This year, Shorts.TV provided numerous venues, besides going to the theater, for everyone to enjoy this year’s Oscar nominated animated shorts offerings which include on-demand via the various cable and satellite companies and online, so there really is no excuse not to watch them anymore.
This year’s batch is a lot less dark than the past 2 years of nominated shorts, thankfully, and each shows a breadth of storytelling that can often be lost in a longer format. The 5 nominated shorts this year are:
“Dear Basketball” is Kobe Bryant’s autobiographical love letter to the sport he has devoted his entire life to. Written and narrated by Bryant himself with a musical soundtrack by the great John Williams, the rotoscoped rough pencil drawn animation is done by superstar ex-Disney animator Glen Keane and his team. Some of the best moments are seeing young Bryant practicing with the basketball and the expression on his face. Keane’s work is, as always, elegant and flowing throughout.
“Negative Space” is a French stop-motion animated short about the relationship of a son and father who bond via the packing of the perfect suitcase. A seemingly tedious and inconsequential task becomes a sublime artform which, when perfected, gave a father reason to praise his son. Seeing items pack by themselves perfectly as an example is what every traveler dreams about. The relationship and message is also sublime, and the ending ‘packs’ quite a punch.
“Lou” is the most recognizable short having played before Cars 3 in theaters. It’s a cute CGI wordless short about a box of lost-and-found items in a school playground that have a collective life of their own, taking great care in returning any lost item back to their rightful owner. All is well until a bully named JJ decides to steal items that do not belong to him from the other kids. This eventually turns into a throwdown between JJ and the lost-and-found conglomerate, which forms into an amalgamation of everything in the lost-and-found box that can morph into a variety of shapes depending on the situation. The lost-and-found conglomeration’s adaptability is insanely ingenious, while the ending is warmly bittersweet.
“Revolting Rhymes” is a CGI British animated short adapted from Roald Dahl’s collection of fairy tale parodies done via poems. This is the longest of the nominated shorts and weaves quite a delicious, mischievous, Grimm-like story mixing Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs into one. The narrator, the Wolf, tells the ‘real’ tale of all 3 to a woman in a diner about how he lost his 2 nephews to Red Riding Hood and her friend, Snow White, both of whom do not play the damsel-in-distress but instead forge their own destinies. The tale is tight and compact with no filler, unlike many movies which are 3 times as long, and ends on one of the most exasperating cliffhangers you’ll ever see.
“Garden Party” is an extremely photorealistic French CGI short about some frogs and toads wandering about an abandoned villa which had housed a huge party. The photorealistic animation is quite eerie, and while the behavior of the frogs and toads is cute and comical, you start to see that something is just not quite right with the setting. When all the pieces are put together finally, it culminates into a not-quite-so-shocking ending, but it still makes for a big splash nonetheless.
Besides the 5 nominated shorts, 3 highly recommended shorts were shown along with short interludes.
“Petite Faim” or “A Little Craving” comprised the interludes in-between each short. The French CGI animated interludes tell the tale of two monsters, one of whom wants an orange fruit hanging on a high branch above. Each little interlude is almost entirely different than the one before, but the theme is the same. I’m not sure if one could string them together into one large compilation since each interlude is different, unlike something like a Road Runner cartoon.
“Lost Property Office” is a stop-motion Australian animated short done entirely in cardboard about a man who works at a lost-and-found or Lost Property Office. There are shelves of lost and forgotten objects from umbrellas to cameras, radios, etc., all meticulously labelled and cataloged. Unfortunately, there’s no traffic in or out of the office besides the man who works there, and he receives a letter from the head office saying his job will be discontinued due to redundancy. What you might think will happen given the ominous clues turns into something completely unexpected.
“Weeds” is an American CGI short about a dandelion in an abandoned plot who sees a lush green automatically watered plot just across a concrete driveway. Seeing all its other dandelion friends dying in the abandoned plot, the dandelion decides to try and venture to the promised land of greenery and water by uprooting itself and walking, via its roots, to the other side. Unfortunately, the sunny dry concrete driveway burns the dandelion’s roots at a mere touch upon its surface. What will the dandelion do? Its decision and the overall message of the short is profound.
“Achoo” is a French CGI short which takes place in ancient China about a small young dragon who wants to be chosen to create the festive fire display. Usually the displays are made using black powder/gunpowder spread across the sky by a dragon and then lit via dragon breath. Unfortunately, the small young dragon has a cold or allergy which renders him fire-less and full of mucus instead, so it tries various methods of overcoming its problem. With 2 other larger dragons bullying him, it doesn’t seem like the little dragon will succeed, or will he? This short is a cute tale of perseverance and ingenuity.