2013 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation

OscarShorts2013poster1Featuring the 2013 Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Short Film:

Adam And Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’
Paperman

Directors: Minkyu Lee (Adam And Dog), PES (Fresh Guacamole), Timothy Reckart (Head Over Heels), David Silverman (Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’), John Kahrs (Paperman)
Rating: Unrated (with Adam and Dog featuring some animated male and female nudity)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Date: February 1, 2013

Shorts HD and Shorts International.

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OVERALL GRADE: ★

For years, no one knew about or much cared about the short film Oscar categories. My mother, the source for my rabid Oscar obsession, used to bemoan their existence claiming they were a waste of television time and took away from seeing the “celebrities we all tune in for.” As I have grown older, I have a wildly different view and see these animated, live action, and documentary short films as little discoveries. More short films are made then feature length films and yet, the visibility of these films is miniscule at best. If you attend film festivals, you will find dozens of short films compressed into a program or series of special presentations. Lost in the shuffle are countless works that end up on YouTube or Vimeo and live for the hopes of one day being discovered. Each year I am privileged to see these nominated works and applaud the artistry and the dedication it takes to get on Oscar’s radar. Long ago, I stopped seeing the Oscars as the definitive definer in what is or is not a good movie, but with the short film categories, due to a lack of accessibility and consistently impressive nominated films, I assume the nominating branches got it right.

This year, the five Animated Short Film nominees offer a dizzying blend of creativity. From stop-motion animation to traditional hand-drawn animation and one film which seamlessly integrates computer animation and hand-drawn technique in an innovative new style, this maybe the finest set of Animated Short nominees ever. While you chew on that hyperbole, all of these films offer something fantastic and I have had the privilege of seeing these films several times now.  FUN FACT: None of the nominees contain any dialogue whatsoever.

Former Disney animator Minkyu Lee’s Adam and Dog offers a glimpse as to what life might have been like if Adam had a canine companion with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Looking like a Disney film from the pre-Toy Story boom period that made Disney the most consistent and rewarding movie studio on the planet, Lee’s blending of sound design and score tempers the potential blasphemous content, which is really actually innocuous. For those who want to show this to their children, Adam and Eve are drawn sans clothing. There is nothing salacious in the presentation of the characters, but questions may arise from younger viewers. ★1/2.

The shortest Oscar nominated film of all time, Fresh Guacamole is an infinitely watchable magic trick involving a man making fresh guacamole with an avocado, a pepper, a tomato, a lime, an onion, and chips. Except…the objects which stand in for those ingredients are similar looking, but completely inedible objects (i.e. a grenade as an avocado, a baseball as an onion, a pin cushion tomato for the actual tomato, etc.). The masterful editing is what lends this to countless repeated viewings and at a mere 1:41 of running time, you instantly want to start the film over and figure out how monopoly houses, poker chips, Christmas lights, white dice and various other things work themselves into the production. Simply a delight. ★★★★1/2.

Head Over Heels is a fascinating stop-motion piece that had to be next to impossible to orchestrate. In some ways, this is the most technically accomplished of the nominees as director Timothy Reckert provides us the story of an old married couple who have grown tired of one another. They live in opposite worlds, literally, but within the same house. To watch this, you really need to see this more than once to examine the artistry on display because there are so many details that are easy to miss. Reckert has things happening all over the screen, and if I have one complaint, it is that the craftsmanship and the visual beauty overwhelm a rather tender story of an older couple trying to reconnect over an important symbol of their marriage. Timothy Reckert’s groundbreaking work feels important in what it is trying to accomplish and achieves more inventiveness than countless other films – animated or otherwise. .

Debuting in front of Ice Age: Continental Drift this summer, Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’ is a whimsical and savvy little gem featuring the eternal pacifier-clad toddler from the Simpsons clan getting dropped off at the Ayn Rand School For Tots. Immediately placed in the “Nothing Special” room, Maggie encounters a unibrow-clad menace, who delights in malleting butterflies and intimidating this newest of attendees. Always wiser than everyone in the room, Maggie finds a way to outwit her companion and survive her first day. To see The Simpsons finally score an Oscar nomination after two decades in production is some kind of wonderful, and this film is all kinds of charming. .

And then we have Paperman. I am unabashedly in love with this extraordinary film and almost considered including it in my Best of 2012 lists. Disney unveiled this in front of Wreck-It Ralph and many people felt this was the better portion of the double feature. In breathtaking black-and-white, director John Kahrs tells a silent story of a man and woman who meet, develop an immediate spark for one another, and then are separated by the necessities of daily life. Then, in a twist of fate, the man sees the woman in a high-rise across the way and uses the only tools at his disposal, a voluminous pile of paperwork, to gain her attention. Where Paperman goes next is something truly magical and achingly beautiful, Kahrs’ masterful command of story works in perfect synergy with Christophe Beck’s beautiful score. Like the best films, Paperman feels instantaneously a classic, employing a groundbreaking technology to blend CGI and hand-drawn animation flawlessly. I cannot praise this film enough and will be fitfully dismayed to not see it take home the Oscar. .

In any other year, this field could all be frontrunners. You never know on Oscar night, as the lesser profile categories can yield some surprises, but when viewing these films multiple times, I really think this is Paperman‘s Oscar to lose.

SHOULD I SEE IT?
YES
  • Always a great presentation, you have to look fast because the Short films are only in theaters for a brief time.
  • Oscar pools and Oscar party contests can be won and lost with the Short Film categories. Experiencing these nominees achieves both a better chance at victory and the opportunity to see some terrific and original films.
NO
  • Casual movie watchers tend to watch high profile, big name star movies and convincing people to watch short films is a challenge. No matter how good these films are, a large number of people are not going to care much.
  • You are not a fan of a wide range of genres and themes. You never know what you are going to get with these short film presentations and that mix of styles can throw people off.

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