Oscar Nominated Short Films
Existential themes were commonplace in nominations
The animated short is one of the categories of film that holds the unique privilege of being simultaneously complicated and simple. It is one of the few areas where filmmakers can experiment with style and message and use the short running time for a bit of a shock value.
This year’s selections of Oscar-nominated short films, which are screening at the Princess Cinema from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5 were no exception. The nine short films, all ranging between five to 20 minutes, all seemed to focus on similar themes of life, death and depression.
These extremely relatable and overused themes ran rampant in each short film. While the topics themselves are certainly not new, the subtle changes in how life and death were approached created refreshingly existential awareness, letting the audience laugh at the absurdity of it all.
One technique that was not universally used but which was effective for the material shown in each short was switching up the point of view of the film. By using an indirect point of view, the short films could show deep or mature situations through restricted lenses such as the eyes of a child, like in Me and My Moulton, or the eyes of a dog in Feast.
This year’s selection of animated shorts really pushed on the montage technique, fitting lifespans into small spaces where topics such as death and depression shouldn’t really fit but where they always end up being portrayed anyway. Each short provided mini-lessons about humanity’s life and death experiences and while some were depressing, others were absurd and even more were reflective of the phenomena we are all too familiar with. A Single Life and The Bigger Picture were the most notable in this regard.
Ironically, the longer selections focused on development of the individual in a particular moment in time as opposed to the montage technique. One such short film where this could be clearly seen was The Dam Keeper, which was a total of 18 minutes and focused entirely on the main character’s mental struggle.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of diversity in the countries nominated for the category. Almost all of them were American, with a few from Canada or from Western European countries. Settings were also heavily influenced on these countries. Whether or not this indicates the similar themes and styles, it can safely be said that the world was very likeminded this year.