If you’re planning to boycott the Oscars this year, good for you. Watching old white men pat other old white men on the back as they hand each other trophies is a tired ritual and a tedious way to spend a Sunday evening.
I’ve been boycotting the Oscars for years, which I wish I could say I was doing out of principle, but really I just find them boring. If anything interesting happens, Twitter will tell me, so there’s no need to waste my time.
But even if the Academy Awards are a drag, I love Oscar season because I love movies. January and February are made for working through lists of nominated films and should’ve-been-nominated films and for exploring documentaries and foreign films you missed over the past year. It's also one of the few times each year when the world actually pays attention to short films.
Every year the Oscar-nominated short films — live-action, documentary and animated — are neatly compiled, packaged and released in theaters along with a handful of runners-up. I never miss them. Since short films don’t have to be marketed and released in theaters the way feature-length films do, they feel less prepackaged and predictable. If you’re on a budget, the short films are a great deal. Why buy a ticket to see one movie when you can buy one ticket and see five?
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The shorts also tend to be more creative, more artistic and more diverse in terms of both subject matter and the people behind them than the nominated feature-length films. By my count nearly half the directors of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts are women or nonwhite men.
If you only have time to catch one of the short-film categories, go with the animated shorts. By definition that format lends itself to the most whimsy, creativity and diversity. This year’s collection of animated shorts is somewhat tilted toward the dark, sad and issue-driven, but the visual styles are diverse and the stories imaginative.
So yes, skip the Oscars, but don’t skip the Oscar-nominated short films because they are a rare example of diversity in Oscarland and a reminder that where diversity exists, women, brown people and even circus bears and stick figures get to tell stories in unique and beautiful ways. These small films are a big reminder of why diversity matters: Diverse art is better than not-diverse art.
The 2016 Oscar-nominated short films were released Jan. 29, but this week there are only two Los Angeles–area theaters where you can catch them: the Nuart Theatre (11272 Santa Monica Blvd.) is showing the animated and live-action nominees, and the newly reopened Laemmle’s Monica Fourplex in Santa Monica (1332 Second St.) is showing the documentaries. The San Pedro International Film Festival is screening the live-action shorts on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro (478 W. Sixth St.) and more theaters are rolling out the animated and live-action categories throughout February (get a complete list here). You can also watch them online and on-demand starting Feb. 23. In the meantime, one of 2016’s best shorts, World of Tomorrow, is currently available for streaming on Netflix.