This is Ian and I's seventh year watching the Oscar-nominated animated shorts (our sixth at the Coolidge Corner Theatre). While this year's nominees didn't feel as compelling overall as in previous years, we still enjoyed our continuing tradition. Our prediction record is now 3 for 5, counting just the years we've seen all the animated shorts. I'm still disappointed The Dam Keeper didn't win last year — Disney seems to be our prediction kryptonite. But especially since there's not a Disney short in the mix this year, here's hoping we're 4 for 6 after tonight!
Sanjay's Super Team — Sanjay, a first-generation Indian boy, loves super heroes. But when his beloved cartoons conflict with his father's Hindu prayers, he is forced to reconcile his western culture with his storied heritage. I can relate to Sanjay's experiences as a first-generation American trying to balance his two identities. Through an entertaining story and beautiful visuals, Pixar reminds us that a fresh perspective is sometimes all we need to bring different worlds together.
World of Tomorrow — A little girl suddenly finds herself transported to the world of the distant future, where humanity has made vast strides in the effort to extend life. The short finds laugh-out-loud humor through the juxtaposition of an innocent toddler with the strange experiences of her glitchy digital future self. This contrast also illustrates technological "progress" is not always what it seems, and the short manages to deeply explore questions of life and what it means to be human. Its minimalist but clever animation is fresh and incredibly fitting. This is our bet to take home the Oscar.
Bear Story (Historia de un Oso) — An old bear spends his days as a street entertainer, telling his life story as a kidnapped circus bear through an intricate and beautiful mechanical diorama. The diorama is a unique and impressive storytelling device, but I felt the story itself was missing an intangible spark.
We Can't Live Without Cosmos — From the director of Lavatory, Love Story, this short follows two lifelong friends as they train to be cosmonauts, following their shared dream of making it to the stars. With delightful bits of humor sprinkled in, Cosmos explores the idea of shared dreams, friendship, and failure.
Prologue — The ancient war between Sparta and Athens is brought into sharp, hand drawn detail as four warriors battle to the death. This was a graphic and intense short, noted as "not suitable for young viewers." The well composed animation with realistic human rendering was astounding, but the story itself wasn't as thought-provoking as I would have hoped, given the dark and deep subject matter.
Highly Commended Shorts
If I Was God — A middle school boy daydreams about ultimate power during a science class frog dissection. The claymation was a perfect medium for this hilariously awkward coming of age story. We've enjoyed all the selections we've seen out of Canada's NFB, which produced Bus Story in 2015 and Wild Life and Sunday/Dimanche in 2012, and this year did not disappoint.
The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse — A mouse, alone and without cover, escapes one danger only to enter a bigger predicament. But an unexpected alliance at the right moment can change everything. The pale winter scenes and bright animals were a beautiful way to tell a sweet if predictable story.
The Loneliest Stoplight — At the intersection of two local roads, an old stoplight tells his life story, from installation to obsolescence to one shining moment thanks to a pileup on the freeway. It's a classic story of small town charm versus the efficiency of progress, retold through an unexpected lens. This was another solid short from Bill Plympton, the animator behind last year's Footprints and one of our all-time favorites, The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger.