For the first time in my life, I have officially seen every movie currently nominated for an Academy Award before the actual ceremony. Which is kind of insane, or pathetic, or awesome. I’m not sure. It certainly wasn’t intentional; I just realized one day that if I watched that foreign film and those documentaries and all those shorts, then I’d be set.
I’m lucky enough to live close to a theater currently showing all of the 2013 Oscar nominated short films, and here are my thoughts on the animated films vying for the Academy’s attention this year.
I’m a huge fan of jump-cutting to black. If done right, ending a scene by simply cutting to a black screen can be jarring in the most effective way possible. Michael Haneke is one of the few to do it frequently, and do it well, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Lee make the same choice with his dawn-of-man short, Adam and Dog.
The film begins with a scrawny dog wondering around barren woods, hanging out with dinosaurs and other various beasts. One day, dog spots the world’s first man, and the two embark on a pleasant and silent friendship. They run, they eat, the fetch. Before long, old lady Eve comes in to mix things up, which sends our beloved dog into a quiet tailspin. By far the most philosophical of the shorts, Adam and Dog was a welcome change from the straight forwardness of many of the other nominees. B
Fresh Guacamole, dir. by PES
Okay, when I mentioned straight forwardness just then, I certainly wasn’t referring to Fresh Guacamole, the two minute short featuring an unseen chief preparing what the title dictates. Sounds simple enough. But to make his dish, the chief uses a grenade, a baseball, poker chips, and more. If anything, this stop motion short was a great exercise in demonstrating how every single frame is essential to a film. It only takes one small cut for clay to become dice. Other than that, there’s not a whole hell of a lot going on here. Blink and it’s over. C
Head Over Heels, dir. by Timothy Reckart
Head Over Heels chronicles an old married couple’s attempt to get on the same level. Literally. When the movie begins, we’re on the ground level with the husband. He wakes up, gets dressed, makes breakfast, all with his wife doing the exact same directly above him. All told, this was a cute and expressive tale about the natural division that can occur in marriage, and what it takes to become one again. (Also, strange how the plot for the new sci-fi film, Upside Down isn’t all too dissimilar from Head Over Heels.) A-
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, dir. by David Silverman
Everyone’s favorite mute Simpson gets dropped off at daycare for the day, and is taunted by a butterfly-killing bully. Like much of The Simpsons, this short is a not-so-subtle examination of America’s contemporary faults. It comments on our intense paranoia, our desperate clinging to heightened security, our poor education system, and, of course, the cruelty young kids can inflict on one another. At six minutes, it doesn’t necessarily have a lot to offer, but it’s a breezy ride all the same. B-
Paperman, dir. by John Kahrs
Disney’s contribution to the race tells a whimsical black and white story of boy meets girl. When a young working man meets a young working woman at a train station, he’s heartbroken when he lets her catch her train without catching her name. Soon into his workday, he spots the woman working at the building across the street, and attempts to get her attention with paper airplanes. Christophe Beck’s excpetional score helps move the short along briskly, reaching the type of pitch perfect conclusion you might expect from Disney. B+
Should Win: Head Over Heels
Will Win: Paperman
Other 2013 Oscar Posts