There are always categories presented during the Oscars which no one understands or know what to pick. For the most part, those are the technical awards that only mean things to the people who work in those films. However, the shorts, be they live action or animated typically get overlooked as well for not being in theaters for the consumption of the general public. Which is a real shame, because this is a very good year for animation on all fronts.
Let’s take a look at the 2015 Academy Award Nominees for Best Animated Short.
The Bigger Picture
Definitely the most adult of all the nominees, The Bigger Picture deals with two radically different brothers taking care of their elderly mother and dealing with issues of family and mortality. I think I like this particular short the least. The art style is innovative but not very appealing in motion, and while the subject matter is dealt with seriously, it feels as though the narrative needed more room to breathe and expand on the brothers’ lives and actions. That’s not to say the short doesn’t deserve merit, it simply needs more in the narrative department.
The Dam Keeper
One of the most unexpectedly charming shorts on the nature of bullying, The Dam Keeper tackles the subject withe grace and nuance I’ve only seen in ParaNorman. It follows a young pig whose job it is to keep the windmill running so the town won’t be plunged into toxic darkness, but he is constantly made fun of and ignored by everyone else. A fox moves into the town and befriends the pig, but after a misunderstanding over a drawing, things that a turn for the worst. I love the art style of this short, and how well it is able to convey messages without words, especially about such a tough subject. Definitely track this one down if at all possible, it’s a miniature masterpiece.
This one is the most seen, because it aired in movie theaters nationwide before Big Hero 6, and Disney typically makes it into this category whenever they have a short to show off. Feast is one of the better ones to be sure. It follows the tale of a dog named Winston who is adopted by a man and eat basically everything, from bacon and eggs to steak and more. But when his own falls in love with a health-conscious waitress, it looks like the feast is over. What I love about the film is that it is full of bright color, gorgeous artwork, and is a story told from a non-human perspective, and all with an excellent balance of humor and drama.
Me and My Moulton
This film is the most dialogue heavy of the set, told from the perspective of the middle child in a family of architects. Me and My Moulton is exemplary of a more European style, bringing in bits and pieces of a complex emotional experience rather than a straight narrative. As a mood piece, it works incredibly well, especially when examining life in a less than traditional family and experiencing embarrassment and love. You can’t help but feel this is a very personal piece, and it is that familiarity that makes it such an enjoyable watch.
A Single Life
A Single Life is the shortest of the nominees, coming in at only 2 minutes long. This dialogue-less short concerns a woman who gets a mysterious record in the mail. When she plays it, she finds that skipping forward and backward makes her life move forwards and back as well. Ultimately, in her curiosity, she ends up killing herself (literally) without having lived her life. The humor is spot on here with perfect time and stellar choice of music. The concept is not entirely original but it does manage to play with expectations, and is a perfect bite-sized treat of a film that will have you in stitches.
If I had to say who I’d want to win, it would be The Dam Keeper or A Single Life, but for two different reasons. The former is a beautifully rendered tale of hardship, compassion, and doing what is right in the face of adversity, and the latter is a perfectly captured a sense of humor and comedic timing that has to be cherished. Feast is the most likely to win since it has Disney’s name in front of it, but the category is fill with small wonders that are all worth exploring.