The opportunity has finally arrived to see all the Oscar nominated shorts in both the live action and animated categories. The films premiere this Friday, January 29 at Landmark Guild 45th Theatre and run through the following Thursday, February 4. Animated and live action play at separate times; be sure to visit Landmark Theatres website for up to date film times and theatre information.
I had the great fortune of seeing all the films, and you know I had some opinions. Here’s a rundown of my favorites, ranked from best to “least-best”, as there really wasn’t a bad film in the bunch.
“World of Tomorrow” Dir. by Don Hertzfeldt. USA. 17 min.
You may recognize the unique animation style of Don Hertzfeldt’s stick figures interposed with strange, unreal settings, even if you don’t necessarily know his work by name. His other work includes titles like “Rejected,” “The Meaning of Life” and “Everything Will Be OK,” all worth checking out and available on YouTube. So many of the animated films are silent or have sparse dialogue, which makes “World of Tomorrow” stand out among the other nominees as particularly chatty. In the film, a little girl named Emily receives an unlikely visit from a clone of herself from the future. This future Emily shares a tale about the new world that is both bizarre, hilarious and heartbreaking. My best guess is that this unique, strange, and not quite for kids film has approximately zero chance of winning an Oscar, but hey, you really never know. This could be Hertzfeldt’s year. (You can check out “World of Tomorrow” in advance on Netflix, by the way.)
“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” Dir. by Konstantin Bronzit. Russia. 16 min.
I wonder if this short film out of Russia has any idea just how adorable it is. I think it does. In “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos,” we follow a couple of cosmonauts in the space program as they prepare to go off into space. They share a room on the space station, where they pose for pictures, high-five a lot and jump up and down on beds. I liked this film a lot more when I thought the fellas were in love. It’s still cute when you realize that they’re brothers, but I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” has something subtle and interesting to say about institutions and how they tackle real human grief.
“Sanjay’s Super Team” Dir. by Sanjay Patel. USA. 7 min.
You’d have to be made out of stone to not let this touching Pixar tale into your heart and mind. The film tells the true-to-life story of the Indian-born animator and his young son. The father hopes his son will be interested in his Hindu rituals and traditions, but the boy is distracted by American superheroes. What follows from there can only be described as a prayer induced hallucination that bridges the gap between family and competing cultural traditions. Pixar or Disney has taken home animation for the last two of three years, which would make this a fairly safe bet in your Oscar pools, but I’d hardly call it an out-and-out sure thing.
“Bear Story” Dir. by Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 11 min.
It’s all about the visuals in “Bear Story,” a sweet and often sad film out of Chile about an old bear with a diorama. Inside the diorama we see a circus bear who longs to escape the box and return to his old life. I know! It’s as sad as it sounds, but maybe there’s a happy ending? The animation reminds me of those Michel Gondry music videos from the 1990s, with its surreal and child-like use of stop motion cut-outs.
“Prologue” dir. Richard Williams. UK. 6 min.
In “Prologue,” a little girl witnesses the brief and brutal slaughter of a couple of warriors as they battle in the Spartan-Athenian war. The film begins with some live action before switching to animation, which is in the style of very fine life-drawing in a sketchbook. The movie is mostly black and white with some very red blood. Be advised, this one comes with a parental advisory warning, but I don’t know. I’ll bet your kid will have accidentally seen a lot worse.