By Elias Savada.
The Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts in competition for the ceremony this Friday are a disparate, probing set. They include Lou, the 7-minute Pixar entry directed by Dave Mullins and produced by Dana Murray. If you saw Cars 3 at the Cineplex last summer, this charming, colorful CGI work was the better part of that show. It involves an amorphous entity in a school’s lost-and-found box and how it tackles the playground bully. Charming, insightful, poignant. Not sure it will win, but Pixar should conquer the animated feature category with Coco.
Dear Basketball is a hand-drawn effort, a collaboration between former Disney animator Glen Keane, composer John Williams, and one heck of a sportsman. Taking basketball great Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement, the short morphs into an emotionally driven, heavily orchestrated look at his admiration for the sport that made him a hero for millions of sports fans. Garden Party, a French CGI tour-de-force with a mystery slant, is filled with amphibious whimsy as a group of frogs explore a bullet-holed mansion with rancid food and a scum-covered pool before inadvertently turning up the heat and revealing a gruesome situation. This labor-intensive, award-winning work (well, just about all the films in these categories have won an accolade or more) was collectively directed by Théophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro, Florian Babikian, Vincent Bayoux, Gabriel Grapperon, and Victor Caire.
At 29 minutes, Revolting Rhymes, a British entry from Munich-born filmmakers Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer, equals the running time of all the other animated shorts. Based on Roald Dahl’s book (illustrated by Quentin Blake), this is a mash-up with Little Red Riding Hood, a Big Bad (and Very Hungry) Wolf, Snow White, a Magic Mirror, The Huntsman, The Three Little Pigs, The Seven (Gambling) Dwarves, and other fairy tale characters cast askew in a bizarre, dark storyland filled with light-hearted adventure, death, kidnapping, and devilish delight. It’s comic palette is reminiscent of that found on the television series Pushing Daisies. The film’s directors have previous nominations (Schuh as co-director on 2009’s The Gruffalo; Lachauer as a co-director on 2014’s Room on the Broom), and the vocal talent includes Rob Brydon, Bertie Carvel, Gemma Chan, Tamsin Greig, and Dominic West. The lovely animation was created by Magic Light Pictures, Berlin, and Triggerfish Animation Studios, Cape Town. Finally, Negative Space, which also will be part of the Mind-Blowing Animation program at the forthcoming DC Independent Film Festival, is a French stop-motion gift from Baltimore-based directors Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata. It’s a joyful, inventive celebration about a son recalling how his father taught him the old school art of suitcase packing, the last of several standouts in this year’s slate.
Read also Elias Savada, “Social Critique, in Truth and Fiction: 2018 Oscar Nominated Live Action and Documentary Shorts” and Gary Kramer, Big Dreams and Odd Dwellings: 2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the new documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (the revised edition will be published in 2018 by Centipede Press).