A scene from the animated short “If Anything Happens I Love You.” ShortsTV

I think we can all agree: It’s a weird year for the Oscars, and not just because Glenn Close and Olivia Colman are going head to head again, after Close lost the best actress race to Colman in 2019. It’s so weird that some have taken to calling them the Oddscars. Should Close even have been nominated for her over-the-top performance in “Hillbilly Elegy”? In this pandemic year of streaming releases, did anyone even see “The One and Only Ivan” (nominated for a visual effects prize)?

It is reassuring to see that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – which extended the deadline for eligibility – has not forgotten even the smallest awards, or the smallest films. The Oscar-nominated shorts, in categories of live action, animation and documentary, are available for streaming via virtual cinema, and they’re worth checking out. Don’t want to watch a whole program of five nominees? As noted below, many individual films are available to stream a la carte.


“Burrow” (available on Disney Plus) has the light touch you’d expect from Pixar. It’s the story of a bunny looking for a subterranean home, in the midst of too many neighbors: gophers, mice, badgers and even ants. The Icelandic film “Yes-People,” in which all the dialogue consists of the Icelandic word for yes (which sounds a little like “yow”), is also quite cute.

But you’ll be glad the next two films are streaming, because you may need to rewind “Genius Loci” and “Opera.” The first one is a dreamy fantasia: an at-times-abstract, at-times-surreal meditation on chaos, via images rendered in watercolor, colored pencil and woodcut. “Opera” set its sights on something equally ambitious: all of humanity. Birth, life, death, sex, conflict, commerce, politics and everything in between are literally on the screen as the camera zooms out from a massive, pyramid-shaped world teeming with tiny, antlike people.

Critic’s pick: The smart money is on “If Anything Happens I Love You” (available on Netflix), which centers on the aftermath of a mass shooting and its impact on grieving parents. Heavy for a cartoon? Yes, but what could be more timely?

Unrated (treat as PG-13). The animation program contains strong language, smoking, brief nudity and themes intended for mature audiences. 99 minutes. In addition to the five nominated films, the program also includes a selection of additional animated films from the Oscar shortlist.

Steven Prescod, left, and Robert Tarango in “Feeling Through.” ShortsTV


Connection and disconnection are rampant in the live-action category, starting with “The Present” (available on Netflix) and “White Eye.” The first film follows a Palestinian man (Saleh Bakri) as he and his young daughter encounter bigotry in their attempt to buy an anniversary gift on the far side of a West Bank checkpoint. “White Eye” looks at another disturbing Middle Eastern encounter – between an arrogant Tel Aviv resident and the Eritrean immigrant he believes has stolen his bike.

“Two Distant Strangers” (available on Netflix) is a “Groundhog Day”-like fantasy about a white police officer’s violence against a Black man. The mix of drama, sci-fi and moments of comedy make this oddest nominee, stylistically. “The Letter Room” (available on Topic) packs the most star power, with Oscar Isaac playing a kindly corrections officer assigned to sort through and censor mail addressed to death row prisoners.

Critic’s Pick: “Feeling Through” (available at feelingthrough.com) is a quiet candidate for best live-action short – literally. One night, a young homeless man (Steven Prescod) meets a deaf and blind man (Robert Tarango) in need of assistance getting home. Across the divide, they figure out a way to communicate and, more importantly, a way to relate to each other, one human being to another, which the other films in this category prove is all too difficult these days.

Unrated (treat as R). The live action program contains strong language and themes intended for mature audiences. 130 minutes.

Horace Bowers in “A Concerto Is a Conversation.” ShortsTV


A poignant theme of remembrance runs through several of this year’s nonfiction offerings.

Part of the New York Times’ Op-Docs series of short “opinion” films, “A Concerto Is a Conversation” (available at nytimes.com) centers on co-director Kris Bowers’s 91-year-old grandfather, who looks back on his journey from the Jim Crow South to Los Angeles, where he built a business and a life. (Bowers is a musician and composer, and his conversation with his grandpa takes place against the premiere of his “Concerto for a Younger Self” at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.) The theme of revisiting the past is continued in “Colette” (available at theguardian.com), which follows a 90-year-old French woman’s trip to the German forced-labor camp where her brother – a member of the Resistance – died.

“Hunger Ward” (available at pluto.tv) is tough to watch, as filmmaker Skye Fitzgerald – a 2019 nominee for “Lifeboat” – visits two pediatric malnutrition wards in Yemen. It’s a bleak, depressing gut punch of a movie. “Do Not Split” (available on Vimeo) looks at the 2019 origins of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

Critic’s Pick: The fatal 1991 shooting of Latasha Harlins by a Los Angeles convenience store owner – who mistakenly thought the 15-year-old was shoplifting an orange juice – is refracted through the heartbreaking lens of “A Love Song for Latasha” (available on Netflix). The film, which paints a vivid portrait of a person who’s absent from its footage, uses the voices of Latasha’s cousin and her best friend, in a kaleidoscopic collage of memory that evokes old VHS tapes and faded photo albums.

Unrated (treat as R). The documentary program contains themes intended for mature audiences, as well as graphic imagery of malnourished children in “Hunger Ward.” 136 minutes.

A scene from the documentary short “A Love Song for Latasha.” ShortsTV

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