This year, the official screening included the five nominees plus four highly commended shorts.
Sunday/Dimanche – A young boy suffers through yet another monotonous Sunday: church followed by dinner at Grandma's with petrified peanuts and pinched cheeks, stranded in a flock of adults. And at every turn, he is faced with mortality, courtesy of the animals that cross his path. The themes of monotony and mortality are echoed in the monochromatic colors and towering scale.
A Morning Stroll – A man walks down a New York sidewalk, bumps into someone, then stops in his tracks when a chicken walks past him, skirts a puddle, and hops up the front steps into a home. This story plays three times in a row, each time set in a different era. The differences in animation and details paint a vivid picture of the time period's culture, and perhaps offer a (tongue-in-cheek) commentary on the social decline that comes with progress. Don't worry though, it's hilarious.
Wild Life – Set in the early 20th century, this was a haunting story of a young Englishman who moves to Canada with dreams of becoming a successful rancher. While his letters home are optimistic, they contrast with the scenes of his reality, beautifully portrayed through an impressionistic oil painted style, and the delightful interviews with the locals and neighbors, which all tell a different story. With equal measures of humor and gravity, it's a tragically poignant story of bright hopes and unfulfilled dreams.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – Don't let the title fool you; this is powerful, not just fluff. A tall tale of a young man facing the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster, the short champions the power of stories. Wandering a colorless landscape, the man runs across a library of sorts, where he rediscovers passion and joy thanks to a new friend. I can't say enough about this short. It moved me to tears. Just ask Ian. And I'm betting the Academy agrees.
La Luna – A little boy joins his father and grandfather in their whimsical and honest family business. While advice comes from both sides, from the way to wear the company hat to the best tool for the job, he learns how to contribute, and succeed in his own unique way. Not only is the story endearing, but the animation and soundtrack glow with a celestial sparkle. Once again, Pixar doesn't disappoint.
Highly Commended Shorts
Nullarbor – The wide and beautiful Australian landscape serves as a backdrop to a quirky story about the lengths a man will go to to get a cigarette. Apparently great lengths. This is a beautiful portrayal of the Outback, and the story earns some laughs.
Amazonia – I'm a sucker for frogs, so I definitely enjoyed the story of a little tree frog who turns to an older, wiser tree frog for advice in how to safely snag a bite to eat. In the process, they attract the attention of larger, toothy, and equally hungry jungle animals. While this perhaps has more appeal to a much younger set, the ending is brilliant no matter how old you are.
Skylight – A short and sweet mockumentary, this short champions the plight of the Antarctic penguins, who are turning into baked turkeys due to global warming. The animation is quirky, and the credits are the best part of the short, making the most of humor in what happens off screen.
Hybrid Union – Two racing robots find that they are both upstaged by a third robot that seems to avoid the same issues they have in obtaining fuel. The competitors form a partnership to avoid being left in the dust. I'm not sure if this is commenting on our current energy or providing a lesson on teamwork, but either way, it was charming.
We enjoyed all of the shorts, and highly recommend catching them if you have the opportunity. Have fun watching the Oscars, and may the best films win!
*update: we were right — The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore took home the Oscar!
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