Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, by Kyle Anderson
It’s once again that time of awards season, which of late has started to be as long as the Christmas season, wherein we get to see the shorts that have been nominated for an Academy Award. Truth be told, these are among my favorites every year as telling a story succinctly and effectively is a skill that sadly few feature filmmakers possess. Different muscle entirely. I have been given the honor of watching and reviewing the Animated Shorts, which are almost always the best of the shorts. These five films all have the distinction of being completely dialogue-free (save for a few guttural noises and grunts) and rely on their vastly different visual styles to move their stories along. Go figure. So, let’s begin, in that time-tested fashion of alphabetical order.
Adam and Dog
This film tells the story of the first dog meeting Adam (you know, from the Bible) in the Garden of Eden, becoming friends, and learning where it stands after Eve shows up. That sounds like it’d be funny, but it isn’t. It’s incredibly touching as we see the story from the dog’s point of view, trusting Adam, then being cast aside by him. The look of the film is very simplistic, and is, as far as I can tell, hand-drawn with minimal backgrounds, but the movement of the characters is very naturalistic. And if you’ve ever wanted to see how you draw a naked man for a cartoon that isn’t about the man being naked, this is the film for you.
By far the shortest of the animated shorts at just under two minutes, Fresh Guacamole is the follow-up to PES’ 2008 short, Western Spaghetti, where, again, everyday objects are used as ingredients in a dish using stop-motion photography. In this instance, a grenade stands in for an avocado, a softball is an onion, and poker chips are corn chips. It’s incredibly innovative and impressive and the stop-motion gives it a weird, sort of creepy quality.
Head Over Heels
To add to the diversity of the methods by which these films are made, this film is claymation. It concerns a couple who has been married for many years, but has grown apart. They no longer see eye to eye, mostly because the husband lives on the floor of their house and the wife lives on the ceiling. They are under two completely different gravitational fields, you see. The film follows them as they attempt to rekindle their romance, fall all over themselves, and eventually reestablish equilibrium. This is a particularly interesting film visually. We really do get the feeling that the two are being pulled opposite directions, not merely that they’re puppets being manipulated.
This is Disney’s entry so, guess what: it’s gonna win. However, it’s completely justified. They always seem to make cartoon characters which are instantly relatable and likeable. A paper-pusher in ‘40s or ‘50s New York City happens to see the girl of his dreams on the train, then across the street from his office and he tries, many times, to get her attention using paper airplanes. At its base, this is just a love story about two people who probably would never have found each other if not for the magic of wind and paper. The CG in this is truly amazing and makes it look like a 3D hand drawing. It’s lovely.
The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare
I didn’t even know they had done this, mostly because I would never have gone to see the newest Ice Age movie, but this is a dialogue-free Maggie Simpson adventure from Matt Groening and co. Marge takes Maggie to the Ayn Rand Day Care Center for the day, where the gifted are given excellent treatment and everybody else gets neglected. Maggie immediately makes a nemesis in a unibrowed tot who likes smashing butterflies with a mallet. Maggie, essentially, then has to try to protect a little caterpillar as it changes. It’s a very fast-paced and humorous five minutes. If you like The Simpsons, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this.
All five of these films are enjoyable and amazing feats. They’re a testament to the power of ideas and are thoroughly impressive. The things people can do with animation these days are staggering. Jeez, I’m sounding like an old man. I hope I don’t float to the ceiling.