Produced by J.J. Abrams, Apple TV+’s “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” is the highest-profile nominee of the bunch, which is full of filmmakers enjoying their first nomination. The exception is “The Flying Sailor” team of Amanda Forbid and Wendy Tilby, whose shorts the Academy recognized in 2000 and 2012.
THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX AND THE HORSE
Adapting his best-selling book, Charlie Mackesy wrote the script alongside Jon Croker (“Paddington 2”) and directed with Peter Baynton. (Macksey and Matthew Freud were nominated.) The film explores kindness and community via a lost little boy and the creatures he encounters. It’s an unabashedly open-hearted tale with the message, “Life is difficult, but you are loved.”
THE FLYING SAILOR
Canadian filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby based their eight-minute film on the true story of an explosion in Halifax harbor in 1917 that killed 2,000 people. By reimagining the flight of a survivor flight as a “slow-motion ballet,” as Forbis has described it, the film grapples with the fleeting nature of life.
In this lyrical 15-minute tale of loss and family connection, a father and son parachute each day from their house on a cliff into a valley to sell ice. The film, which João Gonzalez wrote, directed, animated and scored (with Bruno Caetano producing), has won several awards since its debut in Cannes.
MY YEAR OF DICKS
Pamela Ribon adapted her own “mortifying memoir” about trying to lose her virginity into this hilarious short directed by Sara Gunnarsdóttir. “People act like teenage girls are some big mystery,” said Ribon, whose screenwriting credits include “Moana” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” “It’s not that we’re that complicated, it’s that no one bothers to really listen.”
AN OSTRICH TOLD ME THE WORLD IS FAKE AND I THINK I BELIEVE IT
Last fall, Lachlan Pendragon won a gold medal at the Student Academy Awards for his charming comedy about an inept toaster telemarketer who realizes, with help from a large bird, that he exists in a stop-motion animated universe. The majority of the film unfolds on a camera monitor and more than once, a real-life human hand enters the frame — creative decisions meant to celebrate the handmade nature of the art form.
Voters in the shorts categories can be a confounding lot, with recent Oscars going to the slickest entries (lots of Disney wins) or at times the most personal ones. “My Year of Dicks” definitely takes this year’s prize as the most personal nominee, but the slickest entry is also the most moving one for anybody who doesn’t have a heart of stone. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” entered the race as the best-known nominee and might well stay on top until the end.