Thursday, March 17, 2016

OVP: Animated Short Film (2014)

OVP: Best Animated Short Film (2014)

The Nominees Were...

Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Bigger Picture
Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper
Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Feast
Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton
Joris Oprins, A Single Life

My Thoughts: I cannot believe how long this particular article has been lounging around the "Drafts" section of my reviews, but as we are still counting down the 2014 Oscars, I wanted to make sure I got out last year's animated shorts list, if only for completism as we hopefully will start winding down this particular year in the next month or so and start moving into 2007.  It looks like a few of these films you can find if you search the web hard enough, so if you want to play along make sure and google and then dive right into this contest.

Torill Kove is one of those filmmakers that has made such an impression at the Oscars that she's become something of a mainstay, even if you might not automatically know her name.  Me and My Moulton (which is the name of an unusual-looking bicycle if you were unfamiliar with this term like myself prior to viewing this film) is actually Kove's third Oscar nomination after making only three animated films in her career (she won for 2006's The Danish Poet).  Let's just say that if she makes the short list again, you should be predicting her for the nomination.  While I haven't seen her earlier films, Moulton is an odd flick that feels a little bizarre if this is the pattern she goes toward to become an Academy regular.  The film is about a trio of girls who must grapple with both not having a Moulton Bicycle and being uniform like their friends and classmates, as well as the pains of having parents that are unorthodox.  The film's story isn't bad, I guess, but the topic is so overdone (children who have juvenile-acting parents is a mainstay of the entertainment world), and the animation feels simplistic and not at all engaging.  I guess I didn't get the appeal, and found it odd-for-odds-sake more often than not.

The same can be said for The Bigger Picture, the next more "grown-up" film nominated last year, and one that also courts that line of weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird.  Here we have two brothers who are both charged with taking care of their elderly mother, and both approach the situation from different angles.  The film's animation is unique and occasionally quite engaging (I particularly liked the initial effect of the unfolding worlds that happened, though it felt like the style had less impact as the movie went on), and the story is good in theory, but in practice it felt a little bit cloying and lacking in subtlety.  The idea of sibling rivalry, and how that transforms into adulthood in ways that continue to be quite juvenile, is something that I think anyone with a brother or sister can relate toward, but I wish that had remained the focus instead of trying to make one brother the "better" of the two as that made the picture less open, in my opinion.

We'll finish off the trio of movies that were made with adults in mind with my favorite of the bunch, A Single Life (or, as my mom put it afterwards, the one with the woman with the little boobs).  The film is very short, even by this category's standards (it's less than three minutes long), but it's a visual treat as a woman realizes a record she received in the mail can have her jump back and forth through time in her own body.  We see some of the traditional moments in her life (children, old age), but the movie is brief enough that it never gets old and the animation style is completely unlike anything I've seen in this category in a while, seemingly plucked from the Sunday funnies pages.  It's not high art, but it made me laugh for most of the picture which is definitely saying something.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have The Dam Keeper, which is the longest of these five movies and actually had me in tears by the end of it.  One of those rare nominated short films that's in English, it's a powerful lesson about friendship, loneliness, and economics as we see a young pig who is charged with keeping the town safe by winding a windmill every day.  Still, he is unpopular due to his station at school until a popular fox comes along and befriends him, and suddenly he feels new life until he mistakenly assumes the fox is mocking him and he almost destroys the town before realizing that it was a misunderstanding.  The story here is wonderfully-realized, with the short getting across the abject sadness of the young pig's life and the way that he is forced at an early age to pursue a menial job because of economic hardship, and how desperate he is to have love in his life, and the animation is its equal with a wonderful watercolor technique that is brimming with light.  All-in-all, it's the sort of movie you think afterwards could have been a feature, but considering it is so compact you're glad it wasn't.

The final film is one you've likely actually seen even if you missed last year's ShortsHD film cavalcade.  Feast is the Disney entry for 2014 and was featured before Big Hero 6 when it was released theatrically.  The movie is a crowd-pleaser, and one that focuses on a dog who eats like Henry VIII as a result of his single male owner until a woman starts dating him and the diet changes to a leafier variety. The movie is nearly wordless (you hear ancillary conversation between the man and the woman as their relationship starts to dissolve), but it's flawlessly animated and incredibly succinct.  The movie continues Disney's recent trend toward short, emotional wallop moments in this category, and it's another hit in my opinion.

Other Precursor Contenders: The Academy releases a shortlist of the films eligible for this award so we know that Coda, Duet, Footprints, The Numberlys, and Symphony No. 42 were all relatively close to being on this list.  The BAFTA Awards only doubled up with one film this year, with The Bigger Picture winning their trophy over Monkey Love Experiments and My Dad.
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: Oscar got a tiny bit of slack on social media for giving both of their animated trophies yet again to the juggernaut of Disney, but Feast is hard to resist and so I get why it trumped likely The Bigger Picture and The Dam Keeper.
My Choice: For the first time I'm not giving the victory to Disney, as The Dam Keeper was too beautiful and my favorite of the fifteen short films overall last year.  I'd follow it with Feast, A Single Life, The Bigger Picture, and Moulton in the back.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  Did you see these films, and if so, who did you cheer for?  Share in the comments!

No comments: