The 81st Academy Awards held in 2009 presented an exceptional collection of Short Film nominees that highlighted the art of storytelling in its most concise form. From heartwarming animations to thought-provoking documentaries and gripping live-action dramas, these Oscar-nominated short films celebrate the best and brightest of emerging talents in the film industry.
Each film presented a unique perspective on the world, showcasing a level of creativity, technical expertise, and storytelling ability that is rarely found in mainstream cinema. In this article, we will explore the Best Short Film nominees of the 81st Academy Awards and examine what made each of them stand out in their respective categories.
These films demonstrate that even with a limited runtime, short films can make a significant impact on audiences and provide a platform for promising filmmakers to showcase their talent. Get ready to be inspired by the creativity and innovation of some of the most promising filmmakers in the world.
Animated Short Films
La Maison en Petits Cubes
La Maison en Petits Cubes, directed by Kunio Katō, is a heartwarming and beautifully animated short film that tells the touching story of an elderly man who must dive deep into his memories to retrieve his lost belongings.
The film follows the protagonist as he lives in a house that keeps getting flooded, forcing him to build new floors on top of the old ones. One day, he accidentally drops his pipe into the water and must retrieve it by diving down to the bottom floor, where he begins to reminisce about his life and the people he has lost along the way.
The animation style in La Maison en Petits Cubes is simple yet striking, with each floor of the house being depicted in a different color scheme. The use of watercolor gives the film a dreamy and nostalgic feel, which perfectly complements the story being told. The gorgeous animation style is used to great effect in conveying the emotions of the protagonist, with the use of color and texture helping to capture the mood of each scene.
One of the standout moments in the film is when the protagonist comes across a photo of his wife, who has long since passed away. The use of color and lighting in this scene is particularly striking, with the colors becoming more vibrant and saturated as the protagonist remembers happier times with his wife.
Overall, La Maison en Petits Cubes is a beautifully crafted film that showcases the power of animation to tell a deeply emotional story. The film is suitable for all ages but may be particularly enjoyed by those who appreciate artful storytelling and stunning visuals. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a touching and thought-provoking viewing experience.
Lavatory – Lovestory
Lavatory – Lovestory, directed by Konstantin Bronzit, is a charming animated short film with a heartwarming story that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009. The film tells the tale of a lonely lavatory attendant named Oksana, who works in a busy train station in Russia. Despite her mundane job, Oksana dreams of finding love and happiness.
The animation style of Lavatory – Lovestory is simplistic yet beautiful. The characters are depicted as round and colorful, with exaggerated features that add to their charm and expressiveness. The use of color is also notable, with warm and vibrant hues used to convey the emotions and moods of the story.
The film’s main character, Oksana, is a relatable and endearing protagonist. She spends her days cleaning toilets and observing the travelers who pass through the station, hoping that one of them will notice her. When she meets a shy and awkward train conductor named Anatoly, the two develop a sweet and innocent romance that is both heartwarming and humorous.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when Oksana and Anatoly accidentally bump into each other while working, causing a comical chain reaction of mishaps and spills. This scene perfectly captures the playful and lighthearted tone of the film, while also showcasing the clever use of animation to convey physical comedy.
Overall, Lavatory – Lovestory is a delightful and uplifting film that is sure to put a smile on your face. Its simple yet effective storytelling and charming animation make it a must-watch for anyone who appreciates a good love story. This film would be particularly enjoyable for those who enjoy romantic comedies or animated films with a strong emotional core.
Oktapodi is a charming and hilarious animated short film directed by Thierry Marchand and Emud Mokhberi. It was released in 2008 and quickly gained popularity due to its unique and captivating visual style, as well as its heartwarming storyline.
The film follows the journey of two adorable octopuses, who are desperately trying to escape from the clutches of a sushi chef. Despite their numerous attempts, the octopuses keep getting caught and end up in even more precarious situations. However, their unbreakable bond and determination to stay together are what ultimately save them from their captor.
The animation style of Oktapodi is simply breathtaking. The film is entirely computer-animated, which allows for a high level of detail and precision in every scene. The characters themselves are incredibly expressive, and their movements are fluid and lifelike. This style of animation adds a layer of depth and emotion to the story that would not have been possible with traditional animation techniques.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when the two octopuses are first separated, and they desperately try to find each other. The use of color and lighting in this scene is particularly striking, as it perfectly captures the sense of urgency and desperation felt by the characters.
Overall, Oktapodi is a delightful and heartwarming film that is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Its unique animation style and engaging storyline make it a must-see for anyone who appreciates the art of animation. While the film is suitable for all ages, it is particularly well-suited for children and families.
Presto is a 2008 animated short film directed by Doug Sweetland. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The film is about a magician named Presto and his rabbit assistant, Alec. Presto is a self-centered magician who only cares about his own success and fame, while Alec just wants to be fed and treated with respect.
The film opens with Presto getting ready for his big show. Alec is hungry and tries to steal a carrot from Presto’s pocket, but Presto catches him and punishes him by withholding his food. Alec decides to get revenge by sabotaging Presto’s act, and chaos ensues.
The animation style of Presto is both charming and whimsical. The characters are designed with exaggerated features and movements, which adds to the comedic tone of the film. The visual style is reminiscent of classic cartoons, with bright colors and bold lines.
The animation style contributes to the storytelling by emphasizing the physical comedy and slapstick humor of the film. The exaggerated movements and facial expressions of the characters help to convey the humor and emotion of each scene.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when Alec is trapped in a magician’s hat and must perform tricks to escape. The animation in this scene is particularly impressive, as Alec’s movements are fluid and precise.
Overall, Presto is an enjoyable and entertaining animated short film. It is suitable for all ages, but children may especially appreciate the humor and silliness of the story. I would recommend this film to anyone looking for a lighthearted and amusing animated short.
This Way Up
This Way Up is a 2008 animated short film directed by Adam Foulkes and Alan Smith. The film follows the misadventures of two funeral directors, Lenny and Sid, as they try to transport a coffin to its final resting place. Along the way, they encounter a series of obstacles that test their patience and sanity.
The animation style of This Way Up is both quirky and distinctive. The characters are rendered in a highly stylized, cartoonish manner, with exaggerated features and movements. This visual style perfectly complements the film’s darkly comedic tone, creating a world that is both absurd and relatable.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film involves Lenny and Sid attempting to cross a rickety bridge over a deep chasm. As they struggle to keep their balance, the coffin begins to slide back and forth, threatening to send them plummeting to their deaths. The tension in this scene is palpable, and the animation perfectly captures the frantic energy of the moment.
Overall, This Way Up is a highly entertaining and visually stunning film that is sure to delight audiences of all ages. While its subject matter may be a bit morbid, the film’s irreverent sense of humor and offbeat charm make it a must-see for anyone who appreciates creative animation and clever storytelling. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good laugh and isn’t afraid to embrace the darker side of life.
Live Action Short Films
Toyland, directed by Jochen Alexander Freydank, is a 2008 film that tells the story of a young German boy named Heinrich, who lives during the Nazi regime. The film opens with Heinrich’s mother taking him to a Nazi parade, where he becomes fascinated with the swastika symbol. However, when Heinrich’s younger brother dies, his mother tells him that he has gone to “Toyland,” a place where all the children go when they die. From that point on, Heinrich becomes obsessed with finding Toyland and reuniting with his brother.
The film’s style and cinematography are both critical components of the storytelling. The use of black-and-white imagery creates a sense of nostalgia and adds to the historical context of the film. The camera work is also noteworthy, with several scenes shot from low angles to give the viewer a child’s perspective. This technique is particularly effective in scenes where Heinrich is interacting with Nazi soldiers, as it underscores the power dynamic between adults and children.
One of the most poignant scenes in the film is when Heinrich is separated from his mother during a bombing raid. The camera follows him as he wanders through the rubble-strewn streets, searching for her. The scene is shot in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they are right there with Heinrich, experiencing his fear and confusion.
Overall, Toyland is a thought-provoking and emotional film that offers a unique perspective on life during the Nazi regime. While the subject matter is heavy, the film’s use of nostalgia and childlike wonder make it accessible to a wide range of audiences. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, immersive filmmaking, or simply a good story.
Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Auf der Strecke, directed by Reto Caffi, is a 2008 film that follows the life of a train station security guard, Christian, who falls in love with a girl he sees every day on his way to work. As he tries to win her over, he discovers that his job is at risk due to his unprofessional behavior. The film explores themes of love, obsession, and the consequences of our actions.
The film’s visual style is stunning, with beautiful shots of the train station and its surroundings. The use of handheld cameras and long takes creates a sense of intimacy with the characters, allowing the audience to feel as if they are right there with them. The cinematography also contributes to the storytelling by emphasizing the isolation and loneliness that Christian experiences, highlighting the contrast between his mundane job and his romantic pursuit.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Christian finally musters the courage to talk to the girl he has been admiring from afar. The tension is palpable as he fumbles over his words, and the camera lingers on his face, capturing his anxiety and vulnerability. Another standout moment is when Christian’s boss confronts him about his behavior and threatens to fire him. The camera stays close to Christian’s face as he struggles to maintain his composure, conveying the sense of desperation and fear he feels.
Overall, Auf der Strecke is a beautifully shot and emotionally powerful film that will leave a lasting impression on viewers. While it may not be for everyone, it will resonate with those who appreciate slow-burning, character-driven stories that explore the complexities of human relationships. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys thought-provoking cinema.
Manon on the Asphalt
Manon on the Asphalt is a 2008 film directed by Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont. The film tells the story of Manon, a young woman who is hit by a car while riding her bike and is left lying on the asphalt. The film follows Manon’s journey as she fights for her life and the impact her accident has on those around her.
The film’s visual style is unique and engaging, using a mix of slow-motion shots and close-ups to capture the emotions of the characters. The cinematography is stunning, with beautiful shots of Paris and the surrounding countryside.
The main subject of the film is Manon herself, a young woman with a passion for life and a love of adventure. The film explores her struggles as she fights to recover from her accident and the impact it has on her family and friends.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when Manon’s family and friends gather around her hospital bed and sing to her. The scene is incredibly moving and shows the love and support that surrounds Manon.
The film’s style and cinematography are integral to the storytelling, as they capture the emotion and drama of the story. The slow-motion shots and close-ups help to convey the pain and struggle that Manon and her loved ones are experiencing.
Overall, Manon on the Asphalt is a powerful and emotional film that is sure to leave a lasting impression on viewers. The film is recommended for anyone who enjoys thought-provoking cinema and stories of human resilience and determination.
New Boy is a short film directed by Steph Green and Tamara Anghie that was released in 2008. The film is set in an Irish school in the 1960s and tells the story of a young African immigrant named Joseph, who is starting his first day at school. The film explores themes of racism, identity, and acceptance.
The main character, Joseph, is played by Olutunji Ebun-Cole, who delivers a powerful performance as a boy who is trying to fit into a new environment while dealing with the challenges of being different. The film is shot in a minimalist style, with a focus on close-ups and medium shots. This style allows the audience to see the emotions and expressions of the characters in detail, which helps to convey the story’s message.
The film’s cinematography is particularly effective in conveying the isolation and loneliness that Joseph feels as he navigates his new environment. The use of natural lighting and muted colors creates a melancholic atmosphere that adds to the film’s emotional impact.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when Joseph is introduced to his classmates. The camera zooms in on his face as he nervously introduces himself, and the tension is palpable as the other children stare at him, unsure of how to react. Another memorable scene is when Joseph is confronted by a group of boys who bully him. The camera focuses on Joseph’s face as he tries to stand up for himself, and the audience can feel his fear and desperation.
Overall, New Boy is a powerful and moving film that explores important themes in a subtle and nuanced way. The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by creating an emotional connection between the audience and the characters. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in exploring issues of identity, acceptance, and prejudice. It is a must-see for anyone who appreciates powerful storytelling and excellent filmmaking.
The Pig is a 2008 film directed by Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh that explores the controversial topic of pig farming and the ethical concerns surrounding it. The film takes place in Denmark, where pig farming is a significant industry, and follows the lives of several individuals involved in the process, including farmers, animal rights activists, and scientists.
The film’s style and cinematography are integral to the storytelling, as it features stunning footage of the pigs and their living conditions, juxtaposed with interviews from those involved in the industry and animal rights advocates. The camera work is masterful, capturing the beauty of the pigs and their natural environment while also highlighting the harsh reality of their captivity.
One scene that particularly stood out was a visit to a pig farm where the animals were kept in cramped and dirty conditions. The camera lingers on the pigs as they struggle to move around in their small pens, and the sounds of their grunting and squealing add to the emotional impact of the scene. Another memorable moment was an interview with a farmer who spoke candidly about the difficulties of the industry and the pressure to prioritize profits over animal welfare.
Overall, The Pig is a thought-provoking and visually stunning film that sheds light on a controversial issue. While it may not be for everyone, animal rights advocates and those interested in the ethics of the food industry will find it compelling. The film’s message is clear: we must rethink our relationship with animals and the way we consume meat.
Documentary Short Films
Smile Pinki is a heartwarming and inspiring documentary directed by Megan Mylan that follows the journey of a young girl named Pinki from rural India who is born with a cleft lip. The film tells the story of Pinki and her family as they navigate the challenges and stigma associated with her condition and the life-changing surgery that ultimately transforms her life.
The film’s style and cinematography are simple yet effective in conveying the emotional impact of the story. The use of handheld cameras and natural lighting creates an intimate and authentic feel that allows the audience to connect with Pinki and her family on a personal level. The use of close-ups during Pinki’s surgery and the emotional moments that follow highlight the importance of the surgery and the impact it has on Pinki’s life.
One of the most memorable moments in the film is when Pinki’s mother tearfully expresses her gratitude for the surgery that has changed her daughter’s life. The scene captures the raw emotions of the moment and is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the impact that a simple act of kindness can have.
Overall, Smile Pinki is a powerful and uplifting documentary that is sure to inspire and move audiences. It is a film that highlights the importance of compassion and the impact that a single act of kindness can have on the lives of others. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a heartwarming and inspiring story. It is a film that will resonate with audiences of all ages and backgrounds and is a testament to the power of the human spirit.
The Conscience of Nhem En
The Conscience of Nhem En, directed by Steven Okazaki, is a powerful and heart-wrenching documentary that tells the story of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and the devastating impact it had on the Cambodian people. The film centers around Nhem En, a former Khmer Rouge photographer who was responsible for taking pictures of prisoners before they were executed.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling in a significant way, as it incorporates a mix of interviews with survivors, archival footage, and reenactments. The use of black and white footage and slow-motion shots adds to the film’s emotional impact, creating a haunting and somber atmosphere that stays with the viewer long after the film has ended.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Nhem En is shown flipping through his photo album, casually pointing out the people he had photographed, and describing how they were killed. The juxtaposition between his nonchalant demeanor and the horrific nature of his actions is chilling and serves as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.
Overall, The Conscience of Nhem En is a must-see documentary that sheds light on a dark period in Cambodia’s history. The film’s poignant storytelling and powerful imagery make it a moving tribute to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, and a reminder of the importance of bearing witness to history. While the subject matter may be difficult to watch, it is a film that should be seen by anyone who wants to understand the human cost of war and genocide.
The Final Inch
The Final Inch is a 2008 documentary directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant. The film centers on the global effort to eradicate polio, a disease that has affected millions of people worldwide. The documentary takes us on a journey through India, where the disease is still prevalent, and follows the efforts of healthcare workers as they administer vaccines to children in remote areas.
The main characters in the film are the healthcare workers, who are dedicated to eradicating polio. They are shown traveling to remote areas of India, where they work tirelessly to vaccinate as many children as possible. We also meet the families of children who have been affected by polio, who share their stories of the impact the disease has had on their lives.
The visual style of the film is both captivating and emotional. The filmmakers use a mix of archival footage, interviews, and stunning cinematography to tell the story of the fight against polio. The use of close-ups and slow-motion shots of children receiving the vaccine creates a sense of intimacy and urgency.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when a healthcare worker is shown traveling by boat to a remote island to vaccinate children. The journey is treacherous, but the healthcare worker is determined to reach the children who need the vaccine. The scene is a testament to the dedication of these healthcare workers and the challenges they face in eradicating the disease.
The Final Inch is a powerful documentary that sheds light on the efforts to eradicate polio. The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by creating an emotional connection with the audience. It is a must-see for anyone interested in global health and the impact of diseases on communities. While the subject matter may not appeal to everyone, those interested in social justice and global health will find this film both informative and moving. Overall, I highly recommend The Final Inch.
The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306
The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306 is a powerful and poignant documentary that tells the story of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. through the eyes of a witness who was there on the fateful day. Directed by Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde, the film explores the impact of King’s death on the civil rights movement and the nation as a whole.
The main character of the film is Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who was standing on the balcony of Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee when King was shot. Kyles, who was a close friend and colleague of King, provides a unique perspective on the events leading up to the assassination and its aftermath.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling. The filmmakers use a combination of archival footage, interviews, and reenactments to create a vivid and immersive experience for the viewer. The use of black and white footage and slow-motion shots add a sense of gravitas and reverence to the story.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Kyles recounts the moments leading up to King’s death. As he tells the story, the filmmakers use reenactments and archival footage to transport the viewer back in time, making them feel as if they are there on the balcony with Kyles and King.
Overall, The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306 is a moving and thought-provoking documentary that is sure to leave a lasting impression on its viewers. While it is a difficult and emotional watch at times, it is an important reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for civil rights in this country. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in history, social justice, or documentary filmmaking. This film is appropriate for all audiences.
2009 Oscar Short Film Winners
Live Action – Toyland
Animated – La Maison en Petits Cubes
Documentary – Smile Pinki