Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Best Animated Shorts: Gorgeous Animation in This Year's Lineup

One of my favorite things to do every year is check out the Oscar nominated short films at the Regent Square Theater.  They films are presented as separate shows, and it's fun to see "those movies no one has ever heard of" on the big screen.  I caught the animated program last night, and the Academy has selected a small platter of stories.  Since the program is a bit slight on length, there are some additional shorts to pad it out.

The most familiar of the titles might be Disney's Get a Horse!  It plays before the runaway train hit known as Frozen.  Mickey is driving a horse-drawn wagon full of hay when Peg-Leg Pete drives behind them in his fancy-schmancy car.  He honks the horn and bellows his face off like a Chris Christie supporter and eventually takes Minnie Mouse hostage and throws Mickey through the screen.  This is where the fun begins.  
All the characters mess with the screen and the idea of people watching them in a big movie theater.  When the characters fly into the audience, they turn to bright colors, and when they return to the screen they are restored to classic black and white.  Mickey's restless attempts to save Minnie are met with slapstick and a wink to the old school Mickey Mouse cartoons.  I think animators will go gaga over this.  We are treated to the entire history of animation in 6 short minutes.  Get a Horse! will probably win the Oscar.

Mr. Hublot has earned a ton of animation awards since 2013, and it should charm the pants off a lot of people.

In Mr. Hublot's world, everything is mechanical.  We see impressive skyscrapers made of scraps of metal, and the city outside of his window runs on a very organized clock.  Mr. Hublot's OCD ensures that he turns his lights on and off before he leaves his house and he always makes sure that the pictures on the walls are all arranged to his liking.  As he goes about his routine every day, he hears the yipping of a dog across the street.  He takes the dog in, and, much to his dismay, the dog turns his life upside down.  Mr. Hublot's very orderly life becomes a bit harder to contain as his puppy grows and grows.  

My audience loved this short.  It's super cute (especially if you're an animal lover), and the nearly wordless short will put a smile on your face.

The most serious short is Feral.  While not my favorite, Feral is gorgeously animated.  A young feral boy is discovered among wolves in the woods by a hunter.  He takes the boy in, cuts his hair short, and sends him off to school.  Since he has never really been around other people (let alone kids his own age), the boy begins to act out and gets teased.  

I don't know the style of animation that director Daniel Sousa uses, but it's really pretty.  Everything seems to be in constant motion, but he gives no characters any prominent features.  A lot seems like shadows, and it's really beautiful.  Scenery and objects appear or pop out organically from the screen.  Lots of stark imagery.  

The images of Possessions won't leave my brain.  

The short is based on the idea that objects and knick knacks will have lives of their own, and they will toy with the minds of the living.  A man stumbles onto a shrine and every room he enters reveals new life in every day objects.  In the first room, he encounters ripped, colorful paper umbrellas.  He sits down and mends them all.  An adorable paper umbrella from comes dancing and singing and the man restores him as well.  The man goes to other rooms, but I don't want to ruin anything.

The thing I noticed most about Possessions is the texture of everything.  The scenery looks traditionally animated while the main character looks almost out of a video game.  The textures and light in this short are more engaging than entire animated features.  You know who you are!

I love Room on the Broom, but I understand why some people wouldn't.  It's the longest entry in this category, and I have seen some people complain online that it's too episodic.  I don't think that's enough of a criticism, because all the characters are adorable.

Based on the children's book, Broom comes from the same director of the Oscar-winning short, The Gruffalo, and features a pretty famous cast.  Gillian Anderson voices The Witch and Simon Pegg narrates the tale.  The Witch seems pretty fine and dandy with her tabby cat, but, through a series of events, they meet a dog, a frog, and a bird.  It's kind of a modern family-esque tale, and it's just charming as all heck.  

By the way, Best Supporting Actress nominee Sally Hawkins voices the adorable green bird.  I loudly gasped her name when I saw it during the opening credits, and I was charmed ever since.  

Also, as a random sidebar, it's a good ear for prominent orange tabby cat performances.  Right?  First Ulysses in Inside Llewyn Davis and now The Cat from Room with the Broom.  

The animated and live action shorts will be playing at the Regent Square Theater in Regent Square until February 13th.  The documentary short films begin at the Melwood Screening Room on February 7th.

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