Short films might be the most unappreciated visual art form in the modern era. A good short film can explore complex themes, inspire new ideas and possibilities, and emotionally move audiences in a fraction of the time a feature-length movie would require.
A great short film can fundamentally change the way we see the world around us, or the people we love, and can have a lasting effect on the rest of our lives. It is these short films that earn Oscar nominations.
In 2023, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences nominated 15 short films for consideration, spread across three categories – live-action, animated, and documentary. This year’s nominations were perhaps the strongest the Academy has ever seen, with each short worthy of winning their respective award.
However, there can only be one winner per category, and the Academy decided the awards belonged to An Irish Goodbye (Live-Action), The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse (Animated), and The Elephant Whisperers (Documentary).
Despite the obvious appeal of their short-form narrative, actually watching the shorts nominated by the Academy can be quite a pain for the average cinemagoer. Some streaming platforms do collect a series of thematically linked shorts and release them as an anthology series, like Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots. Although, despite the unimaginable quantity of movies and series streaming platforms offer their subscribers at the tap of a button, most platforms neglect short films – or only show novelty shorts based on already established IP like Star Wars.
While the industry is starting to move in the right direction, with some of the shorts nominated at last year’s awards available to watch on streaming, there is still a long way to go before short films receive the public attention and recognition they deserve. That all starts with making short films more accessible and making screenings more publicly known.
There are currently two ways to watch Oscar-nominated short films:
Live Screenings and Film Festivals
Live screenings are by far the best way to watch a short film – or any film for that matter. The collective emotions of the theater heighten the experience and narrative impact of the story and can leave a lasting impression for days, weeks, or even years to come.
While these screenings and festivals are less accessible than online platforms, due to their location dependency and financial cost, they are an experience that every movie aficionado must attend at least once in their lifetime.
Many independent cinemas – and even major chains – across the globe host short film screenings, usually as a thematic collection of shorts. These events happen far more often than the average cinemagoer may think, and it is always worth checking the upcoming screenings of your local theater for these events. Another way to find these screenings is to check on the short film’s distributor’s website. Especially in the build-up to awards season, distribution companies are frequently advertising upcoming screenings of their short films to garner as much public praise and attention in the hopes of swaying the Academy towards choosing their movie.
The other, and potentially the best, way to watch the Oscar-nominated short films is at a film festival. Not only do short films depend on film festivals for publicity and marketing, but they are also a compulsory part of the Academy’s nomination process.
Did you know that the 2023 winner for Best Live-Action Short Film, An Irish Goodbye was screened at over 60 international film festivals across six continents in the lead-up to its Oscars nomination?
Film festivals happen year-round in almost every major city in the world. Not only will you be able to see the short film you’ve been anticipating, but you will also be treated to dozens of other amazing shorts and feature films, as well as potentially attending Q&A’s, meet-and-greets, and other great events during the festival, making the initial ticket price more than worth it.
Film festivals advertise their slate of screening well ahead of time, so it is always worth checking the planned screenings for your local festival; the short film you’ve been desperately waiting to see could be among them.
Selected Streaming Platforms
While this may seem like the easiest and most convenient way to watch short films, the reality can actually be a massive pain.
Firstly, if a short film is lucky enough to be picked up by a major streaming platform, it is likely to be after the Academy Awards have aired, dashing any hopes of viewing all the nominations before awards night.
Secondly, the wide array of streaming platforms frequently competing with each other means it is very unlikely for all the short films to be in a single place, potentially costing nearly a hundred dollars for subscriptions to multiple platforms in order to watch a 15-minute short film. Streaming libraries are also frequently changing, meaning that a short film that is available on Netflix is likely to move to a different platform after several months.
Sometimes the stars can align, and several of the nominated short films may appear in the same place. As short films tend to be produced by independent creators or small studios, they lack the budget to be screened in theaters, as Pixar does with its shorts – previewing them before their own feature films.
As a result, a lot of creators look to the largest, most publicly accessible viewing platform to release their short films to the general public – YouTube. YouTube is often the saving grace for short film creators and viewers. Before scouring across the dozens of paid streaming platforms, we highly recommend searching YouTube first.
Many of the nominated shorts from last year’s awards are currently watchable for free on YouTube, including The Flying Sailor (Animated), Night Ride (Live-Action), Haulout (Documentary), and Ice Merchants (Animated).