Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation

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

Boy Meets World

Boy and the World

by Hope Madden

Often a joyous riot of colors and sounds, and just as often a somber and spare smattering of dehumanizing imagery, Boy and the World poignantly encapsulates the clashing emotions and evolving comprehension of the human spirit.

Ale Abreu’s Oscar nominee for Best Animated Film offers deceptively simple animation to pull you into complex ideas. Boy – the wee, titular character who is about to start quite an adventure – sees a wondrous, kaleidoscopic world saturated with confusing but fascinating sounds and images, colors and experiences.

But as thrilling and vibrant as these early moments are, Abreu’s vision is edged with cynicism. It’s an idea that takes hold sporadically, when industrialization depletes the chaotic energy from the screen, when scores of stooped stick figures lose their meager jobs, when urban blight changes the tone from primary colors to smoky browns and greys, and finally when animation gives over to live action footage of deforestation.

Though the filmmaker’s themes are always evident – occasionally less subtle than they might be – the heartbeat of the story is that of the imaginative, innocent Boy. It gives the whole film a touch of sadness, but balances the anger with an optimism and innocence that’s often beguiling.

A contagious score from Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat emboldens Abreu’s pictures, emphasizing the vibrancy of the individual’s spirit as well as the celebration of human connection.

Boy’s journey is a circuitous one, a coming of age and acceptance informed by struggle and nostalgia but brightened with bursts of color.

There is something terribly lonesome but simultaneously jubilant about Boy and the World. It’s a heady mix from a confident new filmmaker, and a welcome addition to an entirely laudable set of animated Oscar contenders.

Verdict-4-0-Stars