Oscar-nominated Shorts: The Lowdown
A guide to the 15 nominees in the Animated, Live-Action, and Documentary Shorts categories -- and where to see them.
What place does the traditional short film have in a world of binge TV series on one hand and TikTok videos on the other? Back in the studio era, the form served as a warm-up act for the featured attraction, and in more recent decades shorts became a way for novice filmmakers to show off their chops and hopefully score a deal for a full-length movie. (Maybe someone should program a festival of early short films by great directors: Spielberg’s “Amblin’,” Scorsese’s “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?,” Tim Burton’s “Stalk of the Celery Monster”. Oh, wait, someone already has.)
The short film as creative calling card still exists, but with the rise of digital distribution and streaming platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Short of the Week, and many more, they’re become a crucial currency in our short-attention-span culture. (What’s a GIF but the shortest of short films playing on an endless loop?) We watch shorts on our phones on the bus ride to work, have them forwarded by email from siblings and friends – do everything, in short, except watch them in a movie theater.
In recent years, of course, you’ve been able to do that too, thanks to the traveling program of Oscar-nominated shorts that makes the rounds of art houses and independent theaters in the months leading up to the big show. These days, tellingly, the program is distributed by specialty streaming service ShortsTV and is split into two packages, with the animated and live-action nominees in one group and the documentary shorts (which tend to be longer) in a second batch. You can find out which theaters near you are showing this year’s nominated shorts at the ShortTV website – or you can stream 12 out of the 15 on a subscription service or website. Two nominees are available on Netflix, two are on Hulu, one each is at Amazon and Apple TV+, and a full five were released by The New Yorker and can be streamed on the magazine’s online outpost and YouTube. Later this week I’ll post my award predictions in all categories, but, for now, paid subscribers will find below a guide to locating the films (and which ones are worth the hunt) whether they’re hardened Oscar-ballot completists or merely shorts-curious. Trailers and in some cases the full movie are embedded beneath each entry.