MOVIE REVIEWS: Oscar-nominated short animated films

It’s rare that The Daughter has gone to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany; in fact, I’m not sure she’d EVER been there. While it is the preferred film venue for the Wife and me, it often has films not suitable for sensitive eight-year-olds. But the ads said that the films nominated for Academy Awards in the animated shorts category were “family-friendly.” This is useful to know, because we saw last year’s entries, and A Morning Stroll most certainly NOT Daughter-friendly, to say the least.

On Washington’s Birthday – which was when the Wife and I went last year; a holiday tradition? – the three of us sojourned to the cinema. In previous years, they just showed the movies, but this year, there was interspersed conversations with William Joyce and Brandon Oldenberg, who created last year’s well-deserved winner, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore [watch it]. In fact, one of these guys looked a bit like Lessmore. They talked about the struggle to get their film made and the surreality of Oscar night.

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare

The youngest character in the long-running show I used to watch for the first eight or nine seasons, but seldom since then. It was interesting enough for the Wife and me, though the Daughter missed out on the significance of the Ayn Rand School for Toddlers; she liked the ending, though. The piece was OK, not distinct enough to be Oscar-worthy, though; my wife’s third favorite film of the bunch.

Adam and Dog

This retelling of the Creation is beautifully rendered as lovely watercolors. The sound of the walking on the grass was terrific. There’s a guy whose opinion I value who said it was the best picture of the bunch, and he may be right. Yet the latter part of the story left me cold.

Fresh Guacomole [watch it]

Two minutes of stop motion zaniness is fun. My wife’s second-favorite of the films; third for the Daughter and me.

Head Over Heels

This is my second-favorite, and the Daughter’s. It’s from the UK, and uses quality Claymation to show a middle-aged couple whose relationship is in trouble because of the husband’s difficulties with gravity. Will they find a way to save the relationship?

Paperman [watch it]

Yet the Daughter and I still liked this seven-minute Disney offering the best, though we had seen it before; it was my wife’s favorite, and it was new to her. It looks old-fashioned in that it is hand drawn, and in black and white (except for red lipstick); it is quite romantic.

(Another set of opinions.)

To fill out the program, there were three shorts that were “highly commended”:

Abiogenesis

From New Zealand, it’s another Creation story. But this art is computer generated, and the story is futuristic. I wasn’t engaged until the very end.

Dripped

From France, it’s about an art thief who really loves his work. It’s surreal and manages to work several art styles – impressionism, cubism, abstract – into the storyline. “Dedicated to the memory of Jackson Pollock,” one has to think Pollock would have approved. This piece should have been a contender for the prize instead of Maggie Simpson.

The Gruffalo’s Child

The only piece with dialogue, and by far the longest short at 27 minutes, it is a CGI piece. It’s a followup, I understand, to a 2009 BBC Christmas special The Gruffalo. It’s nicely rendered, and shares a message about the power of legends. It made my daughter a little nervous, though no cartoon animals were really harmed. Here’s a review.

One other point: both Adam and Dog, and, to a much lesser extent, Dripped, had men with full frontal male nudity, and their members were obliquely rendered; it was actually distracting.

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