Starting this Friday, February 10, the 2017 Oscar Nominated short films in animation and live-action will come to a Seattle theater near you. I had the esteemed privilege of viewing all and have callously passed judgment. (Things start out bleak, but I like a few of them, I swear!) Here are this year’s animated short films, presented in descending order.
It boggles the mind how a film as lame as this one got nominated. Directed by Patrick Osborne, this sentimental saga follows a father and daughter on a car trip through fatherhood into the girl’s birth and adolescence, ending in young adulthood. Surely the blocky, Dire Straits-eque animation is a stylistic choice (I want my MTV!), but to me it just looks ugly and dated. The story feels like a car commercial, and who knows. Perhaps the film is headed toward just such a future.
At just under 6 minutes, at least this one is mercifully short.
4. Borrowed Time
We’re safely back in familiar territory with Borrowed Time, by Pixar alums Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats. Expertly animated, the dialogue-free film follows a weathered sheriff as he literally strolls down “memory lane,” re-living moments from an accident years ago.
This is a fine film that had surprisingly little emotional effect on me. Betting on the slick American animation hasn’t paid off the last couple of years, but if the Academy goes in that direction this time around, the other CGI-heavy film at #2 is more likely.
3. Blind Vaysha
The Canadian-produced short Blind Vaysha feels more Eastern-European in style, tone and bleak sense of futility. Theodore Ushev directs the story about a girl with a weird handicap: She sees only the future out of one eye, and only the past out of the other. Basically, she’s blind. She bumps into things and she can’t find a suitor because all the men who come calling look at once like babies and old men. The film features a unique, traditional animation style reminiscent of swirling wood carvings.
Plus, there’s a lesson in this film somewhere about living in the present and how we should probably do that.
Likely the most familiar of all the nominees, Alan Barillaro‘s Piper played in theaters this year with the Pixar feature Finding Dory. (I sure as heck didn’t see it, because I unilaterally dislike children’s films and particularly animation. What business do I even have pontificating in this category, you might be wondering. Don’t worry about it!) Piper‘s a gorgeously-animated film with a short and sweet, simple story featuring a mother bird and her baby doing cute, heart-warming things. Seriously, it’s a triumph of animation: that foamy ocean doesn’t grow on trees. It’s incredibly hard to master.
Everybody says bet on Pixar, but where did this rumor get started? They haven’t won in this category in years. But the film looks like the very best hotel painting come to life, and it’s my best guess to win.
1. Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Finally, with Pear Cider and Cigarettes we get the longest and most grown-up film of the bunch. Director Robert Valley‘s 35-minute romp tells a story in voice-over of the narrator’s friend “Techno” and his sad dissent into oblivion. Valley’s previous work includes music videos for The Gorillaz, and that style and musical sensibilities shows in the strange animation and killer soundtrack. Admittedly, I am biased toward the rated-R film: You won’t find a “fuck” anywhere else on this list! What can I say. The narrator’s dry delivery and the film’s flat ending appeals to my interests.
This doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the top prize. But I suppose it’s an honor for the filmmaker just to be nominated.