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!
|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|
|1959||The Golden Fish|
|1960||Day of the Painter|
|1961||Seawards the Great Ships|
|1963||An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge|
|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|
|1974||One-Eyed Men Are Kings|
|1975||Angel and Big Joe|
|1976||In the Region of Ice|
|1977||I’ll Find a Way|
|1979||Board and Care|
|1980||The Dollar Bottom|
|1982||A Shocking Accident|
|1983||Boys and Girls|
|1987||Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall|
|1988||The Appointments of Dennis Jennings|
|1990||The Lunch Date|
|1994||Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life|
|1995||Lieberman in Love|
|1997||Visas and Virtue|
|1999||My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York|
|2002||The Charming Man|
|2006||West Bank Story|
|2007||Le Mozart des Pickpockets|
|2009||The New Tenants|
|2010||God of Love|
|2014||The Phone Call|
You don’t care. Nobody cares.
Best Live-Action Short
La Femme et le TGV
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.
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Tomorrow is Best Animated Short.