It’s that time of year again: Oscars season, where the film industries come together to pick out the best films. From more well known studios to the independents, everyone has a chance to shine; some more than others.
The animated shorts field is more open than most categories, as you tend to get more less known or start-up animators. “Piper” won Best Animated short at the 89th Academy Awards Feb. 26. Here are my picks of the best out of the five finalists.
5. “Blind Vaysha”
As one of the two nominated 2-D animated shorts this year, “Blind Vaysha,” by Theodore Ushev, is about a girl with one eye stuck in the past and the other stuck in the future. Unable to see in the present, Vaysha goes through life as best as she can or until something comes and breaks her curse. The animation is an African style, broad brush strokes of black on dark color backgrounds with an uncanny motion that make it seem almost like stock motion. Most of the film is split in half on the screen. It must have been an interesting challenge, but the story fell a bit flat and I was hoping for a less preachy ending.
Pixar, or Disney Pixar, is a wonderful 3-D animation studios known for being a guaranteed hit maker, with films such as “Toy Story,” “Monsters Ink” and “Zootopia.” Since 2002, Pixar has not won a single short film award and I can see why. “Piper” is about a young sandpiper learning to feed herself on oysters that hide when the tide is low. But that is it for the plot. It is very well animated with very expressive faces for semi-realist animals.
3. “Borrowed Time”
Made by Pixar employees Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats, “Borrowed Time” is about an old man returning to the scene of his most traumatic moment and making the choice to carry on or fall into despair.
This is what I want to see out of Pixar: dark subject matter delievered in a mature way that a kid can still understand, if not learn from. The color palette switches as it jumps from past to present; the past is bright and hopeful as the present is bleak and uncertain. The characters are cartoony, but still convey the gravity of what’s happening. If you ever wonder what Pixar blood would look like, then this short won’t disappoint.
This short was the most touching so far. It had an older style of animation. “Pearl” is about a father and his daughter living out of an old car traveling across the country trying to survive. As years go by, they settle down but fight with each other as the girl grows up to be rebellious. Ultimately, she matures and goes on her own journey with the car.
Even with its low resolution, it’s very expressive. Everything is bright and colorful making the most of its simple backgrounds.
1.“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
A good mix of light and dark themes, “Pear Cider and Cigarettes” is the longest of the shorts at 30 minutes. It is about the life and death of Robert Valley and his friend Techno. A young and reckless man who comes into money from winning a few lawsuits before diving headlong into a bottle and never recovering. The 2-D style embodies noir because how sad the narrator feels about his friend then any real mystery, deep colored outlines on top of self shading gives everything a comic book feel.