It’s Oscar season, and chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about La La Land lately. Certainly go see it; just keep in mind that with its 128-minute run time, you could also see an entire separate category of Academy Award-nominated films – the live-action shorts – in exactly the same number of minutes. And that’s more than enough time to see another complete category – the animated shorts, some of which ask for as few as six minutes of your time. Each one of the 2017 Oscar-nominated shorts has the power to make you laugh, cry, think, feel, or do all four at once. Some squeeze as much emotion and social commentary into a matter of minutes as feature-length films take two hours to do.
These shorts are only heightened by partaking in cannabis ahead of time; I popped two toffee cannabis chocolates on two consecutive evenings before each round of five shorts, and the resultant experiences were nothing short of spectacular. If I were making Oscar picks along with the rest of the Academy, I might rank them in a slightly different order than what you see below, but some shorts are simply amazing to view while intoxicated – and that’s what we’re exploring today.
Note that there are also five wonderful documentary shorts nominated for Academy Awards, but we’ll leave those for another time as we venture directly into fiction and fantastical storytelling. In ascending order below, these shorts are ranked by least to most appealing for a cannabis-consuming audience.
10. Ennemis Intérieurs
(France; live action; 28 mins)
It pains me to put anything last on this list, because Ennemis Intérieurs is an excellent film. Actually, it’s the fact that it’s so masterful – the acting, the storytelling, the set dressing – that may make an elevated audience uneasy. The viewer feels as though she or he is in the same room as the pair on the screen, powerlessly watching injustice unfold, and it’s particularly topical at our current crux in history – which is perhaps what makes this one so tough to take.
9. Borrowed Time
(USA; animation; 7 mins)
Borrowed Time is beautifully sad; beautiful in its animation, but there’s not a minute out of seven with a happy tinge to it. The dark and stormy scenery is elegantly construed, and an incredible amount of emotion is communicated through exquisitely animated facial expressions, but this tragic father-son storyline will bring elevated audiences quickly back down to Earth.
8. Silent Nights
(Denmark; live action; 30 mins)
A sense of right and wrong is tangled up in Silent Nights, the story of a Danish woman, Inger, who falls for a Ghanaian man with a past that’s more complex than she supposes. Throughout the film, Inger’s life oscillates between broken and beautiful as she struggles to balance the two and stand up for what she believes. The acting is again superb, and in spite of the harsh realities portrayed by the actors, a sense of hope quashed at places along the way is resuscitated by the end of the story.
7. Sing (Mindenki)
(Hungary; live action; 25 mins)
It’s not easy being the new girl in school, but Zsofi feels like she’s found her place in the choir – until her teacher gives her an unexpected instruction. Sound editing, staging, framing, and costume design are wholly unique and expertly executed throughout this film, which contrasts children’s innocence and ingenuity with darker subthemes through to its ending – one of collective triumph in the face of overreaching authority.
6. La Femme et le TGV
(Switzerland; live action; 30 mins)
Whimsical and charming, La Femme et le TGV centers around the premise of Elise Lafontaine, a woman living alone who waves at a passing express train every day like clockwork, year after year. One day a letter arrives from the train conductor, and an anonymous friendship is sparked – until the train is re-routed, and Elise sets off on an adventure to track down the conductor. The end of the film will leave you feeling even more uplifted than when you entered the theater – and better yet, the storyline is based on true events.
(Spain; live action; 15 mins)
As weird at it is wonderful, Timecode shares the story of two security guards, whose two daily interactions consist of a few seconds’ exchange at the change of their shifts. The day-after-day monotony of the job weighs heavily until one of them discovers something surprising about the other through the security video footage. From there, a whole new form of communication is unveiled, and the final strange and silly sequence becomes ever lovelier as it goes on.
(USA; animation; 6 mins)
Pearl represents a big jump forward as the first VR piece ever to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s a joy-inducing trip to interact with while high, and a harbinger of exciting things to come in the VR space. During the two-song film, which you can see in its original 360˚ version for free on YouTube, years fly by from the vantage point of a beat-up hatchback as a father and daughter travel the country, with music connecting them throughout.
3. Blind Vaysha
(Canada; animation; 8 mins)
A fantastical premise begets Blind Vaysha – the title character has been born with one green eye that can see the past, and one brown eye that can see the future. The animation is by far the most unique among the nominees, yet despair envelops Vaysha thanks to her condition that prevents her from experiencing the present. The most compelling part for cannabis-steeped audiences comes at the end; I won’t spoil it any further than to say that you’ll receive an unexpected invitation to join in the story.
2. Pear Cider and Cigarettes
(UK & Canada; animation; 35 mins)
In this 35-minute joyride (the longest of the short films), the audience vicariously lives the pedal-to-the-medal life of Techno Stypes, who refuses to slow down or shape up regardless of consequences. It’s animated, yet the film rings true in its tone, recounts a true story, and is unquestionably made for an adult audience. Elevated individuals will laugh harder at this one than any other on the list, and are guaranteed to lose themselves in the bewitching animation.
(USA; animation; 6 mins)
I didn’t go into this list wanting to put the Pixar heavyweights at the top, but Piper is an absolute delight while high. The chirrup-narrated short brings audiences up close and personal with a group of sandpipers digging for shellfish along the shore, centering around one amusingly plucky chick and offering a new take on what counts as a bird’s eye view. From the soaring, sunset-soaked sky right down to each individually depicted grain of sand, it’s pure and simple bliss to see the world through a sandpiper’s eyes.