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Ranked: 2021 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films


Ranked: 2021 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

Apr 25, 2021

By Austin Trunick

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​The 93rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony happen tonight, April 25th. As in years past, we’ve taken a look at this year’s short film competitions. The Academy defines a short film as an original motion picture running 40 minutes or less, and excludes all advertisements, unaired or unsold television episodes, or credit sequences from feature-length films. Our critic, Shawn Hazelett, watched and ranked all of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts.

Here, he looks at this year’s live action category:

1. The PresentThe Present expertly sets a status quo in the West Bank, where tensions are high and often between Arab residents and Israeli guards, and then in small increments raises the story to a boil. The performances behind Yusef—a father with a bad back trying to get the titular present, a refrigerator, through the checkpoint—and Yasmine—his daughter, who doesn’t understand why they can’t use the street like the Israelis—are quiet, measured, and believable.

2. Feeling Through – A listless young man happens upon a lost blind and deaf man in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He helps him to the bus stop he requests to get home, but it’s clear the man needs additional assistance, forging an unlikely relationship through the night. The storytelling here isn’t all that exceptional, though the subtitled text messaging provides an eventual throughline to communication through touch and is admittedly raft with sentimentality, but seeing a touching and believable friendship can be worth it.

3. White Eye – An Israeli man discovers his stolen bike but when he pursues the thief, he realizes its new owner was likely not the initial thief and is in fact a poor, undocumented immigrant. A well-concocted scenario, the question of tolerance doesn’t quite resonate as the film seems less interested in the bike’s importance to motivate such unwavering pursuit than the kitschy one-shot employed through the duration of the film.

4. The Letter Room – Oscar Isaac’s appearance in a short should feel motivated by an incredible script or vision. However, his role as a prison officer monitoring and collating correspondence tries to approach themes more worthy of a feature film. Even if the film doesn’t quite have the legs for a feature, it feels far too rushed for a short.
Two Distant Strangers – This is a clever, prescient idea: Groundhog Day, except instead of reliving monotony, a young black male is continuously killed by a cop in incrementally different scenarios. It would seem a high concept if this weren’t such a recurring theme in modern America. However, an ingenious premise and great production support (check out the list of Executive Producers) is undercut by incredibly poor writing that feels unrehearsed, lacks specificity to the actors and characters, and takes far too many shortcuThe PresentThe Present expertly sets a status quo in the West Bank, where tensions are high and often between Arab residents and Israeli guards, and then in small increments raises the story to a boil. The performances behind Yusef—a father with a bad back trying to get the titular present, a refrigerator, through the checkpoint—and Yasmine—his daughter, who doesn’t understand why they can’t use the street like the Israelis—are quiet, measured, and believable.

5. Feeling Through – A listless young man happens upon a lost blind and deaf man in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He helps him to the bus stop he requests to get home, but it’s clear the man needs additional assistance, forging an unlikely relationship through the night. The storytelling here isn’t all that exceptional, though the subtitled text messaging provides an eventual throughline to communication through touch and is admittedly raft with sentimentality, but seeing a touching and believable friendship can be worth it.

6. White Eye – An Israeli man discovers his stolen bike but when he pursues the thief, he realizes its new owner was likely not the initial thief and is in fact a poor, undocumented immigrant. A well-concocted scenario, the question of tolerance doesn’t quite resonate as the film seems less interested in the bike’s importance to motivate such unwavering pursuit than the kitschy one-shot employed through the duration of the film.

7. The Letter Room – Oscar Isaac’s appearance in a short should feel motivated by an incredible script or vision. However, his role as a prison officer monitoring and collating correspondence tries to approach themes more worthy of a feature film. Even if the film doesn’t quite have the legs for a feature, it feels far too rushed for a short.

8. Two Distant Strangers – This is a clever, prescient idea: Groundhog Day, except instead of reliving monotony, a young black male is continuously killed by a cop in incrementally different scenarios. It would seem a high concept if this weren’t such a recurring theme in modern America. However, an ingenious premise and great production support (check out the list of Executive Producers) is undercut by incredibly poor writing that feels unrehearsed, lacks specificity to the actors and characters, and takes far too many shortcuts.ts.



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