Short Stuff: Animation and Live Action Oscar Nominees
One of the delicious joys of Oscar season — beyond dissecting the nominations and speculating on who will win, of course — is the opportunity to catch up on the short form nominees all in one sitting. This year marks the tenth anniversary that the shorts in each category — animation, live action, and documentary — will each be grouped together and have their own theatrical release courtesy of ShortsHD.
There’s nothing like watching the films together to get a sense of perspective and better understand the filmmakers’ points of view. As always, they have much to say, and the international offerings reinforce the sense that cinema is truly a global form of expression. How cool is it to become enlightened about the world while sitting in the dark with a box of popcorn?
As the 87th Academy Awards show draws near on February 22, we decided to present a quick review of the shorts. But rather than cover all three categories in depth, The Credits chose to focus on the two that include fictional works: animation and live action. We don’t mean to slight the documentaries — they’re as brilliant as ever — we’re just dazzled by the imagination inherent in the storytelling of the animation and live action shorts.
The Bigger Picture: Using a stop-motion technique that involves life-sized wall-painted characters interacting with real objects on full-sized sets, this short skillfully blends 2-D with 3-D to tell the story of two brothers who struggle to care for their elderly mum. (Yes, it’s British, so you have the droll humor element.) It has earned acclaim at film festivals all over the world. Directed by Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
The Dam Keeper: From Pixar artists Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo comes an 18-minute gem about Pig, who scurries about trying to make sure a giant windmill keeps turning to hold back the clouds of billowing black smoke that threaten to engulf his town. And all that happens after putting in a full day at school. Tsutsumi was art director on Toy Story 3, Kondo on Monsters University, so you know you’ll see something truly original.
Feast: Disney director Patrick Osborne is building a quite a rep in the animation world. His short Paperman, won best Oscar in 2013. His first animated feature, Big Hero 6, is currently wowing audiences in theaters. The charming Feast, which runs before showings of Big Hero 6, has been called a heart-tugging treasure.” It’s about the relationship of a man and his dog based on the meals they share together. The delightful score is by composer Alex Ebert, the man behind the thrilling music in J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year. Kristina Reed co-directed.
Me and My Moulton: The simple, straight lines of this hand-animated wonder belie a story with depth from animator/illustrator Torill Kove, the Norwegian-born Canadian who won the Oscar in the category in 2006 for The Danish Poet. Moulton is about a 7-year-old girl and her sisters who ask for a bicycle from their parents, and deal with anticipated disappointment.
A Single Life: Dutch director Joris Oprins offers A Single Life, about a girl named Pia who travels back to her past life after finding and listening to a mysterious record. The characters have that exaggerated elongated look with dimensional shading that almost make them look like plastic figures come to life. From the animation studio Job, Joris & Marieke.
Short Film Nominations
AYA: This drama stars French-Israeli actress Sara Adler who plays a woman named Aya. While waiting for a friend at the airport in Jerusalem, Aya instead gives a ride to a complete stranger who gets into her car believing that she has been sent as his driver. Without revealing the mistake, Aya and the man — a judge arrived from Denmark for a piano competition — get into an provocative conversation that reveals all sorts of aspects of their personalities. Directed by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun
Boogaloo and Graham: Two young boys in 1970s Belfast, Ireland, discover the facts of life with the help of their chickens. What else is there to say?! Directed by Michael Lennox.
Butter Lamp: Starring real life nomads from Tibet, Butter Lamp seems almost as if it belongs in the documentary category. In fact, Beijing-born writer-director Hu Wei has said he wanted to create a movie somewhere between the doc and fiction genres. He has succeeded in this tale of a photographer and an assistant who try to convince villagers to have their picture taken. The cinematography is breathtaking.
Parvaneh: A young immigrant from Afghanistan arrives in a Swiss transit center and attempts to wire money — that she acquired illegally — home after learning her father’s health has deteriorated. Without being able to communicate effectively, and overwhelmed by her new life, she leans on a new friend for help. Directed by Talkhon Hamzavi.
The Phone Call: A winner at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, this British entry features Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent and Golden Globes winner Sally Hawkins. She plays Heather, who works at a hotline for help at a call center who receives a call from stranger. From there, a tale of life-altering experiences unfolds. Directed by Jim Kirby.