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2016 Academy Award Nominated Animated Short Films Review

The five nominated short films in the animated category are diverse in animation style and narrative content, but they all have clear ups and downs. Below are my mini reviews for these five mini movies.

Sanjay’s Super Team

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Sanjay’s Super Team, from Pixar, opens on a dichotomy of old and young ideals in an Indian household.

The animation sports the usual Pixar smoothness, with soft-faced characters and heavily textured atmospheres. We are also provided with shimmering neon colors contrasted with a shadowy temple environment as we delve into the vibrant, action-packed imagination of a boy trapped idle in a household of tradition.

However, it is this tradition that spurs this imaginative journey and, for a brief moment, we get a complex emotional distancing between father and son as the boy’s imagination becomes a point of misunderstanding.

Sanjay’s Super Team is simple in narrative scope, but it delivers enough emotion and excitement to stand with the best of Pixar’s shorts, even if the entire short unravels a bit too fast.

 

World of Tomorrow

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Read my full review of World of Tomorrow here. The Don Hertzfeldt short is available to stream on Netflix now.

 

Bear Story

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In Bear Story, we open on a series of gears of various textures and a mechanical bear moving in time to plunking piano music. This is a close-up on the work of a bear who is seemingly racked with loneliness.

The bear takes his gear contraption into the streets, where he tells his life story in miniature for coins. The result is a melancholic, at times tragic story of a family torn apart.

The mixture of animated styles between the different worlds of this short are what make this short distinctive, but it is the emotional resonance that makes it memorable.

 

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

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We Can’t Live Without Cosmos begins with a training montage of men essentially auditioning to be cosmonauts. They are tested physically in multiple areas, and it becomes clear that there are two men fitter than the rest. These two men are somewhat childish companions who fling food at each other in the mess hall and jump on their beds at night, imagining the stars.

The animation is simple hand-drawn people. Five o’clock shadow is nothing more than lines across the mouth. Eyes are pinprick dots.

The turn of the film marks a tonal shift that is undoubtedly necessary for the narrative to move, but it still feels out of place. Overall, the short lacks the emotional intensity that the other films in the bunch have.

 

Prologue

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Prologue depicts hand drawn art come to life in a literal, meta form, as we see the hand of creator Richard Williams working with the art on the page. The page then grows into a series of hyper-detailed hand drawn images of primitive men fighting one another with sword and shield and bow and arrow. The aesthetic is gorgeous, the narrative overly-simplistic as its subjects are.

The realism of the violent content is apparent in the carefully constructed contours of the bodies depicted, and the technique of allowing still art to come alive on film is intriguing. However, the film on the whole leaves something to be desired narratively.

 

As always, thanks for reading!

Have you seen any or all of the Oscar nominated short films? If so, what do you think? Which one do you think will win the award? Let me know in the comments!

You can see my predictions in all 24 Oscar categories here.

—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

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