2018 Oscars: Best Live Action Short Film nominees by rising stars of world cinema

Three of the most difficult categories to call every year at the Oscars are those of the short films. They lack precursor prizes and, in many cases, visibility. If you are not able to see these films before the Academy Awards on March 4, don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Below is our take on the five nominees for Best Live Action Short.

A screening committee drawn from the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members winnowed a record field of 165 entries for Best Live Action Short down to 10 semi-finalists. All members of the branch could attend December screenings in Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco and then cast preferential ballots for the five nominees.

“DeKalb Elementary” (USA)
Director/Writer: Reed Van Dyk
Running Time: 21 minutes

The film details the terrifying experience of an elementary school secretary when she confronts a disturbed gunman who has entered the front office with a plan to kill everyone inside. Bonus points are awarded for the fact that this is based on an actual 911 call from an Atlanta school, but this never felt as tense as it should have. If winning an Oscar was based on social commentary alone, this could be your winner. But if voters watch the film through the same lens as myself, they may find themselves equally unmoved.

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“My Nephew Emmett” (USA)
Director/Writer: Kevin Wilson Jr.
Running Time: 20 minutes
Winner: Student Academy Awards

This tells the true story of Mose Wright, who desperately tried to protect his nephew, Emmett Till, when two racists sought revenge on the teenager for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Veteran actress Jasmine Guy adds a familiar face to the film, which is rare in this category, as Mose’s loving wife. The lighting and cinematography of this piece are laudable, but it lacks depth considering this is one of the most well-known lynching cases in American history. A clip of the real-life Wright speaking about his nephew adds a heartbreaking dose of reality. While this film felt important, it did not feel complete.

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“The Silent Child” (UK)
Director: Chris Overton; Writer: Rachel Shenton
Running Time: 20 minutes

This beautifully shot submission tells the story of Libby, a four-year old deaf girl who lives in silence until a nurturing social worker, Joanne (Shenton), teaches her to communicate through sign language. Libby is adorably played by newcomer Maisie Sly, who brilliantly captures the despair of a child unable to understand the world around her. Libby’s out-of-touch mother believes her child should be treated no differently than anyone else and is adamant that lip-reading is the only logical way for her daughter to get by in the real world. In just 20 minutes we see the entire heartbreaking journey of Joanne and Libby’s relationship, as Joanne desperately attempts to convey that deafness is not a learning disability, but simply a communication barrier. Of the five films nominated, this one has the most complete story arc. It is the most professionally shot, with gorgeous cinematography, and also has a great score.

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“The Eleven O’Clock” (Australia)
Director: Derin Seale; Writer: Josh Lawson
Running Time: 13 minutes

The only comedy in the bunch tells the tale of a psychiatrist’s patient, who actually believes he is the doctor. As the two banter back and forth, the audience is left questioning, which one of these two is the crazy one? Throughout this funny, yet somewhat predictable story, the two characters try to treat each other’s mental issues. If there were a screenplay award for the short films, this dialogue-heavy script would likely reign supreme as viewers are taken through the twists and turns of two men fighting to prove their sanity. Although the only nominee to generate any laughs, it may feel too “light” to win an Oscar.

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“Watu Wote” (“All of Us”) (Germany)
Director: Katja Benrath; Writer: Julia Drache
Running Time: 22 minutes
Winner: Student Academy Awards

This docudrama is based on actual events in which the militant group Al-Shabaab launched a bus attack in Kenya and forced Muslims to identify Christian passengers. The lead character, Jua, is one of those Christians who felt a sense of discomfort as soon as she boarded the bus. As the violent attack ensues, a Muslim woman helps to conceal Jua’s identity and prove solidarity can prevail in these troubled times. This film holds an important message and is well crafted.

SEE 2018 Oscar nominations: Full list of Academy Awards nominees in all 24 categories

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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