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Some years, I have serious issues with the live action short films that are nominated for Oscars. Often times, it feels as though they aren’t really even that great, like of all the films submitted from around the world, these are the best they could come up with? This year, things are very different. All five of the nominated films are worthy in their own right and for the time being, my money is on JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING for the win.



A mother mistakes an alarm clock for a phone and wakes up late one morning. Only today is the day of the wedding and in the next seven minutes or so, she rushes and to get her family to the church on time while everything goes wrong around her. That’s it. That’s the entire movie, more or less. Only you haven’t heard the punchline yet. And when you do, this charmer of a short from Finland will be even more endearing. Short, sweet, to the point and spot on.



Short films have immense potential … to be incredibly depressing, that is. HELIUM, a short film from Denmark, directed by Anders Walter, tells the story of a young boy of no more ten years old, who is dying of cancer. Sometimes, when you try to cram as much sadness as this story brings to it into a 22-minute runtime, it can be extremely overbearing. This one is different though. This one focuses specifically on finding a world to escape to when things become too difficult to bear in the present. The death of an innocent child is never easy but, thanks to the imaginative storytelling of a new orderly who befriends the young boy, accepting it is just a little bit easier to embrace.



French director, Xavier Legrand, sets up a perfect pace of suspense and tension with JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING. For the first half of this 30-minute short, we see a woman pick up her kids and take them to her place of employment. She is frantic and she needs to disappear. She gets her boss to fire her so she can get employment benefits and then it is a race to get out of town before it’s too late. Too late for what though? We don’t know; we suspect but we don’t know until her young boy blurts out an innocent comment that makes everything very real. The remaining half of the film inspires great sympathy for the woman and her children. You want so badly for her to make it out before her time has run out and when it starts to look like that might not happen, the intensity rises to great heights.



I’m very mixed on THAT WASN’T ME, a short film out of Spain about two Spanish doctors in Africa to provide aid relief who are taken prisoner in Africa by a gang of child soldiers and their general. While I did find it horrifying to see what is happening there, as recounted by a former child soldier who is sharing his story as part of a University lecture, I also felt as though this horror was being somewhat exploited and was given to us from the viewpoint of an outsider (who perhaps even saw this lecture and felt inspired to make this film). This could have something to do with how cliched and awkward some of the dialogue and delivery is but fortunately there is a saving grace that still drives the point home. The child actors, the looks on their faces of total emptiness, as if they know no joy or love whatsoever, are truly disturbing. I commend director, Esteban Crespo for trying, and for obviously striking a chord with many people as the film is nominated for an Oscar after all, but outside of the kids, it didn’t feel authentic enough to me.



Martin Freeman stars as a psychiatrist caught in a mind game with a god, or rather Tom Hollander playing a prison inmate who claims to be a god. Is he crazy or is he faking it? These are the two options Freeman debates upon meeting Hollander’s Mr. Voorman. Alas, they are not the only two options, are they? I suppose that answer depends on where you stand with the whole theory of creation. Mr. Voorman’s theory is that he created the universe nine days ago and that we are all extensions on an elaborated designed world that exists in his mind for his amusement. Director, Mark Gill doesn’t answer any of the questions he poses, and it isn’t his job to either, but he does take a rather dark and twisted stance on how he feels about the idea of divinity. It may at first feel somewhat unfinished or unsatisfying in the end but when you think about it, there is no other ending.

You can see all five Oscar nominated short animated films at select theatres now, including TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. For more information, visit

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