2012 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films

2012 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films – The past few years a company called Shorts HD (formerly Shorts International) has been released the Academy Award Nominated Short Films. There are three categories: Live Action, Animation, and Documentary (which was unfortunately screened only one night in Sacramento so I missed it). These are the Animation nominees. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my favorite year for this category. Still there is much worth seeing.

Dimanche/Sunday (2011, Canada, directed by Patrick Doyon) – A lot of people tend to romanticize childhood as a constantly happy time of running and playing all the time. Others have better memories and remember that while yes, there were times of happiness (maybe even MOST times) there were also times of bleakness and despair (or what passes for despair amongst children). Sometimes movies hit on this and I tend to like them. This one didn’t quite get there for me. Tonally, I rather liked it and the intentionally-crappy style of the animation worked for that but not enough happened to make me care. All in all, not crazy about it.

A Morning Stroll (2011, United Kingdom, directed by Grant Orchard) – Now any film that contain the words “based on a true story” as well as zombies has my undying love. The true story in question is a man walks down the street in New York sees a chicken doing the same. The chicken walks up to a door. He pecks the door, like he was knocking. The door opens and lets the chicken in and closes behind him. Now we see this play out three times, with three different animation styles. The first is in the past with a visually striking yet somehow antiquated style. The second is a sort of pop art style that represents our modern era with iPods and smart phones and doohickeys… The third is computer-generated, in the future, and there are zombies (well, a zombie). Top it all off with a simple punch line (that had me splitting my side) and that’s this movie. Very enjoyable.

Wild Life (2011, Canada, directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby) – The visual style of this film is very striking. It has a very painterly style that is beautiful to look at. It is about an Englishman who travels out to settle the Canadian frontier, with no real experience to prepare him for doing so. There are also several interludes that explain things about comets. Why those interludes are present is never very clear, although one can infer a couple different conclusions from the ending. There’s a lot to like about Wild Life but it feels like it’s missing something and consequently falls a bit short.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011, United States, directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg) – This one is hand-down my absolute favorite of the bunch by a mile. I gave some lukewarm-to-weak reviews of the earlier flicks, but this one by itself would justify the price of admission. The movie centers on the Buster Keaton-inspired title character who is reading a book when a hurricane strikes, blowing the letters off of the page. It whisks him away Wizard of Oz-style to a magical lands where books fly like birds and he is put in charge of a magical library. The rather unsubtle message is “reading is magic” and I agree one hundred percent. I found this short little film magical, whimsical, and deeply moving. I couldn’t even really explain why, but my eyes were tearing up by the end. I love this short and it’s my pick for the best of the bunch.

La Luna (2011, United States, directed by Enrico Casarosa) – For the first year in which a) the Best Animated Feature Oscar has existed and b) Pixar has put out a feature length film, this is the very first year Pixar has not had a nominee in that category. Now while I agree that Cars 2 is Pixar’s weakest film, if you consider all their other films that’s hardly an insult. I still found it rather enjoyable and better than Puss in Boots which somehow WAS nominated (though Rango should and hopefully will win regardless). They’re making up ground in the shorts category though with La Luna. It is about a boy, his father, and his grandfather taking a boat out to the moon and cleaning it up. It’s creative and whimsical and done in fine Pixar fashion. It would probably be my favorite if it weren’t for the flying books that carried my heart away…

Highly Commended – Because the animated films tend to be shorter they don’t fill the 90-120 minutes the organizers feel are needed to justify a full ticket price, so they throw in a couple honorary mentions to pad the total running time. There was one about a guy on the road in Australia trying to bum a cigarette off a fellow motorist (and I can’t for the life of me remember the title). There’s one called The Hybrid Solution which is about a competition between several little robots that serves as an extremely unsubtle allegory for the world’s power-generating situation. There’s also one called Skylight, also ostensibly with an environmental message but mostly just about watching animals get zapped into roast geese (no matter what kind of animal they actually are) by the hole in the ozone layer (it’s done in retro film reel style). It’s good for a few chuckles.

These are still playing in theaters around the country. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is the only one I would rank as absolutely must-see, but it is worth seeing on the big screen and that justifies the cost of admission. La Luna will probably play before Brave later this year, I would think. I’m not really sure how to predict the winner in this category. The Academy Awards have always been just as much politics as actual quality (Crash over Brokeback Mountain? What the fuck?!?!?) and I’m not really familiar with the politics of the short film categories. However, I imagine the same Academy that showered 11 nominations on Hugo would probably agree with my choice and reward The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Hooray!

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  1. […] Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – (see my article on the category) […]

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