The Oscar Shorts- Animated

Last night we had the pleasure of seeing both the Live Action and Animated Oscar nominated shorts, which is one of my favorite moviegoing experiences of the entire year. It’s refreshing to walk into a theater and not know what to expect after the lights go dark.

Dividing the workload, Jill is going to write about the live action shorts, and I’m tackling the animated shorts. I present my thoughts here (in alphabetical order). See the end of the post to find out where to catch these delightful films!

And the trailers for all of the shorts can be seen here.

Day & Night
Of all ten shorts, this is probably the one that most people have seen, as it played in front of the highest grossing movie of the entire year, Toy Story 3. Besides being the first time Pixar has worked in traditional “2-D” animation, it is probably also their most inventive short to date. The film portrays two characters, Day and Night, in the ultimate showmanship showdown to see who has the best “attractions.” At the end, it isn’t so much which time of day (or night) is better than the other, it’s all about relishing and sharing in the best both have to offer, appreciating differences, and finding common ground. The simplest review of the film is that it’s a brilliant conceit wonderfully executed. If you have seen it in 3D, you know that the 2D animation acts as the top layer, with the characters themselves acting as windows into the 3D world beyond. This is perhaps the only time I’ve felt a 3D viewing was almost an essential part of experiencing a film, but this doesn’t hold it back from being a remarkable short in either dimension. And of course, it’s full of that Pixar heart.

The Gruffalo
This short had the most gorgeous computer animation of the group, and the biggest name star in Helena Bonham Carter. It is based on the children’s book of the same name by Julia Donaldson. Being the intelligent film sleuths we are, Jill and I deciphered this was a children’s book when lines started to repeat and rhyme with reckless abandon. As an adult, I could feel it brush up against the part of me that gets put to sleep by rote children’s entertainment, but never crosses it. Not sure how (if) it will hold up to repeat adult viewings, but the kids will probably love it. I highly recommend it if you have little ones to watch it with, but it’s still a solid, fun film if you don’t.

Let’s Pollute!
This is a humorous satire on the kinds of “educational” cartoons regularly shown in schools across the nation in the 50s and 60s. Instead of telling people how to help the environment, this short doesn’t pull any punches in showing how disastrous our fossil fueled consumerist lifestyles are for the environment. I give it credit for tackling the subject in an interesting and funny way without losing the impact of the message.

The Lost Thing
This was probably my least favorite of the five, but it is still very good. It takes place in a dystopian future Australia and features a man (teenager? hard to tell) who stumbles across a “lost thing,” a large red diving bell looking contraption with tentacles coming out of every which place. He then has to figure out where it belongs, which turns out to be somewhere a lot like Foster’s. Jill had a slightly different interpretation that the film comments on society’s ability to both create, upgrade, and forget, very rapidly. There was a character in the film, another “lost thing,” that had a cassette reel in constant play on his back. Technology is always in constant forward motion, once something is created, there is almost an immediate drive to improve it, and then forget about what came before. While all of the “lost things” had a fanciful, otherworldly look about them in the film, they also resembled objects from our past that have been made obsolete. Despite it being my least favorite, I recognize the message behind the kooky madness.

Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage
Will anyone hold it against me if I was expecting animals singing ten-year-old pop songs? Because this has nothing to do with Dreamworks. I have to say I was completely blown away by this film. The French title translates to Madagascar, A Travel Journal, and that’s basically what it is. A French video game programmer took a trip to Madagascar and wanted to share his experience. The entire film is framed as pages from a sketchbook, and is the most effective use of different animation styles and techniques I have seen in one film, short or not. It’s also the first animated film I’ve ever seen to use ‘documentary-style camera movements’ within a film, giving the viewer a first person experience of being drunk without using pink elephants. One of the best films I have seen all year, and Filmhash’s frontrunner for the Animated Short Film Oscar prize.

If you’re in Philadelphia, both the live action and animated shorts are playing all week at the Ritz Bourse. And some may be available on iTunes now, with the rest to follow. Short clips of the films can also be found on youtube.

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