2012 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts Review

by     Posted 1 year, 250 days ago

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I adore animation, and it bums me out that most animated features are so formulaic and safe.  I understand that they have to be widely-appealing due to the high production costs, but it keeps the animated form mostly constrained to family films.  The Oscar-nominated animated shorts allow us to have a peek at an animated world that can break boundaries, and show us the potential of the medium when it doesn’t have to appeal to all ages.  Unfortunately, most of these nominees are fairly safe, although it seems like they were all required to avoid dialogue.  The majority of the shorts are still entertaining, but there’s a runaway winner in the pack.

Hit the jump for my reviews of the 2012 Oscar-nominated animated short films: Paperman, Fresh Guacamole, Head over Heels, Adam and Dog, and Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”.

PAPERMAN

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I flat-out love this movie.  I could watch it every few days, and get lost in it again and again.  It’s a simple story of a guy trying to get a girl’s attention by throwing paper airplanes at her from the building across the street, and his attempts are constantly sweet and funny, but the film never feels slight.  There’s a wonderful romance to it where it’s not about love at first sight per say, but it’s about taking the chance to at least meet someone, and see where it could go.  Director John Kahrs put together a revolutionary blend of hand-drawn animation and 3D, but even in 2D, the short still works beautiful.  Paperman probably had more money than any of these other shorts, but it absolutely paid off.

FRESH GUACAMOLE

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This short feels more like an exercise in stop-motion animation rather than anything substantial.  Writer-director PES turns food into game icons like dice and Monopoly houses to create a game-peppered guacamole.  There’s nothing beyond that, so while the short a little cute, it’s nothing worthwhile.  Fresh Guacamole feels even more insignificant when placed along side its fellow nominees.  It’s a movie that would get an art student an “A” on their final exam, but it’s hardly worth of Academy attention.

HEAD OVER HEELS

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I don’t know how long director Timothy Reckart worked on Head over Heels, but at some point he must have recognized that his short would immediately be compared to Up.  We see a floating house with old people inside of it.  It’s a superficial comparison, but it’s distracting nonetheless.  But if you can get past those features, Head over Heels is a nice little movie about a couple trying to reconnect even though they no longer seem to have anything in common including gravity.  The stop-motion picture comes to a sweet resolution, but it all feels a little obvious once the novelty of the upside-down house wears off.

ADAM AND DOG

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This is my second favorite based almost solely on the fact that I’m a dog person.  However, the 2D animation is well done, and it’s the story of the fall of man from a perspective that feels both comforting and original.  Writer-director Minkyu Lee brings an unflinching melancholy and darkness to the story that’s not aggressive as much as it’s reminiscent of the bleakest scenes in Disney’s pre-1990s animated films.  Adam and Dogs isn’t a religious film, but simply another take on a boy-and-his-dog story, and those usually win me over.

MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “THE LONGEST DAYCARE”

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It’s a fun movie that played before Ice Age: Continental Drift.  There’s really nothing more to it, and the short mostly feels like a bit of a retread of the “Great Escape” parody from The Simpsons episode “A Streetcar Named Marge”.  That’s the problem with The Simpsons: It’s been on so long that it rips itself off; the current writers are the ones who grew up watching the show.  It’s not like South Park, which is nimble enough to be topical.  “The Longest Daycare” probably had around as much money as Paperman, but this Simpsons short lacks the heart or innovation of Disney’s movie.

[This short is not available to view online]

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  • anthony

    Fuck you Goldberg. PES is amazing

  • John

    Agreed with anthony, F U Goldberg

  • Johnson

    and I agree with John

  • Matt

    Nope, I agree with Matt. PAPERMAN and ADAM AND DOG are the two best. Look, I couldn’t animate it, but from a storytelling aspect GUACAMOLE is pretty pointless. Unless you can explain to me the connection of avocados, guacamole, and game pieces, this looks like an excuse to do something visually interesting, but that’s all. All the other shorts at least had a point of view or a theme.

    • Bb

      This correlation is kind of simple. Avocado is the most active ingredient on guacamole. Guacamole and chips is a common snack when playing table games like those including, chips, board games and card games. I think it’s clever and entertaining but it has no substance to compete with an actual story.. Still, very impressive.

  • Nerdgasm

    PES is a POS…and im guessing that Anthony, John and Johnson are the same person.

  • Alejandro Contreras

    Here it is “The Longest Daycare”

    http://vimeo.com/59362603

  • Bb

    Adam and dog isn’t a religious film???… Wtf did you watch buddy? A man named Adam, living in a sort of paradise… He is tempted by a woman, he must leave paradise.. That big ol’ book the men in robes are always reading aloud.. Yeah it somewhere in there.

    • Christopher S

      Exactly, Adam and dog is another aspect of the religious story. Adam walking around naked, not a care in the world then he is tempted, expelled from paradise and is shamed so he covers himself. They even put the mastodon in to imply that dinosaurs existed alongside modern animals, which is a religious ideal…

  • Dan

    Matt, you’ve completely missed the point of “Fresh Guacamole.” I’m not gonna say “fuck you” like the others because that’s rude and ridiculous. To me PES made arguably the most groundbreaking and advanced animation in the group (though i did like the ohter 4 a lot, especially Adam and Dog and Paperman, and the couple in the house was great too). By stop motion animating real objects and people (pixillation), he had an attention to detail that I did not see in the other films. He used non-food objects to replace the food objects, with some clever puns (poker chips are chips, dice are ‘diced’ tomatoes, etc…). The rich sounds of the real food combined with the food-resembling images made me salivate…it’s an impressive effect. Just because it’s non-narrative doesn’t mean it should be dismissed outright. In it’s 2 minutes, it made me smile, chuckle, or ‘wow’ as much as the 10 or 12 minute animations did.

  • Doug

    Saw these in the theater last week. I love the guacamole one. Adam and Dog was nice. I disliked the Simpsons one greatly. So tired and full of fake emotion. I can’t downplay this one enough. Sadly, I fell asleep though most of the other two, so I can’t say about them. I think I’ll watch them now!

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