Friday, February 22, 2013

Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts Breakdown

Over the few years that I have been going to movie festivals, Jonesy and I have sort of carved out our specialized areas of focus. For her, it's the documentaries, and for me it's short films. Some of the most memorable pieces of film that I have gotten to experience have been 15 minutes or less. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's working under a time constraint that forces most filmmakers to make the most out of their film. Whatever it is, I know that I always look forward to watching the Oscar nominated shorts, especially the animated ones. I got a chance to see all of them recently. When possible, I posted the films for you to watch and some of my brief thoughts.

The first three entries were not nominated but were still showcased.

 Director: Richard Mans

As a big Japanese robot fan, I think I enjoyed this one the most out of sheer appreciation for the design of the robots. We begin the short with a space pod landing on a desolate planet. From there, four pods emerge and then they transform into dragonfly like vehicles in search of something. Then the vehicles transform into another weird insect-like mode that fills up with green goo. Then in yet another transformation, the four robots go back to the pod, and transform into a four legged vehicle that uses the goo to explode and create a tree bursts with life on this planet. This scene in particular is gorgeous to behold. The short in general was ingenious in its design of the robots, and I hope to see more work from these filmmakers, either in another short or in a feature-length movie.

Directors: Johannes Weiland and Uwe Heidschotter

I believe this was the longest of the shorts but it was one of the best in terms of visuals. It’s based on a book by Julia Donaldson. This short appears to have been CGI, but it had a very Claymation feel and look to the characters. The story revolves around a rabbit telling her kids the story of the Gruffalo’s Child. The Gruffalo’s Child disobeys her dad and goes into the woods. It’s more a child’s story unlike a lot more of the “serious” animation shorts. The voice cast is surprisingly full of famous British actors and actresses like Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, and John Hurt.

Director: Léo Verrier

This was my least favorite of the shorts. It’s supposed to be a tribute to Jackson Pollock, but the way that it goes about is very strange. The set up is that this person can gain powers by eating paintings and being able to replicate their style. When he eats a painting by Picasso, he is able to turn into a weird monster. He obtains most of these paintings by stealing them, so he’s always on the run. Once he runs out of paintings to eat, he tries to make paintings himself and realizes he has no talent. Then he just starts throwing around paint on a canvas and is suddenly able to eat it. To me, it implies that Pollock was a hack artist, which has been a long-running argument, so I’m not sure why the director’s were trying to pay tribute to him this way. Visually, it looked to be CGI or Flash animation, but it looked super rough and low-res. I couldn’t tell if that was the intended effect but it really made a lot of the very creative transformations very blurry to see.

Director: Minkyu Lee

This was a beautifully animated silent short. It traces the "origins" of the wonderful thing that is the relationship between people and dogs. We see a dog going through his day trying to survive until he meets THE Adam in a field, and they strike up a pretty cool friendship. The backgrounds were my favorite part of the short. They were made so well and were full of details. My big problem with the movie is that there's no real plot. Things just happen, and then it ends.

Director: Pes

So damn funny. I was craving guacamole afterwards.

Director: Timothy Reckhart

Having seen AMOUR and having seen this, I think I have had my fill of old people in love. It's just too much to handle. The set up is that this long time couple is living in the same house, but one lives on the roof, and the other lives in the ceiling. The care of the detail that went into designing this house was outstanding. They have two fridges stacked on top of each other that can slide up or down so each person can get their food. And then the husband has pulls and levers attached to his chair in order to let the wife be able to vacuum the ceiling. An obvious metaphor on the way that people in long-term relationships can live together but still be apart, and the effort it takes to make a marriage work, HEAD OVER HEELS was very touching and fun to watch.

Maggie Simpson in THE LONGEST DAYCARE 
Director: David Silverman

I was surprised to see a Simpson short here. But this was s surprisingly smart. I feel that this is a testament to the socially satirical show The Simpsons once was. On the surface, it's a cute 3D story of Maggie having to deal with that weirdo baby with the unibrow. But then you see the way that it comments on the state of the education system coupled with a really cute attempt by Maggie to keep a caterpillar safe as it transforms into a butterfly, and you have a very sweet short.

Director: John Kahrs

My Fantastic Fest review is here, and most of my thoughts are still the same. I actually really think that this is the one short that needs to win. It has a great story and it's pushing technology in a very interesting way with the use of CGI and hand drawn animation.

For anyone else that has seen all of the shorts, I'd love to hear what you think! The Oscars are this weekend so keep an eye for them to see who wins this category.

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