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!

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The Oscars Relationship With Animation

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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!)

So, I’m sure no one saw the Oscar nomination reveals and no one cares, even though we all care and get mad no matter what happens. All joking aside, in general, the Oscars this year is exceptionally fantastic. It has lots of variety in films, directors, actors, and movies. I know some are bummed out about Wonder Woman not headlining any awards even though it was one of the most important films of the year, but I get it.  However, out of all the categories to cause uproar, it was the ghettos of the Best Animated Feature category. The five officially nominated animated films for this category are Coco, Loving Vincent, The Breadwinner, Ferdinand, and The Boss Baby. I’m sure reading and knowing that, the Sesame Street song of “One of these things is not like the other” pops right up in your mind as you stare at those five films. Of course, the one that’s causing the biggest issue for many is The Boss Baby. Out of any movie, this is the one causing the biggest stir. Does it deserve such hate? Or is the problem deeper and grayer than black and white?

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Let’s get the personal subjective opinion out of the way first before we can get into the more layered conversation pieces of this editorial. In my personal opinion, I think The Boss Baby can be a very charming and a very funny movie with some downright amazing and trippy animation. However, seeing it as an overall film, it’s not great. It has a weak story, forgettable characters, and the film’s lineups of jokes don’t bring in many laughs. It only was a financial hit because it lined up its release with the very popular Alec Baldwin Donald Trump skits from SNL. It’s a mostly flat experience, but it’s also fairly harmless with a solid amount of creativity. It simply needed more fleshing out in the story and world-building department. It is a tad distracting to see an organization that’s all about awarding and giving attention to the best of the best from every year, nominate a film with a 52% overall score on Rotten Tomatoes and was not a critical or audience hit. I could think of 10 or so films that could take its spot. In short, I don’t like that it took one of those spots.

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Now then, let’s dive into the conundrum of the category of “Best Animated Feature”. The first question that comes up is what should be considered for a spot in this category? Well, since film is a visual medium and The Boss Baby does have some rather impressive animation, should that be enough to just have amazing animation? On the other hand, film does rely on a good story, writing, and characters. The Boss Baby, in terms of critic and audience reaction to it, was found to be lacking, so that should disqualify it from the running, despite having amazing animation. Does that mean the five contenders should have good writing, story, and characters? I mean, we kind of expect high quality animation for these awards. Even with this current conundrum, the voters wouldn’t be dumb enough to vote for something like Norm of the North.   But does that mean we should sacrifice the quality of the animation if we look at these award nominees in terms of story, writing, and characters?

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Okay then, so, what about the Academy itself? Can a lot of this be put on them? Well, we saw this coming when they announced that the voting pool was going to be open for all Academy members, and my overly hopeful editorial from last year thought it wouldn’t change. It’s not like it was a surprise that this could have happened. With this side of the argument, does that mean the Academy should bring back the voting limitations? On one hand, they probably should. You have a branch for the people that work in animation for this reason. Why on earth would you let outsiders who don’t know jack, and don’t even watch every film (which is funny since most foreign animated films are at the very least, 75 minutes long) into an area that was specially made for one group of voters and only that group of voters? You don’t tell a football player to bake a cake for a baking competition, why would you want anyone else, but the animation section of the academy to vote on this category? Then again, the entire point of opening up the voter account to non-animation individuals was to open up nominees of more casually popular films. I know that sounds like a bad idea, but then again, don’t we constantly criticize the Oscars for nominating and awarding critically acclaimed films that no one gets to see until like, the last minute on demand or a month before the awards? Shouldn’t we have more than what the critics got to see in limited screenings? You could argue they opened up the voting because animation is getting more recognition, since a lot of the most successful films of every year are animated films. At the same time though, the Academy is cynical about praising the best of the best, so why would they choose a film with such negative reviews to nominate, besides the obvious fact that DreamWorks marketed that film hard to the Academy?

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So, how would I solve this? I don’t know if I have a right answer to this situation. I mean, yeah, the obvious solution would be to gate off the animation section again, and have them vote for that section only. That way, something like The Boss Baby doesn’t get through again. Or, maybe the Academy needs to do something like the Annies, and have a US theatrical feature category and a foreign animated feature category to make it fair for both sides. I feel like the Academy needs to define what qualifies for certain categories, and not let it be handled by how much a studio is willing to give to individual voters. I feel like being more limiting would be regressive, and if we want to see improvement, and have more diverse films getting nominated, we need to be open to change. Maybe talking about how studios bribe/market their films to voters should be its own discussion, along with how if you are an Academy voter, you should watch every film being nominated. In the end, let’s be real, Coco is going to win, and The Boss Baby won’t. Let’s keep the conversation going though. What do you think about The Boss Baby being nominated? Do you think it deserves it? Doesn’t deserve it? Or do you think it’s a bigger problem with the Academy in general?

My Two Cents On The Submissions For Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.

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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!)

The recent line-up of animated feature films for the Oscars next year have popped up, and for the first time, I decided to break down the chances each of the contenders have to make it into the five spots. Overall, the line-up is pretty strong! I know that sounds weird, since the mainstream big budget films from the bigger studios have not been all that great, but if you look at the indie film offerings, you have quite possibly, the best line-up of smaller animated films of this decade so far. It’s probably just as good as 2013 with the wide variety of indie animation. Now then, I’m going to break it down into different categories with films that have spots already filled, films that have amazing chances, films that might have a chance, and films that have no chance. Little side note, I find it hilarious that none of the Weinstein-animated films like Guardian Brothers and Leap! are not on the list. Thankfully, that is great, because screw Harvey Weinstein and his horrible take on animated films. Now then, let’s get started!

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100% Certified Spots

Coco*: While it just came out, the amazing amount of hype this film has gotten and the early positive previews, this is probably the only Pixar film that has a chance at making it into one of the five sacred slots for Best Animated Feature. Plus, it just looks like a great movie. Way more than most of the films released this year from bigger companies.

* Despite the recent controversy of now ex-head of Pixar John Lasseter’s leave because of allegations, I don’t think it would be fair for everyone else who made Coco suffer because of his actions.

Loving Vincent: While not getting as wide of a release as Coco or other big animated films, Loving Vincent has been a critical darling and a constantly talked about movie since making its runs in festivals. Plus, winning one of the three major prizes at Annecy Film Festival sounds good as well. It’s just a unique film that has caught the film world by storm.

The Breadwinner: We have a movie being made by a veteran of the Best Animated Features section, Cartoon Saloon, which had The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea nominated, the distributor GKids, and so much universal acclaim from reviewers and people who have seen it combined, it would be a shock if this didn’t make it onto the shortlist. Plus, it got a lot of attention during the Animation is Film Festival, and won the main prize there.

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75% Possible Contenders

In This Corner of the World: Lots of festival buzz and highly positive reviews. It probably has the best chance out of Japanese animated films, besides Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Plus, what Academy voter doesn’t love a war time-era film?

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales: It’s being directed by one of the directors of the Oscar-nominated Ernest & Celestine. Plus, it’s under the GKids banner, and they have had two or so films in the running before for Best Animated Feature. Though I am concerned with how it doesn’t have an official release date yet for 2018, I would hate for it to be viewable after the awards.

The Girl Without Hands: Another festival favorite, and an almost entirely a one-man job. That alone is very noteworthy. Plus, high reviews and again, GKids. The beautiful and stylized animation doesn’t hurt either.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower: Let’s check off the boxes. GKids? Check! Made by ex-Studio Ghibli individuals? Check! Director of Oscar-nominated When Marnie Was There? Check! I think that covers it. Though I’m concerned that the release is just a month away from the awards, but we shall see.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children: Another well-received animated film being distributed by GKids, and won a couple of awards including the GOYA award for Best Animated Feature, and has gotten mileage for being an animated film with a twisted edge to it and dark themes under the cute designs.

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50% Maybe?

Ethel & Ernest: As much as I love this movie when I watched it, with no real release date, I don’t know if its legacy as Raymond Brigg’s work will make it noteworthy enough to make it into the sacred five slots. I love this movie, but man, they should do something to compete.

A Silent Voice: I loved this movie, and I think it has more of a chance than Your Name did last year, because it was released in theaters in the states months before the award show, but that might not be enough, since most people, unless they are film or animation fans, know a lot about this movie. The biggest amount of coverage it got was when it beat out Your Name as Best Animated Film of 2016 from the Japan Movie Critics Award. I just hope the distributor in charge of the theater distribution for this film makes a big enough push for more people to see it.

Cinderella the Cat: To be perfectly honest, this was a surprise to see on the list. I have been following this film for a while, and all I know about it is the positive reception it has alongside that one review from Variety.com. However, since there has been no news on a US distributor, I don’t know how much its positive foreign reception will win people over.

Window Horses The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming: This is a cute and utterly charming movie about a girl trying to find peace for herself, while finding her father. I don’t hear too many people talking about this one, but it has enough festival buzz for a chance to make it, but it’s an uphill battle to get past some of the other indie/foreign films.

The LEGO Batman Movie: While I do love this movie, and think it came out at the right time, due to people still grieving about what happened three months earlier in 2016, the original didn’t get nominated (still sort of annoyed by that), so what chance does this one have? Plus, while I do love it, it’s not as good as The LEGO Movie. It doesn’t have the full heart and soul the previous film had. It’s a great and hugely entertaining watch, but I don’t know if they will give it a pity vote.

Napping Princess: Personally, this is one of my favorite movies to watch in 2017. However, it’s probably the GKids film, along with another on the list, to get the least amount of talk or push. It’s a fun adventure movie with some great characters and sequences, and some festival buzz, but it’s critically one of the less loved films of the 2017-distributed GKids films. Not going to stop me from enjoying it, but I can see it having more of a struggle than the others that I listed above.

Captain Underpants: This was one of the biggest surprises of the year, and while I am confident in putting it in the 50% range, it would sound odd, wouldn’t it? Oscar-nominated Captain Underpants. I don’t know how they will take this one seriously enough to consider it.

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25% Very Slim Chances

The LEGO Ninjago Movie: While it was still much better than most of the films on this list, it was also the least liked of the three films, and underperformed. It wasn’t a bomb, but it did not rake in as much cash as they were expecting. Plus, it’s the only one that you can consider to be more of a cash grab than the others. It also has the weakest story and writing out of the three LEGO Movies.

The Boss Baby: This film is mostly noteworthy for coming out around the same time as Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump skits became the funniest bits of comedy for a while, so that probably helped push this movie’s financial success, but outside of that, the film itself was not well received, and in general is not regarded as one of the best animated films of the year. I know some have put it high on their list, but that’s only because they haven’t seen many movies.

Cars 3: Unlike The Boss Baby or the next entry, Cars 3 doesn’t have that much to say “yeah, this movie deserves an Oscar!” it’s more emotionally investing than the second film, but it still has a slew of problems in terms of its story and the ending. Plus, it underperformed because nobody wanted another flipping Cars movie! It’s not a horrible film, but I doubt it will have a chance.

Despicable Me 3: While a financial hit all over the world, Despicable Me 3 has too much going against it. For one, the story is not great, the characters are now barely there, and any advantages they had with improving or pushing the story forward, they don’t take, and just keep staying in that safe circle because it worked for them in the past. Sure, they got one nomination with Despicable Me 2, but that was a pity nomination in a rather underwhelming year. If SING and The Secret Life of Pets couldn’t get a nomination, then Despicable Me 3 won’t either.

Ferdinand: Listen, I don’t like picking on Blue Sky Studios, because I think they are a super talented group of people. However, they are having the same problems as Illumination Entertainment has. It’s why I put Ferdinand low on the list. Granted, the movie looks better than a lot of their offerings, but I just can’t find myself trusting that it’s going to be a great movie. Plus, Blue Sky doesn’t have much notoriety in the Oscar races.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea: I love this movie. It’s still my favorite animated comedy of 2017 so far, but looking at it now compared to the other contenders, I don’t see it getting nominated. It would be awesome, and GKids is behind it, but it’s too indie for its own good, and I think GKids has had better animated offerings now than back then.

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0% No Chance in Hades

The Emoji Movie: Come on, I might not think it’s the worst animated film of the year (that goes to The Guardian Brothers), but it’s still really terrible, and it has no chance in Hades in making it. Even when Sony sort of knows it doesn’t have a chance, then that is saying something.

Sword Arts Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale: Yeah, sorry, but nope. It’s a film based on a pre-existing anime, and those never get nominated. It didn’t happen then, and it won’t happen now.

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland: I have a fondness for The Moomins, and I do love the cast they are building it up for, but I highly doubt it will have enough people knowing the source material to care. I love weird and unique foreign stuff, but this will not have one of those sacred spots.

The Star: I do not think the organization is going to let this one get a chance. It looks cheap, the advertising is  not giving the film justice, and I just don’t see it making it. I love the cast, and I wish they were in a better movie, but I’m sorry, The Star is going to have to shine somewhere else.

There you have it, my guess as to what films have the most to the least amount of chances to get those five spots for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. As of right now, I am fairly confident that I am going to be correct with these placements, and hey, if any of the films that haven’t come out yet turn out to be good, then I am all for pushing them up the ranks. Do you all have any guesses? What five films would you love to get chosen for the Oscars?