Best Oscars Short Films of 1979: Creativity and Originality

Photo of author
Written By Kelsey Waddell

Kelsey Waddell is a freelance writer living in Virginia. She's a fan of science fiction, Iron Chef, and anything with a musical number and a happy ending.

The 51st Academy Awards held in 1979 presented an exceptional lineup of Short Film nominees that showcased the power of storytelling in its most concise form. From captivating animations to thought-provoking documentaries and gripping live-action dramas, the 1979 Oscars Short Film category celebrated the best and brightest emerging voices in the film industry.

Each film offered a unique perspective on the world, showcasing exceptional creativity, technical mastery, and the ability to evoke profound emotions within a limited runtime. In this article, we will delve into the Best Short Film nominees of the 51st Academy Awards and explore what made each of them stand out in their respective categories.

These remarkable works exemplify the incredible potential of short films to captivate audiences, provoke thought, and leave a lasting impact. Join us as we celebrate the artistry and storytelling brilliance of the filmmakers who made their mark on the world of cinema in 1979.

Animated Short Films

Special Delivery

Special Delivery, a 1978 animated short film directed by Eunice Macaulay and John Weldon, is a heartwarming story about a mailman who goes above and beyond to deliver a package to a young girl. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and it’s not hard to see why.

The film begins with a mailman named Ambrose who is tasked with delivering a package to a young girl named Alice. However, when he arrives at Alice’s house, he discovers that she is sick in bed and unable to come to the door. Determined to deliver the package, Ambrose embarks on a whimsical adventure through a snowy and treacherous landscape to reach Alice’s window and deliver the package.

The animation style of Special Delivery is charming and unique. The film utilizes a technique called “pinscreen animation,” which involves manipulating a screen full of pins to create a black-and-white image. This creates a texture and depth that is unlike anything seen in traditional animation. The use of shadows and light in the film is also impressive, particularly in the scenes where Ambrose is traveling through the snowstorm.

One of the standout moments in the film is when Ambrose encounters a group of mischievous birds who steal his hat and scarf. This scene is both humorous and visually stunning, as the birds are intricately detailed and the use of color in their feathers is striking.

Overall, Special Delivery is a delightful short film that is sure to warm the hearts of viewers of all ages. The animation style is a major contributor to the storytelling, adding a whimsical and magical quality to the film.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a heartwarming story with unique and impressive animation. The film is particularly well-suited for families and children, but its universal themes of kindness and perseverance make it a worthwhile watch for anyone.

Oh My Darling

Oh My Darling is a 1978 animated short film directed by Nico Crama. It tells the story of a young girl named Darling who lives in a small village with her grandmother. One day, Darling discovers a magical flower that gives her the power to make anything she wishes come true. She uses this power to bring joy to the people in her village, but her actions also catch the attention of a greedy king who wants to use her power for his own gain.

The animation style of Oh My Darling is unique and captivating. The film is animated using a combination of traditional 2D animation and stop-motion techniques. The use of stop-motion animation gives the film a tactile quality that makes it feel like a living, breathing world. The colors and textures of the animation are rich and vibrant, adding to the film’s dreamlike quality.

The animation style is not just visually stunning, but it also contributes to the storytelling. The use of stop-motion animation in the film’s climactic scene, where Darling confronts the king, creates a sense of tension and urgency that would not have been possible with traditional animation. The way the characters move and interact with the environment also adds to the film’s whimsical tone.

There are several scenes and moments in Oh My Darling that stood out to me. One of my favorites is when Darling first discovers the magical flower. The animation in this scene is particularly beautiful, with the flower’s petals unfurling in a mesmerizing way. Another standout moment is when Darling creates a giant cake for the village celebration. The way the cake comes to life and interacts with the villagers is both hilarious and heartwarming.

Overall, I was very impressed with Oh My Darling. The animation style is stunning, and the story is both engaging and heartwarming. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys animated shorts or fantasy stories. While the film is suitable for all ages, I think children in particular would enjoy the film’s whimsical tone and imaginative storytelling.

Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle, a 1978 animated short film directed by Will Vinton, is a whimsical and charming retelling of the classic Washington Irving tale. The film follows the titular character, a lazy and shiftless man who falls asleep in the Catskill Mountains and wakes up 20 years later to find that the world has changed around him.

The animation style of Rip Van Winkle is unique and engrossing. Vinton, who is known for his innovative use of claymation, employs a variety of techniques to bring the story to life. The characters are crafted out of clay, but the backgrounds are made up of intricate paper cutouts that add depth and texture to the film. The animation style is both playful and sophisticated, perfectly capturing the whimsy of the story while also conveying a sense of time and place.

The characters in Rip Van Winkle are delightfully quirky and endearing. Rip, voiced by the legendary actor Will Geer, is a lovable slacker who is easy to root for. The other characters, including the mischievous sprites who play tricks on Rip and the stern villagers who are wary of his laziness, are all well-drawn and memorable.

There are many standout scenes in Rip Van Winkle, but one of the most memorable is when Rip wakes up from his long sleep and wanders through the town, trying to make sense of all the changes that have taken place. The use of color and light in this scene is particularly striking, as Rip navigates through a world that is both familiar and strange.

Overall, Rip Van Winkle is a delightful and charming film that is well worth watching. Its unique animation style and endearing characters make it a standout in the world of animated shorts. While it may not be for everyone, those who enjoy whimsical and imaginative storytelling will find much to love in this film. It is recommended for all ages, but particularly for children and families who enjoy classic tales with a twist.

Live Action Short Films

Teenage Father

Teenage Father is a 1978 live-action film directed by Taylor Hackford. The movie follows the story of a young high school student, Johnny, who becomes a father at the age of 16. The film explores the struggles and challenges that Johnny faces as he tries to balance his responsibilities as a father with his academic and social life.

The main characters in the film are Johnny, his girlfriend, and their newborn son. Johnny is portrayed as a typical teenager, who is carefree and enjoys hanging out with his friends. However, after the birth of his son, he realizes the gravity of his situation and is forced to mature quickly. The girlfriend is also shown as a young girl who is overwhelmed by the responsibility of motherhood. The film does an excellent job of portraying the emotional turmoil that both characters face as they navigate through their new roles as parents.

The visual style of the film is simple yet effective. The movie uses a mix of live-action and animation to tell the story. The animation style is used to convey Johnny’s inner thoughts and emotions. It adds an extra layer of depth to the storytelling and helps the audience connect with the character on a deeper level.

One of the standout scenes in the film is when Johnny is holding his newborn son for the first time. The scene is beautifully shot, and the emotions that Johnny is feeling are palpable. Another scene that stood out was when Johnny is trying to study for his exams while taking care of his son. It is a poignant moment that highlights the sacrifices that young parents have to make.

Overall, Teenage Father is a touching and emotional film that explores the challenges of teenage parenthood. The film is a must-watch for anyone who is interested in exploring the complexities of parenthood. However, the movie may not be suitable for young children due to its mature themes. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys thought-provoking and emotional dramas.

A Different Approach

A Different Approach is a distinctive and compelling film that was released in 1978, directed by Jim Belcher and Fern Field. This live-action movie is a combination of animation and puppetry, which is a rare and innovative approach to filmmaking. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and it’s easy to see why.

The plot of the movie revolves around a young girl named Susie, who is feeling lonely and isolated in her new home. She befriends a group of talking animals who help her adjust to her new surroundings and teach her valuable life lessons. The animals are all puppets, and their interactions with Susie are animated in a unique style that combines traditional animation with live-action footage.

The main characters in the film are Susie and the group of talking animals, including a dog, a cat, a bird, and a mouse. Each of these characters is given a distinct personality and voice, which makes them easy to relate to and empathize with. The visual style of the film is colorful and whimsical, with a lot of attention paid to detail in the puppetry and animation.

The animation style of A Different Approach contributes greatly to the storytelling. The combination of live-action footage and puppetry creates a seamless blend of reality and fantasy that draws the viewer into Susie’s world. The animation also allows for creative and imaginative scenes, such as when Susie flies on the back of a bird or rides a rollercoaster through a candy-filled wonderland.

One scene that stood out to me was when Susie and the animals have a picnic in a field of flowers. The colors are vibrant and the animation is charming, creating a sense of warmth and happiness that is infectious. Another memorable moment is when Susie confronts her fears on a rollercoaster ride that takes her through a dark tunnel. The animation in this scene is intense and exhilarating, capturing the rush of adrenaline that Susie experiences.

Overall, A Different Approach is a wonderfully imaginative film that is sure to appeal to audiences of all ages. Its unique combination of animation and live-action footage creates a captivating world that is both charming and insightful.

I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a heartwarming and visually stunning movie experience. It’s an excellent choice for families and anyone who appreciates innovative and creative filmmaking.

Mandy’s Grandmother

Mandy’s Grandmother is a heartwarming and nostalgic film directed by Andrew Sugerman, released in 1978. The film follows the story of a young girl named Mandy, who discovers a box of old photographs and letters belonging to her grandmother. Through these relics, Mandy learns about her grandmother’s life and the struggles she faced growing up in the early 1900s.

The film’s main characters are Mandy and her grandmother, who is portrayed through the use of animation. The animation style in the film is unique and adds an element of whimsy to the storytelling. The use of animation also allows the audience to see the past come to life in a way that live-action footage may not have been able to achieve.

One of the standout scenes in the film is when Mandy discovers the box of old photographs and letters. As she begins to read through them, the animation takes over, and the audience is transported back in time to witness her grandmother’s experiences. The animation style used in this scene is particularly stunning, as it seamlessly blends the present with the past.

The film’s visual style is also worth noting. The filmmakers made great use of color and lighting to create a warm and nostalgic atmosphere. The sets and costumes were also meticulously crafted, transporting the audience back in time to the early 1900s.

Overall, Mandy’s Grandmother is a beautiful and emotional film that will appeal to audiences of all ages. Its use of animation adds a unique element to the storytelling and creates a sense of wonder and magic. While the film may not be action-packed or full of suspense, it is a lovely reminder of the importance of family and the power of storytelling. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a nostalgic and heartwarming viewing experience.

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit, directed by Seth Pinsker and released in 1978, is a characterful and thought-provoking live-action film that explores themes of racism, prejudice, and the search for identity. The film follows the story of a young black man named William Boyals, who is struggling to find his place in a world that seems to be against him at every turn.

The film’s visual style is a mix of live-action and animation, which creates a dreamlike atmosphere that is both haunting and beautiful. The animation style, which is reminiscent of the work of Ralph Bakshi, adds an extra layer of depth to the storytelling, allowing the audience to see the world through William’s eyes.

The film’s main characters are William Boyals, played by the talented actor and musician, Gil Scott-Heron, and his love interest, a white woman named Mary, played by actress Salli Terri. Their chemistry on-screen is palpable, and their performances are both nuanced and powerful.

One of the standout scenes in the film is when William performs the titular song, “Strange Fruit,” in a jazz club. The song, which was originally written by Abel Meeropol and made famous by Billie Holiday, is a powerful and haunting protest against racism and the lynching of black men in America. The scene is beautifully shot and captures the raw emotion of the song perfectly.

Overall, Strange Fruit is a film that is both visually stunning and emotionally powerful. The animation style adds an extra layer of depth to the storytelling, and the performances by the cast are outstanding. While the film may not be for everyone, it is a must-see for anyone interested in exploring themes of race, identity, and the human experience. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a thought-provoking cinematic experience.

Documentary Short Films

The Flight of the Gossamer Condor

The Flight of the Gossamer Condor is a captivating documentary directed by Jacqueline Phillips Shedd and Ben Shedd and released in 1978. This documentary tells the story of the first human-powered flight, as a team of students and engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) attempts to fly a man-powered aircraft over a one-mile course.

The film focuses on the team’s journey to build the Gossamer Condor, a lightweight aircraft made of aluminum tubing and Mylar, and their rigorous testing and training process. The filmmakers also explore the history of human flight and the scientific principles behind the Gossamer Condor’s design.

The main characters in the film are the members of the MIT team, including pilot Bryan Allen, designer Paul MacCready, and engineer Fred To. Their dedication and perseverance are inspiring, as they work tirelessly to overcome technical and physical challenges in their pursuit of flight.

The visual style of the film is stunning, with beautiful shots of the California desert where the team conducts their tests, and close-up shots of the Gossamer Condor as it soars through the air. The filmmakers also use animation and archival footage to explain the science behind the aircraft’s design.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by creating a sense of tension and excitement as the team prepares for their historic flight. The use of slow-motion shots during the flight sequence adds to the suspense, as viewers watch with bated breath to see if the Gossamer Condor will make it to the finish line.

One specific scene that stood out was when the team had to overcome the challenge of training Bryan Allen to pedal the aircraft at the required speed and intensity. Another was the final flight sequence, where the tension is palpable as the Gossamer Condor approaches the finish line.

Overall, The Flight of the Gossamer Condor is a remarkable documentary that showcases human ingenuity and perseverance. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in science, engineering, or aviation. I highly recommend this film, especially to those who enjoy documentaries about human achievement and innovation.

The Divided Trail: A Native American Odyssey

The 1978 documentary The Divided Trail: A Native American Odyssey directed by Jerry Aronson explores the struggles and experiences of Native Americans in the United States. The film follows the journey of a group of Native Americans as they travel across the country to Washington D.C. to protest against the government’s policies towards their people.

The film’s main subjects are the Native Americans themselves, who share their stories, beliefs, and traditions. Through their personal accounts, the film sheds light on the challenges they face in a society that has often marginalized and oppressed them.

The film’s visual style is simple yet effective, with scenes shot in a naturalistic manner that captures the beauty of the American landscape. The cinematography is particularly striking, with shots of the vast, open spaces of the country that serve as a poignant backdrop to the struggles of the Native American people.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when the group arrives in Washington D.C. and stages a protest outside the White House. The scene is powerful, with the group’s voices rising in unison as they demand justice for their people.

The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling, as they create a sense of intimacy and authenticity that draws the viewer into the world of the Native Americans. The use of natural lighting and sound, as well as the absence of a musical score, gives the film a raw and unfiltered feel that adds to its emotional impact.

Overall, The Divided Trail: A Native American Odyssey is a thought-provoking and deeply moving film that sheds light on an often-overlooked part of American history. It is recommended for anyone interested in Native American culture and history, as well as those who appreciate powerful and affecting documentaries. This film would be particularly relevant for those interested in social justice and activism.

An Encounter with Faces

An Encounter with Faces is a 1978 documentary directed by K.K. Kapil that explores the art of mask-making in India. The film takes viewers on a journey through the country as we witness the creation of intricate masks by skilled artisans. The documentary showcases the cultural significance of masks in Indian traditions and how they are used in various forms of art, including dance and theater.

Throughout the film, we are introduced to several characters who are passionate about mask-making and are dedicated to preserving this art form. The filmmakers masterfully capture the emotions and personalities of these individuals, allowing viewers to connect with them on a personal level. We see the joy and pride they take in their work and the immense skill and patience required to create these works of art.

The visual style of the film is breathtaking, with astonishing shots of the Indian landscape and close-ups of the intricate masks. The cinematography and use of light and shadow contribute to the storytelling, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue around the mask-making process. The film’s pacing is deliberate and allows viewers to fully immerse themselves in the world of mask-making.

One standout scene is when we see a master artisan creating a mask from scratch. The attention to detail and precision required is incredible, and we see the artist’s passion and dedication to his craft. Another memorable moment is when we witness a traditional dance performance featuring the masks, and we see how they come to life on stage.

Overall, An Encounter with Faces is a beautiful and hypnotic documentary that provides a glimpse into a fascinating world of mask-making and Indian culture. It would appeal to anyone interested in art, culture, or documentary filmmaking. I highly recommend this film for its stunning visuals, engaging storytelling, and unique subject matter.

Goodnight Miss Ann

Goodnight Miss Ann is a 1978 documentary directed by August Cinquegrana that tells the story of Ann Cooper Gay, a pioneering African-American radio host who broke barriers in the entertainment industry during the 1940s and 1950s. The film offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of a woman who defied expectations and paved the way for future generations of African-American performers.

The film’s visual style is understated but effective, using a combination of archival footage and interviews with Gay’s colleagues and family members to paint a vivid picture of her life and legacy. The cinematography is simple yet effective, with a focus on close-ups of Gay’s face and hands that capture the warmth and charisma that made her such a beloved figure in the entertainment world.

One of the standout moments in the film comes when Gay’s former colleagues and friends reminisce about her impact on their lives and careers. Their stories are poignant and heartfelt, and offer a glimpse into the camaraderie and solidarity that existed within the African-American entertainment community at the time.

Overall, Goodnight Miss Ann is a compelling and inspiring documentary that sheds light on an important but often overlooked figure in American history. I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in African-American history, the entertainment industry, or the power of perseverance and determination in the face of adversity. While the film may be of particular interest to fans of jazz and blues music, its message of courage and resilience transcends any particular genre or audience.

Squires of San Quentin

Squires of San Quentin is a captivating 1978 documentary directed by J. Gary Mitchell that explores the lives of inmates at the San Quentin State Prison in California. The film provides a rare glimpse into the daily lives of inmates, the harsh realities of prison life, and the hopelessness that many of them face.

The film’s main subjects are the “squires,” a group of inmates who have been given the responsibility of maintaining order and discipline within the prison. These men are given a certain level of authority and respect by both the inmates and the prison staff, and they work tirelessly to keep the peace.

The film’s visual style is raw and gritty, with many scenes shot in a documentary style that gives the impression of being right there with the inmates. The use of black and white footage adds to the starkness of the prison environment, while the occasional use of color footage provides a glimpse of the outside world.

One of the most powerful aspects of the film is the way in which the cinematography is used to contribute to the storytelling. The camera often lingers on the faces of the inmates, capturing their expressions and emotions in a way that is both intimate and haunting. The use of close-ups and tight shots also adds to the sense of claustrophobia and confinement that permeates the prison environment.

There are several scenes and moments in the film that stand out, including a powerful sequence in which the squires attempt to prevent a violent outbreak among the inmates. The tension in this scene is palpable, and the viewer is left on the edge of their seat as they watch the events unfold.

Overall, Squires of San Quentin is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary that offers a unique perspective on prison life. While it may not be suitable for all audiences due to its graphic content, those who are interested in documentaries that explore social issues and the human condition will find much to appreciate in this film. I highly recommend it.

1979 Oscar Short Film Winners

Animated – Special Delivery

Live Action – Teenage Father

Documentary – The Flight of the Gossamer Condor