Oscar shorts nominees courtesy photo

Every year, some of the most overlooked categories at the Academy Awards are in short film. Though the nominees for documentary short, live-action short and animated short are typically less well-known than the nominees for best picture, they can often provide an equally enthralling experience.

I haven’t seen this year’s nominees for documentary short, but I did get the chance to sit down and view all of the nominated films in the live-action and animated short categories. I was not disappointed by a single one of them.

Each and every one of the short films nominated this year leaves its audience with something to talk about, whether that be something as simple as preferring cats over dogs or as complex as how you would handle yourself while working for an emergency call center. 

The five nominated animated short films this year, “Daughter,” “Hair Love,” “Kitbull,” “Memorable” and “Sister,” all share a similar central focus on relationships. 

My favorite film in the animated category is the Czech film “Daughter,” which explores the relationship between a single father and the daughter he’s struggling to raise. The two don’t appear to be particularly well-off financially, and it’s apparent that the father wishes he could provide a happier life for his child. His daughter, meanwhile, starts to resent her father for focusing too much on work and not spending much time with her. 

Even though there isn’t a single word spoken in “Daughter,” the film does an excellent job at portraying the complicated emotions felt by both of these characters. In terms of visuals, this film might also be the most beautifully crafted film out of all these nominees. It’s presented in a striking stop-motion animation that, due to the often strange mix of colors used, is somewhat off-putting to watch, but serves the story well. The peculiar design of the characters and their surroundings adds to the drama and emotion of the film. 

The rest of the animated short nominees each provide their own stories with a healthy dose of heartbreak to tug at audiences. “Hair Love” and “Kitbull” both deliver amusing stories that will be sure to have audiences laughing and smiling throughout the film. Also, they each include just enough genuine emotion that they won’t leave a dry eye in the theater.

“Memorable” and “Sister,” meanwhile, are a little more straightforward with their sadness. Both stories are quite depressing, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. “Memorable” centers on an elderly man who is losing his memory, and it showcases the emotional effects that has on his loved ones. 

On the other hand, “Sister” is told from the perspective of a young boy who dreams about having a sister, but his family isn’t financially stable enough to support a second child. Both of these stories cut deep and speak to relatable experiences. 

As far as the Oscar is concerned, I would probably give the award to “Daughter,” as I thought it was not only the most complex in terms of story, but also the most visually stunning. I wouldn’t count out “Hair Love,” either, simply because it seems to be the one that’s garnering the most praise and momentum in these weeks prior to the ceremony.

As for the live-action short films, they were arguably more heavy and emotional than the animated films.

This year’s live-action short nominations include “A Sister,” “Brotherhood,” “Nefta Football Club,” “Saria” and “The Neighbors’ Window.” Each one of these films presents an intense and thrilling experience that makes it clear why they received their nominations. Though they’re all fantastic, two of these films in particular stood above the rest — “A Sister” and “The Neighbors’ Window.”

“A Sister” follows a phone call between a kidnapped and abused woman and an employee at an emergency call center. The twist is that the woman in danger is in the passenger seat of a vehicle driven by her abuser, so she must speak very vaguely to the employee in order to help them find her. The audience is never entirely sure what is going to happen next, and there are multiple moments in this 15-minute runtime where I found myself nervously squirming in my seat. 

Though I loved “A Sister,” “The Neighbors’ Window” might be one of the best short films I’ve seen in the past few years.

The film focuses on a family consisting of a husband and wife in their mid-30s living in an apartment with three children. The parents are constantly exhausted and longing for the thrill and excitement of their younger years. This mindset is only furthered when a young couple moves into the apartment across the street and proceeds to constantly have sex and throw parties with the blinds open. The main couple often finds themselves watching the younger couple through their windows and wishing they could be like that.

Where the true excellence in this story lies is when it begins to explore the younger couple’s lives. I won’t spoil what happens, but it becomes apparent they are in a very difficult time in their lives. They also find themselves longing for a life they don’t have and might never get. If I’m being honest, the ending of this film emotionally rocked me. I was stunned by how invested in these characters I had become in only 20 minutes, and when it was over I was left quietly sobbing to myself. 

Without a doubt, I would give the Oscar in this category to “The Neighbors’ Window.” I really enjoyed the rest of the nominees, but this film just hit a completely different level. I wouldn’t be surprised if the award ends up going to “A Sister” or maybe even “Saria,” but I’m undoubtedly rooting for “The Neighbors’ Window.”