It’s that time of year again. The Oscars! The talk around the prestigious March 4 Academy Award show is now in full effect. The nominees have just been released and as always there are a couple of surprises.

I’m assuming everyone else is going to cover the snubs and surprises and since I really haven’t seen enough films to have a good feel for those, here’s a very brief summation of my impression. No Armie Hammer?? surprised me. James Franco after his golden globe win didn’t even get nominated, a lot of people are claiming that this is because of the allegations against him but I don’t think this is true. The votes where already casted prior [or was on the day before ballots due date] to the Franco accusations, sure without the announcement the academy could have retconned his nomination, but I just think the academy doesn’t accept “weird” young people similar to how last year Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the golden globe for his role as that creepy weirdo from Nocturnal Animals. Plus, the Academy just likes them some Denzel Washington. Congrats to Rachel Morrison for being the first female cinematographer to get nominated, it should be no competition, Roger Deakins made a hell of a pretty movie with Blade Runner 2049. It seemed like every movie that I thought deserved to get some recognition did, sorry to Wonder Woman I think it’s doing fine without the awards.

There’s so many categories out there and it’s a shame that some get overlooked, that’s why I’m here to make sure you Know Your Nominee: Oscars Animated Short (2018 addition). So who do we have and who deserves the win?

Honorable Mentions ( The shorts of the Shortlist)

So what ended up happening was I tried watching either trailers or the short films themselves but I ended up finding the Oscars shortlist and finding the 5 films who came up just short and after watching them I’m disappointed in that some of them didn’t so I want to give recognition to those films as well.

10. Life Smartphone

Related image

If you thought Black Mirror wanted, you to get off your damn phone then you haven’t seen Life Smartphone. Director Chenglin Xie from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts decided to comment on the social ill that is what he describes as “head bowers” and in a darkly comedic way, show just how hazardous our addiction can be. Life Smartphone full of splattering bodies reminisce of the happy tree friends and just a crude art style to give you an odd feeling.

Why it wasn’t nominated:

Personally, I’m not fond of the grotesque art style. The simplistic message, barren backdrops, simple motions, and short run time doesn’t help its case either. It’s still a major accomplishment to be on this list and given the certainly smaller scope of Xie’s production size it’s certainly something to give props to.

While country restrictions make this a tough find, Max Plenke at Mic has an article which features gifs of film, which you can view here.

9. Lost Property Office

So… this is embarrassing. I’m a hack fraud and watched the wrong film. When trying to find “Lost Property Office” I found a short from 2015 titled “Lost Property”. First Lost property was very heart-warming, It presents a good whimsical and enjoyable sweet and touching short viewing that isn’t impeccable but still is something I’d recommend giving a try. Watch that one by clicking here.

Lost Property Office is a stop motion movie that’s made entirely out of the most interesting medium: cardboard.

“The art deco, post–industrial inspired world was realised by hand in Daniel’s beloved medium of cardboard over a preproduction period of 18 months. The entire film was fashioned from over 2,500 sheets of recycled cardboard, patiently hand-cut using 1,287 scalpel blades to create 1258 elaborate set pieces and delicate individual props”

“The natural sepia tones of the cardboard were carefully lit and photographed 24 times for every second of the 13,680 final frames (9 minutes), giving the film a warm other-worldly glow and unique aesthetic” lostpropertyoffice.com

That just speaks for itself, a meticulous amount of work went into this film and it’s an appreciated effort. Finally a film where the phrase your set looks like it was made out of cardboard is completely justified and not an insult. The Film is by Daniel Agdag and Liz Kearney.

Why it didn’t get nominated:

Cardboard unfortunately has an effect of making everything a tiny bit dull. I think the monochromatic design is used appropriately but it’s another dull and mundane world gets enlightened story

Watch the trailer here:

8. Fox and The Whale

Image result for the fox and the whale animated short

Robin Joseph (Director), Kim Leow (Character animation), Louis Vottero (Character Rig) and John Poon (Music) collectively present a tour de force that makes me deeply sad to see them this low on the list. Imagine this Oscar speech:

“It is a self-financed independent production. My little experiment made over the course of 16 months. The production part of the film was just myself and my girlfriend Kim Leow. Kim was the sole CG character animator on the piece, and I did everything else” – Robin Joseph

Fox and the Whale looks absolutely gorgeous. Easily the most cinematic and visually stunning of all the shorts listed. The vastness of the landscapes is nothing “short” of remarkable. I love the simplicity of the Fox’s design how its pretty much just a bunch of triangles and a tail. The mood is very peaceful, very tranquil. The way the fox moves jumping around these large areas gave me a similar feeling to exploration platform games such as Limbo and Night in the Woods which if the partnered with a game developer and sold it on steam I would love to just explore similar settings.

Why It didn’t get nominated:

The film is abstract, and I think it’s lack of a structured story hurts it. Also, without any studio pull no one really was fighting on it’s behalf. My only nitpicks would be that there could have be more coherent symbolism, the fox could have been a cleaner design (though the design wants me to get out there and start animating simple shape people) and the sound design of the foxes footsteps bothered me a bit. Still it’s an utterly beautiful film and one you need to check out.

Watch the animated short here:

7. Cradle

Image result for cradle animated short

Cradle is too touching, I’m a soulless movie critic and two of the shorts got me going emotionally. I like the chalk aesthetic of the film it’s the most visually appealing variant from the bunch. I don’t want to spoil anything because you got to watch it dummy, congrats to Director Devon Manney I thought it brought a lot of humanity to the story it tried to tell and that’s a commendable effort that deserves recognition.

Why didn’t it get nominated?

6 out of the 10 films on the shortlist came from some degree of production studio. All 5 Oscar nominees are of that 6. Still it makes sense these young and independent animators who will have time to hone their craft and that professionals with access to better equipment be treated as such. Cradle also has the rarity of voice acting which is unique but not the best attribute. Whether not the best voice actors or sound mixing or the combination of both it admittedly feels like someone talking into a microphone. I still stress this one’s endearing and I recommend giving it a gander.

what the short here:

6. In a Heartbeat

Image result for in a heartbeat

Honestly based on my acquired taste I would probably say the last two are more attune to my liking, but I put this one higher because I honestly thought this had a chance to win. Maybe you saw this one on Facebook earlier this year like I did, directors Esteban Bravo and Beth David create a sappy love story, a typical boy meets boy.

“It still makes sense when it’s a boy and a girl because that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t be afraid to disclose their feelings. But when it’s put in the context of LGBT characters, there were so many more layers to explore, and we could infuse the story with our own backgrounds.”

I don’t think this film is only propped up by it’s message, I think it’s well made and tells a story well. The premise of it seems like something you’d see before a Disney movie, and given that this was a rare occasion of short film spreading and going viral, I’m shocked it didn’t get nominated.

Why It didn’t get the nod?

Why have Disney lite when you can have Disney itself. Again, with no studio campaign, and drawing too many similarities to Disney’s collection of shorts it’s hard for this one to grow it’s own identity. I’m sure someone dismissed it as LGBT propaganda or a done to death love story only prevalent based on character sex.

Watch the short here:

The Nominees (in no order)

Revolting Rhymes

Oscars animated Short revolting rhymes.jpg

What is it:

Based of the works of Roald Dahl, this animated short directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer gives a quirky adaption to Dahl’s twisted fairy tales. I tried looking for the full version, but I only found an episode streaming on a website that looked like it was going to make my computer HIV+ . I saw a couple trailers, to get a good feel for it.

Perfectly calibrated for older elementary students yearning to find themselves outside the box of traditional narratives, Revolting Rhymes is an antidote for anyone looking for a happy ending that is more mischievously sticky than sweet.

Why it Wins:

Dahl mixed with fairy tales gives some familiarity to the academy. Much credit is given to the recreation of the 2-D illustrations and how they’ve been recreated with 3-D models.

Why It loses:

I’m not quite sure the charmingly ugly illustrations of Quentin Blake translated over into a very appealing character models. Certainly, one for the odd-balls, I’m not sold that the academy goes in a direction this strange.

Watch the trailer here:

Garden Party

Oscar nom Garden Party short.jpg

“A female frog graciously swims in the water, catching the attention of a curious male toad. In the rich villa those amphibians took for residence, everything is very silent. Frogs explore their surroundings and follow their primal instincts. The owners seems to be gone for a very long time”

The team for this one is comprised of: Florian Babikian, Vincent Bayoux, Victor Caire, Théophile Dufresne, Gabriel Grapperon, Lucas Navarro.

Why it Wins:

The 3-D rendering for this is just amazing. The scenery is phenomenal and the attentiveness to detail with the textures and the lighting which is especially difficult looks miraculous. With there behind the scenes trailer you get a glimpse of the amount of rigging went into the frog’s motion.

Why It loses:

Maybe it was just me but I felt the animation of the movement seemed too mechanical and not as fluid. While this one is technically impressive I don’t think it has the story to back it to be as highly well received as some of it’s competitors.

Watch the trailer here:

Negative Spaces

OscarNom_negativespaces.jpg

What a tidy tale. Negative Spaces is this year’s representation in stop-motion. This is another one that you’ll have to go out of your way to watch it at the moment. The stop motion marvel is from directors Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter. The film is based off a poem of the same name by Ron Koertge. Read the poem here.

Why it wins:

This minimalist tale has a unique focus on fabrics and textures. If the academy decides that more is less than this story is very pleasing. Reminisce of the Wes Anderson style: busy frames, patterns, and symmetric elements makes for a small joyful experience.

Why it loses:

I believe that stop motion is more of an acquired taste. The story is nice and simple but it’s simplicity could get chalked up as a lack of depth. The character design is maybe not the easiest on the eyes. The main factor will be if it lands the ending which is a big factor of the poem.

Watch the trailer here:

Dear Basketball

Oscar Nominated Kobe Bryant Short.jpg

The controversial one of the bunch. Dear Basketball is a riveting animation that triumphantly retells the glory of Kobe Bryant’s NBA career and the acceptance of letting it go. Dear Basketball takes Bryant’s poem and elevates it through epic hand-drawn style animation and a score composed by the legendary John Williams.

Why it wins:

I almost cried. I’m not a fan of Kobe but damn this some good stuff. John Williams score just brings the images to life. The “Take on Me” style animation both portrays the hustle of the game, and the basks in the glory to perfection. I think as someone who grew up with this sport and as some of the great athletes I know our starting to retire I’ve deeper thought of how difficult retirement must be. To put your hard work, complete dedication of your heart and soul and to have to move on by the time you hit 40 years of age is rough. Dear Basketball captures passion perfectly, and it’s a love letter to the things we’re passionate about. Kobe Bryant has had a career of capturing gold, this could be another moment on top for Kobe.

Why it loses:

I’m not the only person who doesn’t consider myself a fan of the former Laker. I disliked his play-style as being a “ball hog” and overall kind of arrogant and was always a little bother how he kind of got to sweep those rape allegations under the rug. Apparently only now in the #Metoo movement era are people actually saying “hey that Kobe Bryant might not be the best guy”. A petition has been started to rescind the nomination. Basing it from an objective standpoint, Bryant isn’t much of a poet, his artist merit of his verbose language is well lacking the same swift strokes of the quill  such as Shakespeare or T.S. Elliot . A bit of a cliché might be the reason this one gets away.

Watch this one here (fair warning for possible video player issues, should still be able to find it other places)

https://www.go90.com/videos/261MflWkD3N

LOU

LOU_Pixar animated short.jpg

You saw this if you went and saw Cars 3, director Dave Mullins bring us Lou. Lou stands for “lost and found” … if you don’t think about it. Toys in the lost and found try to bring joy to the children of the playground. When a bully comes and starts messing with everyone’s stuff, Lou must confront him and teach him a lesson no one’s ever heard before, that it’s better to give then to receive.

Why It Wins

“Pixar films have very specific ingredients. They have heart, meaning that the character is flawed, in some way, and experiences personal growth, over the course of the film. There’s entertainment, which means that the story has to be unpredictable and funny. There’s a setting, which means it needs to take the viewers to a place they haven’t been before and that’s exciting and new. And then, there’s animation, which means that the film could only be done in animation and it must use animation’s full potential. It’s those ingredients that appeal to a wider audience, so that everybody gets something out of the story you’re telling” – 

Just yeah that pretty much sums it up well, Pixar gives a lot of thought into how to story-craft. The animation of these things forming together is very inventive and fun. I do however wonder if there is some recycled animation from the Septopus from Finding Dory (Damn that movies forgettable, I bet you thought he was an octopus, I bet you don’t remember his name either). This is easily not one of the worst shorts by Pixar who surprisingly doesn’t have an monopoly on the Shorts category but is tough to bet against.

Why It loses

Hahahahaha. Yeah, c’mon it’s gonna win.

Watch a teaser clip:

In Conclusion

I was so glad I took the time to thrust myself into these vignettes as they all stand to tell that brevity is the soul of wit. I feel like short form storytelling often goes under-appreciated, while they may not be the spectacle showing at your local cinema, the homage to the personal nickelodeons of yester years, short films still can tell deeply rich narratives in a small personalized setting. Whether it be from experienced veterans, or innovative new comers these shorts where amazing to indulge in and if you haven’t then I highly encourage you to do so. Animation highly displays the versatility of storytelling and the expansion of the art form known as film.

Thanks to anyone reading and watching along. Which one of these shorts was your favorite? Are you excited for the Oscars? Let me know, comment below, leave a like if you liked, and be sure to follow if you’d like to see more. Have a good day and I’ll see you at the movies!

 


 

Information on LOU: Christina Radish, Collider

Info on Negative Spaces:

Ramin Zahed, Animation Magazine

Jennifer Wolfe, Animation World Network

Info on In a Heartbeat:

Jake Nevins, The Guardian

Info on Fox & the Whale:

Robin Joseph’s official site Patchoforange.com

Info for Lost Property Office:

http://lostpropertyoffice.com.au/

Information on Garden Party

https://www.gardenparty-movie.com/teaser

Info on Revolting Rhymes:

Timeslive

Shout out to  Zack Sharf, IndieWire for doing an article on the short list which made this all possible.

 

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