I believe that the Animated Short race is more wide open than we think it is. I have been compiling the list of all the Oscar-qualifying short film contenders, and one of the titles that keeps popping up is Jared and Jerusha Hess’ film, Ninety-Five Senses. Could we have a big contender on our hands?
JARED and JERUSHA HESS, the husband-and-wife filmmaking duo behind such deadpan comedies as NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and NACHO LIBRE, have qualified for Oscar consideration with NINETY-FIVE SENSES—a touching animated short starring TIM BLAKE NELSON.
Nelson, beloved by audiences for his roles in the Coen brothers’ rustic satires (Delmar in O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?; the title role in THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS) and his recurring turn as The Leader in the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE, lent his voice to the main character of Coy, a folksy philosopher facing his own mortality. As Coy bids a final farewell to each of his five senses, he reflects on his troubled past and dreams of a vibrant, multisensory afterlife.
After winning the Grand Jury Award for Best Animated Short at the Oscar-qualifying Florida Film Festival, NINETY-FIVE SENSES has earned consideration for the 2024 Academy Awards.
The project marks two significant firsts for the Hesses: NINETY-FIVE SENSES is their first foray into short-form animation, as well as their first work of dramatic fiction in an otherwise playful oeuvre. In a mere 13 minutes, this surprisingly complex story explores several weighty themes, including parental neglect, disability, and the afterlife.
In addition to its Grand Jury triumph in Florida, the short has been selected by a staggering 17 Oscar-qualifying film festivals throughout the world, winning awards at Animation Dingle in Ireland (Best International Professional Short), the Guadalajara International Film Festival in Mexico (Rigo Mora Special Jury Award) and most recently the Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival (First Prize, Best Short Animation).
Beyond the festival circuit, the short received a nomination last month for a 2023 Humanitas Prize. It was the sole animated offering among this year’s Short Film nominees, and the first non-Disney/Pixar animated short ever honored in that category.
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JARED and JERUSHA HESS are American filmmakers best known for their work on NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, NACHO LIBRE and GENTLEMEN BRONCOS, all co-written by the pair and directed by Jared. Jerusha made her solo directorial debut in 2013 with the Sundance premiere of AUSTENLAND. The Hesses recently collaborated on the Netflix Original Animation feature THELMA THE UNICORN. Jared is slated to direct Jason Momoa in MINECRAFT for Warner Bros., based on the best-selling video game in history.
TIM BLAKE NELSON is a celebrated actor, playwright and director. His remarkable filmography spans well over 100 screen credits, including works by legendary filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Terrence Malick. He has appeared onstage in New York at MTC, Playwrights Horizons, MCC, NYTW, Soho Rep, and The Public’s Delacorte Theater in Free Shakespeare in the Park. As a playwright, his works include SOCRATES, ANADARKO, THE GREY ZONE, and EYE OF GOD, the latter two of which he also adapted and directed as feature films. His other film and TV directorial efforts include Lionsgate’s O, a modern retelling of Othello; Millennium’s LEAVES OF GRASS; IFC’s ANESTHESIA; and Amazon’s “Z.” His debut Novel, CITY OF BLOWS was published earlier this year by Unnamed Press, with a paperback version set for early 2024.
NINETY-FIVE SENSES was produced as part of the MAST program of the non-profit Salt Lake Film Society. MAST provides grants, training and mentorship to animators and filmmakers, with a special emphasis on projects that change minds and change the world. Its program includes a fellowship, labs, mentorship, career advocacy, networking, contests, productions and funding.
The film’s producers are MAST co-founders MILES DAVID ROMNEY, a veteran Broadway investor and co-producer (MOULIN ROUGE!; HADESTOWN; LIFE OF PI; THE SIGN IN SIDNEY BRUSTEIN’S WINDOW), and TORI A. BAKER, CEO of Salt Lake Film Society and Board VP of The Cinema Foundation.