Ranked in my preference:
La Lampe au Beurre de Yak
I know making this my top choice will prove what everyone already thinks about my taste in short films: that I'm contrarian and intentionally weird. But I really did love this film. I loved that the camera never moved. I loved the simple series of teeny tiny family portraits. I loved the indirect sketching of a world far away, Tibet, and its collision with modernity. I loved how understated it was. I loved every detail of this film and I could go on and wax analytic about why these elements were good and how they combined into a wonderful whole. But it would all be nonsense, because I really believe what makes this film excellent is ineffable. It's wonderful simply because it is wonderful. That's it.
This Israeli woman is one of the most complex and inscrutable characters I've seen in film for a long time. But though I can't quite find my way inside her, somehow I understand her all the same. Understated writing and acting and direction---simplicity throughout---change a sitcom situation (a woman picks a random someone up at the airport by masquerading as his driver) into a character study with depth and breadth and earned pathos.
Boogaloo and Graham
This was Lady Steed's favorite and I loved it as well. This story to two boys' love for their chickens and their father's love for them is beautiful. Setting it against the chaos of the recent past's Northern Ireland made those moments more precious because more fragile. Lovely bit of family comedy.
The Phone Call
Sally Hawkins's performance is amazing, and as long as it's her on the phone, the film is strong strong strong. But then the phone call ends and the film has a LOTR3-like string of codas that convolute what had been pure. I understand the impulse to give both characters happy endings---and I'm all for that sort of counterprogramming against the theme of suicide---but it didn't work.
Well acted---especially by the title character---but ultimately confused as to what it's trying to be. It's a quest story, but it's hard to tell how better off our heroine is upon the completion of her adventure. Are we supposed to be happy, for instance, that she's stopped wearing her scarf? Is that a sign that she's gained something or lost something? I'm not sure the film knows. Ambiguity's fine. Having no idea what the crap you're on about ain't.
So what will win? Well, "Boogaloo and Graham" is the most crowdpleasing. "The Phone Call" has the most Oscar-clip acting (from an actress nominated for an Oscar last year). "Aya" and "Parvenah" both feature trendy Middle Eastern / Central Asian ethnicities but the latter is better developed. "Butter Lamp" is probably too darn weird---I'm just happy it was nominated. If I were a betting man . . . . "Aya"? Sure. Let's go with "Aya."