The 2015 Oscar-nominated Shorts Program, screening Jan. 30—Feb. 5 at The Screen, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and as expected the animated selects do not fail to impress! Though disappointed in the lack of animated hosts (the giraffe and ostrich from last year was a hoot) the artistic splendor of the pieces this year needs no help in keeping the audience entertained. From eight selects and four admirable mentions, the Oscar-nominated animations range from Disney’s sentimental story to the independent somber sketch.
“Me and My Moulton”
A Childhood In Norway
(Torill Kove, Norway)
Partnering with the National Film Board of Canada, Torill Kove’s depiction of her childhood in 1960s Norway is similar in style to her previous narrative and shape-driven animations. “The film tells the story of me and my family when I was little and how weird I thought things were,” Kove says in an interview with Animated World Network. “It’s not a story of an unhappy childhood. It’s a story about looking back and making sense of things I thought were strange at the time.” Though the plot is a bit scattered, I think most viewers can relate to the awkwardness of growing up in an abnormal family and can especially remember details like the lush carpets of a downstairs neighbor verses the awkward three-legged stools of your home. Perhaps Kove’s exploration of childhood reveals that the abnormalities sometimes make the best memories.
Through Your Dog’s Eyes
(Patrick Osborne, USA- Disney)
Disney sure knows how to capture Cute, and I think most of us can agree that we’re suckers for dogs. In this story of friendship and love, a dog is taken in by a food junkie who spoils his new friend by feeding him the bachelor-favorites: pizza, spaghetti, ice cream, pretzels, etc. At first it seems like the story will focus on the connections between man and dog, but of course Disney turns to its best plot device: a love story. The dog, seeing the change of his master with his new girl friend is furious to be suddenly eating healthy. Director Patrick Osborne, who worked as an animator on Bolt and directed the recent Disney film Tangled, is again showing how the large eyes and loyalty of animals can conjure the classic, “awe…”
“The Bigger Picture”
The Best of Artistic Expression
(Daisy Jacobs, UK)
Daisy Jacobs’ short “The Bigger Picture” sure does redefine your idea of motion art. The motifs of water, tears and rain pieces this brother feud narrative together in a humorous and dark way. Each set is captivating, making you feel the tension in this domestic and artistically sketched home. A result of her master’s thesis from the Central St Martins School of Art, Jacobs’ hand-drawn animation, stop-motion and life-size paintings allow her characters freedom of movement and interaction with a very 3-D looking environment.
“A Single Life”
Literally, A Record of Your Life
(Job, Joris & Marieke, The Netherlands)
Products of the Dutch studio Job & Joris & Marieke is described as cute, funny, poetic and sometimes disturbing. Their Oscar-nominated short “A Single Life” is no exception. Using a clever concept, skipping through your life by literally skipping through a record, managed to induce humor and horror all within two minutes. The music is the best part. The record itself is its own character and the soundtrack makes for a complimentary atmosphere. And no surprise!, the film’s composer, called Happy Camper, is most famous for the music clip “I’ll Take You Along,” a YouTube video that has over 17 million views.
“The Dam Keeper”
Little Pig, Little Pig, Why So Sad?
(Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, USA)
Robert Kondo’s and Dice Tsutsumi’s short “The Dam Keeper” is a colossal short, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron. The complex narrative, intricate animation and masterful soundtrack is a grand feat for a category of filmmaking called Short. After watching it, you will feel like you’ve watched a feature. The lack of dialogue allows us to focus on movements of characters as well as the brooding soundtrack that comes with the film’s impending conflict. Made up of more than 8,000 paintings, traditional hand-drawn animation with painted brushstrokes, both shadow and light do much to emphasize the symbols of dirt, dust and darkness in an otherwise happy village-like atmosphere. A phenomenal moment too occurs in the climax of the film that I think makes this film a tribute to the category of animated motion pictures.
This is just like one of those sweet and funny Pixar shorts played before a feature. Giving us an opportunity to laugh out loud and focus on some traditional but brilliantly colorful animation, its placement is perfect in the overall animated program. In one sentence, I would describe it as a sarcastic version of children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Obsession in Loops
(Bill Plympton., USA)
Something breaks through your window (a killer, beast, ghost?), you follow the intruder’s footprints with your gun, shooting at anything that spooks you, and upon confronting the darkness you discover it is your own shadow you’re shooting at. Plympton’s style of gritty line art in his animated short “Footprints” works well with its psychological subject of being afraid of your own shadow. And in addition to its eerie vibe, the film does an interesting loop effect where the end is a repetition of the beginning, maybe giving that edge to an otherwise unnerving experience.
Fluid Lines for a Fluid Love
(Glen Keane, USA)
Another pleasant surprise in this year’s animated program, exuding both beautiful style and simple storytelling, is Keane’s “Duet.” The animation, a mix of blue-print-like sketches with neon lines, is captivating and flows magnificently with the “duet” of our two main character: a girl who grows up as a ballerina and a boy who climbs mountains with his dog. Following these characters from when they are clumsy babies to when they are the slender and muscular is done with such musicality and grace that the entire short can be called a splendid ballet.