Academy Awards shorts

The Last Repair Shop

I’m reviewing the Academy Awards shorts after finally seeing the documentaries at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady on March 6 at 2 pm, where the auditorium was about half full. Yes, I could have seen most of these on a small screen, but seeing them on the large GE Theater screen was more impactful, IMO. 

Animated short – previously reviewed

*Letter to a Pig 

*Ninety-Five Senses – my favorite

*Our Uniform

*Pachyderme – perhaps the best

*War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko. It won the Oscar, but it was the most conventional.

Documentary Short

*The ABCs of Book Banning  “follows the fight against book bans in America, specifically in Florida.”This works because it is the children, many around the age of 10, who “express disappointment over losing access to vital titles on LGBTQ and racial issues, wars, and the realities of growing up.” Then there’s centenarian Grace Linn, who “confronts a Florida School Board, opposing book banning in local schools,” citing her late husband as part of the reason. It’s currently playing on Paramount+. 

*The Barber of Little Rock “explores America’s racial wealth gap through the story of barber Arlo Washington, who founded People Trust.” While there’s a lot of conversation about the wealth gap between white and black Americans, about eight times difference, the real impact was seeing the impact that not that much money can have on people’s lives. There’s an eye-to-eye exercise at the barber school, which is powerful. The New Yorker has this online.

*Island In Between—” S. Leo Chiang reflects on his relationship with Taiwan, the United States, and China from the islands of Kinmen, just a few miles from mainland China.” I had no idea that Taiwan controlled the islands, which are surrounded on three sides by the mainland. Where is Chiang’s home?Will the Beijing government take over Taiwan’s first line of defense? Interesting. You may watch this on the New York Times site.

My favorite in the category

*The Last Repair Shop: “Los Angeles is one of the last American cities to provide free and freely repaired musical instruments to public schoolchildren—this film goes inside a warehouse where instruments are repaired for students.” What’s terrific are the backstories of the “handful of devoted craftspeople [who] keep over 80,000 student instruments in good repair.” This was my favorite of the five. It’s available on Disney+. It rightly won the Oscar. 

*Nai Nai and Wài Pó – Sean Wang: “”Nǎi Nai (奶奶) is my grandma. Wài Pó (外婆) is also my grandma. Together, they are a grandma super team that dances, stretches, and farts their sorrows away.” One is in her 80s and feels like she was in her 20s. The other is in her 90s and feels as if she were 100. They are a hoot. It’ll be on Disney+ if it isn’t there already.

Live-Action Short

The After – “follows a grieving rideshare driver (David Oyelowo) who picks up a passenger who helps him confront the past.” It’s on Netflix.

*Invincible –“Inspired by a true story, Invincible recounts the last 48 hours in the life of Marc-Antoine Bernier, a 14-year-old boy on a desperate quest for freedom. A film by Vincent René-Lortie. I saw it on Vimeo. Depressing.

*Knight of Fortune – “The loss of a loved one, the grief, the risk of yellow skin, and a coffin, this is too much for Karl to face. It is much easier to fix a broken lamp. A chance encounter with a stranger will help him face his pain.” I watched this on the New Yorker’s YouTube channel and. liked it. I forwarded the link to some of my Death Cafe colleagues.

*Red, White, and Blue tells “the story of Rachel (Brittany Snow), a single parent living paycheck to paycheck who…  has to travel across state lines in search of an abortion.” This, I suspect, is all too common. It was available from Vimeo for $1.99.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved story about a rich man who sets out to master an extraordinary skill to cheat at gambling. It is available on Netflix. Wes Anderson directed it, and it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, and Ben Kingsley, so it’s unsurprising that it won the Oscar.  


I heard the Academy Awards were on Sunday night. As usual, I recorded them, but I haven’t viewed them yet. I will probably watch them by June, when I record the Tonys, and watch them over the summer. I’m not all that interested in who was “snubbed.”

I was thrilled that American Fiction’s Cord Jefferson won Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and Anatomy of a Fall’s Justine Triet and Arthur Harari got Best Writing (Original Screenplay). 

The other award I was pleased about is a category I seldom consider much. The Zone of Interest’s Tarn Willers and Johnnie Burn won for Best Sound. If you’ve seen the film, you know why.

2023 Oscar-nominated shorts

An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake

On two days in mid-February, my wife and I saw some of the 2023 Oscar-nominated shorts at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, NY.  I found some of the films online, which I have linked to.
Live action
Ivalu – DENMARK/16 MINS/2022

Director: Anders Walter, Pipaluk K. Jørgensen

“Ivalu is gone. Her little sister,” Pipaluk, “is desperate to find her. Her father does not care. The vast Greenlandic nature holds secrets. Where is Ivalu?”

While it was a touching bit when Pipaluk would retrace the locales they used to hang out, it was an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Night Ride (Nattrikken)  – NORWAY/15 MINS/2020

Director: Eirik Tveiten

“It is a cold night in December. As Ebba waits for the tram, an unexpected turn of events transforms the ride home into something she was not expecting.”

I liked this piece a lot, possibly my favorite in the category. It was pretty funny, held a degree of danger, and showed real humanity.

More Live Action
Le Pupille ITALY, USA/37 MINS/2022

Director: Alice Rohrwacher

“From… Academy Award® winning producer, Alfonso Cuarón is a tale of innocence, greed, and fantasy. [It] is about desires, pure and selfish, about freedom and devotion, and about the anarchy that is capable of flowering in the minds of girls within the confines of a strict religious boarding school at Christmas.”

As the longest of the pieces, the story is the most complex, taking place in World War II Italy.  It is or was on Disney+. I enjoyed it.

The Red Suitcase -LUXEMBOURG/18 MINS/2022

Director: Cyrus Neshvad

“A young Iranian woman at a Luxembourg airport is in a life-changing situation.”

While totally believable, it was most frustrating because we wanted to know what happened next.

An Irish Goodbye – IRELAND/23 MINS/2022

Director: Tom Berkeley, Ross White

“On a farm in rural Northern Ireland, estranged brothers Turlough and Lorcan are forced to reunite following the untimely death of their mother.”

My wife’s favorite, and for a good reason, even though we couldn’t suss out bits of the dialogue. The family tension rang true. It won the BAFTA in this category.


An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It -AUSTRALIA/11 MINS/2022

Director: Lachlan Pendragon

“When a young telemarketer is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich, he learns that the universe is stop-motion animation. He must put aside his dwindling toaster sales and focus on convincing his colleagues of his terrifying discovery.”

This had a Truman Show/end of a Lego Movie vibe. BTW, the ostrich may be correct. I liked it a lot.

The Flying Sailor – CANADA/7 MINS/2022

Director: Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby

“In 1917, two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour, causing the largest accidental explosion in history. Among the tragic stories of the disaster is the remarkable account of a sailor who, blown skyward from the docks, flew a distance of two kilometres before landing uphill, naked and unharmed. The Flying Sailor is a contemplation of his journey.”

I wish I had known the above before I watched it for the first time. NOW it makes more sense.

More animation

Director:  João Gonzalez

“Every day, a father and his son jump with a parachute from their vertiginous cold house, attached to a cliff, to go to the village on the ground, far away where they sell the ice they produce daily.”

The comments helped me understand this better than I did on first watching.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse -UK/34 MINS/2022

Director: Peter Baynton, Charlie Mackesy

It “is a story of kindness, courage, and hope in traditional hand-drawn animation, following the unlikely friendship of the title characters as they journey in search of the boy’s home. Based on the book of the same name.”

I liked the traditional artwork. It’s strange, though; I can believe the talking animals, yet we both had trouble figuring out where the boy came from. How did he not freeze to death? I think this is streaming on Apple+.

Animation with a warning

My Year of Dicks -USA/25 MINS/2022

Director: Sara Gunnarsdóttir // Writer: Pamela Ribon

“An imaginative fifteen-year-old is stubbornly determined to lose her virginity despite the pathetic pickings in the outskirts of Houston in the early 90s. Created by Pamela Ribon from her critically-acclaimed memoir.”

Before it aired in the theater, there was a warning that the content may not be suitable for some. The last time I saw that message, it was some grossly bloody and inartful six minutes.

This was fun in five chapters, the first of which is here. My favorite part, though, was Chapter 5, when the protagonist asks her mom a personal question, and the mom makes the dad explain sex to the daughter. I found it extremely funny.


I didn’t see the docs in the theater, but I did view two on YouTube.

THE ELEPHANT WHISPERERS – Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga

HAULOUT– Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
Ninety thousand walruses outside your door is a sure sign that the planet’s ecosystem is out of whack.
THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
STRANGER AT THE GATEJoshua Seftel and Conall Jones
I saw a brief piece about a “Veteran’s Return from the Brink of Terrorism” on CBS Sunday Morning. I found this to be a powerful telling of how hate can be turned around. A review of all of the short documentaries states this film “reads a little too optimistic for the current moment.” I have no idea what that means.
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