Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

We ended up seeing this after dropping The Flower off at a party and so missed a couple of the animated shorts, including the one that ultimately ended up winning the Oscar and the Disney Mickey Mouse short.

We came in at the end of the winning one, "Mr. Hublot" which had a "Despicable Me meets Cyberpunk" feel that was cool, and we saw the Mickey Mouse one at the front of Frozen, and it's cute. It's a fun homage to the old Steamboat Willie era with Peg Leg Pete and, uh, the cow lady and what-not.

After "Mr. Hublot" was "Feral". This was visually interesting as it told the story of a "wolf boy" who's found by a man and introduced to society. No dialog. Distinctive, non-traditional animation style, which was nice and evocative. Ultimately, it got a little too abstract for me to follow, and I didn't "get" the message (or more accurately, emotion) it was trying to convey.

"Possession", the Japanese entry (not nominated in the final five) was also very distinctive, using a CGI technique that I believe is called "cel shading" (after the traditional technique) which I'd only ever seen in computer games before. Anyway, it gives CGI a nice, flat-but-layered look. The story itself concerns a fix-it man who wanders into a haunted house in a storm. The (very Asian) twist being that the house is haunted by things—i.e., stuff that people used for years and years, but discarded.

His haunted night consists of trying to repair or assuage the possessions. A Japanese answer to Toy Story, if you will. This was probably my favorite.

The Boy, on the other hand, greatly favored a silly French short (also not in the final five) called "A la Francaise", which was about chickens in the court of the Sun King. I mean, it was chickens playing the nobility in the court, dressed in silly rococo gowns and doing silly French royal things. One of them is writing about all the stuff that goes on, until a wind carries her pages away and the court begins to read them. Mayhem ensues.

The Boy sez, "It's chickens! Acting like people!" I dunno, sometimes his tastes run to the simple. (In the otherwise dull Gloria, there's a scene with a busker who has a skeleton puppet, which he just adored.) Anyway, funny chickens. Tough to go wrong.

"Room on the Broom" is the longest entry, at 26 minutes, and a little bit too long at that, but one that will probably get a lot of play, having an all-star cast and directed squarely at young kids. Simon Pegg narrates the story of a witch (Gillian Anderson, who mostly has non-verbal expressions) whose familiar cat (Rob Brydon) finds himself with increasing company (a dog, a bird and a frog), all of whom cause increasing difficulty on the overburdened broom, until the whole thing comes to a head with a run-in involving a dragon (Timothy Spall).

Cute, as I said. Mostly entertaining, though I felt it dragged a bit around the 15-minute mark.

There was a Pixar short, "The Blue Umbrella" which was at the front of the snubbed Monsters U, and it's—well, it's meh. It's a love story about umbrellas. As The Boy said, it's basically Pixar saying "We can anthropomorphize" anything. It's sort of reminiscent of last years splendid "Paperman" but while artistically impressive, feeling a little like we'd seen it, and seen it better.

The last short was a very funny Irish entry (also not in the final five) called "The Missing Scarf", which is a simple child's tale, familiar seeming, but which somehow ends up in the complete destruction of everything. It's so very Irish. The animation is a primitive but nice 2D-ish thing that looks sort of like origami. George Takei narrates.

The DVD shipped around to theaters has the shorts being introduced by giraffe and an ostrich, doing a kind of "I worked with [this or that animated character]" bit that's actually pretty funny. For some reason, though, I don't think they sell this so there's not much chance of seeing all these films together.

Which is a shame, because it's kind of a fun way to pass an hour-and-a-half. If you don't like one thing, you only have to wait 10 minutes for the next. And there's a good variety. But there it is. Market realities and what-not.

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