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 of Flights, Tights and Movie Nights is here to look at the nominees for Best Short Film (Animated).
Best Short Film (Animated)
I’m back for the fourth year in a row to help out the Lamb cover the Oscar nominees with the only category that I really enjoy. And once again I was able to see all of the nominees in theaters. I always find the Oscar nominated shorts to be fascinating and there are often a few trends here and there. This year it seems like the trend that comes across all of the nominees are heart wrenching moments. Even though a few of them have their lighthearted moments, they all at one point or another really pull at your heartstrings. And as is common with animated short films, there are quite a few that have no spoken lines of dialogue, and only one that actually has the main characters speaking to each other. There are also several different types of animation and a couple foreign entries as well.
This short was initially launched with a Kickstarter campaign by animator Matthew A. Cherry before it was picked up by Sony Pictures Animation to be released with The Angry Birds Movie 2. It’s a touching short that focuses on naturally Black hairstyles in a way that’s initially very lighthearted but becomes touching towards the end. It’s centered around a young girl with a giant poof of natural hair and a tablet watching a hair tutorial. After her failure, her father steps in and hilarity ensues. What’s great are the narrative touches that this short uses. There isn’t any dialogue between any of the characters that are physically present, but we do hear the voice from the YouTube tutorial. There are hints at something being wrong with the mother, she might have died, but it’s eventually revealed that she’s in the hospital with cancer and she has lost her hair to chemotherapy. This short has a lot going for it. The animation is very clean and crisp, the characters look great, there’s some nice physical comedy especially with the father initially tackling the hair before trying to just cover it up with a knit cap. And it ends on such a sweet note, it’s hard not to love this one. Also, as of right now, it’s available to watch on YouTube via Sony Pictures Animation.
Daughter is an entry from Czech animator Daria Kashcheeva that uses an interesting method of stop motion that resembles paper mache. It’s a silent film that looks at the relationship between a father and daughter as he is in the hospital and they both remember moments from their past when they failed to connect to each other. The short is completely without dialogue, and the faces have no articulation outside of painted eyes, but just through the sound design and subtle movements, the animation is able to convey so much emotion. It’s also impressive that the camera is constantly in motion to resemble a handheld style of filmmaking. While there has been more camera movement in stop motion films, the movement is usually limited as it’s easier to control things when the camera is locked off. But the motion of the camera also helps to offset the lack of expression in the immovable faces of the two characters. There are a lot of surreal elements as the daughter remembers dressing up as an injured bird to try and get her father’s attention and it’s able to evoke strong emotions with so little content.
Sister is a Chinese stop motion short from animator Siqi Song. Like Daughter, it uses a unique stop motion style with felt-like characters, and while there is also no dialogue between the characters, there is a narrator mainly at the beginning and end of the short. This short is a “what if” scenario that’s brought about because of China’s one child policy, although the “what if” portion of the scenario comes out as a surprise at the end. Initially, it’s presented as a man’s memories of his annoying little sister at various points in his life, exaggerated at certain points by having his sister as an infant growing into a giant baby that literally eats his toys before he deflates her like a balloon by pulling on her outie bellybutton. There are some interesting visuals throughout this short, and the comedy during the flashbacks bring a melancholy moment when you realize that they are things that never actually happened. And the felt style of stop motion is incredibly unique as something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
Kitbull is an American animated short directed by Rosana Sullivan through Pixar’s Spark Shorts program. Despite being made through Pixar, it’s a traditionally animated short with a very soft pastel, almost watercolor feel to it. It’s almost a typical odd couple tale of friendship between a kitten and a pitbull, although like with all of the shorts this year there are a couple heartbreaking/heartwarming moments after we learn that the pitbull’s owner is using him for dogfighting. And like several of the other shorts, there is no dialogue, the dog and cat communicate through body language, and actual animal sounds. Despite being stylized, the movements and behaviors of both the dog and cat feel very natural and realistic as they bond as the kitten plays with a bottlecap despite the fact that the kitten is constantly afraid of the much larger dog. This feels like the most familiar short, it’s paced nicely, and has a familiar mix of comedy with a dramatic climax and a happy ending. It really feels very Disney, but in a good way. And as of right now, it’s available to watch on Pixar’s YouTube channel as well as streaming on Disney+.
Mémorable is a French short film from animator Bruno Collet through UniFrance. Unlike the other nominees this year, this is the one short with full dialogue throughout the run time as we follow painter Louis as he struggles with an unnamed degenerative neurological disease that causes him to forget things and not be able to recognize familiar objects. The animation style is fascinating as it is CGI, but it looks like three dimensional sculptures made out of paint strokes reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh. We see the world mostly through Louis’s eyes as a cell phone becomes an unrecognizable swirling lump of paint that floats up in the air as droplets. One of the most striking scenes is when he doesn’t recognize his wife and think’s she’s just some random woman, but he dances with her anyway. Louis is fully rendered as he always has been, but his now-unrecognizable wife Michelle is represented as only a handful of white smears of paint around her invisible body. The short is full of dark comedy as Louis retains his sense of humor and keeps his tone light while as an audience we are aware of the heartbreak Michelle must feel as she sees the man she knew slipping away from her despite still being right in front of her.
Diversity has been a frequent topic of discussion as of late, especially in the film industry. While I haven’t paid too much attention to the rest of the nominees outside of Joker’s surprising number of nominations, I’m quite happy to see a wide range of diversity in this specific category at least. While there are often at least a couple foreign nominations in this category, there are three films from women directors and Hair Love is very much about Black culture by a Black director. It’s a really strong group of nominees this year, with the one weak spot for me being Sister. I’m not too big on predictions, but I would really love to see this one go to Mémorable, but I honestly think it will be down to Kitbull or Hair Love, and I think I would give the slight edge to Hair Love this year.