Academy Awards Project: Best Animated Short Film
A short film can typically run for about forty minutes, but none of the following films are even close to that long (wait until the Documentary: Short Subject category for that). I remember when I used to write film blogs almost ten years ago, when I would follow the Academy Awards, I would neglect all of the shorts categories. Hopefully these three articles will change your mind if you are in a similar boat. Short films are as important as features. The best place to start is with the animated shorts category. We’ve all seen them before animated features. Animated short films typically fall along the shortest types of, well, shorts. These five animated shorts mostly revolve around life and youth (outside of one, literally). Here are the nominees for Best Animated Short Film, ranked from worst to best.
Biggest Snub: Tweet Tweet
This moving short showcases the timeline of life strictly on linear objects. The first notable one is a rope used for laundry. It transforms into an electric wire, then barbed wire, a cruise line’s trail, and so on. The constant passenger is a bird that gazes at the feet of an anonymous subject: a baby that transforms into a woman, and then into a mother, and finally into an elderly lady on her death bed. You see so much happen through these insanely clever metaphors. How this short didn’t make the cut is mind boggling. If it were microseconds longer, the floodgates would have opened and my tear ducts would be impossible to stop.
5. Animal Behaviour
If you like your painfully obvious animal jokes, well step right on in to the office of a psychiatrist dog and his many patients. These include a praying mantis that is rejected by love, a leech that is ignored, and a pig that has an addiction to truffles (get it? Because mantises kill their partners during sex, leeches suck blood out of hosts, and pigs eat a lot. Hilarious.). A minor saving grace is when the dog keeps his cool after temporarily resorting back to his bestial functions when engaging with an unruly “ape”. It was nice to see some heart warming solace here. Otherwise, this felt like a high school sketch group’s attempt at witty commentary. If there was something deeper about the evolution of man in relation to other animals, I either missed the crucial points, or saw what Animal Behaviour had to offer and didn’t care.
4. Late Afternoon
This short starts off a bit slow, but then takes a quick turn towards hyper-imagination. An elderly woman is being taken care of by “Kate”. Several things trigger this grandmother’s flashbacks, and these are done in a very creative way (colourful blobs, disjointed images, surreal locations, and more). You are slowly witnessing a fragile mind trying to repair itself (it’s implied that this character has Alzheimer’s). As the short progresses, you begin to feel waves of emotions. It has a bit of a scratchy start, but we definitely get there.
The most popular nominee in this category (of course, this is a Pixar short after all), Bao has been on everybody’s radar for many months now. When it comes to Pixar shorts, this has been one of the better examples in the last few years. A mother creates a dumpling that transforms into a son-figure. This is a creative symbol for how much a mother is willing to give a child (ingredients, in this case), even when the uncontrollable inevitable happens (a child moving out). Anyone thinking this mother literally eats her son is delusional and missing the point. Her son was never a literal dumpling, you buffoons. Ranting aside, Bao is a touching story that understands the heart and soul put into both cooking for your family, and the raising of said family.
This boy has to deal with two split lives when he bounces between living with his mother and his father during a divorce. His over active imagination makes all of the living areas around him come to life in unusual ways. The film takes part in these hallucinations, and the result is truly affective. The music starts off conventional, but quickly slides down into trippy territory. The visuals start to get loopy, too. This is a mind fighting with the elements of the world. You never feel strictly sad or happy during any moment of this film, either. You just feel like you are a part of it all, perhaps in the kind of way a child in this position would feel.
1. One Small Step
I don’t even care if this was the most typical film featured this year. One Small Step got to me in very strong ways. Firstly, the animation style was so crisp yet detailed. We have yet another tale of a child growing up with adversity; this time, it’s a young girl trying to become an astronaut, with the support of her aging father. The daughter doesn’t take care of her shoes during her many activities (track and field, doing errands, running to school), but her father cobbles every pair back together again. This metaphor (the preparation of her footwear for when she hopefully takes her first step on the moon) is brilliant, and it plays into each and every crevice of this film’s story line. Does this film go down a path you would expect? It absolutely does. However, sometimes predictability isn’t quite the worst thing. The story One Small Step tells is so nuanced with its ideas and images, it’s difficult to be mad at for its conventions. It takes a big leap with how the story is told, and for that it is the best animated short film of the year.
Our Predicted Winner: Currently, Bao has such a strong push (and, once again, it’s Pixar), it’ll be hard to imagine anything else winning.
Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.