Every year the Oscars celebrate the best films in all categories, and they’ve been awarding animated shorts since (almost) the beginning of the Oscars themselves. Now that the awards are right upon us, it is worth reviewing the films up for nomination. One main reason is simply that they’re entertaining, with the other being the discussion of who should win. This year is a weird one though, with some films receiving more (even if questionable) attention then others as well as differing levels of quality, it’s hard to tell who will get the Oscar gold this year. So let’s review the films as they stand, form an opinion on it, and go from there.
Hello and this is AniMo from Animated Monologues, talking about Oscar Season. This year we discuss the short nominees and the roadblocks we may run into.
Negative Space (The stop-motion entry of the year): A French stop-motion film about a man reminiscing about his late father, and how they bonded over luggage and packing bags. The boy details how you can use every inch of space in a suitcase to put clothes and more in every nook and cranny. The titular ‘negative space’ comes from that used/unused space in the bags.
It debuted at the prestigious Annecy Animation Festival in 2017, winning a special distinction for French short-filmmaking for directors Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata. This rings close and personal for both filmmakers as Kuwahata is used to watching her dad pack and travel for business. Porter realized through making this film that this is an odd, yet vital, bond that children have to make with their parents. Showcasing this film around the world has turned both directors into professionals at packing, since they had to move the whole production set around the world on multiple occasions.
As a film, it’s not super special. It’s a close-to-home story but doesn’t present enough mindset or emotion to leave a longer lasting impression. The art style is very quaint and sets up its plain setting beautifully, even if the writing didn’t take full advantage of it.
Dear Basketball (The animation veteran nomination): Kobe Bryant has retired from basketball after a long and rewarding career, and the poem he wrote to commemorate it has been animated by the former Disney legend Glen Keane. We see small snapshots of Bryant’s legacy animated into one loving tribute to his favorite game.
Keane’s animation, as usual, is very detailed and has a very smooth flow to it. Even though Bryant was the central force of the film, we can’t overlook Keane’s contribution to it. Keane has been making short films since he left Disney, and they’re all beautiful. Even if we can’t relate to Bryant’s life and his success, the film is accessible to most audiences since Bryant talks more about the feelings and dreams surrounding the game then any other technical aspect of it. While certainly not Keane’s best short film, it’s still a worth addition to his already storied legacy.
Though with his Oscar nomination came concern over a previous rape charge of his, and possible symbolic ramifications for Bryant to win an Oscar.
Lou (The Disney nomination of the year): A story about an unknown (supernatural?) force that finds lost items on a school playground that distributes everything back to the children who lost them. The Lost and fOUnd monster (using LOU because those letters are missing on the Lost and Found bin) sees a bully taking other people’s stuff, and seeks to change him around.
The tale of redemption is cute, and it hits a chord because it shows weakness in the school bully archetype (which it took too long for animation to start doing consistently). It’s short and too the point, and leaves its impression with the storybeats of the bully. It has a very Pixar style to it, and sinks in a very simple message. Lou isn’t an instant-classic Pixar short, and has similar trouble standing out in these nominees.
There is also the issue of John Lasseter, Pixar’s Chief Creative Office, and decades of sexual assault charges. Though Coco will face (and already has) similar trouble if it wins the animated feature category.
Revolting Rhymes Part 1 (Hello again Roald Dahl): A wolf walks into a diner and tells a random woman his version of a classic fairy tale. He tells the story of Snow White and Red Riding Hood, and how Red killed both of his nephews. It takes what we know about fairy tales and combines their odd elements (while still staying true to the real stories).
This was a very clever ~~short~~ TV production, and it isn’t even the full story. There is a Part 2 that wasn’t included in this submission (since it wouldn’t have qualified as a short film otherwise) that can be found on Netflix with this first part as well.
I liked how they set up the plot, but always make us aware that not everything is as it seems. The wolf’s dialogue always has this aura that there is more at stake then most readers would realize. You can see shades of the artwork from Dahl’s stories, and it works very well in the 3D animated environment. It also creates a very gentle environment for the imagination of the fairy tales to shine.
Garden Party (FROGS GALORE): A few frogs jump around a large pool and garden in the backyard of a mansion, in glorious photorealistic 3D animation. There is a pair of frogs jumping around towards each other, there is one trying to eat a butterfly, and there is a fat one having a field day in the kitchen. And the mansion has a backstory too.
It has possibly the best looking animation out of all the nominees and, on the surface, has the most basic story. The animation is very very vivid, and every single movement of the frogs is smooth to watch. As the film goes on, they reveal more about the mansion that they are in, and why the frogs get to do whatever they want. It’s a steady buildup that is worth it in the end. This makes for possibly the most satisfying ending of all the films (since the true ending of Revolting Rhymes is in the 2nd part) and the most interesting journey that the viewers could be taken on.
If it isn’t too hard to tell this is my personal favorite of the films. I root for this one because I like it’s imagery the best, it’s simple but creates the darkest aura underneath a guise. Though Revolting Rhymes is a fairly close 2nd favorite, there is something about these frogs that delights me a lot.
Who I Think Will Win:
It’s kind of a toss-up between Lou and Dear Basketball. This would give Pixar a 2 year streak for winning the short Oscar, and their 4th overall. This would also give Glen Keane his first Oscar which he absolutely deserves, since his work in animation is top-notch. These are also the 2 films most in public knowledge since Keane and Bryant have been making many public appearances for this. Lou is best known because it’s Pixar, which automatically reaches more people than most nominees, (which is wierd because they’ve lost twice as many nominations than they’ve recieved up to this year).
However, even though Keane and Pixar have outstanding reputations within the animation community, they both aren’t without company that could cause problems.
And Why That’s A Potential Problem:
As Kobe Bryant got his spotlight for Dear Basketball, we were reminded of Kobe’s rape charge. A petition to strip Bryant of his nomination went up and has over 16,000 signatures, putting it at less than 1,000 signatures left before it goes public. While society is finding and punishing powerful people outed as sex offenders, it’s still not perfect in it’s justice. Not just this Kobe situation is a result of it, since Pixar’s John Lasseter is guilty of the same thing. He has decades worth of sexual misconduct allegations against women in his own studio. Allegations that many high profile Disney heads knew about without any punishment (and who knows if they are actually investigating it). This has made this years award season really awkward since Lasseter worked on Coco and Lou, which have been recieving much critical praise, and it’s difficult to talk about the issue since Disney seems to skirt around the issue a lot.
No matter how good these films are, it’s important not to undercut what’s going on behind the scenes. Even though both films have already been getting awards this Award Season, nothing is higher than an Oscar. Winning could bring some serious rammifications in their face if they award outed sex offenders as so many other Hollywood names are finally being punished for.
Of course if they give the Oscar to the other great films than they won’t have to face this issue. Though it can be very hard to tell what they’ll award, assuming animation fan even still care enough about the Oscars on a serious note.
This has been AniMo from Animated Monologues, analyzing animation in every post. Thanks for reading and have an animated day.