Wes Anderson finally wins an Oscar, and it’s for a 39-minute short

Over the past 22 years, Wes Anderson has been nominated for eight Oscars; when he finally won on Sunday night, it was for the 39-minute live-action short film “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”

For Anderson’s fans — and they are legion — the fact that one of cinema’s most inventive and popular auteurs won his first Academy Award for a short film will probably be greeted with bewilderment if not outrage. He was overlooked for such classics as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” but he finally wins for a short?

Seen through another lens — more precisely, the jeweler’s loupe through which Anderson habitually reframes the world — the recognition couldn’t be more apt. After all, Anderson’s astonishing debut film, 1996’s “Bottle Rocket,” started life as a short. And the cinematic language he went on to refine, with its stylized designs, symmetrical compositions and soothing palettes, remained distinctively well-suited to the form. As “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” — an enchanting adaptation of a Roald Dahl short story featuring Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dev Patel — demonstrates, the movie world’s most punctilious miniaturist couldn’t have found a better showcase for his exactingly detailed gifts.

Now, with a live-action short film Oscar on his impeccably curated mantel, Anderson becomes part of a proud Hollywood lineage that reaches back to the one-reelers of Mack Sennet and Hal Roach, not to mention more recent winners such as Andrea Arnold, Martin McDonagh and Riz Ahmed. Perhaps more meaningfully, Anderson shares an honor that has historically been associated with students and emerging filmmakers rather than jaundiced pros. That feels on-point, too. If “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is any indication, the kid’s got a future.

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