Tag Archives: animation

Review of the Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated) for 2018

I’m back again with another article on the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts. 2018 was a satisfying year for shorts as all the nominees were entertaining and moving in their own way. Although Lou’s animation and Garden Party’s ending were fantastic, it’s the characters, humor, and voice acting of Revolting Rhymes that make it my pick for best ONAS of 2018. Let’s dive in.

Dear Basketball

The weakest of the five shorts although that does not mean I disliked it. Far from it, the pencil animated styles stood out strongly against the plethora of computer-model shorts from this year and the narrative was definitely it’s own thing (plus the score was quite moving thanks to John Williams). Dear Basketball, which focuses on Kobe Bryant’s basketball career, makes it this year’s memoir short along with Negative Space. Although it was nice, it falls flat for two main reasons. The first was the deflated story.   There wasn’t much conflict or pivotal moments to keep the story going. What’s more, this memoir short was too positive on Bryant’s basketball career and did not bring much in the way of sorrow or negative memories. It definitely paints Bryant in a positive light which makes it feel more self-adorning, and unfortunately egotistical, than self-reflecting. I will say the scene when Bryant mourns his aging body was great as the style shifted jarringly and really communicated how debilitating that was for him. Beyond that, nothing much else to say.

Negative Space

The other memoir short also stood out for its style and the premise and, unlike Dear Basketball, had a healthy mixture of positive and negative memories. Unfortunately, Negative Space’s story felt a bit clipped. At first I laughed at the line “there’s too much negative space” in the funeral scene but then I was astonished when the credits rolled after that. What I took as a comedic line was instead a somber reflection at how careless the coffin was created for the protagonist’s father. With such a quick ending, I felt cheated, as if the story was going somewhere but then decided to pull the plug half way through. With that said, I do like how much thought went into animating the background and the luggage as it really highlights the unique father-son bond the main character has.

Garden Party

What an ending! This was Mary’s favorite and I liked this one as well. It took me awhile before I realized what exactly was going on. Eventually, I was thinking an apocalyptic event happened and nature was reclaiming lost territory. My prediction was almost completely wrong but I’m happy that I was. What I find so compelling about this short are the frogs as they look so realistic but…not? It’s like the frog-version of the Uncanny Valley which I find amusing to think about. I think this quasi-realistic quality helps make the shocking ending great as the bloated decomposing man is so repulsive against the cute and adorable antics of the frogs. So funny.


Out of the five shorts, I predict Lou will win the Oscar. The story is nothing to write much about but Goddamn is Lou’s animation fantastic. You could tell the animators tirelessly planned and animated Lou’s movement to the insanity that his anatomy would let him. The whole chase scene with the kid was great, I could watch that scene dozens of times. Other than that the only other thing I have to comment is, did anyone else experience an existential crisis when the kid took all of Lou’s belongings and gave them to the kids?   Like, where did Lou go? Is his personality split up? Is he gone? Does he come back when the kids eventually lose their stuff again? The toys in Toy Story got nothing on Lou. Entertaining and energetic short but that’s not enough to make it my favorite for this year.

Revolting Rhymes

I went to see the shorts with Mary and my friend Kaitlin and all of us agreed that this was one of our favorites if not the favorite of the five shorts. Where to being on it? First, the short’s length was spent fantastically as no minute felt wasted. The characters, the pacing, the style, the voices, the humor all coincided perfectly to match Roald Dahl’s twistedness. There are so many things I loved about Revolting Rhymes. Like how the Mirror was animated very different compared to the rest of the characters indicating otherworldliness to him. Red and Snow White’s friendship felt believable and the Wolf’s revenge was not hackneyed or farcical.   And unlike Negative Space’s ending where I felt cheated, I felt satisfied but intrigued by Revolting Rhymes’ ending. Curious how the story could continue but content if this was the true ending. Not to say that it is, mind you, as it is Part 1. I really want to watch Part 2 and see how everything plays off.

If there’s one major criticism I had about the short its Red and Snow White’s “friendship.” Yes, I love their relationship but come on, they’re totally in lesbians with each other. Don’t give me this bs they are friends. They should be married. Sorry it just seems so painfully obvious they love each other but the short says otherwise. Come on.

See you at the Oscars!


“World of Tomorrow” is My Pick for Best Animated Short Film of 2016

Like last years’ Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short, my selection for the 2016 winner is an easy decision as none of the shorts had the same depth and innovation as my clear favorite did. So before I get to why I liked “The World of Tomorrow” the best, let’s take a look at the other nominees first.

Probably the weakest nominee on our list is “Prologue.” Now, “Prologue” is noteworthy for its combination of colored pencils with a hyper realistic art style but the story was super lacking. In fact, did it even have a story? No, it really didn’t. It’s just about these four dudes fighting each other (in a game I called “The Half Naked Fight”) and a young girl gets traumatized from viewing this deadly battle. That’s it. Violence has weight if there’s a purpose behind it but without tension, it’s meaningless. Why are the dudes fighting? Which side should I be rooting for? And why should I care?

“Bear Story” suffers from its middling plot, style, and story that, in the end, make it another weak contender. I don’t really know what to say about this short since it’s so…meh…I think what really bothers me about the short is there are a lot of unanswered questions, some of which are ones I’m sure the creators don’t want you to think about. For instance, are the circus workers human? Where do they live? How do they know about this animal city? Why aren’t there other humans doing something about this human city? Do the animals live in fear of humans? Even the ending was confusing in the wrong way as it left me more frustrated than satisfied. And unfortunately, the rather stiff animation seems almost jarring when you compare it to other computer-animated shorts. Next.

“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” should be retitled as “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos and Each Other.” The two cosmonauts’ friendship rivals their love of outer space and that makes this short super character driven. The minimal art style is reminiscent of Tintin, Doug, and other simplistic cartoons and this is amazing given the breadth of emotion delivered in this film. Because of the style, outer space looks so beautiful, perfectly complimenting the cosmonauts love for it. Really, the major fault I had for this film is the ending which, like “Bear Story,” left me confused when it really shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t focus on this part of the film but it bothered both Mary and I and I can’t let it go. Mary postulated that he committed suicide while I think he somehow found a way to reach outer space and join his friend. Perhaps we should enjoy the ending though as he was reunited with his friend in the end. Pretty good short though!

Now, “Sanjay’s Super Team” I can imagine winning the Oscar but not just because it’s a Pixar film! The other Pixar short I saw in 2015, “Lava,” was no where near as good as this short and I was super glad I didn’t have to watch it again when I saw all five shorts in the theater.  I like this short because it was incredibly fluid, visually stimulating and gorgeous. I like the parallels between the father and son’s influential figures and I liked the action scene as well. If it wasn’t for “World of Tomorrow,” I’d say that “Sanjay’s Super Team” would win the award no problem!

Then why does “World of Tomorrow” (directed, produced, animated, written, and edited by Don Hertzfeldt) deserve the Oscar? Well, I think it boils down to “World of Tomorrow’s” delivery of a very earnest, and somewhat sad, look at humanity through the guise of fun, surreal, and often times light humor. I can only imagine how difficult it is to achieve this but “World of Tomorrow” exceeded tremendously. What’s more, the child-like stick figure characters match well with the undefined and abstract-like backgrounds.   There were so many good scenes but the one that got to me was when Future Emily talked about clone degenerations and then her eyes blinked rapidly and sporadically. It made me uncomfortable and that was great. The ending scene where Future Emily absorbed Emily Prime’s memory of her mother was quite melancholic but I still had this sense of…optimism? I’m not quite sure how I feel.

I guess in the end, “World of Tomorrow” was the animated short I had been looking for for a long time. When I review the Oscar Animated Shorts, I’m looking for a short that has a stellar art direction mixed with an unconventional storyline or a story that made me think and change my perspective on a certain topic. The last time this happened to me was 2013’s Disney’s “Get a Horse” which, although not really mentally stoking, had a very surprising and refreshing take of the classic Mickey cartoons and that was great! I love being surprised! “World of Tomorrow,” was the opposite as, although it didn’t have a twist or a surprise “gotcha moment,” was still very sweet and emotionally stimulating. And unlike “Bear Story” or “We Can’t Live without Cosmos,” I didn’t find myself frustrated or confused by the storyline, it had a goal and it delivered it to perfection. I highly recommend for anyone to see it.

Btw, anyone notice how there was a severe lack of dialogue in four of the five shorts? Only “World of Tomorrow” had dialogue and it was brimming with it. I kind of find that interesting as the previous two nominated years had a healthy mix of the two. I’m not really surprised truth be told as when you have an animated short, a media where you are free to create anything you like without much limitation, you can easily tell a story using character actions and visual cues.

“The Dam Keeper” is My Pick for Best Animated Short for 2015 Oscars

Last year, Mary and I went to our first screening of all the Oscar Animated Shorts for 2014.  We were delighted at the eclectic group of shorts that varied extraordinarily from their country origin, to their run time, to their visual style, and most importantly, to their overall message.  Unfortunately, this year’s selections were not as strong as last year’s.  They were still good but they didn’t have that “oomph” that last year’s selections had.

What’s more, in 2014, Mary and I were divided between our two favorites.  She liked the Japanese-produced “Possessions” and the Luxembourg-produced “Mr Hublot” while I liked “Possessions” and the Disney-produced “Get a Horse!”  But for 2015, we unanimously agreed that “The Dam Keeper” was the best out of the five nominees.

Out of the five nominees (and several non-nominated shorts), “The Dam Keeper” was definitely the strongest, and probably most original, out of all of them.  Why?  Well, let me tackle the other nominees first to give you why this is my pick for best Oscar Animated Short for 2015.

To begin with, I’m glad that the non-nominated shorts were not nominated as they were definitely the weaker shorts.  “Bus Story” and “Duet” had an underwhelming story while “Sweet Cocoon” had a predictable ending with animation that looked to be on par with a children’s television show.  “Footprints” was the strongest of the four thanks to its exaggerated animation, great music, and story that continued to hold me to the end.

In fact, if given the option, I would have switched Disney’s “Feast” with “Footprints” as a nominated short.  Now let me be frank here, I loved last year’s “Get a Horse!” as it was hilarious and had a great concept behind it that was well executed.  I don’t think anything like that could be topped.  “Feast,” on the other hand, though adorable, lovingly animated, and well thought-out, did not have that extra something to make it special.  I liked it but its play-by-the-rules attitude to story and animation holds it back from earning that Oscar.

What didn’t play by the rules was “The Bigger Picture,” the British short that used real life sets and props to animate the story.  The style at first is jarring but after you quickly get used to it it seems natural to the depressing plot on hand.  I liked how the short animated the water using saran wrap or how the protagonist shut his brother up by slamming open a cabinet door onto his face.  My real fault with the short however is the story.  It played with your heartstring by dealing with such heavy topics as taking care of your elderly parents, unhelpful and ungrateful siblings, or death.  That I’m fine with.  However, the story felt kind of…unresolved…there was no closing for the will, or the mother’s forgiveness to her caring son, or a resolution for the brothers’ tension towards one another.  Perhaps the short was supposed to emanate real life but if that was case then it was certainly lost on me.  Granted, of all the shorts this was definitely the most real-like of the five but even then, a story without a resolution seems empty.

“Me and My Moulton” I definitely liked better than “The Bigger Picture.”  First off, I liked the simple design, the flat colors, and the contained story that it held.  This complimented this nostalgic retelling of a woman’s past as it painted the world from a child’s perspective.  What’s more, we only see things from her point of view and as such, there’s a very “grass is greener” vibe going on, especially when she compares her family to her neighbor’s family.  The whole short reminded me of Nickelodeon’s Doug thanks to its down-to-earth feeling.  The simple designs also reminded me of the old European comics like Tintin thanks to the simple, black dot eyes and the vibrant, unblending colors.  And as a side note, I liked how the father’s blind eye was slightly off-kilter compared to his normal eye, nice touch.

Next up, we get to the shortest of the nominees (a whopping 2 minutes), “A Single Life.”  When I saw the time stamp for this movie I was wondering how the heck they were going to tell a story in that time frame.  But boy was I surprise!  A record controlling time is probably not new but the way the animators delivered this concept was fantastic.  It told a story in such a succinct and delicious manner that you can’t help but be swept up by it.  And that ending!  That was great.

Honestly, the only thing holding back “A Single Life” would probably be its brevity.  And don’t get me wrong, brevity is fine but when you compare it to a full fledge story that you can latch onto and follow its progression smoothly then you’re on shaky ground.  Such is the way for the final nominee, “The Dam Keeper” which doesn’t have the faults its fellow nominees have.

“The Dam Keeper” has a nice story length with good pacing, it sets the ground rules for its universe fairly early on, it has a unique style to it, and its story is wholly original.  True, anthropomorphized animals is definitely nothing new, but the world that is built around them seems fresh.  I also like how a lot of things are kind of left up in the air such as what the darkness exactly is, why the pig is in charge of keeping the darkness at bay or why the windmill has the power to stop the darkness.  This doesn’t matter so much as the story between the friendship of a young fox and pig.  So wrapped up with it I was that when the pig decided to let the town suffer and let the darkness come in, I was genially surprise at the short’s direction and honestly thought it would end there.  Then, when the pig saw his friend’s drawing, I again thought the story was going to end there with this even bigger downer ending.  Fortunately, the pig was able to save the town and subsequently his friend’s life.  The ending was quite happy if not relieving and left a generally uplifting note in the air.

Now, if I were a betting man, I would bet the Oscars would pick Disney’s “Feast” as the winner because of its happy, warm, feel-good approach.  I would be 100% positive about this if it weren’t for the fact that Disney hasn’t won every year it was in the race.  Heck, last year’s “Get a Horse” lost to “Mr Hublot” which surprised me.  I’m hoping that “The Dam Keeper” will win this year because it deserves it.  If not it then I would be content with “A Single Life” or “Me and My Moulton” winning it as well because they told a better story compared to the bland, predictable “Feast.”  Fingers crossed!