ShortsHD has made it possible for those filmgoers who live in major cities as well as have access to iTunes can see the majority of the nominations in the short film categories for this year's Academy Awards. The animation category has a mix of traditional and computer generated animation styles. There is also a nominee from Pixar Studios. Pixar has not won this category since For The Birds in 2000. This is also the first year that Disney and Pixar has not had a nomination in the feature-length animation category. While Pixar has its usual high quality nominee, I believe that the drought will continue for them in this category.
Since the running time for these films is shorter than the Live Action and Documentary categories they always include a few "highly commended" entries. This year there were four highly commended films shown.
Hybrid Union - 4 minutes - US/Ukraine - computer animation - Mechanical critters race across the desert and try to outrun storm clouds. Until they discover that the storm clouds might provide a fuel boost or rusty doom. A brief one-note story.
Nullharbor - 10 minutes - Australian - computer animation. Road rage film set on the lengthy Nullharbor plain as two drivers spend their time making dangerous decisions when each believes the other one has slighted them. The humor level is adult, the behavior is reckless, the ending predictable.
Skylight - 5 minutes - United States - computer animation. Starts out as trying to be the message film about the dangers of the hole in the Ozone layer and its threats to penguins. Then it gets seriously warped. Very funny. Skylight was eligible for the Academy Awards in 2010.
Amazonia - 5 minutes - United States - computer animation. It's a jungle out there, kiddies. Especially for a hapless green tree frog who just wants to catch dinner and not be dinner. Taken under the wing of a wiser blue frog the two friends navigate the perils of the Amazon. Filmed with brighter than bright jewel tones this film has a twist ending that will make you smile.
These are the five nominees in the order in which I would vote for them if I were a member of the Academy.
5. Dimanche/Sunday - 9 minutes - Canada - traditional 2D hand drawn animation. A slice of life with a lot of black humor, this is the story of a little boy boring going through his Sunday routine. The animation style is very primitive line drawings. The fates of the animals depicted in the film are slightly disturbing and not in a good black humor sort of way.
4. La Luna - 7 minutes - United States - computer animation. This is the Pixar film. The fanciful story of a young boy on his first night on the job with his father and grandfather. Rowing out to the middle of the ocean they wait. The surprise is the destination and the challenges of learning the family business. The film is sweet and beautifully animated. There are just too many good entries in the category this year for it to win.
3. Wild Life - 14 minutes - Canada - traditional hand drawn animation with some life action stills. This is a cautionary tale of a young Englishman who travels to the Canadian west to make a new life. Unfortunately he is woefully unprepared for the challenges he faces. His story is paralleled with the life cycle of a comet. It's a beautiful film in the style of watercolor paintings. It felt like an updated grasshopper and the ants fable with an unhappy ending.
2. A Morning Stroll- 7 minutes - United Kingdom - hand drawn and computer animation. Hilarious. A man is walking down the street when he is passed by a chicken who proceeds to knock on a door and get let inside. The story is told in three time periods. Black and white line drawings for 1959, crude computer animation for 2009 and very realistic animation for 2059. Each version has a twist on it that reflect the world. In case you are wondering about the coming Zombie apocalypse, it's coming. With a twist ending, this little film is clever and laugh out loud funny. Winner of the BAFTA award.
1. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore - 17 minutes - United States - computer, miniature and hand drawn animation. Is the next animation powerhouse coming out of Louisiana? This is a beautiful little film with a lot of heart. Mr. Morris Lessmore sees his world torn apart by a hurricane. He is led to a library where the books thrive on his love, care and, of course, by being read by him. With the physical humor of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, a whimsical score based on Pop Goes the Weasel and an enchanting mix of animation styles, this is a true outstanding gem of a film.
ShortsHD is screening the Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary, Live Action and Animation in selected theaters beginning February 10, 2012. Please visit their website, http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/index.php to find a theater showing the films. The films will also be available to purchase and download from iTunes on February 21, 2012.
Please note: La Luna can only be shown in those theaters with Blu-Ray capability. La Luna will also not be available to purchase on iTunes. La Luna is scheduled to be shown to a wide audience this summer in front of the feature length film Brave.