Every year, the hardest categories to predict in the Oscar race are the shorts. They’re difficult to track down, and they don’t have much buzz. I’ll leave it to the prognosticators to figure out which one will win; I’m curious about their quality. For those who don’t know, there are three categories for shorts: Best Animated Short, Best Live Action Short, and Best Documentary Short.
I have reviewed the shorts in all three categories, and will begin with the animated ones. Animation is always the best of the three because it has a freedom and vivacity we don’t see in mainstream animated fare, which usually has to appeal directly to families. While there was no absolutely outstanding animated short like Paperman or The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore this year, the animated short nominees had a fair balance of family-friendly films and offbeat titles. Hit the jump for my review of all five nominees.
[Shorts are listed in alphabetical order]
In this lush animated short, a child raised by wolves is found in the wilderness and taken to civilization in order to be domesticated. The animation style is made to look like a moving oil painting, and when combined with the stark, mostly monochromatic color palette, the result is both controlled yet vibrant. From an animation perspective, Feral is entrancing, and while the approach matches the emotions of the characters, it ultimately overshadows the narrative.
Get a Horse!
In this Disney throwback, Mickey and his friends must rescue Minnie from the clutches of Peg-Leg Pete. Get a Horse! originally played in 3D, and without the 3D, the short loses its punch. The breaking of the fourth wall is still entertaining, but the animators clearly meant for the wall to be broken by a 3D perspective. The humor and playful tone still work, but the theme makes less sense when you have the ugly car horn shouting “Make way for the future!” and the future—2D black-and-white becoming colorful CGI—is one we made way for a long time ago.
This is a charming tale of a man adopting a dog, but doing so in a steampunk world (minus the grime and the humans). Everything is gears, clockwork, and an all-around busy, engrossing setting. The story is simple, but one that gets me every time: dogs (even mechanical ones) are adorable and it’s fun to watch them become both a nuisance and a comfort to their owners. There’s not much depth beyond the premise, but the exciting visuals make Mr. Hublot a joy to watch.
The movie tells the story of a wandering fix-it man who seeks shelter in a temple during a storm. The temple holds the spirits of broken items, and he uses his kit to fix up umbrellas, paintings, and more. The anime style is lush and goes well with the setting, but it’s ultimately a pat narrative with a character happening upon a haunted location that just so happens to need his particular skill set. This blend of the supernatural and his helpful demeanor does make for a cute short albeit one that’s mostly devoid of conflict or personal growth.
Room on the Broom
In Room on the Broom, a witch and her cat continue to pick up lonely animals that need her help. It has the comforting redundancy of a storybook (probably because it’s based on one) where the witch loses some item, lands to go find it, and comes across an animal that earns her sympathy, a space on her broom, and the chagrin of the cat. It’s a nice little tale, and would be right at home on a kids network. It has rhyming narration, simple, colorful CGI visuals, and doesn’t challenge the viewer in the slightest. It’s fluffier than cotton candy and just as filling.