2016 Oscar Nominated Short Reviews

I’ve been wanting to do this post for some time but I had a hard time finding 2 of the nominated animated shorts for this years Oscars.  I finally was able to watch them all and thought I would give you my thoughts.

animated shorts5Bear Story

Coming out of Chili by director Gabriel Osorio Vargas Bear Story is about a bear who builds diorama’s kind of like what we saw in Hugo.  He is a lonely bear and tells the story of that loneliness through the diorama.  The animation is beautiful with a heavy steampunk feel to it.

Basically the story is the bear is taken from his family to perform in the circus.  You get that sadness mixed in with the fun of the circus. Each scene is layered with movement and details.  It is extremely charming.

Overall Grade B+

animated shorts1Prologue

Animator Richard Williams vision of ancient warfare is definitely a unique nominee.  It is done using a pencil, hand drawn style and the animation is quite striking.  When it focuses on a characters eyes or face it reminded me of a lithograph or an etching.

However, this film is ADULTS ONLY!  I am not being quaint or hesitant when I say that.  It is extremely bloody and  the nudity is graphic and repeated.  For a short that is just over 5 minutes it is kind of astonishing how R rated it could be!

Evidently it is accurate to ancient warriors for them to fight naked (who knew?) but there really isn’t any story here that I could see at least.  It is people brutally killing each other and then at the end a girl stands in shock over the blood.  I guess that is a message about war but not particularly inventive or thought provoking in my opinion.

Maybe we will learn more in future episodes? It is called Prologue after all

Overall Grade- C-

animated shorts44We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is out of Russia and directed and written by Konstantin Bronzit.  It may not have the most stunning animation but the story makes up for any failings in that department.

It is 2D animation in the style of TV animation like The Simpsons, and tells the story of 2 best friends who dream of becoming cosmonauts.  It starts with them in training and they joyously complete every task.  At one point they even leap off of their beds trying to get a feeling of zero gravity.

I don’t want to spoil it for you but suffice it to say I love stories of friendship and this one had my heart. It is very sweet and lovely.

Overall Grade- A

animated shorts2World of Tomorrow

Oh boy…how do I explain World of Tomorrow?  To be honest Don Hertzfeldt’s sci-fi study of human nature makes me feel kind of dumb.  I’ve seen it a lot and I still don’t really get it.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but did it need to be quite so obtuse?  I guess for Don’s artistic vision it did.

Basically it is about a little girl named Emily who receives a video transmission of a clone version of herself from the future.  This clone takes Little Emily into her current world where they have a land called ‘the Outernet’.

Clone Emily then takes Little Emily through different memories and then tells her that the earth will be destroyed by a meteoroid. Then Clone Emily reveals she came to see Little Emily to retrieve a memory she had forgotten.  She hopes this memory will be comforting for the end of the world.

So there you have it.  The main message is we should focus on the important stuff. That when the end comes the trivial will dissolve and only the most special memories will remain.  Technology  obscures the hear and now and makes us focus only on the fluff.

Clone Emily says

“Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.”

The animation is brilliant and different in World of Tomorrow and I think it will win, and it is probably deserved.  On one hand I like it is layered and tricky to decipher it’s meaning, but I think it goes a little too far in that department, to the point of ostracizing me a bit as a viewer.  It’s great but I still don’t love it like some people do.

That said Overall Grade- A

animated shorts3

Sanjay’s Super Team

I have already done a whole blog post on Sanjay’s Super Team.  This is Pixar’s offering (Lava was actually submitted in 2014).  Everyone seems to think it is shoe-in for Sanjay to win this category but I did some research and Pixar actually doesn’t have a great track record here.  They haven’t won since 2001!  Even something like La Luna (my favorite Pixar short) was beat by Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore which is completely charming so I get it.  The academy seems to like to reward smaller studios in animated short category.

Anyway, Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is inspired by his childhood growing up as an American boy with Hindu observant parents.  The story is little Sanjay is watching his favorite superhero show when his father is praying and meditating.  His father insists he join him and Sanjay starts out bored but imagines the Hindu Gods as superheroes.

It is a beautiful film about how a meeting of the minds can occur and generations can understand each other better.  The animation is bright and colorful, some of Pixar’s best, and the lesson Sanjay learns is very sweet.  He see’s that maybe his Dad’s crazy ideas aren’t so bad after all.

Overall Grade- A+

 

My thoughts on all 5.  Prologue is too R rated for me and lacks a good story so it is my least favorite. The other 4 I like a lot, even if World of Tomorrow makes my head hurt.  I would probably order them

  1. Sanjay’s Super Team
  2. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
  3. World of Tomorrow
  4. Bear Story
  5. Prologue

Have you had a chance to see the animated shorts? I would love your thoughts. Which do you like the best? Do you think World of Tomorrow will win or are you pulling for another choice?

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Best of 2015 Animated Shorts

Hi guys!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  This week I am going to be sharing my ranking for the 2015 animated films but before that I wanted to talk animated shorts!  I love animated shorts and 2015 was actually a really terrific year for the medium.  I haven’t seen all of them as they aren’t all available but I watched a lot and I came up with my top 11.  I worked really hard on this video and would love if you gave it a watch.

But if you don’t want to watch the video I will give the list here.  I did include shorts from anthology films like The Prophet and Extraordinary Tales because I feel they stand on their own as shorts without needing the framing device.  In fact, they are much better without it.

So here are my top 11 2015 animated shorts

11. Frozen Fever

frozen fever5Yep, this die hard Frozen fan puts Frozen Fever at 11 because it is sweet and pleasant but not as artistically ambitious as the others on this list.  Frozen fans like myself will really enjoy seeing Anna and Elsa’s relationship grow and the new song is very enjoyable but it isn’t spectacular or anything.  Just really enjoyable for fans and there is nothing wrong with that.

10. A Bear’s Story

shorts 2015 bears10This animated short from Gabriel Osorio and it has a bit of a steampunk feel (shorts are the best place for steampunk IMO) about a bear that makes pictograph machines with a mechanical version of his family.  It reminded me a lot of Hugo and was very sweet and beautiful.

9. Lava

lava2I’m sure you guys are shocked this isn’t higher but when it came down to it the 8 shorts were more artistically ambitious than Lava.  I love Lava!  I love the music.  The song I have been singing all year and nearly anything with Hawaii has my heart but I just couldn’t get it higher.  It’s a delightful, sweet short.

8. An Object at Rest

shorts 2015 object5Similar to Lava, An Object at Rest tells the story of a mountain, that becomes a boulder, that becomes a stone, and continues on.  It is animated by Seth Boyden and it has a sketchy sweet style like Ernest and Celestine.

7. Le Gouffre

le gouffreThis short was a big surprise for me but it is beautiful.  It is about 2 adventurers that have to cross a chasm and build a bridge to get to the other side.  It sounds mundane but it is exciting and striking with great character designs.  It is from a studio out of Montreal called Lightning Bay Studio and it makes me very curious to see what the studio will do next.

6. On Eating and Drinking

Plympton_ProphetThis short is from The Prophet by amazing animator Bill Plympton who does all his artwork by hand and I love his sketchy style.  (Check out this year’s Cheatin’ to see more of his style).  This is a poem about eating and drinking and the imagery and flow with the poem are beautiful.

5. The Tell-Tale Heart

extraordinary tales8From the Edgar Allen Poe anthology film Extraordinary Tales we get the depiction of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart.  The art design with the black and white contrasting is really striking and Bella Legosi narrating gave great ambiance and immersed me in the story.

4. World of Tomorrow

shorts 2015 world of tomorrow5I wouldn’t be surprised if after watching it a dozen more times World of Tomorrow is at the top of my list.  It’s very obtuse and out there but I was intrigued by it.  Created by animated Don Hertzfeldt it is basically the animated sci-fi musings of a leader and a little girl.  It’s trippy and weird and different but I liked it for those reasons.

3. On Work

prophet on workThis short from The Prophet reminded me of a Van Gogh painting with the harvesters collecting the wheat from the field.  The poem was beautiful and the animation fit it perfectly.  It is bright and vivid and I loved it.

2. Sanjay’s Super Teamsanjay4I loved this story from Pixar about a little boy and a father trying to reconcile their differing views of the world.  You have little Sanjay who loves superheroes and his Dad who worships and prays to the Hindi Gods.  It’s not about polytheism or superheroes but about how we can take the best of the old and new and make something unique and great. The animation is bright, colorful and very creative.

1.  On Love

shorts 2015 on loveIf you haven’t caught on I am kind of obsessed with Tomm Moore.  His animation is so beautiful.  I loved Song of the Sea- one of my favorite animated films of all time and I think Secret of the Kells is wonderful.  Naturally, his short in The Prophet was my favorite of the group and of the year.  It is called On Love and is of course about love.  We get joy, passion, rejection, and belonging perfectly animated with the Khalil Gibran poem accompanying the stirring images.

 

So that is my ranking.  What do you think about my picks and what are your favorite animated shorts from the year?  I hopefully introduced you to a few you haven’t heard of and I would encourage you to check them out.

I know there are many I missed so please put in the comments section.  Thanks!

Pixar Review 34: Sanjay’s Super Team

sanjay2Hi from California guys!  I am going to try and write my reviews of Creed and Good Dinosaur in the next few days but I have to fit it in with spending time with my nieces, which of course takes first priority (and taking them to see Good Dinosaur tomorrow!).

In meantime, let’s talk about the newest Pixar Short, Sanjay’s Super Team.  It is a delightful short and unlike anything Pixar has really done with their shorts.  It’s brighter, it explores culture and is one that isn’t based around a gag or joke.

sanjay6Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is based on his childhood growing up with traditional Indian immigrant parents.  As a young American kid Sanjay loved superheroes, Looney Tunes and other shows and was often bored with the Hindu rituals and traditions of his parents. He said “”Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.”

sanjay7You really get this sense of conflict in the short. Young Sanjay wants to watch his superhero show but he has to be quiet while his father prays and performs the Hindu rituals to the Gods (sorry I don’t know the specific names).

sanjay5His father gets more annoyed with the TV and turns it off forcing Sanjay to come and pray with him. It’s then that Sanjay starts to daydream about the Gods becoming the superheroes from his show.

sanjay4This combination of modern pop culture and traditional beliefs was really great to see, and I really liked how Sanjay learns to appreciate his father’s point of view while also developing his own ideas.  I think this is great for kids to see.

It’s also refreshing to see an animated Indian, darker skinned little boy and honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this father and son.  They were very sweet and relatable.

sanjay3As someone who was raised and still practices a rather traditional faith I really thought they got the tone right on the struggle kids like Sanjay experience as they try to figure out what they believe.  It’s easy to want to throw off the old as archaic when really there is a merging of both new and old that can happen.

I think you can probably tell from the images in this post the animation is stunning in Sanjay’s Super Team.  It is bright and colorful and I really enjoyed the character design of Sanjay and his father.  I liked how the backdrops sparkled and looked like embossing more than paint.

I like they didn’t feel a need to explain the Gods or culture because those details don’t matter.  It’s a story about generational conflict and so the source of that conflict is largely incidental although certainly beautiful here.

I loved Lava but I think Sanjay’s Super Team is even better.  Let me know what you think when you see it before Good Dinosaur.

Overall Grade- A