Features, Film, Film Review

Oscar Short Film Roundup 2024: Best Animated

A rundown of the nominated short films for the 96th Academy Awards



It’s about that time again. The 96th Academy Awards are scheduled on March 10, which might be enough time for the 1,400 minutes that you will need to catch up with all of the Best Picture nominees (that’s similar to watching Oppenheimer seven times and stopping after the bomb goes off on the eighth time). But you will certainly have enough time to get cracking on this year’s nominations for the short film categories, which include animated, live action, and documentary. Starting Friday, February 16, the Coolidge Corner Theatre will be playing the nominated short films in their designated categories (Animated and Live Action on 2/16 and Documentary on 3/1). Watching movies is fun, but betting on winners during awards season is another kind of fun. Know-it-alls who were already dizzy by the constant twists in Anatomy of a Fall can re-experience the immersive experience of getting wrecked again. Let’s get on it and argue!


Out of the existing Oscar categories, I’ve generally had good feelings about this one. Whether the stories are taken off the page of a real life event or from the corners of someone’s imagination, we can delight in the creatively vast of available mediums. Though I don’t feel that recent winners quite encapsulate the entire spectrum of originality, it’s still exciting that we can jump into these worlds, often brought on by first-time nominees.

In that regard, some of these nominations fit that rule. However, it would be a bit obtuse not to acknowledge that recognition is informed by current events. I think it’s less “Look at how aware we are!” and more of “I remember hearing about this recently and now, in seeing this new thing, I put these two things together for a stronger connection to the story.” I wouldn’t say that this year flashes a critical drop in talent or originality (after all, some of my best emotional surprises from 2023 were from animated films), but I wouldn’t use it as an exemplary reason as to why this is my favorite category.

Let’s take a look at this year’s nominations for Best Animated Short Film.


1) Letter to a Pig (dir. Tal Kantor | France/Israel, 17 mins | trailer) – A Holocaust survivor reflects on his grim experience in a classroom, which invokes a psychological response from a student.

2) Ninety-Five Senses (dir. Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess | USA, 13 mins | trailer) – An inmate on death row reflects on his life using our known five senses.

3) Our Uniform (dir. Yegane Moghaddam | Iran, 7 mins | trailer) – An Iranian woman reflects on freedom through her experiences growing up in Iran.

4) Pachyderme (dir. Stéphanie Clément | USA, 11 mins | trailer) – A woman reflects on her childhood visits at her grandparents’ house.

5) War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko (dir. Dave Mullins | USA, 11 mins | trailer) – Two soldiers from opposing sides of an unnamed war are involved in a game of chess. A messenger pigeon is involved and might be reflecting on its life during the process.

NOTE: If you are watching the Animated Shorts program at theaters, there are two additional films that were tacked on from the shortlist. I didn’t want to talk about them too much, but they are I’m Hip (directed by longtime Disney animator John Musker) and Wild Summon (directed by Karni Arieli and Saul Freed). I’d say that the vibes are something else but they are much needed-refreshers.



It’s true, this year was a time for reflection. Each short film has a separately important message that can hit home for a lot of viewers. But watching these in succession made me realize that this is the same feeling if the Best Picture nominees were made up of Nyad and Maestro. I fear, that in having these very serious-branded stories populate a usual-flourishing category of inventiveness, that the category this year has come up…well, short.

Don’t get me wrong; the visuals here are stunning. Taking a look at Letter to a Pig, which will probably win points for its challenging story ornamented with dementing black-work shadows, it successfully compounds on the creeping darkness that can envelop a person when listening to a traumatic story. As an unnamed teenager listens to a Holocaust survivor first gratefully recounting a time that a pig saved his life before turning spiteful, she starts to sink below the laughter and discomfort of her peers into an inexplicable empathy. It sorta loses itself in character relation, where the teenager’s emotional response piggybacks (no pun attended) on a harrowing story without establishing why she feels this way. But on another day, I might see that the film’s evasiveness of why we connect to stories can be more powerful than bullet-pointing the reason of A-B-C to the event of X-Y-Z.

Pachyderme and Ninety-Five Senses fall similarly in line to Letter to a Pig. Both are conventionally beautiful to look at and aren’t offensive by awards standards. Pachyderme is set in a cherubic summer nostalgia, but the narrator has an edged tone that underlines a disquieting experience. The implied dark subject matter, hidden among the bright woodlands and warm sunny surroundings, illustrates the kind of childhood story that makes more sense when you’re older — which is part of the layers of this piece. Ninety-Five Senses (directed by the Hesses, who are responsible for Napoleon Dynamite) is another narrator’s invocation of a flashback, but instead we have an inmate facing a death penalty and perhaps has nothing else but his life to face. In knowing the inevitable end, the inmate holds the hope that maybe there are more that we can feel in the afterlife than what we know now. Okay, I can give it props that that’s pretty deep.

Our Uniform is uniquely performing on different dimensions. Moghaddam draws on fabric, where the physical twists and folds are incorporated into the ani-motion as the narrator shares what it’s like growing up in Tehran and how personal expression begins to develop. I personally like the way that it looks, but it’s as whelming as War Is Over!, which is just as fine. I sorta imagined the lyrics-story to the song to be at least holiday-adjacent, but director Mullins drops us in the middle of a combat zone. I found myself wondering about the logistics of announcing that the war is over during a battle. That man who was ready to slash your throat with a primal instinct for survival can just stop? Imagine if All Quiet on the Western Front went like this? I couldn’t.



WHAT SHOULD WIN: Letter to a Pig (I guess??)

WHAT WILL WIN: War is Over! (I guess??)

I can civilly say that each film has a good chance of winning. But for personal stakes, I need weirdos next year to put some shock into the system.

Now playing @ Coolidge Corner Theatre
Watch this space for Anna’s thoughts on the live-action and documentary shorts!

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