Oscars 2019 Category Breakdown: Best Live Action Short

Here’s how this works: every day leading up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. The goal is to both familiarize everyone with the category itself (how it works, what its history is and how you go about figuring out what’s gonna win) while also making it easier to reference when I write my giant article with picks and everything. A lot of the leg work is already here. But really, the goal is to see if there’s anything to look for leading into Oscar night that could be a shortcut to me picking the category.

What we do is — I give you all the winners of the category throughout history, go over all the recent trends if there are any, discuss the precursors and whether or not they matter, and then we talk about this year’s category and how we got to it, and then just look at where we are and rank the nominees in terms of their likelihood of winning (at the current moment in time. Of course, things can and will change going into the ceremony). It’s all pretty simple. I’ve done this every year. Everyone should know the drill.

Today is Best Live Action Short, aka the category where you go refill the chips bowl because no one knows or cares about any of the nominees.

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
2016 Sing
2017 The Silent Child
2018 Skin

There’s no system here. They do a terrible job of getting these out there in any real way for people to watch, so it’s basically a category where no one gives a shit and you have no help. So you just guess blindly if by chance some of them showed up online or you paid to see all the shorts in a theater during those two days they do that. It’s pure guess work.

Best Live Action Short

Brotherhood

Nefta Football Club

The Neighbors’ Window

Saria

A Sister

I’ve seen three of these already, so that’s good. I at least have a little bit of a handle on this one as-is.

Here’s what they’re all about, which applicable links to the three that are (mercifully) online, just so maybe people will see them and actually have a vested interest in the category (what a novel idea that is):

Brotherhood — Mohamed is deeply shaken when his oldest son Malik returns home after a long journey with a mysterious new wife.

Nefta Football Club — In a Tunisian village, children are playing football on a wasteland. Meanwhile, Abdallah and Mohammed come across a donkey with headphones on his ears and bags full of a white powder on his back. The two young brothers decide to bring those bags back to their village.

The Neighbors’ Window — It tells the story of a middle aged woman with small children whose life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings move in across the street.

Saria — Explores the unimaginable hardships faced by young female orphans at the Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala, leading up to the tragic fire which claimed 41 of their lives in 2017. We follow the story of two inseparable orphaned sisters – Saria 12, and her sister Ximena 14, as they fight against mounting daily physical abuse at the very institution designed to protect them. In the sisters’ desperation for survival, they devise a daring plan of escape for all the orphans to find freedom in America.

No link But of note is that it’s directed by the same director who was previously nominated for Asad back in 2012 (didn’t win). In the meantime he directed two features (The Bronze and The Pirates of Somalia).

A Sister — Follows two women communicating through a dire situation. A pulsing tempo with bold dynamic shots leads us to Alie as she makes the most important phone call of her life to an emergency dispatchers operator.

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So, I’ve seen three of these, and if you bothered to click the links, so have you. And we have synopses of the other two, so I’m pretty much just gonna guess my way through this.

Rankings:

5. A Sister — I was gonna say that the minute I put this in last that it’s gonna win. But honestly, who knows and who cares? I expect to be dead wrong in this category. But what I do know is that this type of film is all over Oscar shortlists the past couple of years. Last year in Foreign Language Film, The Guilty from Denmark, with this exact same plot (seemingly, from that log line), was shortlisted. Last year in this same category a short named Mother was nominated. It’s about a woman who gets a call from her six-year-old, who’s supposed to be on a trip with his father, and he says, “Dad’s gone and I’m alone on a beach somewhere.” And she’s gotta keep him on the phone and figure out what to do. 2014, the winner of this category was Sally Hawkins as a crisis hotline operator who gets a call from Jim Broadbent who said he took a bunch of pills and is killing himself and just wants to talk to someone as he dies. They go for this shit. I can’t imagine they’re that easy that this is gonna win. How different can this be from those? So I’m saying it’s fifth choice. I have nothing to go on to assume it goes higher at the moment.

4. Brotherhood — It’s solid. If you watched it, you can see it’s well made. But what does it amount to? The ending comes out of nowhere just as it starts to get interesting. Takes a while to get started and then just sort of ends. Doesn’t feel like there’s a big moral to the story. Just, kind of is. And these things don’t feel like they win here. Typically they go for cutesy rom coms or something emotionally powerful. This isn’t that. So I’m thinking fourth.

3. Saria — The dude’s been nominated before, which may help. The synopsis sounds like it could be something they like, but I’m not sure if it’s something that wins. Maybe, but I’m not feeling it. Especially after having seen the other two. And since I haven’t seen this, I can’t say much more than that. It’s third choice absent me seeing it. And the other two feel closer to what usually does well here.

2. Nefta Football Club — I’m not sold on this as a winner, and if another choice had been here over this, I’m not sure this would be a strong #1 for me. It’s a punchline short. It’s kids and there’s a nice little ending to it. Not sure if overall it amounts to enough to win, but I’ve seen less win here. But knowing how this category usually goes, you need cute, emotional punch, or star power. And this is kinda cute, but… well, it’s not this next one.

1. The Neighbors’ Window — Watch the short. It’s great. It’s got everything they want in this category. It starts cute but ends on a big emotional note. Oh, and the director’s been nominated three other times and never won. Twice in Doc Feature and once in Doc Short, for A Night at the Garden last year, that Nazi rally at MSG one. But, just watch the link up there. You can see how if anyone sits down to watch these shorts this will be the one that gets the most votes. Usually you can tell what’s gonna win this. Last year nothing really fit, which is why it was a tough one to diagnose. Two years ago, you knew The Silent Child was what they went for. Or Stutterer, Helium, Curfew. You just knew when you see them. And this is that. So this is my favorite until it loses. We’re not gonna get any help in this one, so this is how it’s standing until Oscar night, at which point maybe I can see the other ones and have a more fully formed opinion. But it’s gonna take a lot to convince me this isn’t an automatic winner.

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