Sunday, September 14, 2014

OVP: Animated Short Film (2013)

OVP: Best Animated Short Film (2013)

The Nominees Were...

Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, Feral
Lauren MacMullen and Dorothy McKim, Get a Horse!
Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, Mr. Hublot
Shuhei Morita, Possessions
Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, Room on the Broom

My Thoughts: I told you we'd be there by the end of the week (what, the week starts on Monday?)!  Yes, we are now on the back-end of the 2013 OVP, but as an extension of our intermission, I'm going to cover two sets of short film categories.  When I decided over two years ago to do the Oscar Viewing Project and restart my blog I left the documentaries and short films off the list both because documentaries don't tend to age particularly well (time and information is always leaning forward, and hindsight makes certain things clearer) and because short films are incredibly difficult to track down even from the last couple of years.  However, I did make a promise that if I did complete a Short or Documentary category that I would chronicle it as part of the OVP, so I am going to do that now!

We'll start with the film that all of you have seen so that I can keep your attention as long as possible: Get a Horse!.  The short film played in front of Frozen theatrically (and don't you love that Pixar and Disney air short films before every animated film now?), and I have to say was a delight from start to finish.  A callback to old-school Disney (really old school, like Steamboat Willie style), it features Mickey, Minnie, Peg-Leg Pete, and Clarabelle amongst a host of iconic company characters running in and out of a screen.  The animation is beautiful, particularly the crisp interaction between black-and-white and color as the characters run between the two worlds.  There's something to be said for deducting points for sexism (Minnie is always being rescued and fought over by the men in the cartoon), but the film's setting is clearly not modern and the fact that Minnie gets a few punches in helps in this regard.  Overall, this is the sort of film that gets an unfair advantage because of its wider audience, but it's still a fluffy delight.

Since we're in a light-hearted mood and the short films rarely allow for that, we'll stay there and go with Room on the Broom.  Based on the picture book by Julia Donaldson, this film may or may not have gotten a wide release as well; I don't know if this is true because I didn't see the sequel, but did this really play before Thor: the Dark World in the States?  I read that on a number of internet websites but cannot find conclusive evidence of it.  If so, that's an odd pairing for a comic book movie not only because this is very much a children's movie, but because it is pretty long as far as animated short films go, easily the lengthiest of the short films nominated last year at thirty minutes.  It stars a cavalcade of stars including Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (who was in two Oscar-nominated films last year-random fact of the day) and Gillian Anderson as the witch who keeps finding room on her broom for more creatures.  The story is fun and occasionally the sight gags of the witch are great (particularly in her showdown with the dragon), but the film drags too long and could have been shortened by a species or two.

Possessions was the sole anime entry in this bunch (anime actually has a difficult time with Oscar despite its prevalence in the animation industry, and only Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli can consistently score when it comes to AMPAS).  In Japan this film was part of a larger collection of animated films called Short Peace and was accompanied by a video game.  This particular entry was about a man in an abandoned shrine who encounters spirits and must work to fix a collection of fans in order to set them free.  It's a lovely concept that doesn't quite work.  I have to admit that I don't always respond well to anime, not really enjoying the jumpy editing and clunky dialogue that accompany it (Miyazaki's films I fare better with as we'll see later when we get to The Wind Rises in the animated feature race, but they don't follow the same editing techniques), and this was particularly true for the heavy hand that tackles Possessions.  I like animation going toward deeper and harder subjects, but by-and-large this film left me pretty cold.

Sometimes with animation you have to decide whether you are judging the story or the actual drawings on-display in the film.  Overall with Feral we get a pretty calm and traditional story about a boy raised by wolves that is brought back into society, only to find that society isn't quite the place for him.  This has been discussed time-and-again in literature and the cinema, with varying levels of success, and there's nothing new or interesting being said by Feral to garner our attention.  However, the actual animation here, minimalistic and black-and-white, is gorgeous, and you frequently feel like you're watching the actual characters leave the artists' pencils as you're watching-a very effective and fascinating trick to make up for the humdrum story.

We end with Mr. Hublot, an interesting if not quite successful film about an inventor who rescues a robot pet dog who disrupts his staid and OC-driven life (he frequently is straightening pictures and turning on and off lights in his home).  The animation in this film, I have to say seemed pretty traditional to me, though it might be a bit out-there to people who only hit Dreamworks/Disney films when it comes to the cartoons, but the story was better than most of the other nominees, at least in the way it treated its main character.  Mr. Hublot is a man who suffers and wants a better life, and that's something that's clearly on display and also something that is difficult to get across in eleven minutes, so well done in that regard.

Other Precursor Contenders: I cannot seem to find a list of the films that ShortsHD had accompany these animated movies, so I cannot say ones that were clearly well-respected in that regard (don't you just love them for putting the nominated shorts in theaters so you can see them the way they were meant to be seen?).  The BAFTA Awards went with a completely different set of nominees, with Sleeping with the Fishes outdoing Everything I Can See from Here and I Am Tom Moody, while the Annie Awards gave their trophy to Get a Horse!, which bested Despicable Me 2: Puppy, Gloria Victoria, My Mom is an Airplane, and The Numberlys.
Films I Would Have Nominated: Sadly they don't put short films before films with regularity anymore (don't you wish they did?) and so I don't get to see enough nominees to complain.
Oscar’s Choice: AMPAS went with the French gadgetry of Mr. Hublot.
My Choice: The winner for me is pretty easy-while other nominees may have been a bit edgier, you cannot beat the quality cinema that is Get a Horse!.  The rest of the list is pretty difficult to arrange, to be honest, but I will go with Feral, Mr. Hublot, Room on the Broom, and Possessions to round out the list.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  Did you see these animated films, and if so, who were you cheering for?  Were you like me and going with Mickey or did you lean more in Oscar's direction with Hublot?  And can someone clear up the Thor/Broom rumor please?

Past Best Animated Short Film Contests: 2012

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