My wife and I saw the animated Oscar-nominated shorts at the Spectrum Theatre. The parking lot was packed on Presidents Day at 4 pm, with moviegoers trying to squeeze in another visit before the cinema’s – we hope – temporary closing.
Just because the stories are animated doesn’t mean the subject matter is light. As the LA Times noted, “Even when they focus on the experiences of children, the five films nominated … are decidedly intended for adults. In these emotionally complex and visually distinctive shorts, the trauma of war, the wages of political repression, and the fear of death are all given their due. The Hollywood Theatre notes: Not for children under 13, verging on an R-rating.
Our Uniform: Yegane Moghaddam, 7 min., Iran (in Farsi). The film flashes a message at the top that it was not mocking the wearing of the hijab. Indeed, the director was recalling her recollections of school days in Iran. Does the dress code enable or disable self-expression? Maybe both? An exciting technique was used, with the images created on fabric with the help of a computer.
Letter to a Pig: Tal Kantor and Amit R. Gicelter, 17 min., France/Israel (in Hebrew). An elderly Holocaust survivor visits a class of teenagers and tells how a pig saved his life. The story segues to a dream sequence experienced by one of the students. Kantor’s childhood memories informed the film’s mixture of history and the surreal.
South of France
Pachyderm: Stéphanie Clément and Marc Rius, 11 min., USA (in English). A young girl recounts her summers visiting her grandparents in the Provençal countryside. On the surface, enhanced by the painted scenes and quiet narration, it would seem all is well. But it is not, as the girl blends in with her background. This may be the most fully realized of the five and the one I’d pick to win the Oscar.
Ninety-Five Senses: Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess, 13 min., USA (in English). The folksy narrator is Tim Blake Nelson, who offers an ode to the human body. The New York Times review stated, “Each sense is illustrated by different artists, in a different style, creating a kind of 13-minute anthology of a life — but that makes this understated film also feel a bit incoherent, with the vignettes lacking the build to bring the film to a satisfying emotional conclusion.” I liked the variation of styles, and I disagree with the conclusion drawn. It was my favorite piece.
War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko: Dave Mullins and Brad Booker, 11 min., USA. The story is based on an idea from John and Yoko’s son, Sean. In an alternate-reality World War I, war should only be experienced as a game. It is the most obvious of the five films.
ShortsTV often offers other “highly recommended” films to fill up the running time.
Wild Summons: Karni Arieli and Saul Freed, 14 min., UK (in English, narrated by Marianne Faithfull). This is mostly humanoid creaturesa s salmon. It is quite on the nose.
I’m Hip: John Musker, 4 min., USA. You can see a tiny bit of the cartoon in the first minute of this interview with Musker.