How Do You Measure a Year? 5/10 Growing up my mother used to tape record (audio only) my siblings and I on our birthdays and ask us questions so we could then listen to them as adults. The premise of this short film was the same except video recordings, not just audio and only one child, a girl named Ella. While the idea especially inspired me due to my own similar experience, this short film will really only appeal to Ella’s family, as it is never the same seeing someone else’s child answer these questions (some of which were lame, which even her father admits). A cute, personal idea for Ella, but it doesn’t translate well to wider audiences.

The Elephant Whisperers 8/10 The story of an Indian couple and the orphaned elephant (Raghu) in their care at the Mudumalai National Park, “The Elephant Whisperers” is a moving tale/tail that will both warm and break your heart throughout its running time. This has the best score of all the short films and displays the beauty of India’s environment. The film is able to deal with love, loss and redemption all in under 40 minutes and is the second best of the short films.

Stranger at the Gate 8.5/10 The best documentary short film that deserves to win the Academy Award, “Stranger at the Gate” focuses on a former Marine/Islamaphobe with plans to act out a domestic terror plot against Muslims, only for things to go differently than planned. This is the most emotional of all the shorts and contained the best moral lesson at the end of the film. As a former Marine myself, I found some of the film relatable and appreciated the message of love and hope over hatred and emptiness. Richard McKinney is a complex and multifaceted leading character to follow in this memorable short film.

Haulout 1/10 How this absolute snoozefest was even nominated is beyond me. The story of a lone man observing walrus migration could put you to sleep. Since the man is by himself, there is virtually no dialogue with only him recording/sending audio for minimal information. We get overly long, drawn out shots of the ocean, walruses not doing much and the man eating, which is as boring as it sounds. Finally, we get slapped with some climate change propaganda at the very end, which only tells half of the story (it conveniently leaves out how the polar ice caps, for example, have grown over the last 20 years) and omits the rest. Equal parts boring and one sided, this should have been left (haul)out of the category altogether.

The Martha Mitchell Effect 3/10 The story of Martha Mitchell, who was a part of bringing down the Nixon Administration, “The Martha Mitchell Effect” rises and falls due to Mitchell herself. While I appreciate a woman having a voice in a male dominated White House (her husband was John N. Mitchell, Nixon’s Attorney General), Mrs. Mitchell’s loud, boisterous personality became rather annoying and she had surprisingly little substance to her. When asked by a reporter about fashion, she wisely replied that she wanted to talk about deeper subjects, which is great. However, when asked a deeper follow up question about her thoughts on the Vietnam War, her response was “It stinks.” This moment highlights how little she contributed to the conversation and how without her husband’s job, she would have been a nobody. Despite her being a surprisingly important figure in Nixon’s eventual downfall, Mitchell has largely been forgotten for a reason.

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