This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts are very Canadian

This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts are very Canadian
Here’s your chance to shine in the minor Oscar categories at the office pool. Anyone can hold forth on why Bohemian Rhapsody or Green Book definitely (or never in a million years) deserves to be named Best Picture. But how many can articulate with confidence which Canadian should win the prize for Best Animated Short?

The five nominees include three Canadian teams: Toronto’s Domee Shi made Bao, about a woman who treats her dumpling like a son; it played before Pixar’s Incredibles 2 last year. Vancouver’s Alison Snowden and David Fine created Animal Behaviour, a self-help group featuring an anthropomorphic menagerie. And Hamilton-born Trevor Jimenez gives us Weekends, a wordless, dreamy exploration of a child shuttled between separated parents.

The other contenders are Late Afternoon from Louise Bagnall and Nuria Gonzalez Blanco, about an aging woman reflecting on her life; and One Small Step by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, in which a little girl longs to be an astronaut. It’s a strong field, but I liked Jimenez’s evocative, wordless style.

Canadians are also well represented in the live-action short category, with two Quebec entries. In Fauve, by Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon, a childhood dare gets out of hand, while Marguerite, from Marianne Farley and Marie-Helene Panisset, tells of an elderly woman’s romantic regrets.

Rounding out the field are more tales of children. In Madre (Mother), by Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Maria del Puy Alvarado of Spain, a six-year-old’s call from a secluded beach throws his mom into panic. Skin, by Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman, features a young racist-in-training whose father’s hate crime will engulf him.

Then there’s Detainment, by Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon, which has been raising eyebrows in Britain over its subject matter, the murder of two-year-old James Bulger by two 10-year-old boys in Liverpool in 1993. With its softer tone, Marguerite may well have the best chance in this category.

There’s no Canadian content in the nominees for Best Documentary, Short Subject, but there is a wide range of topics. Lifeboat explores the plight of migrants crossing the Mediterranean with hopes of reaching Europe. End Game looks at terminally ill patients at a San Francisco hospital; it’s released by Netflix, and available on the streaming service. In Black Sheep, a black man recounts the extreme things he did to fit in while growing up in a predominantly white British neighbourhood. And A Night at the Garden, just seven minutes long, recalls a pro-Nazi rally that drew 20,000 to New York’s Madison Square Garden in February, 1939.

For its unexpected topic, though, my vote goes to the 26-minute documentary that follows a group of women in rural India who are making and selling sanitary pads in a region where menstruation is such a taboo that some women don’t even completely understand it. It’s also got the most creative title: Period. End of Sentence.

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