Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

Short Films can be considered to be the purest form of filmmaking. With little time to work with, emphasis is on the story and getting things done as quick as possible without losing meaning. With animation, that task is made easier as any character, creature, or world can be created or re-created. This year’s nominees for Best Animated Short Film are another most-excellent collection of films which are full of every emotion in the book.

Here are the nominees and their reviews…

BORROWED TIME – In the Old West, an aging sheriff returns to the site of a tragic accident that he has spent his entire life trying to forget.

This was created by Pixar animators during their spare time, as part of the company’s Co-op program which allows their artists and animators to produce independent films…so this can be considered an official unofficial Pixar submission. Being that it’s outside of the traditional Pixar pipeline, this film is very dark and tragic, with death taking the front row seat. It’s one of the shortest of the nominees, but it gets the point across very well despite only three things happening in the story. It’s a look at death in the eye, and its shortness doesn’t take away from its impact.

PEARL – A little girl and her father travel the country in a hatchback and bond over their love of music.

With zero dialogue and song lyrics serving as the only words we hear, PEARL is a look at the bonding and drifting that a father-daughter relationship goes through…all seen through dad’s old car. It’s sweet, fun, and clever…and the animation style makes the more clich├ęd themes at work seem fresh.

PIPER – A sandpiper hatchling leaves the nest for the first time to learn how to feed himself.

This official Pixar entry ran in front of FINDING DORY in 2016, and is the most familiar and comfortable. It’s a coming-of-age story with no dialogue, and just the actions and fears of the most adorable little creature in the history of film driving the story. The story is solid, but the real selling point is the animation, which is breathtaking and another level-up for Pixar. The ocean waves and beautiful, and we can literally count the grains of sand on the beach. This is the most real-looking CG animation has ever been.

BLIND VAYSHA – The story of a girl who is born with a unique ability; one of her eyes only sees the past, while the other only sees the future.

Dark and full of expression, this is set up like a folk tale or the type of story spun around a campfire. Narrated, it spends most of its time explaining how the little girl sees things, and its closing moments waxing philosophical. It’s a simple, yet effective message about how we should be viewing the world, other people, and our own lives…and feels like it could have been part of a larger story.

PEAR CIDER AND CIGARETTES – Techno, a lifetime hard drinker and smoker, is helped by his childhood friend when his liver begins to fail.

The longest of the nominees at a hefty 35 minutes, this real-life tale covers decades of friendship, as the narrator goes through all sorts of hell trying to get his best friend Techno to lay off the booze while he waits for a new liver. Its real life and tragic, but the presentation is so direct and powerful (and very funny in places), that it is very captivating. The animation is stunning, and Techno, despite being an asshole and knowing it, is a character that we all may have had in our lives at one time or another; the type that goes through 98% of life invincible, and the last two percent with life catching up. This is one film which will make anyone second-guess their life choices.


The Oscars will be awarded February 26th.

Read Reel Speak's review on the nominated Live Action Shorts HERE

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