After the Oscars, and indeed, just before the package left town, my wife and I finally saw the Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation.
The first, and the one that Indiewire ranked the least, was Hair Love, which won. “The Sony Pictures short — which screened last year before ‘Angry Birds 2’ in theaters — started as a Kickstarter campaign.” It was later adapted into a children’s book.
I had actually already seen Hair Love on CBS Sunday Morning. It was about a young black girl and her father being overwhelmed trying to fix her hair. Been there! I thought it was quite moving, even on second viewing.
Daughter, from the Czech Republic’s Daria Kashcheeva is also between a girl and her father, but far more melancholy. The title character is “startled by a bird crashing into the window, which in turn sparks a series of somewhat-difficult-to-follow memories in which she imagines herself to be a bird.”
I was a tad confounded by the narrative. But the technique, which appear to be puppets made from papier-mâché, was impressive. The “camerawork… mirrors the shallow focus and shaky, handheld technique used to convey emotional turmoil and confusion in live-action movies.”
Sister is a China-US project. As Variety notes, its stop-motion “represents the most successful marriage of concept and technique among the nominees, but hinges on a twist that’s best not revealed here.” Yet, annoyingly, Indiewire DOES tell too much.
The “puppets have been assembled from fuzzy wool, which the director lights in such a way that they look alive. Stray squiggles of loose material complete the illusion, vibrating even as the dolls sit still… The underlying script is so strong… that [the limited facial features] merely reinforce the film’s humor. For instance, “the hungry infant swells to fill the entire nursery, then comically deflates like a balloon…” And that really IS funny.
Quite often, these shorts show people coping with Alzheimer’s. The French stop-motion entry Mémorable deals with an elderly artist. “Director Bruno Collet has designed his main character to resemble one of Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits.”
He “remains determined to paint, asking his wife to pose without realizing who she is,” and it is a marvelous portrayal. “Nicolas Martin’s string score adds resonance to the couple’s predicament.” Possibly my favorite.
Kitbull is about “a rowdy stray kitten attempting to survive a stormy night in a heap of trash. The cat “encounters a pit bull… being subjected to abusive owners.” It is a wordless story about the value of negotiation. It was “produced as part of Pixar’s SparkShorts program, which finances independent shorts by young Pixar artists.” It’s not bad.
As always, those who catch the program in cinemas will be treated to a handful of “highly commended” shorts. A stop-motion project, Henrietta Bulkowski tells a parable about overcoming differences. Variety says, “The animation’s nice, but the story feels rigged to prove a point…” This features Christina Hendricks and Chris Cooper as voice actors.
“Carol Freeman’s The Bird & the Whale represents a painstaking job of hand-painted oil-on-glass animation, though the story… doesn’t quite work.” I’d agree with that.
“Computer-animated French entry Hors Piste is hilarious in its retro-toned, well-timed slapstick humor.” It features “a number of clever gags involving a bumbling high-altitude rescue squad.” We’re talking LOL funny.
The two-minute CG Maestro from the team behind 2018 nominee Garden Party, shows them pushing their photoreal animal animation to new levels.” It is essentially one joke, but it’s visually amazing.