Thursday, February 7, 2013

The 2013 Oscar Nominated Short Subjects: Animated

ShortsHD has made available to interested filmgoers all of the Academy Award nominated short subject films. If you live in a major city you can see the films in a movie theater during the month of February and beginning on February 19, 2013 they will be available for viewing through Itunes download and Video on Demand. Visit for more information.

The Animated Short Subject Nominees are always the shortest films.   This year, even more so as three of the five nominees are 6 minutes long or less.   The longest nominee is 16 minutes, the shortest 2 minutes.  As a result, in order to pad out the running time of the films for theatrical performance three "highly commended" films are included.

Abiogenesis - New Zealand - 5 minutes  - highly commended.  The definition of abiogenesis is living organisms developing from inorganic material.   In this film, a spaceship lands on a desolate planet and jumpstarts life before blasting off again into the stars.  It is a very stylized film and the robotic creatures that sip the primordial ooze resemble a cross between a Mars rover and insects.  Beautiful animation but the over-all feeling is rather cold and distant.  Could have used a touch of wonderment.

The Gruffalo's Child - United Kingdom and Germany - 27 minutes  - highly commended.  The sequel to the Academy Award nominated film, The Gruffalo.  It follows a very similar format to the original story and film.  Mother squirrel tells her children a tale to explain the mysterious footprints outside their forest home.  In the original story it was a mouse spinning a story of the monstrous Gruffalo who would be very angry with the predators who tried to eat the mouse.  Here the Gruffalo's daughter searches the dark woods for the big, bad mouse encountering along the way many of the same predators from the original tale.  The only film in this year's nominees and highly commended films that has dialogue, the Gruffalo's Child is voiced by well-known British actors.  It is a sweet yet dark fable that suffers from covering a lot of the same ground as the first Gruffalo film.

Dripped - France - 9 minutes - A very inventive film about an art thief in 1950's New York City who literally consumes the art he steals transforming his body into the style of the painting he has eaten.  A very clever homage to modern art you will realize the reason for the title only at the end.   Really charming.

As for this year's nominees, they include two studio films from 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios both of whom were widely seen in front of popular animated feature films.  If I were an Academy Awards voter this is how I would rank this year's Short Films: Animated nominees. This is my opinion and does not reflect who might actually win the award.

5.  Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare - United States - 5 minutes.  We have a silent episode from the television series The Simpsons starring baby Maggie and her nemesis, Baby Gerald.  This film was shown in theaters along with the animated feature Ice Age 3: Continental Drift.  Spending the day at the Ayn Rand Child Care Center where she has to go through security and is classified with the paste-eating normal children, Maggie spends her day trying to save a newly hatched butterfly from Baby Gerald who delights in smashing them.   Filled with the background puns familiar to long-time viewers of the television show, it is cute, disturbing and rather sweet all at the same time.

4.  Fresh Guacamole - United States - 2 minutes.  A very clever stop motion film that transforms ordinary objects into a bowl of guacamole.   The problem is that the film is ultimately too short and one note.  While it is clever to see a hand grenade sliced as an avocado, when the second and third vegetables are diced into actual dice it gets repetitive.

3.  Adam and Dog - United States - 16 minutes.  The longest nominee this year imagines the tale of the Garden of Eden from the point of view of the first dog.  From the moment of his creation the dog delights in doing what dogs do --- yes, the first thing the first dog does is mark his territory.   Becoming Adam's friend he eventually gets shut out once Eve arrives on the scene.   When the fall of Man occurs, dog must decide to remain in the now dangerous garden or take his chances with Adam and Eve in their exile.  This is a beautiful film with the appearance of watercolor.   There is appropriate nudity in the film, but it is primarily crudely drawn so that while you see that Adam is nude it is not so anatomically correct that you dwell on it.   A beautiful film.

2.  Head Over Heels - United Kingdom - 11 minutes.  My number two choice is so close to my number one choice that I flip/flopped between them for a long time and would still be happy if either film won.   This stop motion gem tells the story of a long married couple that has literally drifted apart.   She lives on the ceiling and he upon the floor.  Their conflict has caused their house to tumble through the sky so that it is unclear which way is up or down. During a furious struggle over their wedding photo, the husband makes a discovery that leads him to attempt to gain his wife's attention and reconcile with her.  Doing so causes the home to crash in the desert, but only one of them has their feet on the ground.  How it is resolved is clever.

1.  Paperman - United States - 7 minutes.  The other film that was widely shown in theaters, in front of Wreck-It-Ralph, Paperman is a simple boy meets girl tale.   Black and white with the appearance of 2D animation, Paperman uses a new technology that allows computer animation to preserve that hand-drawn look.   The story is imaginative in its execution.  

The only caution to Paperman winning the award stems from the fact that no Disney released short film, including Pixar shorts has won this category since 2001's For the Birds.  There may be a feeling among the Academy members that since Pixar, and by association Disney has dominated the Animated Feature category that in the short film category they may feel the need to recognize a less well known filmmaker.   We shall have to wait and see on Oscar night.

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