The three Oscar categories that recognize films which run 40 minutes or shorter — best live action short, best documentary short and best animated short — are often regarded as “minor,” but this year’s contenders for them will include some major names.
On the heels of recent Academy Awards ceremonies at which Oscars for short films were taken home by the likes of retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant, former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry and Hollywood A-lister Riz Ahmed, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Taylor Swift’s filmmaking debut All Too Well: The Short Film — which the pop star has described as “a film about an effervescent, curious young woman who ends up completely out of her depth” — received an Oscar-qualifying run, making it eligible for the best live action short Oscar, and has retained the services of a top consulting firm to guide its awards campaign.
The 14-minute production (watch it here), which Swift wrote and directed a decade after the release of her massively acclaimed power ballad “All Too Well,” screened at the AMC Lincoln Square for one week last fall, from Nov. 12 (the day of its premiere there) through Nov. 18. And while that timing would have precluded it from this season’s best picture race, which requires a release within the calendar year preceding the Oscars ceremony, it works just fine for the best live action short race. The eligibility window of which began on Oct. 1, 2021 and runs through Sept. 30.
Swift, who has never been Oscar-nominated, but is also generating buzz this year for her original song “Carolina” featured in Where the Crawdads Sing, injected some new mojo behind All Too Well: The Short Film during the Tribeca Film Festival over the summer. On June 11, accompanied by her leading lady Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) and leading man Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), she attended a screening of the film at a jam-packed Beacon Theatre and then spoke about it with filmmaker/fan Mike Mills — citing Barbara Stanwyck’s films, especially 1937’s Stella Dallas, as major influences, and emphasizing, “This is not a music video” — before performing “All Too Well” live for besotted fans.
Swift is not the only music star with a film that will be in the running for the best live action short Oscar. Kendrick Lamar’s We Cry Together, a six-minute film starring himself and Zola’s Taylour Paige as a quarreling couple, which Lamar made to supplement his song of the same name that was featured on the album he released in May, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, quietly played at the Laemmle Royal Theater in West. L.A. from June 3 through June 9, qualifying it for the race.
I’m told that pgLang, a company recently created by Lamar and Dave Free, four-walled Laemmle’s 180-seat main theater for one screening per day, each of which occured under the oversight of a special outside security detail that collected the phones of all attendees. Attendees were mostly family and friends of those associated with the project, although roughly 20 members of the public were also able to buy tickets to each showing.
Another short with familiar names attached to it — this one a short of the documentary variety — is 38 at the Garden, which revisits the story of former New York Knicks basketball star Jeremy Lin, who came out of nowhere a decade ago to dominate the NBA during a period known as “Linsanity.” Produced by 2021 best live action short Oscar winner Travon Free (who, for Two Distant Strangers, became that award’s first Black winner) and EP’d by CNN host Lisa Ling, the film — for which Lin granted a rare interview — marks the directorial debut of Frank Chi, an Asian-American who runs a DC-area political creative agency, and has had audiences cheering and crying since beginning its film festival run at Tribeca in June.
38 at the Garden — a reference to a particularly remarkable Lin performance at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 10, 2012 — most recently screened at the HollyShorts festival in Hollywood on Thursday, and will hit HBO on Oct. 11. At a time of rising hate crimes against Asian-Americans, the story of a person who brought such great pride to that community, and whose popularity extended far beyond it, is especially moving. And given the fact that Bryant’s Dear Basketball won best animated short in 2018 and Ben Proudfoot’s The Queen of Basketball won best documentary short earlier this year, we can safely assume that today’s Oscar voters are not averse to stories about life on the hardwood as were those who a generation ago declined to even nominate one of the greatest documentary features ever made, Steve James’s 1994 masterpiece Hoop Dreams.
31-year-old Proudfoot has another doc short in the mix this year: Mink! (which you can watch here), the story of the late Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color ever elected to the U.S. House of Represenatives and a co-author of the landmark legislation known as Title IX. If Mink! — which The New York Times Op-Docs series dropped on June 23, the 50th anniversary of the signing of Title IX — is nominated, that would make Proudfoot the only person to ever land best documentary short noms in three consecutive years (his run started with A Concerto Is a Conversation) other than Dick Young (who was nominated in 1980, 1981 and 1982, and, unlike Proudfoot, never won).
One of Proudfoot’s executive producers on the project? Professional tennis star Naomi Osaka.