Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Predicting the Winners

Best Live Action Short Film

International cinema usually gets the short shrift in the “marquee” categories (writing, directing, acting, and picture), landing only sporadic nominations for crossover hits.  Short subjects, however, are a different story.  This year’s crop of live action shorts is particularly subtitle-friendly with only one nominee filmed entirely in the English language.  The rule of thumb here is to look for a polished entry that hints at feature-length potential.


The Nominees

Asad: A young Somali boy is tempted by the pirate life in Asad, and must decide whether to find a more honest use for his seafaring talents.  Though his prospects are bleak, this is a lively film that presents the possibility of escape without sugarcoating the casually violent nature of his environment.  The cast of real-life Somali refugees adds some verisimilitude to Asad’s struggle, though a bizarre ending – narratively and tonally – threatens to undercut the movie’s noble aspirations.

Buzkashi Boys: The sport of buzkashi, an extreme kind of polo played with a dead animal carcass, is still popular in war-torn Afghanistan.  Buzkashi Boys is less about this pastime and more about a world where there’s an ever-present friction between the old ways and the new, as illustrated in the friendship between a young street orphan and the sensitive son of a strict blacksmith.  Thematically similar to Asad, but with superior production values, Buzkashi has the right balance of dramatic weight and timeliness that typically appeals to Oscar voters.

Curfew: Richie is a drug addict contemplating suicide when his sister calls him seeking an emergency babysitter for his niece, Sophia.  The unlikely pair finds a way to bond in this comedy/drama/musical from Shawn Christensen, who serves as writer, director, and star.  Though his pint-size charge has serious Manic Pixie Dream Tween potential, Christensen keeps everything grounded enough to work, particularly in his last few heartrending scenes.

Death of a Shadow: A dead World War I veteran (Matthias Schoenaerts of Rust and Bone) is forced to harvest the shadows of murder victims with a special camera, preserving them as hangings in the gallery of a mysterious collector.  It’s implied that Schoenaerts was once a specimen himself and is using his second chance to look after the woman he loves – provided his jealously towards her new suitor doesn’t get in the way.  A stunningly original steampunk ghost story, Death of a Shadow is the type of challenging, innovative film whose nomination is more of a pleasant surprise than anything else.

Henry: Henry is a former concert pianist experiencing the worst day of his life when he returns home from a cafe to find his beloved wife missing.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg in Henry, a pretentious head-scratcher that treats the delicate subjects of aging, loneliness, and dignified death as the perfect backdrop for a vague conspiracy thriller.  It’s an intriguing premise on its own, but the French-Canadian production is also plenty maudlin in staking its claim as a massively profound statement on the ephemeral nature of life.

Dark Horse: Curfew
Will Win: Buzkashi Boys

The Oscar Nominated Short Films open in select theaters on February 1. Be sure to watch the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24 to see which films won!

Follow Eric Ambler on Twitter (@AmblerAmblog) and stay tuned to Screen Invasion via Twitter (@ScreenInvasion) and Facebook.
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The Author

Eric Ambler

Eric Ambler

Eric Ambler is a film critic and correspondent for Screen Invasion, as well as the founder of Ambler Amblog (https://ambleramblog.blogspot.com/). His parents named him after a Welsh spy novelist they found in a reference book. Someday he will get around to watching all the VHS tapes he bought at Goodwill.