Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

fuzzy wool

Best-Animated-Short-Oscars-2020After 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.”

China girl

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.

Also-rans

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.

Oscar-nominated live action short films 2017

“Enemies Within,” feels like it’s based on current events, though it was set in the 1990s.

Sometimes, you just need to leave work early to see the Oscar-nominated live action short films

“Mindenki,” Hungary (25 minutes)

This was the Oscar winner, and certainly worthy. The title translates to “Sing,” but it oughtn’t to be confused with another, full-length, animated recent film of the same name.

Reportedly based on a true story, young Zsofi (Dóra Gáspárvalvi) enrolls in a new school best known for its lauded children’s choir, which is great, because Zsofi loves singing. Her mother, the principal and her new friend Liza (Dorka Hais) encourage her to join the troupe. But Zsofi runs into a snag.

I love the music, and the world of competitive choir, and it has a nifty ending. But the most engaging part of the film is the friendship between the shy Zsofi and the cool Liza.

“Silent Nights,” Denmark (30 minutes)

Aske Bang’s third short starts off strong. Malene Beltoft (Inger) is a kindhearted worker for the Salvation Army homeless shelter worker. One of her clients is a Ghanaian immigrant named Kwame (Prince Yaw Appiah). They strike up a romance.

The film’s first half addresses the difficulty many immigrants, including Kwame, have in wanting a better life. But there may be way too much story at the back end to be credible. Still, I found the couple intriguing.

“Timecode” (Spain, 15 minutes)

Juanjo Giménez Peña won the Palme d’Or for this. Luna (Lali Ayguadé) and Diego (Nicolas Ricchini) work in a parking garage in 12-hour shifts. Pretty boring, with polite but minimal interaction between the two only at the shift change.

Then Luna discovers that Diego has a hobby. Eventually, the two soon start using the expansive video surveillance system to swap videos. It was a minor piece but with some charm, especially if you appreciate the moves.

“Ennemis Interieurs,” France (28 minutes)

Sélim Azzazi’s film, translated “Enemies Within,” feels like it’s based on current events, though it was set in the 1990s. It takes almost entirely inside a dim immigration office. Hassam Ghancy is an unnamed Algerian-born Frenchman hoping to procure official citizenship. Najib Oudghiri is the likewise unnamed official who essentially plays the good cop AND the bad cop at different points.

For a movie mostly confined to one location, it was quite affecting. Ghancy’s character showed fear and indignation from the interrogator’s questions. Probably the best of the five.

“La Femme et la TGV,” Switzerland (30 minutes)

Timo von Guten’s film is the most quirky of the features. Jane Birkin, who’s been in quite a few movies you may have seen, is the femme, a melancholy baker in a tiny French town. Her only joy is to wave at the TGV train when it goes by twice a day at 185 mph.

A train conductor sends her a note, tossed off the speeding train and landing in her yard, thanking her for her daily greetings. A correspondence is struck up between the pair, but not on “the Internets,” which she actively avoids.

There is a relationship based on more tossed packages, stuffed with cheese, and carefully written letters which eventually forces her to take action unusual from her predictable life. The solution was there but she couldn’t see it before. I liked it, though it may be a tad long. It’s based on a true story.

Here are trailers for Oscar-nominated live action short films. Most of the movies are in subtitles. I did not find them out there for free, only for a fee.

Oscar-nominated animated shorts 2017

Tthe pic pairs gravelly voiceover with luridly colored frames recalling some indie comic books.

Every year I try to see both the Oscar-nominated animated shorts and their live-action counterparts. The documentaries, alas, don’t seem to make it into this neck of the woods.

This year’s roster:

Borrowed Time -a weathered Sheriff in the Old West returns to the remains of a terrible accident. It was done by a couple Pixar folks, so it is of high quality. I had seen this before online, and while it’s evocative of a mood, it didn’t quite satisfy.

Pearl – a father/daughter relationship from the point of view of the family car, and especially the music played therein. It is my wife’s favorite piece, and we saw it in a conventional theater. Watch it here or here or here.

Blind Vaysha – based, i think, on an old folk tale about a girl with cursed eyesight. One eye sees visions of the past, while the other peers into the future. It’s done in the style of German expressionist woodcuts. This was possibly my favorite. If you’re in Canada, you can see it here.

Piper – this is the Pixar piece, which I saw before Finding Dory. It had a photorealistic look of a newborn bird trying to find food on his own. I actually liked it more in the rewatching. See it here.

Then there was the warning about the final piece that contains sex and violence and language and that you might want to get the kiddies out of the room. I saw a movie a couple years back like that; it was quite terrible.

But before that, a few of the also-rans:

Asteria – wo astronauts make an unexpected discovery on a barren planet. A silly, yet quite pointed observation about the human condition.

The Head Vanishes – a woman is determined to make her annual train trip to the seaside when she quite literally loses her head. this about dementia, of course, which my late mother experienced in her later years. This too you may be able to see in Canada.

Once Upon a Line – a dialogue-free film using a clever pen-and-ink style continual illustrations in which a humdrum guy’s life gets upended by romance. It should have been in the final five in lieu of Borrowed Time.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes – “the aforementioned naughty film, which at 35 minutes is also four times the length of any other nominee. Apparently drawn directly from writer/director Robert Valley’s life, it tells of his friendship with a hard-living character named Techno, who winds up stuck in a Chinese hospital awaiting a liver transplant. Covering decades of up-and-down friendship in a hard-boiled but persuasive style, the pic pairs gravelly voiceover with luridly colored frames recalling some indie comic books. Though very tied to the specifics of Valley’s larger-than-life subject, the bittersweet featurette depicts a sort of character many older viewers will recognize: the kid who could be in charge and out of control simultaneously, who did what others feared until life caught up with him.” My wife and I really related to thie Techno character; we’ve both known that guy with a lot of potential who frittered it away.

It occurred to me that most of these films are about memory, in one form or another. All the nominated films, plus, of course, The Head Vanishes, fit into the category. A worthwhile visit to the Spectrum Theatre.

Oscar nominated shorts for 2015

“‘Prologue’ seems to exist for no other reason than to show off the drawing talent and enthusiasm for over-the-top gore of its creator.”

World_of_Tomorrow_(film)_POSTEREvery year, I try to watch at least one set of Oscar nominated shorts. On Presidents Day, The Wife and I were going to see the live action movies at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany , but the child watcher didn’t pan out. So, my spouse saw the live action at 1 p.m. and I saw the animated items at 4 p.m. Then, the next day the Wife and the Daughter saw the animated set.

Don’t know if I’ll ever see the live action shorts, because they’re now showing only at 9:30 p.m., and that’s not my best time of day to go out to the movies.

Animated

SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM
USA
7MINS/2015

Director: Sanjay Patel
Producer:Nicole Paradis Grindle
Synopsis: Patel uses his own experience to tell the story of a young, first-generation Indian-American boy whose love for western pop-culture comes into conflict with his father’s traditions. Sanjay is absorbed in the world of cartoons and comics, while his father tries to draw him into the traditions of his Hindu practice. Continue reading “Oscar nominated shorts for 2015”

Movie Reviews: Oscar-nominated live-action short films for 2012

On my birthday this month, I decided to see the Oscar-nominated short films at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. This was predicated on the fact that I might see Zero Dark Thirty on video, but might be less likely to find these. As it turned out, it was the very last day of its three- or four-week run. The program ran 115 minutes. The films were interspersed with commentary by Luke Matheny who won a couple years ago for God of Love, which as I noted at the time, was probably my least favorite of the nominees. Unlike the commenters for the animated films this year, I didn’t think Matheny brought that much insight to the table. It didn’t help that he was trying to be wryly humorous and the films, for the most part, were not.

Film descriptions were from the Spectrum website.

Death of a Shadow (France and Belgium/Dutch, 20 minutes) Continue reading “Movie Reviews: Oscar-nominated live-action short films for 2012”