Oscar Blitz 2023 – Live Action Short (VIDEO)

For the second straight year, my journey through the Short Film Program had an extra degree of excitement. Due to the timing and location of the screenings, I was able to view all three categories in one day. It started with Animation at the newly-remodeled NuArt Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard, followed almost immediately by Live Action (I was able to quickly run across the street for some Subway between shows). Once they were done, it was an eight block walk down the road to the Laemmle Royal for Documentary, with me reenacting the opening to Annette in my head along the way as I trod the same path.

Part of the fun of this whole process is finding new ways to experience my love of cinema. I saw the Animated and Live Action Shorts for the first time back in 2014, while I still lived in Connecticut. The Animation screening was in a small theatre in New Haven, an hour’s drive from my apartment in Bristol. The actual show was in a tiny closet of an auditorium at a larger independent multiplex, and I remember that each nominee was preceded by interstitial content of two cartoon animals talking to each other like they were actors on set. It was weird. Afterwards, I noticed a poster for the Documentary category, but learned from the manager that they had literally had their final showing the day before. I ended up not getting another chance at that one.

For Live Action, I went to Hartford, and the first true arthouse I’d ever been to. Literally, the venue normally operated as a gallery, though it had a back room that they used for makeshift film screenings. For this one, the screening disc from ShortsTV was accompanied by interviews with famous directors about how important short films are for up and coming filmmakers and artists (I remember Steve McQueen being among them). I went back to the gallery once more a week later to see eventual International Feature winner, The Great Beauty.

I moved to Los Angeles that summer, and made it my goal to not miss out on this joy ever again. I was utterly fascinated with how much story and creativity could be crammed into a half-hour. The next year, I not only cleared all three categories for the first time, I made a new friend who works in the industry, and reinforced a friendship I had forged on a separate visit to L.A. a few years before. I drove up to Pasadena to see the Documentary Shorts, which that year thankfully did have an intermission. She noticed me in the hallway during the break, but I didn’t see her. Once the screening was done, she caught up with me, tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned around, gave me a big hug, introducing me to my new acquaintance. The three of us walked to a tiny café across the road, had tea, and spent hours discussing what we had just seen. That unexpected delight reinforced the impetus for me to see as many of the nominees as possible in all categories, because I could never predict what new and exciting times I might have, not just in viewing the nominees, but in experiencing them with others.

This year’s Triple Feature was a solitary affair, the first time I watched the Shorts completely by myself since my first attempt nine years ago. Now, I go to the movies on my own all the time, but in this case, it was different. I truly felt isolated, unable to share the moment with anyone. Even when I was at the crowded Laemmle and sitting directly next to another patron, I was for all intents and purposes alone. There was no one to laugh or cheer with, no high fives to be had after a great moment, no knowing glances to tell one another, “We’re talking about this one for many minutes after we’re done,” no discussions at all.

It was the first time I actually felt lonely at the movies. Again, this is the primary way in which I view all films. I’m literally typing this after coming back from seeing Creed III unaccompanied as normal (review coming tomorrow). It’s my routine. Even when I was last in a relationship, I went to the theatre by myself frequently. My ex came with when she was in the mood, and we always had a good time together, but she made it clear that movies were my thing, and that she wasn’t as enthusiastic about going as I was. From the moment I could go on my own, I did. Group experiences, whether with friends, family, or dates, were the exception, not the rule.

But in this particular case, it felt like something was actually missing by not having anyone with me. I think it’s because the true joy of the Blitz, or movie-going in general, is the shared knowledge that comes with seeing the art unfold on the screen. For mainstream films, and even independent and foreign entries, you always know in the back of your head that someone somewhere is able to see the same stories you’re watching, even if it’s not in the same time and place, and you can catch up with them and make small talk about the flicks whenever it’s convenient.

With the Shorts, you don’t get that same peace of mind. Their theatrical run is so limited, and the individual availability so rare (of this year’s nominees, one can be seen on YouTube, another on Vimeo, and one more on Disney+, but the other two are not at your fingertips), that you can never be sure if anyone you know has had a chance to see them unless they’re in the auditorium with you. The firs time I tried to see the Shorts, there was a novelty to the whole thing that likely prevented me from noticing this sense of solitude. But this year, it was palpable. Thankfully it didn’t take me out of the films as I was watching, but there was a nagging sensation that something wasn’t quite right.

So with that in mind, as you watch this week’s video, I encourage you to make a mental note to carve out some collective viewing time if you seek the Shorts out. Not only do these films deserve to be seen as pieces of art vying for cinema’s highest honor, but they deserve to be experienced with other people. They need to be shared, discussed, and absorbed by multiple sets of eyes, all taking the trip together. I am no social butterfly. In fact I’m about as introverted as they come. But in a very rare case, I find a situation where I feel I truly need that extra human connection, to the point that next year, I’m already committing to making an effort to either bring someone with me to enjoy the best part of the Blitz, or to work my schedule around others to be able to join them.

You know these films have a powerful effect when you realize that the only thing missing is the company.

Who do you think should win? Vote now in the poll below!

Up Next, it’s the final weekend before the big night, and I’ll be hard at work writing reviews, catching up my watch list, and shooting/editing the TWO videos I’m putting out next week. Then, on Monday, we begin the final push of this year’s Blitz with a category I intentionally put off to accommodate the shadiest of Oscar shenanigans. It’s Original Song!

Join the conversation in the comments below! Have you seen any of this year’s nominees? Do you prefer shortform drama or comedy? Is the silly Italian song from Disney’s entry still stuck in your head? Let me know!

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