ShortsTV once again presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater (starting tomorrow) or streaming service (starting February 27th) near you. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see all of these otherwise illusive short Film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the first of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Animated Short Film.
This year's mini-toon finalists range from a French student film to the latest from animation powerhouse Pixar, plus a most unlikely nominee (especially in this category): a superstar athlete. All but one boast first time nominees, including an "it's about time" nod for a legendary Disney animator. Three utilize computer animation, while the other two go old school with hand-drawn and stop motion techniques.
In addition to my reviews and video links, I've suggested a similarly-themed Oscar nominated feature film to pair with each short film nominee to create your own Academy-sanctioned double feature. Bring on the popcorn!
And the nominees are...
Dear Basketball, Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant (USA, 5 minutes).
Using the words of the poem Bryant wrote to announce his retirement from his 20-year career as a Los Angeles Laker two years ago, Keane (the Disney veteran who created such beloved characters as Ariel, Aladdin and the Beast) has crafted a universal vision of achieving one's dreams and knowing when to let them go. With Keane's mastery of the medium of traditional animation, and greatly aided by an as-usual rousing score by John Williams, this paen "for the love of the game" (already a winner of the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Film) manages to give goosebumps even to those of us who have absolutely zero interest in professional sports. The highest profile nominee here (for better or worse), this one could be a slam dunk, especially with so many Lakers fans in the Academy.
Watch trailer. Complete short available on go90.com.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: I have a feeling it would play well with another movie Williams scored this past year, another little crowd-pleaser called Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Garden Party, Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon (France, 7 minutes).
Some curious (and hungry) amphibians make the most out of a richly appointed yet seemingly abandoned mansion right out of Scarface. Easily the most photo-realistic (not to mention original) of the nominees, this multi-award winning festival favorite was created as the graduation project of the so-called "Illogic Collective", a group of six animation students (only two of which are officially nominated) at Ecole MoPA, a computer graphics school in France. What starts out as playful and whimsical took an unexpectedly gruesome turn for me towards the end, although I really should have seen it coming with all the bullet holes about. Jarring conclusion aside, this one would get my vote for its gorgeous visuals alone.
Dearest Rating: 8/10
Pair it with: Phantom Thread, also morbidly funny in a setting redolent with excess.
Lou, Dave Mullins and Dana Murray (USA, 7 minutes).
Set in a school playground where the anthropomorphic contents of the lost and found box teach a bully a lesson about... not bullying. Oy, this Pixar entry is just... off. First, there is no dialogue so all the kids are strangely mute, even when they get their toys snatched away by the Jack Black Mini-Me. Which leads to my second point of how bland the character design is, which leads to my third point: holy crap is "Lou" creepy. That thing makes the mutant toys of Toy Story look like the frikkin' Care Bears by comparison. Although the anti-bullying message is important, this one just tries way too hard. Likely the most widely seen of the nominees given its theatrical pairing with Cars 3, it will be tragic if this one wins solely on its name brand recognition.
Watch clip. Available as a bonus feature on the Cars 3 DVD and Blu-ray.
Dearest Rating: 4/10
Pair it with: Perhaps this one should have played with Coco instead of the overly-maligned Olaf's Frozen Adventure.
Negative Space, Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata (France, 6 minutes).
A narrator recounts how he bonded with his father through their shared passion for a properly packed suitcase. The second nominee in this category this year to be based on a poem (this one by Ron Koertge), the makers of this Annie Award nominee made several suitcases worth of tiny shirts, tube socks, tighty whities, etcetera, and their passion for this stop-motion project shows. There's some nice visual transitions here, but Negative Space suffers from the dreaded "short film curse"... it ends just when its getting really good. At least this one concludes with a great joke.
Dearest Rating: 6/10
Pair it with: A similarly quirky look at parent/child relationships, Lady Bird.
Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer (UK, 29 minutes).
A big bad wolf tells the true, unadulterated "once upon a times" of Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs as he hatches a plot for his own revenge-fueled "unhappily ever after" for one of them. Produced as a British television special in honor of the 100th birthday of author Roald Dahl (it's based on his poems parodying classic fairy tales, which makes it three nominees this year based on poetry), the nomination is actually for only the first half of the program (both parts won the Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production). With their previous nominations here Schuh (The Gruffalo) and Lachauer (Room on the Broom) have proven they know how to adapt kid lit to the screen (even if some of their character designs are sloppy), yet most of the success here is due to Dahl's original fractured fairy tale-telling.
Watch trailer. Both part 1 and part 2 (which retells the stories of Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk) are available on Netflix.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: A more traditionally-told tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast.
Coming soon: Reviews of the Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Documentary Short Subject.
Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.
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