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Oscar Shorts: Animated nominees

February 19, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Longest Daycare

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (2012)

Not sure how or why this came about, but this is an animated short returning Maggie to a B-plot from a 20-year-old episode of The Simpsons. Here she finds herself again in the Ayn Rand Daycare, where, being determined to be of average intelligence, she gets put into the dingy room with the kids eating paste and the one sitting there with a box over his head. She makes friends with a little caterpillar she learns will become a butterfly, but its life is threatened by Gerald, that baby with the one eyebrow. Look, that was a hilarious recurring bit on The Simpsons, the idea that a baby could have a nemesis, and that Maggie’s was so strangely marked by a unibrow. But part of the funny of it was that babies aren’t evil. Even if they have the capacity for ill-will, they just don’t have the agency to execute it. In this case, Gerald is identifiably hostile. He smashes other butterflies with a mallet and can’t seem to wait to get his baby hands onto Maggie’s. So they have a little adventure chase with her trying to rescue the butterfly, and him trying to kill it. There’s a little reversal of fate at the end that’s clever and everything, and based on the title (a play on The Longest Day a 1962 WWII movie I haven’t seen), I assume there are a billion movie parodies and references in the five minute run time of this short, though none immediately struck me. Still, it’s only fine.

And, streaming on Hulu if you are interested.

Adam and Dog

“Adam and Dog” (2012)

It’s a silent chronicle of a wild dog living his day-to-day in the most bizarre environment I have ever seen: it is woods, it is jungle, it is anything and everything. A lot of animals are messing around out here, including what looks like a woolly mammoth. And a human! A primitive, visibly naked human man who reaches out a tentative hand to this dog, and then they are the best of friends. They run, they play. But THEN! He meets a primitive, visibly naked lady, and then the sticks for fetch are thrown less and less often. And the little dog becomes lonely, and scared.

I love dogs, so I loved this short. Even though the whole thing has a sketchy, 1980s Disney quality to it, the animation of this dog is uncanny. People who live with dogs will see so many familiar little movements—the morning stretch. The playtime “downward dog.” The little sniffs and growls as the dog sizes up another life form. And then the end, the end! How do I avoid corniness and also say that this short was literally “life-affirming” for me? I can be an inveterate loner, so stories about people (/creatures) learning to let someone in always mean waterworks for me. And this little dog—so scared, but he bounds up to this new couple, even though they frighten him, and he holds his head up to be petted. He’s just gonna try.

Every inch of what’s worthwhile about this short is in the physicality of the characters, and I will never cease to be amazed that people have the ability to draw that stuff from scratch.

Fresh Guacamole

“Fresh Guacamole” (2012)

People have been talking about this as the potential winner, and that would really be something. It is literally two minutes in duration, but every second of it is bright and surprising and beautiful and unexpected, so an Oscar win would not be out of the question. This short shows the making of a bowl of guacamole, beginning with the slicing and scooping of an avocado, except instead of an avocado, it’s a grenade. And every subsequent ingredient is some non-food item that strangely resembles the food item it is standing in for. My favorite was the bulb from a string of Christmas lights which played a chili pepper. It got cut in half, and out were scraped the light filaments like the seeds. The whole thing is sort of a visual pun, I guess; it’s funny and weird and terribly creative.

Also, for now it is here on Youtube.

Head Over Heels

“Head Over Heels” (2012)

The idea is the real brilliant bit here. (I will do my best to describe it; also see the picture above.) There is this house, in which lives an elderly couple, but they have a crucial incompatibility—an incompatibility of horizon. He lives on the floor, and she lives on the ceiling. The house is built to accommodate this, with furniture and fixtures both on the floor and on the ceiling. They must have had a brilliant architect. I especially like the way they share their refrigerator; it’s on a track. They each pull it down (/up) to their level when they want to open it.

Well, so they have marital issues, obviously. Through some gravitational anomaly, they can’t seem to meet on the same axis. There is a solution, and it’s cute and it’s satisfying—and involves significant compromise by both parties—but I didn’t feel that this one achieved the depths of “Adam and Dog,” or the breathless charm of the short that followed, “Paperman.”

Paperman

“Paperman” (2012)

This one is from Disney, and I hear that it played before Wreck-It Ralph, so a lot of people will have seen it already. Basically, it’s a five-minute, dialogue-free, retro romance between cartoon John Krasinski and cartoon Hayley Atwell. (That’s just who I thought they looked like.) They meet cute and then strive to be reunited. The animation is sharp, in rich black-and-white, and the music is lovely. It’s six minutes of encapsulated happiness.

My Favorite: “Adam and Dog” (but maybe “Paperman,” depending on my mood)

Predicted Winner: Fresh Guacamole

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  1. February 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm

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