Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 2019

February 22, 2019

Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 2019

The difference in production value is quite evident in the animated shorts category, as not all filmmakers are backed by the resources of Pixar or Disney. What really stands out here is the strength of the stories and how they play on our real life emotions and memories. Below you will find these listed in order of my preference. Just a reminder, these are not Oscar predictions, just personal opinion.

 

 WEEKENDS (USA) 16 minutes

Familiarity, in fact, all-too-familiar, may be the difference for this story from Trevor Jimenez. A young son gets bounced back and forth between the homes of his divorced parents. Initially the mother keeps things simple, with an emphasis on love. In contrast, trips to dad’s place include scary movies, video games, fast food and plenty of hands-on play time (with weapons and costumes!).

Fittingly, dad’s car radio is on an endless stream of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”, while the other times are covered by the familiar and recognizable chords of Satie. The boy is caught between the two adults trying to put their own lives back together, and some amazing animation takes us through the boy’s imaginative dream and nightmare sequences.

While at Pixar, Mr. Jimenez worked on FINDING DORY and COCO, and this one seems to carry personal memories for him.

 

 ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR (Canada) 14 minutes

The husband and wife animation team of David Fine and Alison Snowden (two very real, not animated creators) won an Oscar in this category in 1995 for their short BOB’S BIRTHDAY, which was then turned into a TV series “Bob and Margaret”. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the animators have hopes for the same path for their latest.

We enter a group therapy session for an unusual collection of critters, including: a praying mantis, a leech, a bird, and a pig.  The session is led by a dog, and is soon crashed by a newcomer – a boisterous gorilla. The gag here – beyond the obvious – is that each of these critters is dealing with normal traits for their species, though they sound particularly bothersome when stated aloud. Kids are not the target market here given all the talk about sex (stay away from the praying mantis) and orifices. Creativity is on display here, and don’t be surprised if some mutation of this ends up on TV.

 

 ONE SMALL STEP (USA, China) 8 minutes

Former Disney animators Andrew Chesworth (animator on MOANA and FROZEN) and Bobby Pontillas co-direct a script co-written with Taiko Studios founder Shaofu Zhang. It’s a story of a single father and his Chinese-American daughter Luna, and takes us through her early childhood dreams of walking on the moon to her college years taking astrophysics classes.

The devoted father is there to encourage his young daughter’s dreams, and later to quietly support her with meals and shoe repair. It’s yet another reminder of how the efforts of parents sometimes go unappreciated, but the commitment never fades. The ending here is predictable, yet no less powerful and emotional.

 

 

 BAO – Pixar (USA) 8 minutes

It should come as no surprise that Pixar has a nomination in this category. The premier animation studio employees some immensely talented folks, including Domee Shi (previously a storyboard artist on INCREDIBLES 2), who becomes the first woman to direct a Pixar short film.

As with many Pixar projects, this one will likely resonate with parents as much, if not more, than with kids. Of course there are some exceptional visuals; however, it’s more poignantly a look at the stages of life … especially the trials and tribulations of parenthood (especially the overprotective type). This one is far and away the most viewed entry since it ran before theatrical showings of INCREDIBLES 2, which itself is Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Some may struggle a bit with the idea of a homemade dumpling coming to life and being raised as a growing kid, but the ending will likely hit home with most every parent.

 

 LATE AFTERNOON (Ireland) 10 minutes

Louise Bagnall previously worked as an animator on the Oscar nominated SONG OF THE SEA, but this one is all hers. These days there is no shortage of projects putting dementia front and center, and we quickly realize the elderly Emily (voiced by the great Fionnula Flanagan) suffers from this dreaded affliction.

The fantastical dreamlike sequences carry us away in Emily’s memories of life. These snippets of her childhood and adult life tell us much about the woman who now finds happiness in a biscuit with her tea. The past and present are often a jumbled mess for Emily, and although her caretaker’s identity is no real mystery, it is still a wonderful moment when it clicks for Emily … even if we know it’s only for a short while.

 

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INCREDIBLES 2 (2018)

June 12, 2018

 Greetings again from the darkness. In 2004 THE INCREDIBLES became the 6th Pixar film in a row to dominate the box office, and also the 6th straight to “WOW” us with a combination of animation, story, action and characters. All these years later, Brad Bird, the creative force behind the original, is back with the much anticipated sequel. Mr. Bird’s career over those years has featured a blend of other animation (RATATOUILLE, 2007) and live-action (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL).

Bird is not the only returnee for the sequel. Also back is the entire Parr Family: Holly Hunter as Elastigirl/Helen/Mom, Craig T Nelson as Mr. Incredible/Bob/Dad, Sarah Vowell as Violet, Huck Milner as Dash, and Eli Fucile as baby Jack Jack. The story picks up not long after the original ended. “Supers” have been outlawed, and the Parrs are in some type of Super Protection Program – similar to Witness Protection. Of course when one is a superhero, doing the right thing just comes naturally, and the opening scene finds them battling their old nemesis Underminer (voiced by Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger, who voices a character in each of the studio’s films). Our heroes stop the crime, but cause significant damage to the city. This leads to our first social commentary when the powers that be scold the Parrs and inform them that the banks have insurance, and it’s cheaper to let the criminals get away so that the damage is minimized.

As superheroes non-grata, the Parrs try to go “straight” and live a normal life. That is until a powerful brother and sister corporate duo offer a proposal. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (twist that pronunciation just a bit, voiced by Catherine Keener) want to generate a PR plan to help rebuild the reputation of supers. The idea is to make Elastigirl the public face of the program by having her wear a body cam to show off her heroic deeds (in this age of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’). She’s chosen over Mr. Incredible for economic reasons, and he’s relegated to stay-at-home parent (or as we called Michael Keaton in 1983, MR. MOM – an unacceptable sexist term these days).

Elastigirl enjoys her time in the limelight, while Bob doesn’t much like being just Bob. Plus he can’t understand why they changed math, as he gets frustrated trying to help Dash with his homework. He’s also challenged with Violet’s teen angst over a boy, and even moreso over the discovery that Jack Jack has POWERS! In fact, Jack Jack has multiple powers, but as a baby, he has little control – though his battle with a raccoon is not a segment you’ll soon forget.

Also returning is Frozone – voiced by Samuel L. Jackson (minus his trademark “MF’er), and costume designer Edna Mode – voiced by director Bird. Other new voices include (Odenkirk’s fellow “Better Call Saul” castmate) Jonathan Banks as Rick Dicker, Isabella Rossellini as the Ambassador, and Sophia Bush as Voyd, one of the new generation supers (which includes Reflux – one you’ll just have to experience).

The big new villain causing problems for Elastigirl is ScreenSlaver, who hypnotizes large groups of people through their screens – more social commentary on our dependence on technology and the addiction/affliction we have toward device screens. The flood of superhero movies over the years since THE INCREDIBLES exposes the not-so-complex story in this one, but it’s terrific that the film keeps much of the original look and feel, and yet brings something new … baby Jack Jack is a star!

Filled with the beautiful colors and art design we’ve come to take for granted from Pixar, the film also features some of the best action sequences you’ll see in any movie. The train sequence with Elastigirl is simply spectacular – as is the final action sequence. It’s also nice to see the flip in gender roles as Mom (Holly Hunter) takes the lead. Michael Giacchino returns as the composer and he blends in a touch of James Bond theme with his wonderful work. If the film needed extra credit (which it doesn’t), certainly the inclusion of a “Jonny Quest” clip would qualify. Family films don’t get much better than this, and even though it runs 2 hours, the closing credits feature the theme song for each of the superheroes, and could easily have been a short film unto itself.

Speaking of short films, a Pixar tradition is to include one before new releases. This time it’s BAO, a Chinese mother/son and food-oriented story from director Domee Shi (animator on INSIDE OUT)

watch the trailer: