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Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation
The Longest Daycare: B+
Adam and Dog: B+
Fresh Guacamole: B
Head Over Heels: A-
Paperman: A-

["Highly Commended"]
Abiogenesis: B
Dripped: B+
The Gruffalo's Child: B

It's an odd thing, how the Live Action Shorts consistently come across collectively stronger than the Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts. You would think cartoons would be more fun, but that just seldom seems to be the case in this particular context. On the upside, the margin between the two is really not very wide. The Animated Shorts program is still worth seeing. And besides, even when they aren't great, the animated ones tend to be much shorter, so at least it's not long before you're moving on to the next one. In fact, every year the Animated Shorts are so short, they add other "Highly Commended" shorts -- generally no better or worse than the nominated ones -- as filler.

This year, though, ShortsHD has a new shtick with offering past winners in the category to "host." Unlike with the Live Action Shorts, which were hosted by a winner from two years ago, the Animated Shorts are hosted by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenberg, last year's winners for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Of course, they don't so much "host" as they give a brief introduction to the program, and then offer anecdotes about last year's awards season as interludes between the shorts. It's a nice way to break them up and they serve as effective and charming transitions. I do hope they do the same again next year.

The_Simpsons_The_Longest_DaycareThe Longest Daycare (USA, 5 minutes) is a Simpsons short screened before Ice Age: Continental Drift, and likely would have been the only redeeming part of going to that movie. Since I did not see it, it's nice to see the short included here. It's five minutes of Maggie Simpson -- taking on the lead role for the first time in the Simpsons universe (unless you count the Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios, I suppose) -- attending the Ayn Rand School for Tots. Even without any dialogue, it's filled with the usual smart Simpsons humor, and is over before you quite want it to be.

Adam_and_DogAdam and Dog (USA, 16 minutes) kind of overstays its welcome, but it still has its charms. Beautifully animated by Minkyu Lee, it follows the story of a dog -- in the Garden of Eden. Several minutes are just of the dog running around the place. And then he comes across the naked Adam (full frontal! -- sort of; just a suggestive drawn bump, honestly), and the two befriend each other. They play fetch. Inevitably, Adam's attentions are diverted by Eve, who suddenly appears. There's a generally pleasant quality to this film, but by the time the dog is chasing after Adam and Eve, now covering themselves, it takes a subtly inexplicable turn. I couldn't tell if it was trying to convey some sort of darkness; it ends without clarity.

Fresh_GuacamoleFresh Guacamole (USA, 2 minutes) feels like it's over just about as soon as it begins. It's stop-motion animation of hands making guacamole, except every time an inanimate object is chopped as though food, it turns into another inanimate object: a baseball/onion into chopped onion/dice, for example. every ingredient is done like this, until the poker/tortilla chips are dipped into it. Curiously, this seemed to be the most crowd-pleasing short at the screening I went to. It's fun but I can't say I'll be remembering it a year from now.

Head_Over_HeelsHead Over Heels (UK, 11 minutes) is where greater quality comes along in this program. Stop-motion animation shows an elderly couple living together in a house where, for each of them, gravity pulls in opposite directions. The floor for one of them is the ceiling for the other, and they have different things rigged so they can reach each other: a pulley system for the man's chair, for instance. It's a lovely little film, and as they encounter barriers to living harmoniously and find ways to overcome them, the whole thing becomes a perfect metaphor for making a relationship work.

PapermanPaperman (USA, 7 minutes) is probably my favorite of the bunch, although it only barely beats out Head Over Heels. But this one has a more seamless blend of charm and sophistication, somehow coming across as modern even with its old-fashioned storytelling. This one was originally shown theatrically before Wreck-It Ralph. Not one of the Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts has actual dialogue, and this one does arguably the best job of conveying communication without it. A young man has a chance encounter with a woman at a train station, one of his papers blowing out of his hands and covering her face. She slips onto a leaving train and he spends most of the short trying to get her attention with paper airplanes when he sees her in a window across the street from his high-rise office. What ultimately happens with all the paper itself is pretty goofy, but the whole short is so lovely it's really hard to begrudge it that.

abiogenesisAbiogenesis (New Zealand, 5 minutes) is the first of the filler shorts that come "Highly Recommended." It depicts bug-like machines that drop onto a planet and infuse it with life. The animation is pretty close to spectacular but the story is relatively uninspired. There's not really anything new to see here, but it holds your attention for five minutes. Good for short attention spans.

drippedDripped (France, 9 minutes) is easily the best of the "Highly Recommended" shorts and frankly is more deserving of an Oscar nomination than Fresh Guacamole -- and the five nominees, I notice, are 80% USA submissions; the only other is from the UK. Why no love for any other countries? This one doesn't have the best animation in the world but it is a great homage to Jackson Pollack, with its main character a guy who steals and eats paintings before taking on the characteristics of the painting style. As you might expect from the title, he eventually makes it to Pollack's drip painting style and things get very colorful and splashy. By the way there's brief frontal nudity with this guy too. It seems to be a theme with this year's shorts.

the gruffalo's childThe Gruffalo's Child (UK, 27 minutes) had me confused for a minute. The animation, the characters, the A-list voice actors (Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson and more) -- they were all very familiar. At first I thought I had seen this before and was a little annoyed that they were recycling filler from previous years. Turns out this is a sequel to The Gruffalo, which was itself nominated for Best Animated Short in 2011. Curious that this one did not get nominated, when I had a better reaction to this one than I did the first -- though admittedly not by a huge amount. It's pleasant enough, but I don't know if I'm just missing some kind of British sensibility or what. This story of the Gruffalo's child, narrowly missing a succession of perilous situations in the woods, is told inexplicably by squirrels, has no apparent moral even though it feels like it's headed toward one, and ultimately doesn't seem to have much of a point. The animation is very good though.

Overall: B+

William Joyce and Brandon Oldenberg proudly show off their 2012 Oscars for their short film 'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore'.

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