Oscar-nominated short films impress

The best short films are true works of art. With running times typically 30 minutes or less, they deftly convey meaningful stories and themes in a condensed time frame.

Animation nation · The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore enchants viewers as it celebrates the power of storytelling. - Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Unfortunately, with categories like best picture, best actor/actress and best director typically garnering the most attention during Oscar season, the categories for best short films often fall to the wayside.

Among this year’s nominees for best animated short film, best live-action short film and best documentary short are several must-see gems. Here’s a look at the standouts among the nominees for short films.

Best Animated Short Film

What Should Win: 

This category is a toss-up between The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and La Luna — both combine whimsical stories and poignant soundtracks with stunning, colorful animation.

Directed by digital animation guru William Joyce, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore follows the life of a young man who discovers the power of storytelling. Swept up in a storm while suffering writer’s block on his balcony, he ends up in a new world where books can fly and stories have life-changing powers. The film uniquely combines miniatures, computer animation and 2-D animation techniques with breathtaking, life-like results.

La Luna, Spanish for “the moon,” is another Pixar hit directed by Enrico Casarosa, the story expert behind Ratatouille and Up. La Luna depicts the coming of age of a young boy whose family is in an unusual line of work and must carve his own path alongside his father and grandfather. Michael Giacchino, the man behind the heartwarming musical theme from Up, composes a perfect orchestral backdrop to the film.


Honorable Mention: 

You won’t want to miss A Morning Stroll, a U.K. film that depicts a New York man’s early-morning encounter with a chicken, played out several times over 100 years. With the film’s shifting animation styles and use of humor, A Morning Stroll is a clever, light-hearted stab at how society changes over time.


Full list of nominees: 

Dimanche/Sunday, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, La Luna, A Morning Stroll, Wild Life.

Best Live-Action Short Film

What Should Win: 

With Raju, German director Max Zähle creates what feels like an Oscar-worthy feature film in just 26 minutes, leaving the audience yearning for more. The film centers on Raju an Indian orphan who is adopted by a German couple. In a sudden turn of events, the boy disappears and the couple uncovers a disturbing truth. Set against the lively, congested background of Kolkata, India, the story shines because of terrific acting from Wotan Wilke Möhring and Julia Richter, who play the German couple. In particular Möhring — who is able to convey pain and conflicted emotion with his eyes, without saying a single word — steals the show.


Honorable Mention: 

Although viewers might prefer the lighthearted Time Freak, about a man’s obsession with traveling back in time to yesterday, Tuba Atlantic’s cynical humor and underlying message — that it’s never too late to be accepted — should garner the Norwegian film attention from Oscar voters. Oskar, the aptly named protagonist, is a pessimistic old man who is told he has six days to live. With the help of Inger, a young woman sent to be his public “death angel,” Oskar attempts to reconnect with his estranged brother before he dies.


Full list of nominees:

Pentecost, Raju, The Shore, Time Freak, Tuba Atlantic.

Best Documentary Short

What Should Win: 

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom highlights the incredible courage and resilience of the Japanese survivors of the hardest-hit areas of the March 2011 tsunami.

Though the astounding footage of the tsunami destruction takes your breath away, it’s the hope symbolized by the blooming Japanese cherry blossom that embodies the film’s message. The beautiful, lyrical quotes shared by the people in the movie regarding their most beloved flower are awe-inspiring, especially regarding survivors’ ability to draw optimism and acceptance from nature.


Honorable Mention:

Both The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement and Incident in New Baghdad deserve recognition here.

Barber is a poignant, sentimental look back at the Civil Rights Movement and how far the United States has come through the eyes of James Armstrong, an Alabama native whose barbershop served as a hub for civil rights since 1955. Incident covers the notorious July 2007 Baghdad incident where U.S. forces killed two Reuters journalists and several unarmed civilians, recounted by former U.S. Infantry Specialist Ethan McCord.

Both films fascinatingly portray the ability of people to commit inhumane acts and, conversely, the courage of individuals who take a stand against injustice.


Full list of nominees: 

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement, God is Bigger than Elvis, Incident in New Baghdad, Saving Face, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.