and Pipaluk K. Jorgensen, is based on a graphic novel about the disappearance of a teenage girl by Morten Durr and Lars Horneman.

Critic’s Choice: In “The Red Suitcase”, a 16-year-old Iranian girl (Nawelle Ewad) arrives at a Luxembourg airport by plane, met by a much older man (Sarkaw Gorany) carrying a bouquet of flowers – a seemingly innocuous scenario belied by the girl’s panic. Directed and co-written by Cyrus Neshvad, a Luxembourgish filmmaker of Iranian descent, the short film – a gripping thriller that unrolls in 17 minutes – draws much of its strength from the recent protests in Iran that have taken place over the state’s abuse of women .

Not classified (treat as R). The live-action program contains strong language and mature thematic elements, including suicide, sexual abuse and a child bride. 115 minutes.

Jay Rosenblatt, whose 2022 short film ‘When We Were Bullies’ was our choice for the Oscar last year (he didn’t win) is back with another nominee: ‘How do you measure a year?’, in which he interviews his daughter Ella every year on her birthday from 2 to 18 years old. It’s a smart take on growing up, but also sweet. So is “The Elephant Whisperers” (available on Netflix), a portrait of two caretakers at an Indian elephant sanctuary, to whom their pachyderms are like children.

The Washington-centric “The Martha Mitchell Effect” (available on Netflix) revisits Watergate through the story of its subject: the wife of Richard M. Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell, who was silenced as “mad” and “hysterical” because she spoke out about the political plot. But for sheer visual power, “Haulout” (available on the New Yorker’s YouTube channel) is a strong contender: The film focuses on the threat to walruses in the face of melting sea ice and follows Russian marine biologist Maxim Chakilev during one of his annual visits to Cape Heart-Stone on the Chukchi Sea. In the film’s most dramatic scene, Chakilev wakes up to some 95,000 animals outside his hut, exhausted and weak from having no sea ice to rest on during their travels.

Critic’s Choice: “Stranger at the Gate” (available on the New Yorker’s YouTube channel) tells the powerful and deeply moving story of Richard (Mac) McKinney, a former Marine with PTSD after his service in Afghanistan who planned to drop a bomb. detonate at the Islamic Center of Muncie, Ind. – until he met and befriended some of its members. The film is not only about McKinney’s journey, but also about the journey of two Afghan immigrants – McKinney’s potential victims – whose surprising kindness converted him.

Not classified (treat as PG). The documentary program contains foul language; smoking; and some mature thematic elements, including Islamophobia, mental illness, discussion of violence, and animals in danger. 160 minutes.

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