MPAA Rating: NR
For the last several years before the Oscar telecast the short films that have been nominated for an Academy Award are given a rare theatrical release. Presented as separate programs for each short category Animation, Live Action and Documentary, moviegoers have the opportunity to see the shorts that in the past they would seldom ever get to see. For some it’ll give them a leg up in their office Oscar pools; never worked for this viewer, go figure. Outside of knowing that these films are nominated it can exciting for a filmgoer because you never know what’s in store and this year’s selections were no different.
Director: Patrick Osborne
Disney’s latest animated short is an enjoyable ode to the life-long bond that is shared between a dog and its master. The film follows the lives of a homeless puppy and the man who takes him in. We see the man’s life unfold and how Winston the dog reacts to the events in his master’s life. This is standard Disney fare and it doesn’t break new ground nor is it as enthralling as last year’s nominated Get a Horse. It’s certainly cute and sweet but doesn’t have the same impact as say Paperman. That being said it is still an enjoyable short that should go down easy, saccharin and all.
The Dam Keeper
Directors: Robert Kondo & Daisuke ‘Dice’ Tsutsumi
A young pig is charged with operating the town windmill which keeps a dark cloud of pollution from breaching the dam wall. Despite having such an important job, he is bullied by his fellow students yet still finds the courage to continue his duties. One day a new student arrives and the young pig’s world is about to change. The film features beautiful animation, a compelling story and plenty of heart. Co-written by the directors the film pulls you in from the opening narration and will likely have you empathizing with the little pig and could have you feeling every ounce of emotion that he feels. The story is compelling and the animation, comprised of more than 8000 paintings, is a visual feast.
A Single Life
Directors: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins and Job Roggeveen
When Pia receives a package in the mail she discovers a mysterious vinyl record titled “A Single Life.” She gets comfortable, throws it on and sits back to enjoy her pizza and some new music. However, while listening she discovers something unexpected. When played, the record gives her the ability to fast-forward and rewind her life. This CG animated film is easily the funniest short amongst the nominees. It packs in so many laughs in its three minute running time you’d likely wish it were longer. The animation is fairly basic but it’s the story and editing that really makes this one stand out. It goes without saying that the comedic implications are boundless but they hit all the right beats, some unexpected, and they truly deliver a sure crowd-pleaser.
Me and My Moulton
Director: Torill Kove
In this period piece, a woman recounts her childhood, living with her modernist-architect parents and her wish to have a bicycle which she and her sisters could ride on. The animation in this film is bright and flowing and is very reminiscent of a storybook you may find in the children’s section of the bookstore. This autobiographical tale features many relatable moments and does a fine job of presenting a childhood remembered. Funny, poignant and insightful it wraps up rather nicely by teaching us to embrace one’s own family no matter how different they may seem. Of note, there is a funny moment that features nudity that may alarm the most prudent but based on the reactions of the father and his young daughter sitting in front of me neither seemed to mind and both were laughing.
The Bigger Picture
Director: Daisy Jacobs
Two brothers, one hard working and the other a playboy, are at odds regarding what to do with their ailing elderly mother. After she refuses to be placed in a home, they are left to care for her and cope with the imminent loss in different ways. This a heavy story for a short but it may get lost because the viewer is too caught up in the technical achievements on display. Director Daisy Jacobs, blends two-dimensional drawings with actual live sets and as a viewer you are left wondering just how they pulled it off and how long did it take to film. There are some scenes which felt like they were straight out of a David Lynch stop-motion nightmare. This is one that may require a second viewing so that you can pick up on the story details that unfolded while you were, for example, wondering just how long it took to film a scene with water that is made of cellophane.
The animated shorts are beginning to play around the country as part of a compilation. Check your local listings to see if it is playing in your city. The Oscars will be awarded at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday February 22nd at 8:30pm est/5:30pm pst on ABC.
**The Live Action and Animated shorts are currently playing at the Landmark Nuart in West Los Angeles and the Documentary shorts are currently playing at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills. All three programs are currently playing at the Regency South Coast Village in Costa Mesa. If you’re in New York, all three programs are playing at the IFC Center on West 3rd Street.**