Short film review: Oscar-nominated animated shorts 2015
James R | On 22, Feb 2015
Short films are a sadly overlooked part of awards season, but the VOD release of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts on Vimeo and iTunes means that the talent and creativity behind this year’s miniature gems can be seen by as wide an audience as possible.
In the run-up to the 2015 Oscars ceremony, we take a look at each of the animated contenders.
Me and My Moulton (Canada)
Three sisters grow up in a Norwegian family in this slight, but sweet, animation. While the trio deal with their parents’ tendency towards contemporary art and linger on their topless male neighbour who “pours water down his throat without swallowing”, director Torill Kove has a knack for physical comedy: all the modernist chairs in their home have three legs and fall over at random intervals, while a fantasy involving naked fire evacuation is giggle-inducingly silly. The sting comes in the gap between the girls’ dreams and those of their parents, but it lands softly, avoiding leaving any lasting impression. Still, there is some charm in its adolescent simplicity. “Is everything OK?” asks a doctor. The daughter replies: “My father has a moustache.”
The Bigger Picture (UK)
It’s not easy looking after an elderly relative. It’s even harder if that relative is your mother. How do you capture that complicated relationship in under 15 minutes? Directors Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees are unafraid to keep it complicated, as two brothers are faced with their mother’s deteriorating condition. Bitter, neglectful and slyly amusing, it’s a cocktail of spiky feelings – one made even more so than the mind-boggling animation, which has a tactile stop-motion feel emphasised by the use of life-size sets. You won’t know what to make of it. That’s a good thing.
The Dam Keeper (US)
Windmill-operating pigs are sorely underrepresented in modern cinema. The Dam Keeper addresses that balance in adorable style. The dam in question is our windmill, which our keeper pig must maintain every day to prevent a dark fog from engulfing the town. But the grubby little porker is bullied by the local for being different – that is, until a grinning fox treats him kindly. Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi take our hero’s dirty appearance and spread it across the frame, delivering everything with a smudge situated somewhere between a watercolour and a half-painted wall. As black strokes threaten to smear over the wonderfully-designed animal population, The Dam Keeper becomes a parable about friendship in the face of loneliness. A mask to protect from the dark but not from the people? The symbolism might not be subtle, but the winning visuals and music make for an utterly charming tale.
A Single Life (Netherlands)
You’d be surprised at just how much you can squeeze into a couple of minutes. A Single Life sees a young woman discover a vinyl that allows her to travel back and forth in time. From pizza slices to zimmer frames, Joris Oprins’ flurry of chronological silliness is laugh-out-loud, endlessly surprising and guaranteed to leave a smile on your face. It’s the shortest of this year’s Oscar nominated short films. It might also be the best.
The 2015 Oscar-nominated shorts package from Shorts HD also includes other “highly commended” films, including Sweet Cocoon (highly polished CGI with little beneath the surface), Bill Plympton’s Footprints, which sees its sketchy shadowy style occasionally overwhelm its story, and Duet, a highly sentimental but stunningly presented line-drawing of two people growing up to be together.
Note: Disney’s Feast is not currently available on VOD. When it available, a review will be added to this page along with a list of where it can be watched online.
The Academy Awards take place on Sunday 22nd February at 1:30am. For more information on where to watch the Oscars online in the UK legally, click here.