Monday, February 11, 2013

Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films

These are the five films nominated this year for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar. To see them back-to- back is to have the experience of being tugged in several directions in a short period of time. There is no unifying theme between them, as there shouldn’t be. Here are my brief reactions to them in my rough order of preference.

Fresh Guacamole

This may be my favorite of the five for its sheer simplicity. There’s no story here, just an animated throwback to what early cinema pioneers used the medium for. At the birth of cinema filmmakers captured brief actions – a kiss; a running horse; a person jumping. This two minute animated film is a colorful stop-motion animation using mostly household objects to make a bowl of the avocado dip. Hand grenades for the whole fruit, baseballs for onions, a Christmas tree light bulb for a jalapeƱo, Monopoly houses when it’s chopped. This is what cinema sometimes does best.


Head over Heels

An elderly couple quite literally no longer see eye-to-eye in an extended metaphor of what can happen to a marriage over time. She lives on the ceiling and he lives on the floor. They can prepare breakfast together without saying a word, flipping eggs back and forth, but they can’t sit at the same table. The stop-motion animation is exquisite and detailed, the story is touching and bittersweet.

Paperman

This is the annual entrant from the Disney and Pixar universe. It’s a hand-drawn Disney production. This one played in front of Wreck-It Ralph, so there’s a chance you’ve seen it. A young man has a Meet-Cute with a doe-eyed young lady with lush red lips that stand out against the black and white animation. Their chance encounter is cut short, but fate puts her back in his path – in the window across the street from his office 20 stories up. He uses paper airplanes one after another to get her attention, sending them floating most unsuccessfully between skyscrapers. I won’t reveal where the story goes from there because it would break the imaginative spell it casts.

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”

It’s nice to see Maggie get her own story because the series hardly ever places her at the center of any storylines for obvious reasons. This 5 minute short film takes full advantage by presenting essentially a silent film with the only audio being sound effects, a musical score by Hans Zimmer, and of course the suckling sounds of Maggie’s pacifier. In an eventful and somewhat traumatic time at her Ayn Rand Daycare center, she is scanned for intelligence and placed in the “Nothing Special” room with paste eaters and bug mashers. She attempts to rescue a caterpillar and later the butterfly it metamorphoses into from a thug. There’s little here that the show doesn’t already do quite well, but at least we get to see the softer side of Maggie.

Adam and Dog

Before there was Adam and Eve, there apparently was Adam and Dog. At least if this touching little story is accurate, there was. Like any good story of two male buddies – be they two men or a man and his dog – the friendship ends with the arrival of a woman. First the naked Adam and his newfound friend are playing together and the next thing the dog knows, there’s a ravishing naked beauty vying for Adam’s attention. Then they go and disappear on him. All in all it’s a slight little retelling of The Fall, using hand-drawn animated cells that look like they were painted with a brush.

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