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2022 Oscar Shorts: A Message from the Curator

Wed, Mar 9, 2022

Written by: Joseph Morrison

This Friday begins the final week of the 2022 Oscar Nominated Shorts, and there’s still time to catch all three programs at the Harris Theater. Hundreds of patrons have already come to see the five nominated films for Documentary, Live Action, and Animation. Sean Collier, in one of his weekly roundups for Pittsburgh Today Live, commented that once you see these programs it becomes an annual tradition. That has been the case with many patrons having returned this year to the Harris and look forward to viewing the shorts here every year. Also excited to learn that this program brought several people out for the first time in two years for in-person screenings!

What is the allure of these programs? Perhaps the clue is in a description found on our co-presenter, The Pittsburgh Shorts Film Festival’s webpage: “the best contemporary short films from around the globe, highlighting films that promote innovative visual storytelling and cultural tolerance.”

That’s it, Innovative storytelling! The films in these categories represent filmmaking of nature that is at times vastly different than what we see in full length feature films. Sometimes the difference is in the subject matter: The Dress (Live Action) is very much interested in exploring the idea of loneliness and isolation through the lens of a person who society has deemed isn’t a sexual object. A short description of the film should not be entirely about the protagonist’s dwarfism, but it’s clearly a vital aspect of what makes this film so effective and interesting. Sometimes the difference in these films is in the visual style: When We Were Bullies (Documentary) employs some visual techniques that contributes to the overall feel of the film in a very, very stylistic manner. It’s completely unexpected and thrilling to watch. Of course, the Animation category is filled with experimentation. Boxballet (Animation) has charmed me over repeat viewings with a visual style that no major studio would finance into a feature length film.

Another reason to see them if you haven’t yet, is that it’s just downright fun to watch five different films in a program and compare them and then hang out in the lobby afterwards and eavesdrop on your fellow movie goers’ conversations! That’s the reason we run our wonderful competition to see who can accurately predict the winners in each category and give them a chance to win fabulous prize packages. Personally, I think that watching these short films with an eye towards picking a winner changes the way in which you watch them. One would normally reflect on them, and by human nature perhaps have a favorite, but to commit to a choice…well, that puts you right in the role of the critic, or Academy member who decides the fate of these filmmakers. Winning an Oscar can be a life changing event and so your vote, while not affecting the actual winner at the Oscars, does force you to think back on the shorts you just watched and decide what made a film successful in your mind. Was it the way the subject matter was treated or the visual style? What worked and didn’t work is something you have to consider. And what the heck, that’s kind of fun, I think. So come to the Harris Theater and join in, you’ll be glad you did.

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