Review: 2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films - Animation
I’ve written about Animated Shorts before - They are one of the longest running categories outside of the ‘Big Five’, and mark the history of monolithic film studios and supplemental film technology. In the new millennium, it is a wide open field from independent cinema, supplemental studio intellectual property and student work that innovates the short animation form. This year seemed like a likely return to form for Pixar, who hasn’t won in the category in 16 years - But it’s a surprisingly loaded field that merits series deliberation. So who’s got the edge?
Borrowed Time (Directors: Andrew Coats, Lou Hamou-Lhadj)
Haunted by memories, an old west Sheriff re-visits the spot of a faithful day from his youth and attempts to find solace from his past. No, this isn’t a misplaced review for Westworld I’m just getting around to, this is Borrowed Time, a short created by Pixar animators Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj. Coats and Hamou-Lhadj created the short as part of the Pixar Co-Op Program, allowing them to utilize Pixar resources for an independently produced feature. It’s a sharp edged short aiming to punch deep, piecing together dramatic tension, action and catharsis and eschewing laughs and lighter hues that many Pixar movies are fond of. It’s been an industry darling since 2015, winning many animation awards and festival spotlights, and appears to be a strong contender in this field.
Pearl (Director: Patrick Osborne)
A previous winner for Disney’s Feast, Patrick Osborne returns with a innovative short using 360 degree VR technology to tell the story of a father and his daughter who follow their dreams and where they take them in an old hatchback car. From the father’s days as a dreamer and a busker with his young daughter, to the teenager daughter setting out to make her own way and follow her own dreams, it’s a bittersweet look at what drives us and how we get there. There are two versions of the film; an edited version for academy screeners, and the 360 degree version that allows you to focus the action on each viewing and as the story progresses. Will The Academy be open to the innovations of VR and it’s storytelling possibilities?
Blind Vaysha (Director: Theodore Ushev)
Vaysha is born with the ability to see only the past out of her left eye, and only the future out of her right. She never has never experienced the present, and lives mostly in solitude so to not be overwhelmed by the possibilities she sees. Blind Vaysha is told as a fable, and uses an animation style that evokes early European block printing. A voice over teaches us about Vaysha’s life and condition, and the choice she contends with when it becomes overwhelming. While the ability to see the future is tempting, and the past can teach us much, what good are their knowledge if we aren’t engaged with the present is the question Blind Vaysha leaves you with.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Director: Robert Valley)
An autobiographical story about Techno Stypes, Robert Valley’s long time friend and fiend. Valley, a graphic artist who has works on Aeon Flux and Gorillaz artwork, uses a variety of perspectives and techniques to tell the story of Techno, an action junkie, shit stirrer and trouble maker. Techno lived life at 11, stealing, drinking, sleeping with women and often bringing Valley along for the ride. The bulk of the story concerns a chapter in their friendship when Techno was in pre-op and recovery for a liver transplant in China, and how Valley helped his friend thru the operation and home to Canada. It’s an unhappy tale, tho frequently funny and beautifully rendered. Valley perfectly matches the tone of Techno’s predicaments, and finds humor in the many hardships he and his friend endured.
Piper (Director: Alan Barillaro)
A young sandpiper is being taught to leave their nest for the first time, from the comforts of the grass of the sand dunes to the wet and cold ocean feeding grounds. The titular Piper and his flock are photorealistically rendered, save their anthropomorphic facial features. The little Piper faces setbacks, including a barrage by the waves and their own fears, before overcoming their fears and finding an innovative way to hunt for theirself and their family. A beautiful example of the possibilities of computer future that can replicate real world environments, textures and conditions.
Predicting The Winner
There are several storylines to follow in this horserace. Patrick Osborne represents a previous winner applying his craft to a new technology venue, and Pixar’s return to form is a serious threat. Borrowed Time has been a festival darling, and Pear Cider and Cigarettes has the making of a cult classic in the style of Don Hertzfeldt’s 2015 short World of Tomorrow. In the end, I expect the ability to run an effective for your consideration campaign, combined with a heightened awareness after being attached to Finding Dory, means smooth sailings for Pixar and Piper.