Animation Tidbits: The 2019 Oscar-Nominated 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!)

(Originally Posted: February 24th, 2019)

I was fortunate enough to see the Oscar-nominated animated shorts at my local theater, and, well, like last year, I am going to do a quick set of reviews for the five shorts that are nominated. Overall, my opinions on this year’s nominees are pretty positive! Unlike last year, where there was some controversial baggage with Dear Basketball, none of the shorts that I know of have that kind of need to put a note next to them. The five chosen are varied, endearing, and charming. They each have their own visual style and their own stories that make them stand out. The two shorts from the Highly Commended section were good, but it’s not hard to see why they didn’t make it into the top spots. Let’s get started! I’m going to go in the order they were shown.

Bao

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Directed by Domee Shi, Bao tells the story of a wife who ends up becoming a mother to a sentient dumpling. It’s your usual Pixar fare, with endearing designs, beautiful animation, and a touching story about the connection between a mother and her son. Sure, a lot of people reacted mostly to one scene near the end, and decided that was the only thing worth taking away from it, but I love this short from beginning to end. It’s a good sign that the reaction to this short was so good, that Domee Shi, is now going to work on her own theatrical feature. If Bao is any indication of her talent, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in the future. Congrats, Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb on the win!

Late Afternoon

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Directed by Louise Bagnall, this one tells the story of an elderly woman remembering moments of her life that connect back to what is going on with her in the present time. It’s a beautiful 2D animated short with some awe-inspiringly creative visuals, and a simple but loving visual look for the human characters. Having lost my last grandparent recently, this short really struck a chord with me as you see that while the elderly woman is not all there, there is still a part of her that is there and loves her daughter. It’s an incredible short and I highly recommend seeing it! Hopefully, Cartoon Saloon taps her for some future projects. Congrats, Louise Bagnall!

Animal Behavior

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Directed by David Fine and Alison Snowden, Animal Behavior may come off like an odd duck among the five nominees. Its animation style is fluid, but the designs are storybook looking in execution. It’s about a bunch of animals in a therapy session talking about their problems, until an Ape named Victor joins the group and things go into an interesting direction. It doesn’t sound all that compelling. However, when you actually watch it, it ends up being the funniest of the shorts. It comes off like a more well-written Adult Swim animated show pilot. It has some very funny lines, and you get a big laugh out of some of the problems the animals are having. For example, there is a parasite that has attachment issues, and a praying mantis who is having trouble with her dating life. I’m not fond of every detail of the designs, like how they have noticeable butts, but that’s the only part I didn’t like. It’s a funny and entertaining short that shows how strong writing can make an odd idea into a comedic experience. Congrats, David Fine and Alison Snowden! I would love to see this become a miniseries!

Weekends

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Directed by Trevor Jimenez, this one tackles the life of a boy who lives in a divorced household as he travels from his dad and mom’s place, and how he sees their lives and his life changes. It’s a somber story that doesn’t really have an answer about what the proper way to handle the realistic situation for certain children. How do you cope with the fact that your parents aren’t together anymore, having to move on with their lives, and that they may see other people? There are a lot of surreal visuals that are great to look at, but I wish there probably was a solid answer as to what should happen? Sometimes, it’s good to not have a definitive answer, but I think the short gets too visually abstract to tell such a conclusion. Still, you can tell this was a very intimate and passionate story from the director, and I think it’s a good short. Congrats to Trevor Jimenez and his team!

One Small Step

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Directed by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, this short tackles the story of a young girl living with her grandfather, and dreams of becoming an astronaut. I think what is most striking about this film is the visuals. The CGI animation looks like it’s almost 2D. It’s easily one of the standout shorts from 2018. As a short that has no dialogue in it, you feel the love and connection the girl has with her grandfather, and both characters have their own unique little characteristics that I love. It’s probably one of three shorts from the nominees that made me almost cry. I fell in love with this short’s visuals, animation, and characters. It even made me think if they could do this for a feature length film. I would love to see more CGI films learn from films like One Small Step and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in being visually unique. Congrats to Andrew Chesworth,  Bobby Pontillas, and their entire team for the nomination!

Now then, we will talk about the two Highly Commended shorts that didn’t make the cut.

Wishing Box

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Directed by Lizzie Zhang, Wishing Box is a simple comedy short about a pirate who finds a treasure chest with nothing in it. The twist is that his monkey sidekick can pull things out of the chest, like bananas, sharks, and lobsters. There really isn’t much to talk about with this one. It’s a comedy about the troubles of human greed done in a fairly solid comedic way. I can sort of see why it didn’t make it into the top five, but it’s a good short to check out.

Tweet Tweet

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Finally, we have Tweet Tweet by director Zhanna Bekmambetova. This short follows the friendship between a small bird and a woman who goes from being a baby to old age. The gimmick here is that the entire short is from the view of the bird and the woman’s feet as they go across a rope. It becomes a tiny bit gimmicky with certain shots that look like they were supposed to be in VR, but that doesn’t really detract from the experience as you watch the woman grow up, find love, have a child, and be at the literal end of her rope. In terms of the CGI visuals, it’s not my favorite short, but the artistry is there, and I was invested with the story. I hope more Russian animation can be this creative and endearing.

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Animation Tidbits #5: Oscar-nominated Shorts 2017

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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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

With the Oscars coming soon, I decided to do one last little editorial, talking about a section of the Oscars I honestly haven’t thought about covering, animated shorts. Not that I don’t watch them, because I do. I simply feel like they need a different mindset to tackle. However, I have had the opportunity to see all the nominated shorts in theaters. They were distributed by Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures, and it made making this editorial very easy. I’m going to go through the five nominated shorts, and the three additional shorts that were going to could have been chosen, but didn’t make it. They are going to be quick little paragraph reviews. I will also be going in the order they were presented. Let’s get started.

Dear Basketball

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Narrated/produced by Kobe Bryant, and directed by Glen Keane, this is essentially an animated version of Kobe Bryant’s retirement letter, done in a pencil sketch style similar to the classic Christmas short, The Snowman. I was concerned about this one, since something about it always felt off. The letter itself and how it is narrated by Kobe himself is touching, and the pencil sketch style is really impressive, and it’s a solid short about dreams and passion. However, I find myself feeling cynical about it. It’s touching, but forgettable. I also found it to be a bit too manipulative for the emotional side of things. Not to say it’s a horrible short, because it’s not. Like I said, the speech itself is well-worded, John William’s score is great, as usual, and the animation stands out. I just didn’t like it as much as others. I also feel like the current movements in Hollywood will hold this short back, and might alienate non-fans of basketball. It’s a good short, but I personally won’t be rooting for it.

Negative Space

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Directed by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter, Negative Space is about the bond the lead in the short had with his father over the fine art of packing clothes into suitcases. The stop-motion style has its charm with the doll-like character designs. It’s a cute little short about the ins and outs of making sure there is no negative space within the suitcase. It ends a bit abruptly for me, and maybe could have been a bit longer, but the short is well-made, and I understand why it’s being nominated for an Oscar.

LOU

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It wouldn’t be the Oscars if Pixar didn’t have a short to contribute to the competition. Directed by Dave Mullins and produced by Dana Murray, LOU is about a Lost and Found Box that loves giving everyone the possessions they lost. When I went to the theater to see the shorts, this was one of the two that got the biggest reactions from the audience, in terms of enjoyment. Lou himself is a very creative character. Being made of all the apparel and items resulted in some very creative visuals. Seeing Lou shapeshift through different forms made by all the toys and clothes was the highlight of the short. The only problem I have with the film is that, while it is probably one of my favorites among the five nominated, it’s fairly Pixar. It has a lot of the typical story beats that you would see in most Pixar films. It’s not a super terrible thing, but you know what’s going to happen. Still, LOU is a fantastic short, and should have been in front of Coco instead of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.

Revolting Rhymes

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This first part of a two-part special based on the Roald Dahl book of fairy tales was easily the crowd favorite from my viewings, and is the short I am rooting for to win. I want to do a full review of part one and two, but I definitely want to do a small summary here. The first part is creative, the art style made the CGI look like stop-motion. While it might have dumbed down the darker tones of the book, it still has a lot of really dark jokes that made me, my friends, and the audience members in the theater laugh out loud. It’s a charming first part of the special, and I found how they handled the mixing of fairy tales creative.

Garden Party

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Directed by Illogic Collective, a group of six 3D artists, Garden Party is a simple story about a bunch of frogs that explore a deserted house. The best thing about this short is the animation and characterization of the frogs. The almost photo-realistic look of the short is incredibly impressive. Sure, you can kind of tell it’s CGI, but some areas look fairly realistic. I liked that they gave the frogs little quirks, and found it cute as they explore the house and interact with one another. Now, while it is subtly told through environmental storytelling, I didn’t like the ending. I won’t say what it is, but it felt too dark for a short about some frogs exploring a house. It also has the moment when you can tell it’s CGI, since what is in the pool looks more cartoonish than realistic. I know some are saying this is going to win, but I think the ending is going to turn some people off. Even with my complaints, I still love the short.

We now will move on to the three shorts that were “Highly Commended”

Lost Property Office

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Directed and written by Daniel Agdad, Lost Property Office is about an older gentleman who works at what is essentially a lost and found office. The drab color tones, and sly bits of humor is definitely why this one was close to being nominated. The stop-motion work was also well done. I think for me, this was one of the weaker shorts. The entire plot of the short is done with no dialogue, and I’m sure there is a deeper meaning to this short, but I have seen it twice now, and I don’t fully get it. It’s a pretty-looking short, but its story rang hollow. Maybe it’s more of a “not my cup of tea” situation, and the overall story is symbolic of the man and his job, but I didn’t quite get the appeal of this one. It felt more like it was chosen for its artistry than its story.

Weeds

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Directed by Kevin Hudson, this short is about a dandelion flower that yearns for a better life on a lively field of grass. While the CGI is good, the message is what I liked about the film, and how it’s about the many people that go through challenges every day to make and find a better life. The CGI is good, but I didn’t find anything super remarkable about it. However, I felt like the story was more important. It was simple and to the point. I definitely liked this one.

Achoo

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Finally, our last short is Achoo, a French-animated short about a Chinese dragon who wants to win a contest to be cherished by the humans. While this one is definitely the most cartoonish with the humor and designs, the CGI and textures are incredible. I have been vocal about how European CGI films have had issues with their lack of quality-looking CGI, and while this is a short, it looks great. The lighting looks impressive, the textures look marvelous with lots of little details, and the designs are cute. It has a few jokes that I didn’t care for, but for a harmless short, I enjoyed it. If I had to choose which one of the three I liked the most, it would probably be Achoo for visuals and WEEDS for story.

Thanks for reading! What short did you like the most? I’ll see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 39: The Monk and the Fish Review

(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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

For me, it’s always interesting to see what you can get done in a movie in such a short amount of time. How many times have we seen films that could have been longer, or didn’t have enough to fill out its runtime and you can tell there was obviously forced padding? That’s why it is fulfilling to watch a movie that uses its time wisely, and doesn’t need to be longer than it is. This is what attracted me to this short film called The Monk and the Fish. This is an Oscar-nominated short film released in 1994 by famed director Michael Dudok De Wit. If he sounds familiar to any film fans, he is the same director of the award-winning short, Father and Daughter, and the director of the upcoming Studio Ghibli co-produced film, The Red Turtle. Seriously, check out that trailer, it looks great! Anyway, this is the second short film made by Michael Dudok De Wit. So, is it any good? Well, let’s do a short review and find out.

The story is pretty simple in terms of a plot. A monk of the “robe and balding hair variety” sees a fish, and throughout the six minutes, tries to capture it. Can he get the fish? Or will something else entirely happen to the Monk?

So, what’s good about this short film? Well, it’s to the point, easy to get into, and has enjoyability for both the casual moviegoer and those who like looking for a deeper meaning in a film’s themes. For example, the film is very funny with its comedic animation and simple expressions from the monk, and can remind younger audiences of shorts from the Looney Toons era of cartoons. More adult filmgoers can see this short about a monk conflicted with himself and his faith, and in the end, find peace with himself and the fish. The best part about this entire short film is the fact that it’s done with no talking. After watching The Triplets of Belleville, I found myself really enjoying these animated films that can get you into its story and characters without having a single piece of dialogue from the individual characters. It’s something I wish more mainstream studios would do. Heck, Disney has done pretty well with its shorts that are told in a visual way. I feel like it would have made a movie like The Good Dinosaur way better than what we actually got. Another element I adored about The Monk and the Fish was how the music matched up with the animation. That’s very difficult to do, and many times, it can be a little distracting when it’s not done correctly.

Overall, The Monk and the Fish was a fantastic short movie. I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar, and it just shows what you can get done in such a short amount of time. While you can watch the entire short online, you can go to a website to get a physical DVD copy with two other short films. The site is called filmporium.com, and they have a huge number of animated short films that were all nominated, or have won an Oscar for best-animated short. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the film itself since it gets done what it set out to be. I can understand if it is not a film for you for its more artistic themes, but if you want to watch something different, then I would highly recommend you watch this great short film, and prepare yourself for the director’s newest movie that ruled the Cannes film festival, The Red Turtle. Well, it was fun looking at a short film, because next time, we go to our 40th review and quite possibly the worst film of 2016. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials