Ryan and Jill tackle the Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films! The crop is a little lackluster this year, but nevertheless this is a category we both look forward to each year. Let’s get into it!
Pixar’s entry in this year’s field is Lou. Normally, the Pixar entry is one we’ve seen before, but this one played in front of Cars 3. Anyway, this short is about a bully learning his lesson via the spirit of the Lost & Found box after school. That’s pretty much the entire 7 minute short right there. It is wonderfully animated, with each woven fiber of a hoodie’s string visible in the frame, but there’s not much else good to say about this one. It is a charming concept, of course, but there’s no story here, which makes it easy to shrug off. It is telling that when recounting these films, this is the one I kept forgetting about. – R.S.
The longest short is Revolting Rhymes, which is based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. It should not be surprising that Dahl’s take on the traditional fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and The Three Little Pigs should be anything but traditional, and the film embraces that spirit along with directly using some of Dahl’s text.
The entire film is narrated by one of the characters in the wraparound story, giving this a leisurely pace that makes for a relaxing sit at story time, and keeps us at a bit of a distance from the characters. It works because Dahl is relying on narrative twists rather than emotional engagement, so there’s not much lost with that choice. And I have to say that I find the character designs charming, since they aren’t going for anything too realistic.
Revolting Rhymes does not go for the adorable simplicity of some of Magic Light Pictures’ other work (The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom), but the appeal of this concept skews to a slightly older age group. There is also a second part to this one, which was not available for review as part of this program. – R.S.
I recently read Jeff Vandermeer’s novel Annihilation. I mention this because A) it’s a great book, and B) because everything about the short film Garden Party points to it being a prequel story from that universe. Read the book, watch the short, and you’ll know what I mean.
The film takes place on the property of a swanky McMansion that is mysteriously abandoned but still very much festooned with the trappings of wealth and some shady underworld activity. With the masters of the house…um, definitely gone and not coming back, the amphibious inhabitants of the backyard start making themselves comfortable both in the now overgrown pool, as well as the house.
The film is a bit of a slow burn as we watch the wildlife explore their new surroundings. Within each frame another piece of the puzzle comes into view as we try and discover why these animals are able to have the run of the place. All of this leads to the “shocking” climax where we learn the fate of the owner. There’s a little more flash then substance to be found here but I enjoy stories from the “hidden world” perspective. – J.M.
If Wes Anderson had a baby with Neil Gaiman, the result would be Negative Space. It’s a graphic artist’s dreamscape come to reality (just see above). The short tells the story of a young man’s talent for packing the perfect suitcase and his distant relationship with his traveling father. I don’t want to get into too much here but suffice it to say our lead character is about to pack the magnum opus of his career, for a trip that sends him down memory lane. This film borrows a lot of stylistic choices from other films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came to me a few times, as well as the aforementioned Wes Anderson) but it’s the only film of this bunch that delivered a satisfying capsule story for me (setup, suspense, payoff) and I really would love to see it take home the Oscar. – J.M.
Each year, there’s always a short film with a name attached to it (Pixar aside), and this year it’s Kobe Bryant. This love letter to basketball is clearly straight from Bryant’s heart and it’s a perfectly fine letter at that. I like the use of beautifully hand-drawn animation here to mimic the storybook qualities of children’s literature. As this is a story about a child (Bryant) finding his love of basketball it’s a suitable choice. It’s also one of the reasons why I love short films because that type of experimentation in animation style is possible. You’d be hard pressed to find a feature length film that could do this due to money and time, so it’s one of the reasons I hope short films stick around for awhile. But as far as this film delivering on a good satisfying story, it just didn’t make it there for me. This film is purely the musings of a star athlete at the end of his career. – J.M.
The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films are now playing at the Ritz Bourse.
“This is the business we’ve chosen!” Jill Malcolm and Ryan Silberstein, two self-described film aficionados, tell it like it is about the latest and greatest movies. They are Contributing editors here at Cinedelphia, writing partners, and founders of Filmhash.com.