The 63rd Academy Awards held in 1991 presented a captivating lineup of Short Film nominees, each showcasing the power of storytelling in its most concise form.
From enchanting animations to thought-provoking documentaries and gripping live-action dramas, the 1991 Oscars Short Film category celebrated the best and brightest emerging talents in the film industry. Each film offered a unique perspective on the world, demonstrating exceptional creativity, technical mastery, and storytelling ability.
In this article, we will delve into the Best Short Film nominees of the 63rd Academy Awards and explore what made them stand out in their respective categories.
These films prove that even within a limited runtime, short films possess the ability to touch hearts, challenge perceptions, and leave a lasting impact on audiences.
Join us as we celebrate the artistry and narrative brilliance of the filmmakers who made their mark on the world of cinema in 1991.
Animated Short Films
Creature Comforts is a delightful 1990 animated short film directed by Nick Park, the mastermind behind the beloved Wallace and Gromit franchise.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and won the award, which is no surprise given its charm and wit.
Set in a fictional zoo, various animals are interviewed about their living conditions. The interviews are conducted in a documentary style, with the animals’ responses being dubbed over with voice-overs from ordinary people discussing their own living situations. The film cleverly juxtaposes the perspectives of animals and humans, highlighting the similarities and differences between the two.
The animation style is truly unique and adds to the overall storytelling experience. The characters are claymation figures that are meticulously crafted and animated with precision. The movements of the animals are incredibly lifelike, and the facial expressions are wonderfully expressive, making the characters feel like real creatures with distinct personalities.
One of the standout moments in the film is a scene where a group of penguins are discussing their living conditions. They complain about the lack of space and their limited activities, but then they break into a hilarious dance routine that perfectly captures their playful nature.
Another memorable moment is when a zookeeper tries to convince a group of monkeys that they are happy in their small cages, but the monkeys are having none of it and hilariously mimic the keeper’s words.
Creature Comforts is a delightful and thought-provoking film that is suitable for all ages. The film’s unique animation style and clever storytelling make it a true gem.
I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a lighthearted and entertaining viewing experience. Animal lovers and fans of animated films, in particular, will find much to enjoy.
A Grand Day Out
A Grand Day Out is a charming and whimsical animated short film directed by Nick Park. The film, released in 1990, follows the adventures of Wallace and his loyal dog Gromit as they embark on a quest to find the perfect cheese for their crackers.
The film begins with Wallace realizing that they have run out of cheese and he decides to build a rocket to travel to the moon to find some.
Wallace and Gromit’s journey to the moon is filled with obstacles, including a wrong turn that takes them to a ski resort, a broken-down robot that they must fix, and a lunar robot that challenges them to a game of table tennis. The pacing of the film is perfect, with each scene building on the previous one and leading to the exciting climax of the film.
The characters of Wallace and Gromit are endearing and lovable. Wallace is a quirky inventor who always has a solution to every problem, while Gromit is a loyal and intelligent dog who communicates through his facial expressions. The dynamic between the two characters is heartwarming and adds to the humor of the film.
The animation style adds to the storytelling in several ways. The stop-motion animation allows for intricate details in the characters’ movements and expressions, making them feel more lifelike. The use of clay figures also adds to the whimsical nature of the film and makes it stand out from other animated films.
One scene that stood out to me was when Wallace and Gromit first land on the moon and discover a lunar cheese mine. The use of color and lighting in this scene is stunning, with a warm orange glow illuminating the moon’s surface. The attention to detail in the cheese mining operation is also impressive, with tiny clay figures hard at work.
A Grand Day Out is a delightful and entertaining animated short film that is sure to bring a smile to your face. The film is suitable for all ages and will appeal to anyone who enjoys quirky humor and unique animation styles.
I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a fun and lighthearted viewing experience.
Grasshoppers is a charming and whimsical animated short film directed by Bruno Bozzetto.
This film tells the story of a group of grasshoppers who are preparing for their annual concert, but are constantly interrupted by a group of pesky ants who are trying to ruin their performance.
The main characters of the film are the grasshoppers and the ants. The grasshoppers are portrayed as carefree and fun-loving, while the ants are portrayed as strict and uptight. The film uses these characterizations to create a playful and lighthearted tone throughout.
One of the most striking features of Grasshoppers is its unique visual style. The film is created using a combination of traditional 2D animation and stop-motion animation. This style adds a layer of depth and texture to the film, making it feel more immersive and engaging.
The animation style also contributes to the storytelling by creating a sense of whimsy and playfulness. The movements of the characters are exaggerated and playful, adding to the film’s overall tone.
One of the standout scenes in the film is when the grasshoppers are practicing their music and are interrupted by the ants. The ants come marching in, disrupting the grasshoppers’ performance and causing chaos. This scene is both humorous and visually stunning, with the ants and grasshoppers bouncing and moving in time with the music.
Grasshoppers is a delightful animated short film that will appeal to audiences of all ages. Its unique visual style and playful tone make it a standout film in the animated short category. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and whimsical viewing experience.
Live Action Short Films
The Lunch Date
The Lunch Date is a 1990 live-action short film directed by Adam Davidson. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film, and for good reason – the film is a thought-provoking and visually striking exploration of race and class in America.
The Lunch Date follows a wealthy white woman who accidentally leaves her briefcase at a New York City subway station. As she waits for her train, a black woman sitting nearby offers her half of her sandwich. The white woman refuses, but when she realizes she has no money to buy lunch, she follows the black woman into a crowded cafeteria and steals her lunch.
The film’s main character is the white woman, played by Nancy Giles. Giles delivers a powerful performance as a woman who is both entitled and vulnerable. The black woman, played by Trula Hoosier, is a symbol of the white woman’s fear and discomfort with people from different backgrounds.
The visual style of The Lunch Date is both gritty and surreal. The film is shot in black and white, which adds to the sense of timelessness and universality. The use of animation in the film is also notable, as it emphasizes the surreal and dreamlike quality of the film.
One of the most memorable scenes for me is when the white woman is sitting in the cafeteria, surrounded by black people. She becomes increasingly uncomfortable as they stare at her, and the camera zooms in on her face, highlighting her fear and anxiety.
Another standout moment is when the white woman steals the black woman’s lunch, and the film switches to animation, highlighting the absurdity and surrealism of the situation.
The Lunch Date is a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores issues of race and class in America. The film is particularly relevant today, as issues of race and class continue to be at the forefront of American society.
12:01 is a science fiction thriller directed by Hillary Ripps and Jonathan Heap, based on a short story by Richard Lupoff.
The movie was released in 1990 and features a talented cast including Kurtwood Smith, Jonathan Silverman, Helen Slater, and Martin Landau.
The story revolves around a man named Barry Thomas (Jonathan Silverman), who is stuck in a time loop that resets every day at 12:01 am. He soon discovers that he is not alone in this bizarre situation and meets a scientist named Lisa Fredericks (Helen Slater) who is working on a project that could help them escape the time loop.
However, their efforts are hindered by a power-hungry executive (Kurtwood Smith) who wants to use the time loop for his own gain.
The visual style of the film is simple yet effective. The majority of the movie takes place in an office building, and the filmmakers use a variety of camera angles and lighting techniques to create a sense of claustrophobia and unease.
The animation style of the movie is also noteworthy, with the use of animation sequences to explain complex scientific concepts in a way that is both entertaining and informative.
One of the standout moments in the film is when Barry realizes he is stuck in a time loop and tries to convince those around him that they are reliving the same day over and over again. This scene is both tense and humorous, as Barry’s co-workers initially dismiss him as crazy.
12:01 is a well-crafted sci-fi thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film is suitable for a wide audience, but fans of time travel and science fiction will particularly enjoy it.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for a thought-provoking and engaging sci-fi movie that will stay with them long after the credits roll.
Bronx Cheers is a 1990 live-action film that tells the story of a group of regulars at a bar in the Bronx, New York. Directed by Raymond De Felitta and Matthew Gross, the film is a heartwarming and humorous portrayal of the daily lives of the bar’s patrons.
The main character of the film is Carmine, the bartender who serves drinks and listens to the problems of the bar’s regulars.
Throughout the film, we see the different personalities of the patrons, including a struggling actress, a retired boxer, and a group of construction workers. As the film progresses, we see the relationships between the characters develop and the struggles they face in their daily lives.
One of the most striking aspects of the film is its use of animation. The style is simple yet effective, providing a visual representation of the character’s inner thoughts and emotions. This unique approach to storytelling adds depth and complexity to the film, making it a memorable and engaging experience.
There are several scenes in the film that stand out, including a touching moment between Carmine and the struggling actress as they share their dreams and aspirations.
Another standout moment is when the retired boxer confronts his past and comes to terms with his regrets. These scenes showcase the film’s ability to balance humor and heart, creating a well-rounded and enjoyable experience for the viewer.
Bronx Cheers is a charming and touching film that will leave a lasting impression on its audience. It is a film that is sure to appeal to a wide range of viewers, from those who enjoy heartwarming dramas to those who appreciate unique and creative storytelling.
I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a thoughtful and entertaining movie experience.
Dear Rosie is a 1990 live-action film directed by Peter Cattaneo and Barnaby Thompson.
The film tells the story of a young girl named Rosie, who is struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother. With the help of her father, who is also struggling with his own grief, Rosie creates an imaginary friend named Dear Rosie. Together, they embark on a journey of healing and self-discovery.
The main characters in the film include Rosie, her father, and her imaginary friend Dear Rosie. Rosie is played by young actress Sarah Smart, who delivers a powerful and emotional performance as a young girl trying to navigate the complexities of grief.
Her father is played by Mark Strong, who brings depth and nuance to the role of a man struggling to connect with his daughter while dealing with his own pain. The animated character of Dear Rosie is voiced by Julie Walters, who brings a sense of whimsy and joy to the film.
The visual style of the film is unique in that it combines live action with animation. The animation style is used to bring Rosie’s imaginary friend to life, and it adds a sense of magic and wonder to the film. It is simple and charming, with a hand-drawn quality that adds to the film’s overall aesthetic.
One scene that stood out to me was when Rosie and her father visit her mother’s grave. The scene is beautifully shot and emotionally charged, with Rosie struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death. The use of animation in this scene is particularly effective, as it allows the audience to see Rosie’s internal struggle and the way in which she is using her imagination to cope.
Overall, I was deeply moved by Dear Rosie. The film tackles complex themes of grief and loss with sensitivity and nuance, and the performances from the cast are outstanding.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys emotionally engaging dramas with a touch of whimsy. It would be particularly appealing to those who enjoy films that deal with the complexities of family relationships and the ways in which we cope with loss.
Senzeni Na? (What Have We Done?)
Senzeni Na? (What Have We Done?) is a powerful and heart-wrenching film that tells the story of a group of South African refugees who have fled to Botswana to escape the violence and oppression of apartheid.
Directed by Bernard Joffa and Anthony E. Nicholas, the film was released in 1990 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film.
The film follows the journey of a young girl named Thandi, who is separated from her family during their escape and must navigate the dangers of the refugee camp on her own. Along the way, she meets a group of other refugees who become her makeshift family, and together they struggle to survive and find a way to a better life.
The animation style of the film is a unique blend of live-action footage and hand-drawn animation, which adds a dreamlike quality to the story and helps to convey the sense of displacement and confusion felt by the refugees. The animation also serves to illustrate the horrors of apartheid, with scenes of violence and brutality depicted in stark black and white.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Thandi and her new family are forced to flee the refugee camp and make their way across the border to Zimbabwe. As they cross a river, they are attacked by crocodiles and many of the refugees are killed or injured. The scene is both terrifying and heartbreaking and serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by those who are forced to flee their homes.
Senzeni Na? (What Have We Done?) is a powerful and thought-provoking film that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who sees it. While the subject matter is difficult and at times harrowing, the film is ultimately a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in the history of apartheid or the experiences of refugees.
Documentary Short Films
Days of Waiting
Days of Waiting is a powerful and poignant documentary directed by Steven Okazaki.
The film tells the story of Estelle Ishigo, an American artist who voluntarily joins her Japanese-American husband, Arthur Ishigo, in an internment camp during World War II.
Through a combination of interviews, archival footage, and Ishigo’s own artwork, Days of Waiting paints a vivid picture of life inside the camps and the struggles faced by Japanese Americans during this dark period in American history.
The film also explores the impact of racism and xenophobia on Estelle and Arthur’s relationship and their eventual return to society after the war.
One of the most striking aspects of Days of Waiting is its visual style. The film features a mix of black and white and color footage, as well as Ishigo’s own artwork, which adds an extra layer of emotional depth to the story. The cinematography is intimate and personal, often focusing on Ishigo’s face and hands as she recounts her experiences.
One particularly memorable scene involves Ishigo describing the moment she and her husband were forced to leave their home and report to the internment camp. The camera lingers on Ishigo’s face as she recalls the fear and uncertainty she felt, and the scene is intercut with archival footage of Japanese-Americans being loaded onto buses and trains.
Days of Waiting is a moving and thought-provoking documentary that offers a unique perspective on a dark chapter in American history. While the film is a must-see for anyone interested in this period, it may also appeal to those interested in art, social justice, or personal narratives.
I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a powerful and emotionally resonant documentary.
Burning Down Tomorrow
Burning Down Tomorrow is a 1990 documentary directed by Kit Thomas that explores the impact of urban development on small communities in America.
The film focuses on the small town of Hudson, Ohio, which is faced with the prospect of a large shopping center being built on the outskirts of town. The documentary follows the town’s residents as they struggle to fight against the development and preserve their way of life.
One of the strengths of Burning Down Tomorrow is its intimate portrayal of the people at the heart of the story. We meet a range of characters, from the town’s mayor to local business owners to everyday citizens. Through their eyes, we see the impact that the development will have on the town and the deep emotional attachment that people have to their community.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling in several ways. The use of handheld cameras and natural lighting gives the film a gritty, realistic feel that captures the urgency of the situation. The film also incorporates archival footage and photographs, which help to contextualize the town’s history and provide a sense of nostalgia for what is at risk of being lost.
One of the most memorable scenes is a town hall meeting where residents voice their concerns about the development. The tension in the room is palpable as people passionately argue for and against the project.
Another standout moment is a sequence where we see the construction of the shopping center juxtaposed with footage of the town’s quaint main street. This contrast highlights the clash between modern development and traditional community values.
Burning Down Tomorrow is a thought-provoking documentary that raises important questions about the impact of urban development on small towns. While the film is focused on the specific case of Hudson, Ohio, its themes are relevant to communities across America.
I would recommend this film to anyone interested in urban planning, community activism, or the intersection of business and politics.
Chimps: So Like Us
Chimps: So Like Us is a fascinating documentary directed by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon. It explores the similarities between humans and chimpanzees; taking an in-depth look at the complex social behavior of chimpanzees and how it compares to human behavior.
The main characters in the film are a group of chimpanzees living in a research facility in Georgia. The filmmakers follow their daily lives, observing their interactions with each other and their environment. The film also features interviews with scientists and researchers who study chimpanzees, providing insight into their behavior and biology.
The visual style of the film is simple yet effective. The filmmakers rely on close-up shots of the chimpanzees to convey their emotions and personalities. The use of slow-motion footage highlights the grace and agility of these incredible animals.
The use of interviews with experts adds depth and context to the story, providing scientific insights into the behavior of these amazing creatures.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the chimpanzees are given tools to use to extract food from a puzzle box. The footage of the chimpanzees using sticks to retrieve the food is a testament to their intelligence and problem-solving abilities.
Chimps: So Like Us is a captivating documentary that sheds light on the complex social behavior of chimpanzees. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in animal behavior, primatology, or documentary filmmaking. This film will appeal to a wide audience, from animal lovers to science enthusiasts.
Journey Into Life: The World of the Unborn
Journey Into Life: The World of the Unborn is a 1990 documentary directed by Derek Bromhall that takes viewers on a mesmerizing journey into the world of prenatal development.
The film uses a combination of live-action and computer-generated imagery to bring to life the fascinating world of the unborn.
The film’s subject matter is the development of a human being from conception to birth, with a focus on the first three months of gestation. The main subjects of the film are the developing embryos and fetuses, which are captured in stunning detail using cutting-edge imaging technology.
The film’s visual style is both breathtaking and haunting. The use of computer-generated imagery to visualize the development of the fetus is innovative and provides a unique perspective on a subject that is rarely seen. The camera work is also noteworthy, with close-up shots of the developing fetus and sweeping shots of the mother’s womb.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is the moment the embryo first attaches itself to the uterine wall. The camera zooms in on the microscopic cells as they begin to divide and multiply, creating the foundation for a new life.
Another standout moment is a scene where the fetus begins to move and kick, providing a glimpse of the growing personality and individuality of the unborn.
Journey Into Life: The World of the Unborn is a remarkable film that offers a unique perspective on the miracle of life. The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling, making it a visually stunning and emotionally engaging experience.
I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in the development of human life, and it would be particularly interesting to expectant parents or those considering starting a family.
Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember
Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember is a 1990 documentary directed by Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders. The film provides a compelling and intimate look into the life of Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of the Kennedy family.
Through interviews with family members, archival footage, and personal photographs, the documentary paints a vivid portrait of a woman who lived through some of the most significant events of the 20th century.
The film’s style is straightforward and informative, with a focus on the family’s history and Rose’s role within it. The cinematography is simple but effective, with a mix of archival footage and personal photographs that add depth and texture to the story.
The use of interviews with family members, including Rose’s children and grandchildren, provides a unique perspective on her life and legacy. The use of personal photographs and family interviews creates an intimate portrait of a woman who was often seen as distant and reserved.
One of the most powerful moments in the film is when Rose’s son, Senator Ted Kennedy, reflects on his mother’s strength and resilience in the face of tragedy. Another poignant scene is when Rose’s daughter, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, discusses her mother’s unwavering faith and dedication to her family.
Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember is a well-crafted and informative documentary that offers a unique perspective on one of the most influential families in American history.
The film is recommended for anyone interested in the Kennedys or the history of 20th-century America. It is also a great choice for those who appreciate intimate portraits of inspiring women.
1991 Oscar Short Film Winners
Animated – Creature Comforts
Live Action – The Lunch Date
Documentary – Days of Waiting