As has become something of a pattern, the Oscar-nominated animated short films are a very mixed bag and are far more uneven than the selection of live-action shorts (which this year are particularly strong). This year, they’re also on the short side, which has necessitated the addition of other worthy (I assume since I haven’t seen them — or even a finalized list) animated shorts to flesh out the program.
Me and My Moulton (Director: Torill Kove) — 14 minutes/Canada/English.
This was probably my least favorite of the shorts, though that has as much to do with the style of animation as the content of the film. I simply don’t care for the type of animation, nor the style of the drawing. The content itself — essentially about a girl coming to accept her parents’ nonconformity — is OK, but I can’t say I found it overwhelming as the statement it appears to want to be.
Feast (Director: Patrick Osborne) — 6 minutes/USA/Non-dialogue.
This is the one you’ve most likely seen, since it was attached to Big Hero 6. That turns out to be a good thing from my standpoint, since this — being Disney — was not included in the preview package (merely the contact person from whom a copy could be obtained). I was totally unimpressed by the film, which, as is often the case, I suspect is only included because of the Disney name. It’s a very thin story about the diet of a Boston terrier as it’s impacted by its owner’s changes in diet owing to romantic entanglements. Technically, it’s very slick, but that’s to be expected with the Disney brand on it.
The Bigger Picture (Director: Daisy Jacobs) — 7 minutes/UK/English.
In terms of animation, The Bigger Picture is far and away the most striking film in the batch. It has a definite style and is to no end creative in the way it achieves its effects. The story is simple — the rivalry of two very different brothers for the approval of their mother in her final days — but it’s also quietly, surprisingly effective. It’s even more impressive when you consider its short running time.
A Single Life (Directors: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen) — 2 minutes/The Netherlands/Non-dialogue.
This is a very clever little movie with solid, if unremarkable, animation. The problem is that cleverness is all it has in its depiction of a woman’s life as dictated by a phonograph record. At a mere two minutes, it’s really little more than a doodle, but as doodles go, it’s not a bad one at that.
The Dam Keeper (Directors: Robert Kondo, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi) — 18 minutes/USA/Non-dialogue.
Easily the most traditional of the shorts in terms of animation, The Dam Keeper is also the most charming. It’s the story of a young pig — the dam keeper of the title — who is the butt of everyone’s jokes at school. Things change when a young fox with a talent for drawing befriends him, but this appears to be short-lived when the pig — mistakenly, as it turns out — comes to believe his new friend is two-faced. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but I found it the most appealing of the nominees.