Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Short Cuts 2022, Part 3: Oscar's Documentary Short Subject Nominees

For the 17th year, ShortsTV presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater near you (watch the trailer here). In the last of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.

American shorts in general and those produced by Netflix in particular dominate this category this year, which is usually more international. Nevertheless, this is the strongest batch of nominees in the short film categories, which tackle a wind-range of relatable topics, from substance abuse to bullying to homelessness.

And the nominees are...

Audible, Matthew Ogens & Geoff McLean (US, 39 min.), trailer.

Amaree McKenstry-Hall faces a daunting senior year as the star player of the Maryland School for the Deaf football team. A diverse cast (including a gay cheerleader) and a distinct lack of spoken dialogue (naturally) sets this Critics' Choice Award nominee apart from the pack. Questions about fitting into the world at large and what it means to be a member of a team make its message a universal one.

Oscar Connection: Fellow 2021 Oscar nominee CODA also deals with the subject of deafness.

MD Rating: 8/10


Lead Me Home, Pedro Kos & Jon Shenk (US, 39 min.), trailer.

Filmed over three years in three cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle – where homelessness has become a "state of emergency", the battered faces and broken spirits of those caught in its grip tell their stories. Aerial photography captures the stunning omnipresence of the displaced, those of all races, ages and backgrounds (including a trans youth). Heartbreakingly powerful and eye-opening; "where are they supposed to go?"

Oscar Connection: Pedro Kos was the editor of Waste Land and The Square, while Jon Shenk was a cinematographer on Crip Camp and No End in Sight, all Oscar nominated documentary features.

MD Rating: 8/10

The Queen of Basketball, Ben Proudfoot (US, 22 min.), trailer.

A forgotten sports legend, Lusia "Lucy" Harris was the first and only female basketball player to be drafted by the NBA, among many other superlative accomplishments. She was also a humble, gregarious woman, with a winning smile and infectious laugh on full display in this Critics' Choice Award-winning profile that, following her death earlier this year, serves as a fine tribute to her legacy, and one that ensures that anyone who watches it will never forget her.

Oscar Connection:  Ben Proudfoot was nominated last year in this category for the equally terrific A Concerto Is a Conversation.

MD Rating: 8/10


Three Songs for Benazir, Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei (Afghanistan, 22 min.), trailer.

In a displacement camp in Afghanistan, Shaista and his new bride Benazir are expecting their first child. Wanting to provide for his family, Shaista seeks to enlist in the National Army, but circumstances force him to take up another job that proves equally dangerous. This, the one cinéma vérité (and only non-American) entry this year, deftly shows that not all naive young man become casualties of war on the battlefield.

Oscar Connection:  Fellow nominee this year Flee, the first film to be nominated for three feature Oscars (International, Documentary and Animated), also takes place (partially) in Afghanistan.

MD Rating: 7/10


When We Were Bullies, Jay Rosenblatt (US, 36 min.), trailer.

When an unexpected reunion awakens the memory of a 5th grade bullying incident, the filmmaker tracks down his former classmates to help him understand why it happened... and why they were all complicit in it. An interesting concept – revisiting childhood trauma from the point of view of the antagonist – ultimately feels self-serving, and the director's ample use of animated cut-outs to illustrate the schoolyard event is trite and tedious.

Oscar Connection: For playing the ultimate bully in The Power of the Dog, Benedict Cumberbatch received his second Best Actor nomination this year.

MD Rating: 5/10


Coming soon: A Movie Dearest annual tradition: "If We Picked the Oscars".

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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