You may have noticed my output has been rather nonexistent. Well, I don’t think that’s going to change too much. I’m still planning to post my usual year-end stuff (even though it’s February). Those posts will come soon. In the meantime, I bring you reviews of the Oscar-nominated short films beginning with animation.
A Single Life is about a woman discovering a vinyl record that allows her to skip through time. It then proceeds to comically explore the idea to its logical and dark conclusion. There’s not a lot to be said about something that’s barely 2 minutes long other than it’s clever, twisted, and will make you chuckle days later when you think about it.
Me and My Moulton is a slice of personal history told with deceptively simple hand-drawn animation. A narrator recounts the time she and her two sisters asked their parents for a new bicycle (I didn’t know that’s what a Moulton was either). Within this rather slight story, different kinds of childhood emotions are addressed. Such as wishing your parents were more like other parents or casual jealousy between friends. It rings true, but it’s not all that profound or seemingly important. It’s satisfied with being just okay.
Feast was featured in front of Disney’s Big Hero 6 and is therefore the most well known of the group. It’s the sickeningly sweet story of a puppy finding an owner with an appetite as big as his and the complications that arise when his owner finds a new love. The animation is another innovative mix of 2D and CG. It’s gorgeous. This is the kind of high quality and polish you’d expect from Disney. It’s almost not fair. The only real complaint is that it’s too good, too Disney, and without any real risks. But good is good so let’s not complain that it’s not what it’s not trying to be.
The Bigger Picture is easily the most formally exciting of the nominees. It’s an astonishing blend of stop-motion animation with large animated paintings. It’s hard to describe but a wonder to behold. On top of that there are unique transitions that are unexpected and further push the limits of the animation process. Unfortunately, the story is just a so-so treatise on death. Two brothers cope differently with their sick mother and her impending demise. It’s alright, more honesty, but hardly as intriguing as the style in which it’s presented.
The Dam Keeper is the longest of the nominees and it’s also my favorite. The animation is beautiful. It has a kind of sketch style but with plenty of depth and detail. It takes the usual story of an outsider being bullied at school before finding a kindred spirit and it overlays post-apocalyptic imagery and anthropomorphic animals. These things shouldn’t mix but here they mix so well. The world it creates is fully realized without ever explicitly explaining itself. The central metaphor, inner darkness being a consuming fog, is rather obvious, but the visuals work their magic so it doesn’t detract. It’s not a story that needs to be expanded, but I’d really love to see a feature made in the same style.