Last week, shockwaves were sent through the industry when it was announced that All Too Well: The Short Film – the film adaptation of the 10-minute, unabridged version of the Taylor Swift song of the same name (which chronicles a 20-year-old Swift’s relationship with the 29-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal) and Swift’s directorial debut – would be eligible for Oscar consideration. How was this possible? Well, the short film in fact played at the AMC Lincoln Square in New York City, New York for one week last fall, from November 12th through November 18th, and given that the eligibility window for films wishing to compete in the Best Live Action Short Film began on October 1, 2021 and runs through September 30, 2022 (differing from the eligibility for all other Oscar categories), All Too Well made the cut. However, being eligible is one thing, and actually being nominated is another. So what do Swift’s chances look like?
Well, for starters, the short already has critical acclaim in its corner. Though it doesn’t have a Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic score at the time of this writing, it does have high ratings on IMDb (an 8.4/10) and Letterboxd (a 4.3/5), most likely thanks to the social media strength of “Swifties,” but plenty of critics similarly gave the short two thumbs up, from Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone to Jessica Derschowitz and Jason Lamphier of Entertainment Weekly to Lexy Perez of The Hollywood Reporter and many, many more, with much praise being given to Swift’s direction, the cast’s performances (particularly Stranger Things breakout Sadie Sink), and Rina Yang’s crisp cinematography. In addition, All Too Well has already proved itself somewhat as an awards contender, winning Excellence in Production Design for a Music Video at the Art Directors Guild Awards in March, and receiving five nominations from the MTV Video Music Awards – Video of the Year, Best Longform Video, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography.
Swift is said to be “working with a top consulting firm to guide [All Too Well‘s] awards campaign,” and the star hasn’t been shy about trying to court Oscar consideration in the past, penning original songs for The Hunger Games and Cats (and even Where the Crawdads Sing, just this year), so it’s a guarantee that she’s going to give this her all. Hell, this June, at the Tribeca Film Festival, she even attended a screening of the film with stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, speaking with filmmaker Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women, C’mon C’mon) about her inspirations and influences (such as the films of Barbara Stanwyck, like Stella Dallas) and trying to position herself as an auteur to be taken seriously – something that will be essential in her Oscar campaign to convince “on-the-fence” voters that she’s more than your average “pop star.”
It feels incredibly obvious to point out, but yes, the fact that Swift is a “big name” could absolutely help her gain a footing in this category. Just last year, having Oscar nominee Riz Ahmed as the face (and producer) of The Long Goodbye helped power that short film to an Oscar win, while the late Kobe Bryant’s name being attached to 2017’s Dear Basketball undoubtedly gave that short a leg up in the Best Animated Short Film category. And, it’s also worth mentioning the fact that All Too Well star Sadie Sink – hot off a huge season of Stranger Things (and an HCA Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Streaming Series, Drama) – will be campaigning this awards season anyway for her supporting role in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale (where she stars as the estranged daughter of Brendan Fraser’s character), and it’s easy to see a world in which many of Sink’s interviews center around both The Whale and All Too Well, giving the short even more exposure.
However, it should be noted that being a big name doesn’t always earn you the Oscar automatically. Two years ago, Oscar winner Pedro Almodóvar premiered a short starring Tilda Swinton titled The Human Voice at the Venice Film Festival to rapturous critical acclaim, but in the end, it wasn’t even nominated for Best Live Action Short Film. And that same year, Elvira Lind’s The Letter Room was nominated, but despite Oscar Isaac starring in the lead role, it couldn’t unseat the buzzier and more topical Two Distant Strangers, showing that there is a limit to star power, especially in the face of a short that feels more socially urgent.
Additionally, this is not a “light” year for the Best Live Action Short Film category whatsoever. Kendrick Lamar’s We Cry Together – a six-minute short film starring himself and Zola‘s Taylour Paige, which Lamar made to supplement the song of the same name on his album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers – will also be in contention, and with rumors that Lamar has helped to curate the soundtrack to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as he did for the first film, he could have a busy Oscar campaigning season, keeping him in the conversation in multiple categories and potentially giving Swift a run for her money.
Even still, All Too Well is an aesthetically arresting and emotionally engaging short that speaks openly and honestly to modern relationship dynamics and gender roles, and it will certainly find its fair share of fans in the Academy, based both on the quality of the film itself and the sure-to-be significant campaigning from Swift and her team. It’s far too early to call Swift a lock for an Oscar win – or even a nomination – but with this much time left until the Academy Awards, all the power to Taylor to lay the groundwork for an Oscar victory (that will get her one step closer to that EGOT).