For the seventh year in a row, Ian and I watched the Oscar-nominated animated shorts (our fifth year watching at the Coolidge Corner Theatre). Our prediction record is now 3 for 4, counting just the years we've seen all the animated shorts. Here's hoping we're 4 for 5 after tonight!
Me and My Moulton — This was a delightful recounting of a memorable summer for a young Norwegian girl and her two sisters growing up in the 60s. Their quirky and unconventional parents, both modern architects, often leave their daughter uncomfortable, wishing they could be more like other families. But over the course of that summer she learns to appreciate her family, quirks and all. I loved both the storytelling style and the bright, simple, yet expressive animation. Ian and I relate closely to the parents' design sense, which made us enjoy the short even more. (Someday, we are going to be those parents. #notpregnant)
Feast — This year's Disney short is a boy-meets-girl story told from the perspective of the boy's dog — more specifically, the dog's food bowl. Food is love, so reflecting the story of a relationship through a series of meals is an intriguing concept. However, the pet perspective reminded us of Adam and Dog, a 2013 animated short nominee. The animation also felt very similar to Disney's Paperman from two years ago. Like Paperman, this short was sweet but a bit contrived, and the ending seemed too cliché.
The Bigger Picture — Two brothers deal with the responsibility of caring for their aging mother. Her increasing dependency changes her relationship with each of her sons, and also reveals the brothers' differences. Most impressive is the stop motion animation of the characters, painted life-sized, frame-by-frame, on the walls of the rooms, and the way they interact with the three-dimensional rooms and the objects the contain. This unique technique combined with the creators' willingness to address such a difficult topic makes this a serious contender for the Oscar.
A Single Life — An album mysteriously turns up at the door of a young woman, and it turns out to be, quite literally, the record of her life. It's a hilarious two minutes of film that still achieves a poignant message about what can happen when we're in a hurry to get to the next phase in life. And the soundtrack is fantastic.
The Dam Keeper — A young pig has inherited his father's job as dam keeper, protecting his small town from the ominous dark cloud on the other side of the wall. His job is thankless and unappreciated, and the other animals at school bully the dirty pig. When a new student appears at school, the pig begins to hope he might not be so alone. But with friendship comes vulnerability. The story touches on important issues of bullying, loneliness, and metal health. Beautiful and epic, this is my pick to take home the Oscar.
Highly Commended Shorts
Sweet Cocoon — A well-fed caterpillar needs some help squeezing into her tiny cocoon. Two kind bugs work hard to assist her, with surprising results. I loved the almost slapstick comedy, and the humor of a lady working hard to wear a too-small dress translates so well into the insect world.
Footprints — From the creator of The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger is a story of a man who wakes up in the middle of the night to a crash through his window. He grabs his gun to track down the intruder, and with each new clue, the imagined monster grows larger. This was a dark short with a deep twist, the meaning of which we're still debating.
The Duet — Glen Keane, an animator who worked on The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, and many other Disney classics, created this short for Google's new virtual world app. A love story is told in one continuous spiraling shot, twisting to follow the two characters crossing paths until they finally unite. It's a beautiful animated short, which I can imagine is even more impressive when experienced in the viewer for which it was created.
Bus Story — A woman has an idyllic dream of life as a school bus driver, picking up happy children and waving at parents while rolling along the beautiful Canadian countryside. When she gets the opportunity to drive the only school bus in town, she soon feels the reality of a temperamental boss, charmless passengers, and an unwieldy bus. This was a delightfully funny short, and I particularly loved the narrator.