Combustible Celluloid

Oscar-Nominated Shorts (2021)

Robin Robin

A Short Stack

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

These are selections from the 94th Academy Awards, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short, and Best Documentary Short nominees... basically the ones I was able to find streaming on Netflix or YouTube. I may (hopefully) be adding more soon. See also: Lead Me Home, Robin Robin, and When We Were Bullies.

- Affairs of the Art -

From the UK, the hand-drawn Affairs of the Art tells the story of Beryl (voiced by director Joanna Quinn) and her obsession with wanting to become a great artist. Accompanied by flashbacks, she tells of the strange obsessions of her family members, ranging from taxidermy to calculating the angle and number of threads on screws. The animation is loopy and fluid, with lots of waggling pencil-lines, giving a warm, organic feel, even if Quinn doesn't shy away from unsettling images, the grotesque, and strong nudity. (Nominated for Best Animated Short.)

-The Long Goodbye-

Last year's Best Actor nominee Riz Ahmed co-wrote and stars in the 13-minute The Long Goodbye, a film actually intended to accompany the actor's latest album. It's a simple, yet devastating piece, showing a British South Asian at home, practicing dance moves and arguing over the TV, when an armed, extreme right-wing group breaks into their home and rounds them up, along with many neighbors. The film ends with a rap performed by Ahmed. This one terrifyingly illustrates a brutal reality that could be just around the corner. (Nominated for Best Live Action Short.)

- On My Mind -

In the 18-minute On My Mind, from Denmark, the owner (Ole Boisen) of an empty bar sorts through receipts in an attempt to do his taxes. A woman bartender (Camilla Bendix) teases him about his fastidiousness. A man comes in, orders a single drink, and prepares to leave, until he spies the karaoke machine. He asks to sing "Always on My Mind." The owner grouses about having to turn on the machine, and about needing to concentrate. The bartender encourages the man. He asks her to film him singing. He messes up a few times. But it's important that he do this, and the reason will break your heart. This is a lovely little film. (Nominated for Best Live Action Short.)

- The Queen of Basketball -

The wonderful The Queen of Basketball tells the story of Lusia Harris, who may be the greatest female basketball player of all time. It's a bittersweet experience as well, given that she passed away in January of 2022. The daughter of sharecroppers (she picked cotton after school), she secretly watched games on TV and idolized Oscar Robertson. She thought, "I can do that." At 6'3", she became the only Black woman on her college team and led them to three victories. She also played in the Olympics, and nearly played for the NBA. Director Ben Proudfoot packs a lot into 22 minutes, but if not for Harris, who has a sly, playful, and grateful way of looking at her past, it wouldn't have been nearly so good. (Nominated for Best Documentary Short.)

- The Windshield Wiper -

The animated The Windshield Wiper is a strange film, fascinating, but leaves off with a rather dissatisfying tone. It centers on a man in a cafe, smoking a lot of cigarettes, and attempting to define "love." We see many couples. Some of the relationships seem doomed, some deadlocked, and some promising. The animation style looks like rotoscoping, but it's apparently not; some shots are quite striking, and others are disturbing. It's worth a look, at any rate. (Nominated for Best Animated Short.)

CD Universe
Movies Unlimtied