Who’s watching the Oscars tonight? Before you do, let’s take a minute to talk about the Oscar-nominated animated shorts, because frankly they’re the best part of the Oscars. If you haven’t yet, check out my reviews of the live-action shorts, too. But for now, it’s time to get animated.
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
Unfortunately, the animated shorts did not start out on a good foot this year. The Longest Daycare is essentially five minutes of someone complaining about Ayn Rand. It’s not even a particularly clever take-down of Rand-style educational philosophy. It’s sloppy and heavy-handed, and the animation isn’t any better than a standard Simpsons episode. As far as I can tell, it was only nominated because Fox Searchlight Productions made it. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Adam and Dog
This film, on the other hand, is pretty much a masterwork in animation. Adam and Dog is a sweet, entirely dialogue-free re-telling of Adam’s expulsion from Eden, from the perspective of his best friend–Dog. The animation style is absolutely gorgeous–highly reminiscent of Miyazaki in all the best possible ways. Just about every frame in this film deserves to be in an art gallery. Delicate watercolor-style settings, a playful main character, and a heartbreaking depiction of steadfast love make this by far my favorite of the nominated films. Dog is absolutely adorable, and animated in such a way that anyone who’s ever spent any amount of time around an actual dog will find themselves laughing at his antics. Really loved this one. A++.
If Adam and Dog gets the award for most gorgeous, Fresh Guacamole definitely wins for sheer cleverness. It’s only about a minute long, but the entire thing is one long visual pun. The photo above pretty much tells you exactly what to expect, actually. Well worth watching, although there isn’t a whole lot of re-watch value. Once you’ve heard the jokes, you don’t need to see it again.
Head Over Heels
If you liked the opening sequence of Up, you’ll probably like this short. Not that it’s on level with Up–I still maintain that the first three minutes of that movie are the best work Pixar has ever done (and the rest of it not so much)–but it’s a similar idea. Basically, you have this elderly couple co-habiting in a floating house, where they have opposite centers of gravity. He’s stuck walking around on the ceiling, while she’s on the floor. Despite being married, things are clearly not going terrible well, and they have not spoken to one another in a very long time.
While the basic premise of this film is cute, it also brings up a whole hell of a lot of questions that don’t really get answered, and also the resolution makes no damn sense. So, basically, you can enjoy this one so long as you don’t think about it too hard? I guess? It was weird. Cute, but weird.
This is my prediction for winner tonight, because no one does simple, heart-warming and charming like Disney. There’s a reason they’ve been on top of the animated film world for so long, and this short is just further evidence. Paperman follows a young man as he attempts to attract the attention of a pretty girl (who he’s in love with because she’s pretty and of course being pretty is all a girl needs in order to be worthy of excessively stalkerish love, right?) using a number of paper airplanes. Magic paper airplanes. That doesn’t sound like it makes any sense, but it totally makes sense in context. Basically, this is about love at first sight and fate intervening, and also it’s really pretty because hand-drawn animation doesn’t happen nearly often enough these days.
This film is straight showing off. Basically, a robot pod thing lands on a planet, does a whole lot of crazy morphing and swinging around of mechanical doo-dads, and then climbs to the top of a mountain and turns into a tree. Abiogenesis. Get it? Because they’re clever. Seriously, though–nice animation, clearly done on a computer, but not a whole lot else going on.
Believe it or not, this was actually my personal favorite of all the films shown. Figures it would be one of the ones that didn’t get nominated, doesn’t it? It’s a French film that follows an art thief with a peculiar ability–he becomes the style of any painting that he eats. As you can imagine, this ability drives him to crave ever more high-quality art, and ultimately results in a visual spectacle that’s utterly unique from any other animation I’ve ever seen. It was like an explosion of differing art styles, all packed into one tiny little movie. Absolutely loved it.
The Gruffalo’s Child
If you read my animated short film reviews last year, you may think this one sounds familiar. That’s right–this is a sequel to the Gruffalo. A sequel! Oscar-commended! This would never happen in any other category, and for good reason: this movie is kind of terrible. I got really bored watching it, because it’s basically a half-assed re-hash of the first film, visiting the same characters in the same order, only from a very slightly different perspective. I also still don’t understand why this series insists on doing the story-within-a-story thing. I mean, yes, Helena Bonham Carter has a nice voice, but you don’t have to make her into a squirrel to have her narrate! Sense. This makes none of it.
Before you ask, no, none of these films passed the Bechdel test either, and I’m counting miming as talking (since most of these characters are silent). But at least the Gruffalo’s child and Maggie Simpson are female, so there were female protagonists? It is depressing how remarkable that is….
“Well, luckily with animation, fantasy is your friend.” -Steven Spielberg