One easily overlooked part of the flurry of The Academy Awards is the shorts sections. Perhaps they seem less interesting or less consequential due to their bite-size nature, but to me, short films are often all the more accessible and feasible because of their succinct lengths.
I’ve always been particularly interested in animation, so when I had the opportunity to check out a screening of the 2014 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films, I took it! All five of the shorts were pretty different, in style, tone and narrative, though all were of pretty superb quality.
Director: Daniel Sousa
13 min – USA
Feral is probably one of the harder to digest shorts in the nominated group. In Feral, we meet a young boy, whose wildness — and perhaps purity — is represented by whiteness, white skin, white hair, white teeth. The other people and animals in this world are black, shadowy figures who capture the boy from the woods and try to force him into civilized culture. As a feral child, the boy does not understand how to live in such a foreign world and eventually breaks free and escapes.
With basically no dialogue, the viewer is forced to make their own connections and piece together what feels like a snapshot of a longer narrative in Feral. The rough, brushy animation style is one of the most striking out of the nominees, however the loose, nuanced storytelling is almost sure to go over some Academy viewers’ heads. A part of me also feels like Feral should either be longer or give us more information about the boy character in a shorter time, though I assume this ambiguity is something Sousa is toying with intentionally.
Get A Horse!
Director: Lauren MacMullan
6 min – USA
Get A Horse! is a great little short from Disney. It’s been playing in theaters before their newest feature-length, Frozen. Get A Horse! is interesting for two reasons; it’s the first time a woman has ever directed anything from Disney by herself and been credited as such, and its plays perfectly with ideas of old and new techniques and technologies in animation.
Disney has long been the monopoly powerhouse of animation in the United States, and Get A Horse! draws (ha ha) on that history by not only harking back to classic Mickey Mouse cartoons thematically and visually but employing both traditional, hand-drawn techniques and contemporary computer-drawn animation, all of which is viewable in 3D. Because of its celebratory yet nostalgic vibes, and considering The Academy’s longstanding love-affair with Disney, Get A Horse! seems like a very strong contender for the Oscar to me.
Directors: Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares
11 min – Luxembourg, France
Mr. Hubolt comes across as a short about an idiosyncratic character in a mechanical world, but quickly evolves into a story about a man and his dog. Mr. Hubolt is a man of excruciatingly particularities. Everything in his home has its place, and he has his ways of doing everything, (such as turning the light switches off and on a certain amount of times) and that’s the way things have to be done at his home. However, when a robo-dog is abandoned across the street, he finds that opening his hart and his home to another being that’s beyond his control often leads to messy, though satisfying life adjustments.
Mr. Hubolt’s strength is personifying a very human character in a very mechanical world. He has his patterns and habits, but he also has quirks, emotions and growth.
Director: Shuhei Morita
14 min – Japan
Possessions is a beautiful short film with a somewhat cloying story. In Possessions, a wandering tinkerer gets caught in a severe thunderstorm and finds shelter in an abandoned old shrine in the woods. Upon entering, he quickly falls asleep and is transported to a magical and sinister world of broken and discarded items. He appeases the spirits by finding value in them despite their near uselessness and promptly fixes them, giving the items new life.
Like I said, Possessions is visually gorgeous, and is really a joy to watch, as long as you’re not expecting too much from the narrative. The statement Possessions makes is that it is honorable to find value in traditional Japanese history, and fine relics — physical, mental, spiritual and cultural — should not be thrown away and forgotten so recklessly. Which is great and all, but I feel like that story’s been told. However, Possessions is also apparently just one segment of a collection of shorts called Short Peace, which includes shorts set in other times and places, so I’d love to see Possessions in that context to fully understand and appreciate it.
Room On The Broom
Directors: Max Lang & Jan Lachauer
25 min – United Kingdom
Room On The Broom is the longest of the animated short nominees at a whopping 25 minutes. However, the film doesn’t feel too long or drawn out. Based off of a children’s book by the same name, Room On The Broom is narrated by Simon Pegg, and tells the story of a light-hearted witch, her cat, and the other animals they meet as they escape from a witch-eating dragon.
While Room On The Broom typifies the Academy’s ‘animation is for children and should be saccharinely sweet’ attitude toward the category, it’s still a very enjoyable little movie. The character of the cat is delightfully cute and selfish (like most cats) and the 3D animation as a full, plush feeling to it. If I had to choose I think Room On The Broom will be second runner up for the award.
While I feel that the Academy will go on the safe route and choose the Disney short as their winner, I appreciate the range of the nominees this year. Hopefully in the future whoever chooses these nominees will broaden their range. If you’ve ever seen one of Flixist‘s ongoing Flix For Short series of posts, you know there’s amazing animated shorts being produced by artists and designers all over the world every day! Regardless, we’ll see who the Academy chooses to favor this year on March 2nd, 2014.