Oscar 2015: The Animated Short Films

Michelle reviews the animated short films that are in the running for an Oscar. 

The Bigger Picture (UK): Out of all the shorts I watched, The Bigger Picture had the most novel art style, with its mixture of oil painting and stop motion animation. It centers around two brothers and how they deal with the slowly deteriorating health of their elderly mother. The story itself is rather disjointed and it jumps around quite a bit in its short running time. However, it does have a few touching moments and anyone who has ever lost a close family member will be able to relate to the characters’ emotional states and actions. The British are well-known for their ability to laugh in the face of adversity and their trademark acerbic wit is littered throughout the film. Some of the gravitas is lost with the jumbled narrative, unfortunately, as short films fare much better with tight focus. 6/10

Feast (USA):  Feast was released in conjunction with Disney’s recent CGI film Big Hero 6, so it has much more visibility than the other nominees. As it is a Disney backed short, the production value is through the roof and the animation looks amazing. They chose a cell-shaded look but with a more delicate approach—usually, cell-shading goes for a bold, dark outline to the characters and objects. The plot is deceptively simple: a man picks up a stray dog that enjoys eating people food. Though Feast has a short runtime, it manages to tell a touching story with minimum dialog. 8/10

The Dam Keeper (USA): Former Pixar animators Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi are behind the breathtakingly gorgeous The Dam Keeper. It takes place in a world inhabited entirely by animals in which a young orphaned pig has the duty of keeping a small town safe from black caustic smog. Every day he must crank up a windmill to make a “wall of wind” to keep the village from being enveloped. He is teased mercilessly at school, but finds a friend in an unlikely place. The animation looks like a painting, but everything has a smudged and indistinct style—as if a still drying canvas got water spilled on it. All of the colors are super saturated and intense, swirled into beautiful gradual ombré. While The Dam Keeper is suitable for all ages, it does have a dark undertone to it which makes it even more poignant and ultimately uplifting. This is my pick to win the Oscar this year.  9/10

A Single Life (Netherlands): This is the shortest of the nominees with a runtime of only three minutes (including the credits). A woman discovers she can travel through different periods of her life via a magical record player. The concept is clever and the visuals are cute and to the point. It’s really more of an extended joke with a naughty punchline—many people at the showing I went to had a hearty laugh at the ending. As it is, there really isn’t much to it and it doesn’t break any new ground with either the story or the animation. It is amusing for what it is though and worth a look. 7/10

Me and My Moulton (Norway/Canada): The quirky and independent view that this short presents is definitely its strong point. Me and My Moulton is a coming-of-age story about three sisters who have to deal with their non-traditional architect parents. It’s light-hearted and maintains that tone throughout the entire feature. The animation has that kitschy, Scandinavian Ikea look to it, with primary colors and stylized curly lines. Admittedly, the plot is predictable but at the same time it’s satisfying and ultimately well done. The good-natured atmosphere is infectious and it’s hard not to giggle at the silly antics and situations. There are some sadder parts to it but that just grounds it a bit more in reality. Overall, it’s a delightful and amusing little film. 7/10

-Michelle Kisner