You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Best Animated Short’ category.

Here’s a quick round-up of what we think should win tonight. Follow along to see what Oscar gets right! (Hint: use the “John” column)

Jared John
Picture Argo Django Unchained
Director Spielberg Lee
Actress Lawrence Chastain
Actor Day-Lewis Day-Lewis
Supporting Actress Hathaway Hathaway
Supporting Actor Waltz Hoffman
Original Screenplay Flight Flight
Adapted Screenplay Argo Argo
Animated Feature Wreck-It Ralph Brave
Animated Short Paperman
Cinematography Lincoln Anna Karenina
Costume Mirror Mirror
Film Editing Argo
Makeup and Hairstyling Les Miserables
Production Design Anna Karenina
Score Life of Pi
Song Skyfall Skyfall
Sound Editing Django Unchained
Sound Mixing Les Miserables
Visual Effects Life of Pi
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Over the past two weeks we’ve been revealing our choices for most of the Oscar categories. Here is a handy recap of those picks! Refer to this page often during tonight’s telecast to see if you should be agreeing with the winners! (Hint: use the “John” column)

Adam Brian Jared John
Picture Hugo The Artist Midnight in Paris
Director Allen Scorsese Havanavicius Malick
Actress Mara Mara Williams Streep
Actor Dujardin Dujardin Dujardin Oldman
Supporting Actress Bejo Bejo Spencer Chastain
Supporting Actor Hill Nolte Branagh Plummer
Original Screenplay Midnight in Paris Margin Call The Artist Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay Hugo The Descendants Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Art Direction Midnight in Paris Hugo Hugo Hugo
Cinematography The Tree of Life Hugo The Tree of Life The Tree of Life
Costume Anonymous Jane Eyre
Film Editing Hugo Moneyball The Descendants
Makeup Harry Potter The Iron Lady Harry Potter The Iron Lady
Score The Artist The Adventures of Tintin
Song The Muppets The Muppets The Muppets
Sound Editing Transformers The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Transformers Drive
Sound Mixing Transformers The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Transformers Transformers
Visual Effects Transformers Rise of the Planet of the Apes Harry Potter Transformers
Animated Short A Morning Stroll A Morning Stroll A Morning Stroll Wild Life
Live Action Short Time Freak Time Freak
Documentary Short Saving Face The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Short Film (Animated)

The nominees are:

  • Dimanche/Sunday
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  • La Luna
  • A Morning Stroll
  • Wild Life

JOHN

This year’s crop of animated shorts didn’t do a ton for me. All were fine but none really stood out. At least all of them have interesting visual styles and there’s a nice mix of animation techniques from simple hand-drawn line drawings to computer animation. I suppose my winner is Wild Life, a fish out of water story of an Englishman relocating to the harsh Canadian countryside. Its painterly style has a neat look even if the story is rather thin. My second choice is A Morning Stroll, a take on a story about a chicken walking down a street and pecking at a door to be let in. I appreciate the bizarre direction the filmmakers take this premise and the range of animation styles they use.

JARED

I was pretty underwhelmed with the animated shorts this year.  A lot of people like The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, but I found it really boring.  Not an exaggeration, I almost dozed off during it.  As Adam points out, though, the Humpty Dumpty book was pretty solid.  Dimanche/Sunday was also not good.  It had a few interesting places it could have gone, but didn’t.  I did like the animal that was mounted in the house, though.  Wild Life was…strange.  I have absolutely no idea what was going on with the comet facts.  Maybe I missed something (wouldn’t be the first time), but they were distracting and had no payoff.

I liked La Luna.  It had a very sweet point.  Maybe it is just me, but I thought the dad (the one on the right) looked a lot like the dad from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (also the one on the right).

But the clear winner here is A Morning Stroll.  It was clever, funny, and visually inventive.  And it may have been the only nominated short (live action or nominated) to actually nail its ending.

BRIAN

ADAM

A Morning Stroll

We’ve been releasing our takes on the big eight categories throughout the week with a few more to come. Before the big show tonight, I wanted to take one last look at some of the smaller categories that we didn’t bother to do the full treatment on, mostly because we have successful careers and vibrant social lives. Mmmhmm

Art Direction

Nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1, Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit


How many of these movies have rotating hallways and a flooded Japanese pagoda-style mansion? Oh, just Inception? Then I pick that.

Makeup

I’ve only seen The Way Back, but what a makeup job it is. This is a film about escaped prisoners traveling across Siberia and the Gobi desert. That is a hard trek and the makeup really sells it: sunburn, bug bites, extreme thirst, swollen limbs. The makeup is integral, noticeable, and realistic. Also, Colin Firth has some badass tattoos.

Documentary Feature

Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop are both terrific and number among my favorite films of the year. I do like Restrepo slightly more, though I’m rooting for Exit because it’s so different from the usual Oscar documentary and because I love the idea of Banksy as an Oscar winner.

There’s been some talk of Waste Land coming up on the outside and sneaking in for the win. That would be unfortunate. It follows an artist as he recruits trash pickers in Rio de Janeiro’s largest dump to help him create large-scale works of art out of garbage. It’s a decent film, but it piqued my interest in ways I don’t think it intended. The first half deals a lot with the pickers’ daily lives. Where the film sees degradation I see fascinating economic forces at work – mainly positive ones. The film also has an intense Savior Through Art theme, which is probably the common movie theme that I hate the most. It drives my left-sided economist brain crazy. Savior Through Economic Growth, Technological Advancement, Improving Institutions, and Access to Credit, anyone?

I haven’t seen the other two nominated documentaries.

Animated Feature

Toy Story 3 is still my pick, but I have seen The Illusionist since my look at this category a month or so back. (You can go there to see my thoughts on Toy Story and the third nominee, How to Train Your Dragon.)

The Illusionist is amazingly gorgeous. The hand-drawn, watercolor style is breathtaking and creates a wonderfully colorful and vivid version of Scotland. It also has one of my favorite shots of the year, one that starts on a grassy hilltop and swoops through the streets of Edinburgh. I literally gasped, which I believe no 3D animated film has made me do. Director Sylvain Chomet also composed his own music, and it’s very good.

I wish Chomet would break away from the wordless style that he uses here and in Triplets of Belleville. Both films feel slight on plot without dialogue to advance them, which makes them drag. The whimsy and the animation go a long way, but a little more needs to happen to really push me over the top.

Live Action Short

Shorts International and Magnolia have been releasing the Oscar nominated shorts theatrically for the past few years. I would encourage those who can to see out this year’s Live Action program (I believe you can also find them on iTunes).

My choice is Wish 143, about a teen with terminal cancer who gets to participate in a Make A Wish-type program. His wish? To lose his virginity. This film killed me. It does a great job of portraying one’s reaction to illness. The teen, played by Samuel Holland, is so richly realized. For most of it I wondered if it would be appropriate to put a short on my Top 10 list. Unfortunately the ending stumbles a bit.

Na Wewe is my second choice and will be your winner tonight. A van is stopped by rebels in Burundi during the Rwanda/Burundi genocide in the 90s. The rebels separate the passengers into Hutus and Tutsis, planning to execute the latter. The passengers try to convince the rebels to spare them. It has basic emotional elements (suspense/ tragedy/ injustice), an important issue (genocide), and a well-developed and feel good – albeit somewhat obvious – theme (self-definition and how we’re all connected). A natural winner.

The other nominees are God of Love, a cute film about a modern-day hipster Cupid who uses darts instead of arrows; The Crush, a trite story of a young boy who has a crush on his teacher and will fight for his love; and The Confession, a good-looking but sort of pointlessly bleak tale of two boys who can’t figure out what to confess for their first Confession so they set out to cause some trouble.

Animated Short

I try to catch these every year because it usually features some really creative animation. I was underwhelmed with this slate. Check out the live action shorts if you can only see one.

Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) is the only one that wowed me. And even then, it’s much more style than substance. It’s about a trip into the Malagasy countryside, visualized as a scrapbook come to life. The story is sort of bland, but the animation pops with some cool use of perspective. The Malagasy music used as accompaniment is also a treat.

Let’s Pollute is an amusing take on a 1950s public service film, sarcastically promoting the benefits of pollution. The Lost Thing follows a boy who finds some sort of alien-robot on the beach and tries to find a home for it. Honestly, I just didn’t get it. Day & Night is the cute Pixar short preceding Toy Story 3 about two characters representing the two times of day. I hear it’s great in 3D, but I’ve only seen it in two dimensions, where it’s rather flat, pardon the pun.

The Gruffalo is by far the longest and features the voices of several famous actors like Helena Bonham Carter. The animation is nothing special and the plot is aimed at the toddler level. At 30 minutes, this adult was very restless by the end as I knew where it was heading about 5 minutes in. And yet, except for one brief mention of Madagascar, it was literally the only film people were talking about walking out of the theater. It makes me wonder if it has a shot for the win.

I’ll say that going in, there is a general caveat that all of these animated shorts are supposed to be fantastical and take viewers to imaginary worlds where Michelin Men talk and the Grim Reaper is real. But I still think that they need to follow the rules of the world that the animators have created. To the extent that the short film  is successful at that largely defines how much I enjoyment I get from it.

French Roast

Jared: Not a strong way to start off the animated shorts. While there was a certain old-fashioned sense of humor to which I related, this short depicting a businessman who can’t pay his bill really wasn’t that funny, and it definitely was trying to be a comic film. The “twists” weren’t unexpected and also didn’t really add anything. The short wasn’t awful, I may have chuckled a few times, but wasn’t anything special.

Brian: An odd little story that had some amusing physical humor, French Toast didn’t make all that much sense to me. There was too much going on for such a short film — between the cop, the waiter, the bum, the snooty espresso drinker, the old woman, the wanted poster — nothing really stuck as one conceit worth highlighting. I did like how they played with the use of the cafe’s mirrors and glass doors — where all the reflections combined for a fascinating optical illusion — but it was still likely my least favorite of the batch.

The Lady and the Reaper

Jared: There seemed to be a collective gasp from the audience when Antonio Banderas’ name appeared in the credits as a producer, which was a little odd. The short starts out a little sad, focusing on a little old lady who lost her beloved husband and who now lives alone. She passes away in her sleep, and then…well…hilarity ensues. I guess I’d call it the closest thing to a modern Looney Tunes I’ve seen, but whatever it was, I laughed almost nonstop. Just about everything in the short worked, and worked well. Somehow, it’s sense of humor careened from Marx Brothers to Edward Gorey, relentless trying to top itself. Best thing I saw all night.

Brian: One of my top two of the bunch — and I agree with Jared, this seemed like a Looney Tunes sketch of the best kind. Batty, engaging, and even touching at times — the short hit all the right notes. It even had many of the small side-jokes emblematic of the Pixar films; the three-headed poodle acting as Cerberus was brilliant.

A Matter of Loaf and Death

Jared: At this point, any Nick Park creation is going to come with higher expectations, unfair or not. And unfortunately, while impressively clocking in at about a half-hour run time, this short failed to reach those expectations, though it was still decent. Many of the familiar tropes were there, same sense of humor, same dynamic between Wallace and Gromit. And it was funny at times, with some great puns littered throughout the short. But too often it felt like a retread of a sitcom. I didn’t think the other characters worked particularly well, plus they meant less time was devoted to Wallace and Gromit’s relationship, never a good thing.

Brian: I agree with most of what Jared said — it lacked the inventiveness of their other work and I didn’t sense their imaginitive spirit. Nick Park put in the same old jokes without a new twist, and while its to his credit that he kept my attention for 30 minutes, I couldn’t help but just think “meh” while watching the credits.

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty

Jared: A fractured fairly tale of a bitter grandma telling a bedtime story to her frightened granddaughter, this is a one-joke short. The joke is fairly funny, but the film desperately needed a further developed sense of humor. Because while it was it pretty entertaining, the joke was wearing thin well before the end and with even one more source of humor, it could have been something special.

Brian: Dammit Jared, I want to stop agreeing with you. I felt as though I was watching a bizarre SNL animated sketch: one joke and a very well done joke at that. (Oh wait, maybe it isn’t like SNL…) I found the animation to be probably one of the more interesting of the batch — a twist on the picture storybooks we grew up with, but beyond that — it was one joke that just never died.

Logorama

Jared: Simply put, the idea behind this short (which basically depicts a world in which everything, person, place, building, car, everything is a logo) is pretty brilliant. The execution felt indifferent. There’s sort of a police action movie in there, with a car chase, hostages, and a standoff. Then it becomes a disaster movie of sort. I’d imagine there’s a message in there somewhere, but I have no clue what it is. Some people in the audience seemed to have fun picking out all the logos, and the integration of some of them was pretty ingenious. But I didn’t find the short to be interesting at all.

Brian: Yes! A disagreement! I thought this was a great idea that fell off the rails in the third act when it tried to get political — and I don’t like my cartoons to be political, goshdarnit. Throughout the short, my eyes were darting all around the screen looking for each and every joke placed by the animators. This was easily the most ambitious of the bunch, I place it as the other of the top two merely for its audacity. I guess I would be among that “some in the audience” group Jared mentioned.

BRIAN: Will win: Wallace and Gromit; Should win: The Lady and the Reaper

JARED: Ditto. Will Win: Wallace and Gromit; Should win: The Lady and the Reaper

Jared and I took in the slate of Animated Short nominees each of the past two years. The 2007 nominees literally put me to sleep but in 2006 it was a pleasure taking in preparations of a singing bird before the big show (“Maestro”), that Ice Age squirrel’s attempt to protest his food (“No Time For Nuts”), and Disney’s wonderful and devastating watercolor take on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Matchstick Girl.” The winner (and my favorite), however, was a Danish/Canadian entry called “The Danish Poet” with a distinct animation style and a wry look at love and fate.

Youtube is starting a program to feature short films called The Screening Room and “The Danish Poet” was one of its first selections. I highly recommend it. It’s embedded below or click through it to get to a high definition version.

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