Oscars 2016 Category Breakdown: Best Live-Action Short

Every year before the Oscars I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category, how it typically goes, voting-wise, historically and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.

What I do is go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have voted, how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win. So you know what the general favorites are.

Today is Best-Live Action Short. The category that loses you your Oscar pool every year.

Year Best Live-Action Short Winners
1931-1932 (Comedy) The Music Box

(Novelty) Wrestling Swordfish

1932-1933 (Comedy) So This Is Harris!

(Novelty) Krakatoa

1934 (Comedy) La Cucaracha

(Novelty) City of Wax

1935 (Comedy) How to Sleep

(Novelty) Wings Over Everest

1936 (Color) Give Me Liberty

(One-Reel) Bored of Education

(Two Reel) The Public Pays

1937 (Color) Penny Wisdom

(One-Reel) The Private Life of the Gannets

(Two Reel) Torture Money

1938 (One-Reel) That Mothers Might Live

(Two Reel) Declaration of Independence

1939 (One-Reel) Busy Little Bears

(Two Reel) Sons of Liberty

1940 (One-Reel) Quicker’n a Wink

(Two Reel) Teddy, the Rough Rider

1941 (One-Reel) Of Pups and Puzzles

(Two Reel) Main Street on the March!

1942 (One-Reel) Speaking of Animals and Their Families

(Two Reel) Beyond the Line of Duty

1943 (One-Reel) Amphibious Fighters

(Two Reel) Heavenly Music

1944 (One-Reel) Who’s Who in Animal Land

(Two Reel) I Won’t Play

1945 (One-Reel) Stairway to Light

(Two Reel) Star in the Night

1946 (One-Reel) Facing Your Danger

(Two Reel) A Boy and His Dog

1947 (One-Reel) Good-Bye Miss Turlock

(Two Reel) Climbing the Matterhorn

1948 (One-Reel) Symphony of a City

(Two Reel) Seal Island

1949 (One-Reel) Aquatic House Party

(Two Reel) Van Gogh

1950 (One-Reel) Grandad of Races

(Two Reel) In Beaver Valley

1951 (One-Reel) World of Kids

(Two Reel) Nature’s Half Acre

1952 (One-Reel) Light in the Window: The Art of Vermeer

(Two Reel) Water Birds

1953 (One-Reel) The Merry Wives of Windsor Overture

(Two Reel) Bear Country

1954 (One-Reel) This Mechanical Age

(Two Reel) A Time Out of War

1955 (One-Reel) Survival City

(Two Reel) The Face of Lincoln

1956 (One-Reel) Crashing the Water Barrier

(Two Reel) The Bespoke Overcoat

1957 The Wetback Hound
1958 Grand Canyon
1959 The Golden Fish
1960 Day of the Painter
1961 Seawards the Great Ships
1962 Hereux Anniversaire
1963 An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
1964 Casals Conducts
1965 Le Poulet
1966 Wild Wings
1967 A Place to Stand
1968 Robert Kennedy Remembered
1969 The Magic Machines
1970 The Resurrection of Broncho Billy
1971 Sentinels of Silence
1972 Norman Rockwell’s World… An American Dream
1973 The Bolero
1974 One-Eyed Men Are Kings
1975 Angel and Big Joe
1976 In the Region of Ice
1977 I’ll Find a Way
1978 Teenage Father
1979 Board and Care
1980 The Dollar Bottom
1981 Violet
1982 A Shocking Accident
1983 Boys and Girls
1984 Up
1985 Molly’s Pilgrim
1986 Precious Images
1987 Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall
1988 The Appointments of Dennis Jennings
1989 Work Experience
1990 The Lunch Date
1991 Session Man
1992 Omnibus
1993 Black Rider
1994 Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life
1995 Lieberman in Love
1996 Deer Diary
1997 Visas and Virtue
1998 Election Night
1999 My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York
2000 Quiero ser
2001 The Accountant
2002 The Charming Man
2003 Two Soldiers
2004 Wasp
2005 Six Shooter
2006 West Bank Story
2007 Le Mozart des Pickpockets
2008 Spielzeugland
2009 The New Tenants
2010 God of Love
2011 The Shore
2012 Curfew
2013 Helium
2014 The Phone Call
2015 Stutterer

You don’t care. Nobody cares.

Best Live-Action Short

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights



Ennemis Interieurs — In the 1990s, as the Algerian civil war rages and terrorists infiltrate France, a French police officer of Algerian descent conducts a rancorous interview with a French-born Algerian man seeking naturalization.

La Femme et le TGV — Elise Lafontaine has a secret routine. Every morning and evening for many years, she has been waving at the express train that passes her house. One fateful day, she finds a letter from the train conductor in her garden and her lonely life is turned upside down. She engages in a promising correspondence through poetic and thoughtful letters where the two anonymous writers share their worlds with each other. But Elise’s fairytale is cut short when the train line permanently detours for a shorter route to Paris. Not willing to do without her daily delight, Elise prompts a daring escape from her comfort zone and sets out to find the train conductor.

Silent Nights — Young Danish woman Inger volunteers at a homeless shelter in Copenhagen, where she meets and falls in love with Kwame, an undocumented immigrant from Ghana. The couple builds a life together, but a devastating secret from Kwame’s past may undermine their happiness.

Sing — Young Zsofi is having a hard time fitting in at her new school, and her distress grows when the choir director treats her cruelly despite her love of singing. Along with her friend Liza, Zsofi investigates the revered teacher in an attempt to reveal her true nature.

Timecode — Parking lot security guard Luna is bored with her uneventful daily routine but a call about a customer complaint leads her to discover how the night guard, Diego, alleviates his boredom. Soon the pair develops a relationship by communicating through the garage’s CCTV footage.

I finally watched all of these last night, so I’m fresh on them.


5. Silent Nights — This isn’t at all what they go for and it’s an easy fifth choice. It feels like a handful of recent fifth choices in the category and I can feel pretty confident in saying this shouldn’t get close to a win. When you look at how they’ve voted in years past… this doesn’t fit that mold at all and doesn’t really strike much of an emotional chord either. Can’t see it getting very far.

4. La Femme et le TGV — It’s cute. I’ll give it that much. Is it cute enough to get a vote? I don’t think so, but I’m not ruling it out. Most years the Live-Action Short category goes four deep because you’re really not quite sure how the handful of people who bother voting in this will vote. So fourth choice does not mean that this won’t win. I just think it’s the kind of cute that doesn’t appeal to voters, and that ultimately it will be rejected. But I don’t know that for sure. This could win because it’s the one that at least ends on a somewhat satisfying note. So maybe.

3. Sing — This almost hits all the buttons for them in terms of what they’re looking for. But rather than have a nice, satisfying conclusion, you’re basically left with the harsh realization of something that happens about five minutes before the end of the short. Basically, there’s a big speech given that says, “We’re not all winners. Some of us can’t do things. So shut up and stay in line, because at least this way we can all get somewhere.” A bunch of ten year olds are told that. And even though they try to give you a nice ending, that’s the sentiment that I was left with. So I don’t know. I don’t know if this strikes that note (pun ridiculously intended) with Academy voters. We’ll see. I’m starting to think that the TGV short may have more of a chance than this in the end, but honestly, this year feels like one of those where you just guess.

2. Ennemis Interieurs — This is the most affecting of the shorts, that’s for sure. Though the most affecting doesn’t always mean it wins. I remember last year there’s the one about the two kids and one of them gets shot. That didn’t win, and they went for the cute one about the guy with the stutter. So, while I agree that this is probably the best short in the category, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna vote for it. Looking at the past six categories — only two of them are straight up dramatic. One is the Terry George one that won in 2011, and the other is The Phone Call from two years ago. This could very well be the next one, but based on how they typically vote in this category, I’m thinking you have to consider this a second choice and not the favorite.

1. Timecode — It fits what they like. Two security guards romancing one another through the security footage. One works the day shift, one works the night shift. And they leave each other sticky notes with a (insert title here) on them, directing them to the security footage, on which they dance for one another. It’s cute. It’s fun. It feels kind of slight, which makes me worry about it being an automatic favorite, but I also felt that about Stutterer, and that won.

You pretty much have to take each category on their own terms. You generally know how they vote, and if you see all the shorts, you get a sense of what the better ones are and which are the ones more people will gravitate toward. So based on that, I’d say your two likely winners here are Timecode and Ennemis Interieurs. And while I think Ennemis Interieurs is the better short, I feel like Timecode is the one they’re more likely to take, based on their voting habits the past couple years. So let’s call Timecode the favorite for now, and call it a very open race, because it’s Live-Action Short, and none of us have any goddamn idea what they’re gonna do.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is Best Animated Short.


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