Best Oscars Short Films of 1983: Powerful Film-Making

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Written By Kelsey Waddell

Kelsey Waddell is a freelance writer living in Virginia. She's a fan of science fiction, Iron Chef, and anything with a musical number and a happy ending.

The 55th Academy Awards held in 1983 presented an exceptional lineup of Short Film nominees that showcased the power of storytelling in its most concise form. From captivating animations to thought-provoking documentaries and gripping live-action dramas, the 1983 Oscars Short Film category celebrated the best and brightest emerging voices in the film industry.

Each film offered a unique perspective on the world, showcasing exceptional creativity, technical mastery, and the ability to evoke profound emotions within a limited runtime. In this article, we will delve into the Best Short Film nominees of the 55th Academy Awards and explore what made each of them stand out in their respective categories.

These remarkable works exemplify the incredible potential of short films to captivate audiences, provoke thought, and leave a lasting impact. Join us as we celebrate the artistry and storytelling brilliance of the filmmakers who made their mark on the world of cinema in 1983.

Animated Short Films

Tango

Tango is a mesmerizing animated short film directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński in 1982. The film is a masterful exploration of time and space, told through a series of interconnected vignettes that follow different characters as they dance the tango.

The film’s animation style is truly unique and adds an extra layer of depth to the storytelling. Rybczyński employs a technique called “multi-screen” in which several shots are layered on top of each other, creating a sort of visual collage. This technique allows the film to explore multiple perspectives and timelines at once, giving the viewer a sense of the cyclical nature of time and the way our actions can have ripple effects.

The main characters of the film are the dancers themselves, who are depicted in a variety of settings and situations. There is no dialogue, but the music and movement speak volumes. The tango itself is a metaphor for the push and pull of human relationships, and the film explores the way our interactions with others can shape our lives.

One of the most striking moments in the film is when the dancers appear to be walking on the walls and ceiling of the room. This scene is a stunning example of the film’s use of multi-screen, as we see different perspectives of the dancers moving in sync. Another memorable moment is when a man and woman dance in a room full of clocks, each ticking at a different pace. This scene highlights the film’s theme of time and the way it can both unite and separate us.

Overall, Tango is a visually stunning and emotionally resonant film that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches it. While it may not be for everyone, those who appreciate experimental animation and thought-provoking storytelling will find much to admire here. This film is a testament to the power of animation as an art form and a reminder of the endless possibilities of the medium.

The Great Cognito

The Great Cognito is a 1982 animated film directed by Will Vinton. The film features the impersonator known as The Great Cognito, who literally transforms into countless faces of famous people using clay animation. The film explores themes of identity, celebrity, and the power of transformation.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of stop-motion animation and live-action footage to create a sense of whimsy and playfulness. The use of color and texture adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the malleability of identity and the fluidity of fame. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of joy and wonder.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when The Great Cognito transforms into a variety of famous faces, including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and John Wayne, highlighting the power of celebrity and the impact it has on our culture. Another standout moment is when the film explores the emotional toll of constantly transforming one’s identity, highlighting the complexity of self-discovery and the importance of authenticity.

Overall, The Great Cognito is a delightful and imaginative animated film. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of whimsy and playfulness.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in animation or celebrity culture, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the power of transformation and the importance of being true to oneself. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a fun and uplifting animated film.

The Snowman

The Snowman is a 1982 animated short film directed by John Coates and Dianne Jackson, based on the children’s book of the same name by Raymond Briggs. The film tells the heartwarming story of a young boy named James who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve that magically comes to life and takes him on a magical adventure through the night.

The animation style of The Snowman is simplistic yet effective. The hand-drawn style allows for a sense of warmth and familiarity that is perfect for a holiday movie. The use of color is minimal, with most of the film taking place at night, but this only adds to the cozy and magical atmosphere. The lack of dialogue also allows the animation to take center stage, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the visual storytelling.

The main characters of The Snowman are James and the titular snowman. James is a curious and adventurous young boy who is amazed by the magic of the snowman. The snowman, on the other hand, is mischievous and playful, leading James on a wild ride through the sky and even meeting Santa Claus himself.

One of the standout scenes in the film is when the snowman takes James on a flight through the sky, set to the beautiful and iconic score by Howard Blake. The animation of the snowman and James flying through the air is breathtaking, and the music adds an extra layer of emotion to the scene.

Overall, The Snowman is a timeless classic that is perfect for the holiday season. Its simplistic animation style and heartwarming story make it a film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. If you’re looking for a cozy and magical movie to watch with your family during the holidays, The Snowman is definitely worth checking out.

Live Action Short Films

A Shocking Accident

A Shocking Accident is a 1982 live-action film directed by James Scott. The film follows the story of Jerome, who was told as a child that his father died in a bizarre accident involving a pig that fell from a balcony. Jerome refuses to accept this fact and keeps creating another scenario as a replacement for his father’s strange death. As a grown-up, he is perplexed that people find his story amusing until he meets someone special who helps him find a way to cope with this awkward tragedy.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of flashbacks and present-day scenes to create a sense of the complexity of grief and trauma. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the story. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of melancholy and introspection.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Jerome recounts the story of his father’s death to a group of people who find it amusing, highlighting the disconnect between his own emotional experience and the reactions of others. Another standout moment is when Jerome meets someone special who helps him come to terms with his father’s death, highlighting the power of human connection and empathy.

Overall, A Shocking Accident is a poignant and introspective film that explores themes of grief, trauma, and the complexity of human emotion. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the story.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in stories about loss and grief, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the power of empathy. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged live-action film.

Ballet Robotique

Ballet Robotique is a 1982 live-action film directed by Bob Rogers. The film features the graceful movements of giant assembly line robots perfectly synchronized to classical music recorded by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This film may be the only industrial film ever to have been nominated in a creative category.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of close-ups and wide-angle shots to create a sense of the scale and precision of the robots. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the beauty and elegance of the robots’ movements. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of wonder and awe.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the robots move in perfect unison to classical music, highlighting the beauty and precision of the industrial process. Another standout moment is when the film explores the emotional impact of the robots’ movements, highlighting the sense of awe and wonder that comes with witnessing something truly remarkable.

Overall, Ballet Robotique is a visually stunning and awe-inspiring film. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the beauty and elegance of the robots’ movements.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in industrial processes or robotics, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the beauty and wonder of the world around us. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a visually stunning and emotionally charged live-action film.

The Silence

The Silence is a 1982 live-action film directed by Michael Toshiyuki Uno. The film follows the story of soldier Jason, who is injured and separated from his platoon during the Vietnam War. Mei, a mysterious young woman, finds him and takes him into her home.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of flashbacks and present-day scenes to create a sense of the complexity of memory and trauma. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the story. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of melancholy and introspection.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Jason and Mei develop a bond despite their language barrier, highlighting the power of human connection and empathy. Another standout moment is when the film explores the emotional toll of war on both soldiers and civilians, highlighting the complexity of the human experience during times of conflict.

Overall, The Silence is a powerful and emotionally charged film that explores themes of memory, trauma, and the complexity of human connection. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the story.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in stories about war and its impact on individuals, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the power of empathy. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged live-action film.

Split Cherry Tree

Split Cherry Tree is a 1982 live-action film directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy. The film follows the story of a group of boys on a school field trip who break a cherry tree and are punished. One of the boys has an overbearing father who believes in hard work and does not see the value in education. The surly father goes to confront the school.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of close-ups and wide-angle shots to create a sense of the emotional weight of the story. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of tension and conflict between the characters. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of drama and intensity.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the father confronts the school, highlighting the clash between traditional values and the importance of education. Another standout moment is when the film explores the emotional impact of the punishment on the boys, highlighting the complexity of the human experience and the importance of empathy.

Overall, Split Cherry Tree is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged film that explores themes of education, family, and the complexity of human relationships. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the story.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in stories about education and family dynamics, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the importance of empathy. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged live-action film.

Sredni Vashtar

Sredni Vashtar is a 1981 live-action film directed by Andrew Birkin. The film follows the story of young Conradin, who keeps a pet polecat hidden from his unpleasant aunt who is his guardian. Conradin also sends prayers to an imaginary deity, Sredni Vashtar, that he be delivered from his aunt – and his prayers are answered.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of close-ups and wide-angle shots to create a sense of the emotional weight of the story. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of tension and conflict between the characters. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of mystery and suspense.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Conradin prays to Sredni Vashtar, highlighting the power of imagination and the human need for hope. Another standout moment is when the film explores the emotional impact of Conradin’s relationship with his pet polecat, highlighting the importance of companionship and the bonds we form with animals.

Overall, Sredni Vashtar is a poignant and emotionally charged film that explores themes of imagination, hope, and the complexity of human relationships. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the story.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in stories about the power of imagination and the bonds we form with animals, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the importance of hope. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged live-action film.

Documentary Short Films

If You Love This Planet

If You Love This Planet is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary directed by Edward Le Lorrain and Terre Nash. The film was released in 1982 and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. The film’s subject matter is focused on the dangers of nuclear war and the catastrophic consequences that such a war would bring.

The main subject of the film is Dr. Helen Caldicott, an Australian physician and anti-nuclear activist who has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons. Through her speeches and interviews, Dr. Caldicott provides a clear and concise explanation of the science behind nuclear weapons and the devastating impact they can have on human life and the environment.

The film’s visual style is simple but effective. It is primarily composed of footage of Dr. Caldicott speaking at various events, along with archival footage of nuclear testing and the aftermath of nuclear disasters such as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The film’s use of archival footage is particularly powerful, as it allows the audience to see the devastating effects of nuclear weapons firsthand.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to its storytelling. The simple yet effective visuals allow the audience to focus on the message and the urgency of the issue at hand. The use of archival footage also adds a layer of authenticity and credibility to the film’s message.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Dr. Caldicott describes the effects of a nuclear explosion on a major city such as New York. Through her vivid description, the audience can imagine the horror and devastation that would result from such an event. Another powerful moment in the film is when Dr. Caldicott speaks about the psychological impact of living in a world where nuclear war is a constant threat.

Overall, If You Love This Planet is a must-see documentary for anyone concerned about the dangers of nuclear weapons. The film’s message is clear and urgent, and its use of archival footage and simple yet effective visuals make it a compelling and impactful viewing experience.

While the film may be of particular interest to those interested in political activism and social justice issues, its message is relevant to anyone who values human life and the health of our planet.

Gods of Metal

Gods of Metal is a 1982 documentary film directed by Robert Richter. The film explores the biblical premise of not worshiping false gods, specifically in relation to nuclear proliferation.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of archival footage, interviews, and animated sequences to create a sense of the historical and contemporary context of the issue. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the urgency and gravity of the subject matter. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of tension and unease.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the film explores the history of nuclear weapons and their destructive power, highlighting the urgency of the issue. Another standout moment is when the film examines the role of the military-industrial complex in perpetuating the arms race, highlighting the complexity of the issue and the need for systemic change.

Overall, Gods of Metal is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged film that explores themes of power, morality, and the complexity of human relationships. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the historical and contemporary context of the issue.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in nuclear proliferation and social justice issues, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the importance of moral responsibility. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged documentary film.

The Klan: A Legacy of Hate in America

The Klan: A Legacy of Hate in America is a powerful and informative documentary that explores the history and impact of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Directed by Charles Guggenheim and Werner Schumann, the film takes a close look at the Klan’s origins, its ideology, and the ways in which it has affected American society over the years.

The film features interviews with former Klan members, civil rights leaders, and historians, as well as archival footage and photographs that help to contextualize the Klan’s history. Through these interviews and images, the filmmakers create a vivid and disturbing portrait of the Klan and its impact on American society.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is its visual style. The filmmakers use a combination of archival footage and reenactments to create a sense of historical context and to bring the stories of the film’s subjects to life. The cinematography is often dark and moody, reflecting the somber and serious subject matter.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is a reenactment of a Klan rally, complete with hooded figures and burning crosses. The scene is both eerie and powerful, and it serves as a reminder of the visceral impact that the Klan has had on American society.

Overall, The Klan: A Legacy of Hate in America is an excellent documentary that provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking look at one of the darkest chapters in American history. While it may not be for everyone, it is a must-see for anyone interested in American history, civil rights, or the ongoing struggle for social justice.

I recommend this film to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Klan and its impact on American society. While it is a difficult and disturbing film to watch at times, it is also an important and necessary one.

To Live or Let Die

To Live or Let Die is a 1982 documentary film directed by Terry Sanders. The film explores the ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies in the neonatal I.C.U. of Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, where life-and-death decisions must be made.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of observational footage, interviews, and medical imaging to create a sense of the complexity and urgency of the issues at hand. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the emotional weight of the subject matter. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of tension and uncertainty.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the film explores the ethical dilemma of whether to use a new technology that could save a premature baby’s life, but may also cause harm in the long term. Another standout moment is when the film examines the emotional toll of working in the neonatal I.C.U. on the medical staff, highlighting the complexity of the human experience in the face of life and death decisions.

Overall, To Live or Let Die is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged film that explores themes of ethics, technology, and the complexity of human relationships. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the urgency and gravity of the subject matter.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in medical ethics and social justice issues, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the importance of moral responsibility. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged documentary film.

Traveling Hopefully

Traveling Hopefully is a 1982 documentary film directed by John G. Avildsen. The film explores the life and work of Roger Baldwin, the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by using a mix of archival footage, interviews, and reenactments to create a sense of the historical and contemporary context of Baldwin’s work. The use of lighting and framing adds to the film’s impact by creating a sense of the urgency and gravity of the subject matter. The film’s use of music and sound effects also adds to its emotional impact, creating a sense of inspiration and hope.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the film explores the history of the ACLU and its impact on civil rights in the United States, highlighting the importance of defending individual liberties. Another standout moment is when the film examines Baldwin’s personal life and his motivations for founding the ACLU, highlighting the complexity of the human experience and the importance of social justice.

Overall, Traveling Hopefully is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged film that explores themes of civil liberties, social justice, and the complexity of human relationships. The film’s style and cinematography add to its impact by creating a sense of the historical and contemporary context of Baldwin’s work.

While the film may be geared toward those interested in civil rights and social justice issues, it is a film that will resonate with anyone who appreciates stories about the human experience and the importance of standing up for what is right. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally charged documentary film.

1983 Oscar Short Film Winners

Animated – Tango

Live Action – A Shocking Accident

Documentary – If You Love This Planet