The Academy Awards’ short film categories are often overlooked, but they showcase some of the most innovative and creative works in the film industry. In 2023, the Oscars’ short film nominees once again impressed with their stunning visuals, powerful storytelling, and unique perspectives.
From heartwarming tales of love and family to thought-provoking explorations of social issues, these short films are a must-see for any film lover. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best short films of the 2023 Oscars and explore what makes them so special.
Animated Short Films
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It is a 2022 animated short film directed by Lachlan Pendragon that has been nominated for an Oscar. The film follows the story of a young girl named Alice who befriends an ostrich that tells her the world is fake and that they are living in a simulation. Alice begins to question her reality and embarks on a journey to discover the truth about her existence.
The animation style in this film is unique and adds to the overall storytelling. The characters are depicted in a simplistic yet charming way, allowing the audience to focus on the emotions and actions of the characters rather than their physical appearance. The use of color is also notable, with bright and vibrant colors used to depict the real world and a more muted palette used to depict the simulated world.
One standout scene is when Alice and the ostrich travel through a desert-like landscape, with the sand and wind depicted in a way that makes the audience feel as though they are right there with them. Another memorable moment is when Alice discovers the truth about her reality and is faced with a decision about what to do next.
Overall, An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It is a thought-provoking and visually stunning film that will leave audiences questioning their own reality. While it may not be suitable for young children, older audiences who enjoy philosophical themes and unique animation styles will appreciate this film. I highly recommend it.
My Year of Dicks
My Year of Dicks, directed by Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon, is a unique and visually powerful animated short film that tells the story of a young woman named Lily who decides to have sex with a different man every week for a year. The film explores themes of sexuality, identity, and the search for connection in a digital age.
The animation style of My Year of Dicks is a beautiful blend of hand-drawn and digital techniques that create a dreamlike, almost surreal atmosphere. The characters are animated in a way that is both realistic and whimsical, with exaggerated facial expressions and fluid movements that add to the overall mood of the film.
One of the standout moments of the film is when Lily meets a man who is also going through a year of sexual exploration, except with other men. The scene is beautifully animated and highlights the similarities and differences between Lily’s journey and his.
Throughout the film, Lily’s journey is depicted through a series of colorful and imaginative visuals that perfectly capture the emotions and experiences she is going through. From the vibrant colors of her first sexual encounter to the dark, moody tones of her more challenging experiences, the animation style is a crucial element in telling the story.
Overall, My Year of Dicks is a thought-provoking and visually impactful film that explores themes of sexuality and identity in a unique and engaging way. While not suitable for all audiences, those who appreciate experimental storytelling and beautiful animation will find much to admire in this film. I highly recommend it.
Ice Merchants is a beautifully crafted animated short film directed by João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano, which was released in 2022. The film takes place in a distant, icy world where two ice merchants, Greta and Lars, are on a mission to collect the purest ice. Their journey takes them through treacherous landscapes and they encounter various obstacles along the way.
The film’s animation style is simply stunning and contributes significantly to the storytelling. The use of a muted color palette creates a sense of bleakness and isolation, which is perfect for the film’s setting. The characters are designed with a minimalist approach, which makes them instantly recognizable and easy to connect with.
The film’s main characters, Greta and Lars, are two polar opposites who have to work together to achieve their goal. Greta is a determined and headstrong character who wants to complete the mission as quickly as possible, while Lars is more laid back and enjoys taking his time. Their contrasting personalities create a lot of tension and humor, which makes the film very engaging.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Greta and Lars come across a frozen lake that they need to cross. The scene is beautifully animated, with the ice cracking and breaking beneath their feet. The tension builds as they get closer to the other side, and the audience is left on the edge of their seat wondering if they will make it across.
Overall, Ice Merchants is a visually impressive and engaging film that is suitable for all ages. The film’s animation style is unique and contributes significantly to the storytelling. The film is perfect for anyone who enjoys a good adventure story with lovable characters and breathtaking visuals. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a short but memorable cinematic experience.
The Flying Sailor
The Flying Sailor is a stunning animated short film that was directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby. The film is set in the early 20th century and follows the story of a sailor who dreams of flying. The main character is a young man who works on a ship and spends his days dreaming of a life beyond the sea. He spends his free time drawing sketches of flying machines and dreaming of one day being able to fly.
The animation style in The Flying Sailor is simply breathtaking. The film is entirely hand-drawn, and the attention to detail is remarkable. The animators have captured the look and feel of the early 20th century perfectly, and the visuals are truly astonishing. The animation style adds a sense of nostalgia to the film and helps to transport the audience to a bygone era.
One of the most impressive aspects of The Flying Sailor is how the animation style contributes to the storytelling. The film is a beautiful visual narrative that tells a story without any dialogue. The animators have used the visuals to convey the story, and it is truly a masterclass in storytelling through animation.
There are several scenes in The Flying Sailor that stood out to me. One of the most memorable moments is when the sailor is daydreaming on the ship, and we see his sketches of flying machines come to life. The animation in this scene is simply breathtaking, and it is a beautiful representation of the sailor’s dreams and aspirations.
Overall, The Flying Sailor is a beautiful and touching short film that I highly recommend. The animation style is remarkable, and the storytelling is masterful. The film will appeal to anyone who appreciates artful animation and elegant storytelling. The Flying Sailor is a true gem of a film that deserves all the accolades it has received.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a heartwarming and visually stunning animated short film directed by Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud. Nominated for an Oscar in 2022, this film tells the story of a boy who meets a mole, a fox, and a horse on his journey through life.
The animation style of the film is simple yet graceful, with a hand-drawn feel that adds to the charm of the story. The use of soft colors and gentle lines creates a dream-like quality that makes the film feel like a fairy tale.
The characters are equally enchanting, each with their own unique personality and quirks. The mole is curious and insightful, the fox is sly and clever, and the horse is wise and kind. Together, they help the boy navigate the ups and downs of life, offering words of wisdom and comfort along the way.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when the boy and the horse are sitting by a stream, discussing the concept of love. The horse explains that love is not always easy, but it is always worth it. This scene is both poignant and uplifting, reminding us of the power of love and connection.
Overall, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a beautiful and touching film that will resonate with audiences of all ages. Its message of kindness, compassion, and friendship is one that is needed now more than ever. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a heartwarming and uplifting experience.
Live Action Short Films
An Irish Goodbye
An Irish Goodbye, directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White, is a moving and poignant documentary that explores the complexities of grief and the human experience of loss. The film follows the lives of four individuals who have each experienced a significant loss in their lives and are now navigating the difficult process of letting go.
The subjects of the film are diverse and include a young woman who lost her mother to cancer, a man who lost his partner to suicide, a mother who lost her son to addiction, and a man who lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease. Each individual’s story is unique, but they all share a common thread of grief and the struggle to move forward.
The film’s visual style is simple yet effective, with a focus on the subjects themselves and their personal journeys. The cinematography is intimate and raw, allowing the audience to connect with the subjects on a deeper level and feel their pain and struggle.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when the mother who lost her son to addiction visits his grave for the first time in years. The emotion in her voice and the tears in her eyes are palpable, and the audience can feel the weight of her loss. Another powerful moment is when the man who lost his partner to suicide speaks about the guilt he feels and the struggle to understand why she took her own life.
Overall, An Irish Goodbye is a deeply moving and thought-provoking documentary that explores the universal experience of grief and loss. The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by allowing the audience to connect with the subjects on a personal level and feel their pain. I highly recommend this film to anyone who has experienced loss or is interested in exploring the human experience of grief.
Ivalu, the 2022 documentary directed by Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan, is a visually extraordinary and emotionally powerful exploration of the lives of the Inuit people in Greenland. The film follows the story of Ivalu, a young Inuit girl, as she navigates the challenges of growing up in a rapidly changing world.
One of the most striking aspects of Ivalu is its visual style. The filmmakers use a mix of stunning landscape shots, intimate portraits of the Inuit people, and striking images of the changing climate to create a vivid and immersive world that draws the viewer in. The film’s cinematography is especially effective in conveying the harsh beauty of the Arctic landscape and the resilience of the Inuit people who call it home.
At the heart of Ivalu are the people themselves. The film introduces us to a cast of fascinating characters, from Ivalu’s family and friends to the scientists and activists working to understand and combat the effects of climate change. Through their stories, we see the complex interplay between tradition and modernity, between the forces of nature and the forces of human progress.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film comes when Ivalu and her grandfather set out on a traditional hunt for seal. The scene is both beautiful and harrowing, as we see the two of them braving the elements and relying on their skills and knowledge to survive. It’s a powerful reminder of the deep connection between the Inuit people and the natural world around them.
Overall, Ivalu is a stunning and thought-provoking documentary that deserves to be seen by a wide audience. It’s a film that will appeal to anyone interested in the environment, indigenous cultures, or the human experience in general. Highly recommended.
Le pupille is a gripping and insightful documentary directed by Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuarón. The film explores the lives of children living in an orphanage in Tuscany, Italy, and the challenges they face as they navigate the complexities of growing up without their biological families.
Through the lens of Rohrwacher and Cuarón, we are introduced to the children of the orphanage, each with their unique story and personality. The filmmakers expertly weave together their individual narratives, creating a powerful portrayal of the human experience.
The film’s visual style is stunning, with breathtaking shots of the Tuscan countryside and intimate close-ups of the children’s faces. The cinematography is used to great effect, with the camera often lingering on a child’s expression, capturing their emotions and thoughts in a way that words cannot.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when the children visit a nearby farm, where they are allowed to interact with the animals and learn about farming. The joy and wonder on their faces are palpable, and it’s a moment that perfectly encapsulates the themes of the film – the resilience and adaptability of children in the face of adversity.
Le pupille is a film that will resonate with audiences of all ages. Its themes of family, resilience, and hope are universal, and the filmmakers’ sensitive and compassionate approach to their subject matter makes it a must-see for anyone interested in the human experience.
Overall, Le pupille is a moving and thought-provoking documentary that is sure to leave a lasting impression on its viewers. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a film that will challenge and inspire them.
Night Ride is a documentary film directed by Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen that takes audiences on a thrilling journey through the Norwegian winter landscape. The film follows two professional snowboarders, Stale Sandbech and Alek Oestreng, as they embark on a night ride adventure in Norway’s stunning mountains.
The film’s visual style is one of its most striking features. The cinematography captures the natural beauty of the Norwegian wilderness, with breathtaking shots of snow-covered peaks and sweeping vistas. The filmmakers also use innovative camera techniques, such as night vision and slow motion, to create a sense of awe and wonder.
The film’s storytelling is driven by the characters of Stale and Alek, who are both accomplished snowboarders. Through their journey, audiences are treated to a glimpse into the world of extreme sports, as well as the challenges and risks that come with pushing the limits of what is possible.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the two snowboarders take on a steep, icy slope in the dead of night. The use of night vision creates a sense of tension and danger, as the audience watches the two athletes navigate their way down the mountain in near darkness.
Overall, Night Ride is a beautiful and thrilling documentary that is sure to appeal to fans of extreme sports and outdoor adventure. The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by creating a sense of awe and wonder, while also highlighting the risks and challenges faced by these athletes. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for an adrenaline-fueled ride through some of the world’s most staggering landscapes.
The Red Suitcase
The Red Suitcase is a powerful documentary directed by Cyrus Neshvad that tells the story of a young woman named Maryam who travels to her homeland of Iran to visit her dying father. However, Maryam’s journey becomes more complicated when she discovers a red suitcase filled with old letters and photographs that reveal a family history she never knew existed.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling, as the director skillfully weaves together Maryam’s personal journey with the history of Iran, creating a deeply emotional and thought-provoking experience for the viewer. The use of archival footage and photographs adds an extra layer of depth to the film, making it feel both personal and historical at the same time.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Maryam meets with her father’s former cellmate, who recounts the brutal torture and mistreatment they endured during their time in prison. The scene is both heartbreaking and inspiring, as Maryam learns about the sacrifices her father made for his country and gains a newfound appreciation for her family’s history.
Overall, The Red Suitcase is a beautifully crafted and deeply moving documentary that is sure to leave a lasting impression on its viewers. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in exploring the complexities of Iranian history and culture, as well as those who appreciate powerful and emotional storytelling. This film is particularly well-suited for audiences who enjoy documentaries that explore personal stories within larger historical contexts.
Documentary Short Films
The Elephant Whisperers
The Elephant Whisperers, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga, is a captivating and heartwarming documentary that explores the extraordinary bond between elephants and their caretakers in India.
The film follows a group of mahouts, or elephant trainers, who have dedicated their lives to caring for these gentle giants. Through stunning cinematography and intimate interviews, we get to know these men and their elephants on a personal level, learning about their daily routines, their communication methods, and their deep emotional connections.
One of the most striking aspects of The Elephant Whisperers is its visual style. The filmmakers use a mix of sweeping aerial shots, close-ups of the elephants’ faces, and beautifully composed landscapes to create a sense of awe and wonder. The use of slow-motion footage also adds a dreamlike quality to the film, emphasizing the peaceful and contemplative nature of the elephants and their handlers.
One scene that particularly stood out to me was when one of the mahouts, named Raju, sings a lullaby to his elephant as they rest together in a field. The camera lingers on their faces as the song fills the air, creating a moment of pure tenderness and intimacy. It’s a reminder that despite their size and strength, elephants are incredibly sensitive and emotional creatures who thrive on love and affection.
Overall, The Elephant Whisperers is a powerful and moving film that is sure to resonate with animal lovers and documentary enthusiasts alike. It offers a rare glimpse into a world that is often hidden from view and celebrates the beauty and wonder of these magnificent creatures. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant cinematic experience.
Haulout, directed by Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev, is a stunning documentary that explores the annual migration of walruses in the Arctic Circle. The film follows a group of scientists and photographers who are studying the walrus population and the impact of climate change on their habitat.
The documentary features breathtaking cinematography, capturing the stark beauty of the Arctic landscape and the majestic creatures that call it home. The filmmakers use a combination of drone footage, underwater shots, and close-up shots to immerse the viewer in the world of the walruses.
One of the most compelling aspects of the film is the way it portrays the walruses as complex and intelligent creatures with unique personalities. The filmmakers capture the interactions between the walruses, showing how they communicate with each other and form social bonds.
Throughout the film, the scientists and photographers grapple with the devastating effects of climate change on the walrus population. The filmmakers don’t shy away from the harsh realities of the situation, showing the walruses struggling to survive in a rapidly changing environment.
One of the standout scenes in the film is a heart-wrenching sequence in which a group of walruses becomes stranded on a beach due to melting ice. The filmmakers capture the desperation of the walruses as they try to make their way back to the water, and the devastating aftermath of the event.
Overall, Haulout is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary that sheds light on the impact of climate change on one of the world’s most unique and vulnerable ecosystems. The film’s stunning visuals and compelling storytelling make it a must-watch for anyone interested in nature, climate change, or documentary filmmaking.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in environmental issues or wildlife photography. While the subject matter may be heavy, the film’s beauty and humanity make it a rewarding and unforgettable viewing experience.
How Do You Measure a Year?
How Do You Measure a Year? is a powerful documentary directed by Jay Rosenblatt that explores the different ways in which people measure time and the impact it has on their lives. Through a series of intimate interviews with individuals from all walks of life, the film delves into the various ways in which people mark the passing of time, from the mundane to the profound.
At the heart of the film are the personal stories of the subjects, each of whom has a unique relationship with time and its measurement. From a man who marks the passing of each day by creating intricate drawings to a woman who has dedicated her life to studying the stars, the film offers a fascinating glimpse into the human experience of time.
Rosenblatt’s visual style is understated yet effective, with simple shots of the subjects and their surroundings, interspersed with breathtaking footage of the natural world. The cinematography is often minimalist, allowing the stories of the subjects to take center stage.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is a quiet moment with an elderly man who has spent his life measuring the tides. As he watches the water ebb and flow, he reflects on the passage of time and the impermanence of all things. It’s a poignant moment that speaks to the film’s larger themes of mortality and the human experience.
Overall, How Do You Measure a Year? is a thought-provoking and deeply moving documentary that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches it. It’s a film that speaks to the universal experience of time and the different ways in which we all try to make sense of it. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in exploring the complexities of the human experience.
This film would appeal to a wide audience, particularly those interested in philosophy, psychology, and the natural world. It would also be a great choice for anyone looking for a stimulating and emotionally resonant documentary.
The Martha Mitchell Effect
The Martha Mitchell Effect, directed by Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison, is a thought-provoking documentary that delves into the life of Martha Mitchell, a woman who played a pivotal role in exposing the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Mitchell was a well-known figure in Washington D.C. during the Nixon administration, known for her outspokenness and her willingness to speak her mind. However, her outspokenness ultimately led to her being marginalized and dismissed as a “crazy” woman, despite the fact that much of what she was saying about the Nixon administration turned out to be true.
The film explores Mitchell’s life and legacy, as well as the broader cultural context in which she lived and worked. It features interviews with historians, journalists, and other experts, as well as archival footage and photographs, to paint a vivid picture of the era and the people who shaped it.
One of the most striking things about The Martha Mitchell Effect is its visual style. The filmmakers use a combination of archival footage and reenactments to create a sense of immersion in the time period. The reenactments are particularly effective, as they help to bring Mitchell’s story to life in a way that feels immediate and urgent.
One scene that stood out to me was a reenactment of Mitchell’s appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1973. Mitchell was visibly agitated and upset during the interview, as she tried to explain the extent of the corruption in the Nixon administration. The reenactment captures the tension and drama of the moment and helps to convey just how much was at stake for Mitchell and for the country as a whole.
Overall, I was deeply impressed by The Martha Mitchell Effect. It is a well-crafted and engaging documentary that sheds light on an important but often overlooked figure in American history. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in politics, journalism, or the history of the United States in the 1970s.
Stranger at the Gate
Stranger at the Gate is a 2022 documentary directed by Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones that explores the life of Rev. Mel White, a former ghostwriter for some of the most prominent evangelical leaders in America who came out as gay in the 1990s. The film follows White’s journey from a closeted gay man to a passionate advocate for LGBTQ rights and his eventual estrangement from the evangelical community.
The film’s visual style is intimate and personal, with White’s narration and interviews providing insight into his personal struggles and experiences. The filmmakers use a combination of archival footage, interviews, and reenactments to tell White’s story, and the cinematography is often stunning, particularly in scenes that show White’s travels around the world.
One scene that stood out to me was when White describes his experience attending a rally against gay rights in Washington D.C. He talks about how he was expecting to see angry protesters but instead found a group of loving, supportive allies who were there to stand up for their friends and family members who were being discriminated against. The scene is both heartbreaking and inspiring, and it perfectly captures the complexity of the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Another standout moment is when White discusses his relationship with his son, who is also gay. White talks about how he struggled to accept his son’s sexuality at first, but eventually came to embrace and love him for who he is. It’s a touching and honest moment that highlights the importance of family acceptance in the LGBTQ community.
Overall, Stranger at the Gate is a powerful and moving documentary that is sure to resonate with anyone who has struggled with their identity or faced discrimination for who they are. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in LGBTQ rights or the intersection of religion and sexuality. This film is a must-see for anyone who wants to better understand the complexities of the LGBTQ experience.
2023 Oscar Short Film Winners
Animated – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Live Action – An Irish Goodbye
Documentary – The Elephant Whisperers