by George Wolf
When I was a kid watching the Oscars, I remember always being perplexed by short film categories. How do people manage to see these shorts?
Good news, kids, it’s gotten much easier. In the last several years, all the nominated shorts have been packaged by category for theatrical showings. This year, of course, virtual screenings are available as well, making it more convenient than ever to find great films in smaller packages.
In these 5 nominated (and three bonus) treats, you’ll find charm, humor, fascination, and devastation – all a tribute to the different ways animation can touch our souls.
Burrow 6 mins. Writer/director: Madeline Sharafian
An excited bunny has big plans for a new home underground (maybe a disco?). But the more the bunny burrows, the more times she accidentally invades a neighbor’s place!
What to do?
Originally intended as the short subject intro to theatrical showings of Soul, Burrow is a completely charming reminder of the need for friends you can count on. And the beautiful 2D, hand-drawn animation gives it a picture book feel that’s refreshingly retro.
Genius Loci 16 mins. Writer/director: Adrien Merigeau
From France, Genius Loci is a surrealistic trip through “urban chaos, ” as a young loner named Reine (voiced by Nadia Moussa) takes off on a dreamlike tour through the heartbeat of her city.
Unfolding like a watercolored stream of consciousness, Loci is wonderfully stylistic, bursting with contrasts and ambiguities about Reine’s headspace that keep it constantly intriguing.
If Anything Happens, I Love You 12 mins. Writers/directors: Michael Govier, Will McCormack
Oh my, this one is heartbreaking, tender and devastatingly lovely.
A middle-aged couple is living in a fog of despair, completely unable to comfort each other or find any joy in life. A charcoal-type animation style reveals shadows depicting a former life of happiness, then leading eventually to the tragic event that broke them.
Keep the tissues handy for a soft-spoken gut punch that reframes the stakes we know only too well.
Opera 9 mins. Director: Erick Oh
9 minutes? I could watch this for 9 hours.
Billed as a “massive 8K size animation installation project which portrays our society and history,” Opera is a single frame in constant, intoxicating motion.
The eye level creeps in, then out, up and down and around a pyramid filled with scores of small figures co-existing in a constantly evolving community. Even as you fixate on one fascinating section, you’re drawn to others that are equally rewarding.
Oh has created a true animated marvel, and one that should be hard to beat in this category.
Yes-People 8 mins. Director: Gisli Darri Halldorsson
Welcome to a tenement building in Iceland, where we follow some 3D Wallace and Grommet-looking Icelanders going about their daily trials and snowy tribulations.
Most of the dialog is a well-placed exclamation of “Yow!” which adds to the goofiness and overall fun factor. With glimpses into work, school and mundane chores around the house, Yes-People becomes a light and breezy take on the small moments that make our lives.
The 2021 animated shorts program will also feature three “highly commended” animated short films