Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far .
Today, Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights is here to look at the nominees for Best Animated Short Film.
Best Animated Short
Aside from superhero and comic book movies, I’ve always loved animation. And this will be the third time in a row that I’ve written about the animated short film nominees for the LAMB, but what’s different this time around is that I was finally able to get a chance to see all the nominees in theaters. I had only seen one of the nominees previously as it aired before Incredibles 2 and this year there seems to be a couple themes that run through several of the nominees. That of childhood/growing up and several dealt with Asian culture in one way or another.
Once again, Pixar gets nominated as it typically does with their short film. This time around it’s nice because it’s not just an Asian director, but also a woman. The story is a little bit on the weird side when compared to the typical Pixar short as it’s much more metaphorical and less literal. There’s still a fair amount of humor and heart, but there seems to be a divisive moment where the mother eats her metaphorical dumpling child that’s either a heartbreaking metaphorical moment, or a hilariously absurd moment depending on your point of view. The story overall is quite sweet and it’s easy to make the connection about how mother and son connect over making and eating food together. The technical detail is also up to the Pixar standard, but there wasn’t anything that especially stood out as being exceptional or groundbreaking.
This is a more stylistic short that looks at an elderly woman with some form of memory loss in her old age, though it’s never named as Alzheimer’s or anything similar. Through brief moments of interacting with her daughter who is packing up her room, the woman swims through the water of her memory and reminisces about her past, finally recognizing her daughter at the end of the short, at least momentarily. The animation style is relatively simple and the story beats are simple, but effective. We get to see the older woman Emily start with a memory of herself writing her name in the sand with a stick, and later on we see a memory of her with her daughter doing the same thing. This is also the trigger that brings her memory back in the present.
This is the most comedic of all the nominees as a Canadian short film about a therapy session involving several animals. The humor is relatively dry and almost felt British at times as we get to see the new patient who is a gorilla with anger management issues completely call out the seemingly ineffectiveness of the therapy on the other group members before ultimately accepting the therapy in the end. The animation itself was fairly standard and the main draw of this short was the comedy which unfortunately rarely lands a win. There were some fun moments but nothing too memorable.
This one was my personal favorite, it had a unique style to it that felt very watercolor and simplified. But it was also quite abstract in the way it dealt with its subject matter. It is basically the story of a divorced couple who have a young son who stays with his dad on the weekends. As presented in the short, his mother’s place is very monochromatic and dull while his father’s place is colorful, filled with Japanese decorations, where they stay up late watching horror movies and Dire Straights’ Money For Nothing plays on a seemingly constant loop. There are also these bizarre dream sequences that often involve his mother’s new boyfriend with a candle at the top of his head. There is a lot of depth behind this one including hints of an abusive relationship and other difficulties divorced families have to deal with despite it having no dialogue.
One Small Step
This is another one that’s very reminiscent of Bao only it shifts its perspective from the father to the daughter. We get to see a simple shoemaker try to encourage his daughter’s dreams of becoming an astronaut despite her difficulties in school and track. After the father’s death, she becomes inspired to work harder on her dreams and eventually does get to become the astronaut that she always wanted to be. The animation is quite good though it’s a little short of the high bar that Pixar tends to set, and the message is a little overly optimistic.
Out of all of the nominees, Bao is likely the frontrunner despite the fact that Pixar has only won this award once in the past decade with Piper. And while it gets points for inclusion which is a bit of a buzzword in Hollywood lately, it feels very similar to the other short dealing with an Asian child growing up in One Small Step. For my part, I would really like to see Weekends win as it has a gorgeous animation style and tells a great story.