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Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation
Borrowed Time: B
Pearl: B+
Blind Vaysha: B+
Pear Cider and Cigarettes: B+

["Highly Commended"]
Asteria B
The Head Vanishes: B
Once Upon a Line: B+

Borrowed Time Borrowed Time (USA, 7 minutes) is a little bit of a surprise opening to this year's slate of animated shorts, given the warning put up onscreen that due to Pear Cider and Cigarettes being unsuitable for children, it is being presented at the very end in case children need to be removed. In spite of many animated shorts being for kids, the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts program is a bit more of an intellectual pursuit among audiences that go to see them in theatres. I rarely see very many kids at this. And perhaps it's just as well, because I feel like a warning could just as well be put in front of Borrowed Time, in which a young boy accidentally kills his local sheriff by shooting him in the face. The short is well animated and compelling in its way, but I have a hard time seeing it as being for kids -- it's serious rather than silly, and even features a kid with someone else's blood dripping off his face. And this is the opener! It's pretty to look at, though.

Pearl Pearl (USA, 6 minutes) is not only directed by Patrick Osborne, who won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature two years ago for Feast (and was, incidentally, the animated short I also liked best that year), but is also the first VR film ever nominated for an Oscar. Osborne made it for Google Spotlight Stories in 360-degree video and virtual reality, giving it an oddly dated visual look somewhat reminiscent -- if less angular -- of the 1980s music video for "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits. This one is, in essence, a music video in its own right, as we follow along the flashbacks of a young woman reminiscing through the songs her dad sang for money while they lived in their car when she was a little girl. The music is lovely and the story is touching.

Piper Piper (USA, 6 minutes) is this year's Pixar offering, and true to form, the best of the lot -- both because of its truly unparalleled, nearly photo-real animation, which makes the once-stunning visuals in Finding Nemo look like the work of amateurs. This one is straightforward and simple, a mother bird teaching her chick how to find food for itself on a beach. The visuals are genuinely amazing and the story, short as it is, is eminently charming. This one will likely win the Oscar, and it gets my vote as well.

Blind Vaysha Blind Vaysha (Canada, 8 minutes) has a unique animation style, a sort of dense collection of thick-ink scribbles that feel slightly like stop-motion. It's about a girl who can see only the past with her left eye and only the future with her right eye, rendering her blind -- hence the title -- to the present. I think the message of living in the present is a little on the nose, but the story is still compelling and the animation is pretty impressive.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada & UK, 35 minutes) is the longest of the nominees, longer than all the others combined, and some are saying it's the best and deserves to win, although Pixar's Piper probably will. I can see why some might say that, but I found this one to be a tad long for its own good, actually, and the story -- narrated by the man whose best friend needs constant tending to after living a life so reckless he ends up waiting for months in China to get a replacement liver -- is ultimately not that memorable. The animation, with its own genuinely unique style, is another story.

asteria Asteria (France, 5 minutes) is the first of the "Highly Commended" shorts added to the program just to make the running time close enough to a feature film to make it worth going out to see all of these in a theatre. And this one, the shortest of these extras, is a French film with dialogue over-dubbed in English. It's not often you're watching a cartoon and the dialogue fails to match lip movement to distracting effect. Still, this story of astronauts confronted with aliens on a moon who are just as territorial as they are is clever enough and ends with a nice little punch line. In short, it's cute.

the head vanishes The Head Vanishes (USA, 10 minutes) is a very odd little film about an elderly lady who is walking around with her head held in her hands -- or sometimes set on tables -- instead of on her neck. She's followed around by a daughter characterized as attentive in an oppressive way. I suppose this is supposed to be a metaphor for what it's like to grow old and start losing control of your mental faculties. I can't say it lands particularly well, but it gets the point across.

once upon a line Once Upon a Line (Cyprus, 8 minutes) is the best of the "Highly Commended" shorts, and honestly deserves at the very least to be among the nominees. The narrative follows a literal line from left to right, constant movement, with simple line drawings conveying a lonely man who falls in and then out of love. It has both visual and narrative charms all its own.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Overall: B+
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