Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far: https://largeassmovieblogs.com/2018/01/the-lamb-devours-the-oscars-2018-roster.html
Today, Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights is here to look at this year’s animated short films.
It seems to have become a more regular occurrence for me to take a look at the animated short films nominated for an Oscar here at the LAMB as this will be my third time and second year in a row, and it’s definitely something that I enjoy doing from year to year as the animated shorts tend to be a fascinating crop of shorts that I would otherwise overlook… and the perennial Pixar nod. This year’s crop feels just a little different as it’s more crowded with more audience pleasing fare and fewer pieces of artistic expression.
Let’s get the biggest one out of the way first, Lou the short from Pixar that was included in front of Cars 3. It tells the tale of a creature made up of various items left in a schoolyard lost and found along with a little bully redemption. It falls right in line with everything that Pixar is known for: it looks gorgeous, it’s whimsical and creative to see these various toys and clothing form themselves in various formations to create an anthropomorphic character, while the heart of the story is a bully realizing that giving is much more fulfilling than taking away even as Lou essentially sacrifices himself to teach that lesson in a surprise heartwarming moment.
Next up is one of the most surprising shorts on the list, Garden Party tells the tale of a group of various frogs having the run of an abandoned mansion. This is one of the most technically amazing pieces of work as everything is rendered in CGI ultra-realism. It’s incredible how they were able to make a fat bullfrog look gorgeous. But what’s surprising is how subtly the tone shifts from a whimsical and humorous animation of frogs eating caviar and other sweets, then you start to see the flies surrounding food that has been left to rot, security cameras, the bullet holes, a pistol, and it gradually becomes clear that this was the headquarters of some type of opulent drug dealer. And in a surprise shocking twist, once one of the frogs turns the pool jets on, a bloated, rotting corpse splashes to the surface in all its disgustingly detailed CGI glory.
Another more audience pleasing entry which is currently streaming on Netflix in the US is Revolting Rhymes, a British production taking a twist on the classic fairy tales based on two of the poems from Roald Dahl and combines his already modern take on the tales and updates them even more as they take two stories of strong female characters Red Riding Hood and Snow White and add a touch of a love story. There’s also plenty of humor throughout, especially from the wraparound of the Wolf telling the tale to an unassuming nanny using the original text. The style mimics stop motion though it is actually CGI and feels like it would fit right alongside Hoodwink’d, although with none of the crass or pop culture humor and more class and style.
One of the more unusual entries this year is Dear Basketball from NBA star Kobe Bryant based on his letter that he wrote to announce his retirement from basketball. It’s done in a simple and elegant sketch style with smooth transitions and a decently nostalgic tone to it, but even with a score by John Williams, there’s not really anything to grab onto besides it being a mostly self-indulgent love letter to himself and his childhood. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this short, it’s actually quite good, but there’s nothing about it that makes it stand out as something worthy of being considered the best animated short of the year.
The last entry is the stop motion Negative Space produced in France by American directors Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter. Unfortunately, it is currently unavailable to watch anywhere online so I wasn’t able to view this one myself even though it’s one of the more critically acclaimed entries as it turns a story about how to pack a suitcase into something deeper about the relationship between father and son.
As far as the odds go, Disney/Pixar is often the favorite when they are nominated and while Lou is a nice little piece there’s not anything about it that specifically stands out like either the technical detail of Piper or the touching story of Paperman. Garden Party is stunningly gorgeous, but has a sense of off-ness that will work for some people, but could turn off others. Even though I haven’t seen it, Negative Space seems the most likely to win over Pixar this year.
What do you think will win?