Animation Tidbits: 2020 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, it’s that time of year again; let’s do quick little reviews for all of the nominated animated shorts at the Oscars. In general, whether you enjoyed the theatrical animated features every year or not, you can always count on the animated shorts to pick up the slack. There is something so fun and entertaining to see stories told in just a few minutes or half an hour. I always love the variety as well. Where it can seem somewhat “samey” with what comes out in the US theatrical scene, the shorts always have variety in both story and animation. Well, I’m going to be looking at this year’s Oscar batch and the ones that didn’t make the cut, but were Highly Commendable. Let’s get started!

Hair Love 

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Directed by Matthew A. Cherry, this short tackles the story of a father doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. I may have some bias for this one, because I have seen it multiple times in theater screenings, have a picture with me and the director, and a signed lithograph from him, but I love this short. First off, the 2D animation is adorable, the visuals are wonderful, the story itself is touching, and a lot of it is told with very little dialogue. The only dialogue you hear in the short is from the YouTube videos the daughter watches. The jokes are funny, the characters are loveable as all get out, and it was a real crowd-pleaser. If I had to choose from all of the really good shorts from this batch, Hair Love would be my choice to win.

Daughter

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Directed by Daria Kashceeva, this stop-motion short focuses on a daughter seeing her dad in a hospital bed as she recollects on memories and interactions with her father. I think I love the technical and animation side of this short more than the actual story. The stop-motion is a little rough, and the camera being so close to the characters moved a bit too much for me, but man, this is an emotional and poignant short. While you can talk about the animation and the story itself, you get so much emotion out of the eyes, the movements, and the visuals. It’s quite a fantastic short. It might not be my favorite of the bunch, but I still think everyone should see it, and I can’t wait to see what Daria Kashceeva does next!

Sister

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Directed by Siqi Song, the story revolves around a man remembering his life with his little sister when he was a child. I want to say more, but unless you know about an infamous policy China had until a few years ago, then I don’t want to spoil what happens. What’s kind of fun about this one is that it’s one of three stop-motion shorts that got nominated. The story itself is very misleading as it starts very cute and wholesome until the twist drops, and it ends up being a much more mature and sad experience. The stop-motion reminds me of what Wes Anderson would do on a smaller scale and budget, and I dug the overall story of this one. It’s a touching animated short that I thought was fantastic.

Memorable

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Directed by Bruno Collet, the third stop-motion short of the five nominees focuses on an elderly artist who starts going through dementia as his world and memories become more abstract. While the topic of dementia hits a little too close to home for me on a personal level, this is a somber, but creative look at the topic. Due to the main character being an artist, they take advantage of that with some of the year’s best visual sequences. Seriously, the designs for the way the main character sees certain items and people are so beautiful. There is even a slight bit of dark humor that I don’t think fully mixes well with the drama of being with someone who suffers dementia, but I know this short has been popular among the festival circuit, and I can see why. Memorable is, well, memorable!

Kitbull

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Directed by Rosana Sullivan, this short from Pixar’s Sparkshorts program focuses on the bond between a small black cat and a pit bull. It’s not shocking why this one was another crowd-pleaser. The 2D animation was also unique for this short, but the heart and soul was the dialogue-less chemistry between the kitten and the pit bull. Sure, we can jab (be respectful about it please) at Pixar for films like Brave and Cars 2, but when the artists, animators, writers, and such there get to do what they are good at, they put out stuff that’s cute, charming, and endearing on a very personal emotional level. Everyone at my theater was crying at the end, and it has a slight advantage over some of the more challenging shorts because it was free to watch online for months. It’s obvious to see why this is also a major front-runner and not just because it’s from Pixar.

Now we will move on to the shorts that didn’t get nominated but were Highly Commendable.

Henrietta Bulkowski

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Directed by Rachel Johnson, the short follows the journey of a woman named Henrietta Bulkowski, voiced by Christina Hendrix, a woman with a large bone mass fused to her back that results in her being hunch-backed. Due to this, she can’t pass the physical exam needed to be a pilot. She finds a newspaper article that talks about a crashed plane in the dump, and she decides to take life into her own hands and repair it herself. Life won’t get in her way, and even if she has to avoid the grasp of a police officer she meets during this repair, she is going to be a pilot. Yeah, this is very much a modern-day fairy tale. It plays out like one, and the twist, which I won’t spoil here, unravels like something with fairy tale logic. If you watch this short with that in mind, then you will probably enjoy it more. The stop-motion animation is very pleasant, as Lift Animation’s work reminds me of films like Anomalisa. The only nitpick I have about this short is the narrator felt unnecessary, but if you can find this short when it’s more widely available, I recommend it.

The Bird and the Whale 

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Directed by Carol Freeman, it tells the story of a baby whale who gets separated from his family, and encounters a caged bird that was the survivor of a shipwreck. This short is a technical beauty. The 2D painting animation, and yes, it is animated like Loving Vincent, gives you such a gorgeous experience that it slightly overshadows the story. The story itself is not the reason you watch this short, but the animation is. It’s not that the story is bad, but it’s a bit simple. I think the short runtime also hindered the story’s emotional core, but it’s a downright beautiful short, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Hors Piste

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Directed by Loris Cavalier, Camille Jalabert, Oscar Malet, and Leo Brunel, this comedic story follows two rescuers who help get an injured skier off the mountain, and shenanigans ensue. Out of all of the shorts, this is the most outwardly comedic. It’s full of visual and physical jokes that we all kind of needed after so many of the shorts were more mature in their storytelling. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and that’s okay! It needed to be funny, and it was very amusing. I honestly wish this one was nominated instead of some of the other ones because it’s so clever with its comedy. This is a no-brainer on being a recommended short to check out.

Maestro

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Directed by Florian Baikian, Vincent Bayoux, Victor Caire, Theophile Dufresne, Gabriel Grapperon, and Lucas Navarro, the same team behind 2017’s nominated Garden Party, this short, and I do mean short, is about a squirrel hosting an operatic orchestra with animals. Since it’s the same people behind Garden Party, the animation is realistic enough to look impressive, but also cartoony enough to not be in the uncanny valley. If I had to pick a short that was my least favorite of the ones I saw, it would be this one. Not that it’s a bad short, but it was really short, and felt tacked on to the end. It’s good, but I don’t know if my life would have been changed if I didn’t see this one. On its own, it’s cute and funny, but being the last short in this batch was disappointing. Check it out if you want, but I wish this series of shorts ended with Hors Piste.

There you have it! My quick little reviews of all of the nominated and Highly Commendable shorts! I hope you all have a good day, and good luck to the nominated shorts this Sunday!

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

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