Sunday, February 2, 2014
Best Animated Short - 2013
Well, I've finally done it. I've seen all of the nominees this year for Best Animated Short. Unfortunately, I had to do it by going to one of the showings sponsored by Shorts HD, thanks to the fact Mr Hublot is not yet available online. I probably would have gone anyways even if I was able to get to Mr Hublot in advance, but now everybody else that does film reviews for a living and those with far more insight into film and animation than I do would have their reviews out. I guess the only thing that sets me apart is that I've done reviews on the 81 other years of the category, but I doubt anybody will take care of that.
But anyways here comes my last full review of a set of nominees until next year's nominees. Unless I somehow get a chance to watch The Shepherd and Hypothese Beta or Lorenzo.
Where Can I Watch It?
You can certainly go to one of the showings of all of the Oscar nominated shorts, or you can get the film on Vimeo, $1 to rent and $2 to buy!
Get a Horse!
Runaway Brain back in 1995, although he's been in a couple of television animations that's all part of a resurgence of interest in Mickey Mouse that seems to have been going on since Epic Mickey was released back in 2010. Get a Horse! appears to be the culmination of the efforts. Given the fact that it played before Frozen and would be the most seen of the nominated films, it seems pretty safe for me to say that the film merges the black and white animation style from the pre-Band Concert days with modern day computer graphic (CG) technology. This makes for an interesting dynamic where characters in the CG world interact with the 2D world being projected onto a screen. The characters even travel between world through holes in the screen. The animation is handled very well with action going on simultaneously in both worlds, and in some cases the 2D world has a CG look when seen through holes in the screen. Overall Get a Horse! feels like a tribute to both animation's past as well as its future with its seamless use of both styles. However, at its heart Get a Horse! is a slapstick film, very much like many of the old Mickey Mouse cartoons. There are chase scenes and pratfalls which remain pretty much the same even when done in the unique 2D and CG style. The slapstick is decent, although it can be quite sadistic at times. I prefer the visual gags that are in the early parts of the films, such as the homage to It Happened One Night. Some of the references to modern technology feel a bit forced. Many of it are clearly meant for 3D, and do we really need to hear a female moviegoer complain about her nachos twice? I also feel like the CG character design has a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse kind of feel. The film is also notable for featuring some original voice sample from back in the 1930s and 1940s including Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse, Billy Bletcher as Pete, and Marcellite Gardner as Minnie. However, some of Pete's lines were obviously lifted from the 1940 Mickey Mouse film Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip*, which can be quite distracting if you've seen the older cartoon. Still, Get a Horse! is a clever and interesting film that is a welcome part of the Mickey Mouse canon.
*Interestingly enough, footage of Disney and Bletcher doing voice work for Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip is visible. It's interesting to see the two actors at work. You can find the footage here.
Where Can I Watch It?
You can certainly go to one of the showings of all of the Oscar nominated shorts, or you can go to the theater and watch it in front of Frozen, help it beat Despicable Me 2 to become the highest grossing animated film that came out in 2013. It's going to be on the Frozen DVD once it comes out, whenever that will be.
Where Can I Watch It?
You can certainly go to one of the showings of all of the Oscar nominated shorts, but it is also available online for the time being on YouTube. I doubt it's an official version so it'll probably get removed soon.
Room on the Broom
The Gruffalo, which was adapted as a television program in Britain by animators Max Lang and Jakob Schuh. The adaptation was a massive hit in Britain and was nominated for an Academy Award when it came stateside. A few years later, Max Lang adapted another one of Donaldson's famous popular books, Room on the Broom, for a television series, and got himself another Oscar nomination. Room on the Broom is a sweet little tale about friendship. Like The Gruffalo, it is a 25-minute film based off of a simple little picture book. As a result there are a lot of filler moments that slow the film down. However, there are a couple of nice additions that may not have been in the original storybook (although I may be wrong on that.) The film presents a nice contrast between the kind-hearted witch and her more possessive cat. While the witch is eager to accept these new friends, the cat is is unhappy with the arrangement. That makes for a lot of funny moments of the new friends pestering the increasingly annoyed cat. Furthermore, the idea that the new friends are out of place in their environment is well explored in the film. In one of the most touching scenes, the green bird is shown shunned by all of her fellow blackbirds, forcing to live an isolated incident until she meets the witch. It adds a lot of emotion in the tale. There are also some nice visual humor including throwbacks to the mother squirrel and the snake from The Gruffalo to help keep things interesting before the exciting last 1/3 of the film, but ultimately it still drags at times. The ending is delightful and really plays along the wonderful ideal that friendship is magic. The animation is similar to The Gruffalo in that it has characters designed using the computer to appear like claymation and set before real life sets similar to what the Fleischers did 80 years earlier. The voice cast is full of big stars such as Gillian Anderson as the witch and the Oscar nominated Sally Hawkins as the bird, although those characters have few lines, and the majority of the voice work is served by Simon Pegg as the narrator. The music by Rene Aubry is also catchy, although I preferred his more haunting work in The Gruffalo. I didn't really enjoy Room on the Broom the first time I saw it, but it has since grown on me, and it is a great film for kids.
Where Can I Watch It?
You can certainly go to one of the showings of all of the Oscar nominated shorts, or you can get it on DVD. It is also available online, but
Let's Pollute, including "Waste More, Want More." Tsukumo is a good antithesis of that idea. The presentation of the message is done well, being quite entertaining with its juxtaposition of a creeping sense of horror with moments of gentle humor. Unfortunately the climax was a bit of a letdown compared to the thrills that were present in man's previous encounters with the tsukumogami. The animation style is well done. It utilizes the technique popularized in Paperman using computer generated models but with a 2D look. The 2D look is very breathtaking with vivid colors. However, the 3D models are not quite at the level of Paperman. They kind of have a wooden, unnatural movement and the 3D work isn't quite as seamless. The film is still visually stunning, especially with the spirit in the climax. The sound elements also add to the film's atmosphere, with effective use of sound effects and music to create the sense of mystery and wonder. The voice acting is good, with legendary voice actor Koichi Yamadera (Mew in the first Pokemon movie) playing the main character. Tsukumo is certainly a very interesting film. It may have a very Japanese feel to it, what with the reliance of a very Japanese concept to form the backbone of the film, but its message is universal, and it is possibly entertaining to all.
*Incidentally, the word tsukumo as seen in the term tsukumogami is a homonym that can also mean ninety nine, which probably reflects the 99 years that it takes for an object to become a tsukumogami. It is also the film's title. Possessions probably fits better than Ninety-nine, which would be the literal title.
Where Can I Watch It?
You can certainly go to one of the showings of all of the Oscar nominated shorts, or you can do what I did and import the film Short Peace from Japan, where you can get three other great films, including last year's shortlisted film Combustible. You do need a region free DVD player or a working knowledge of Japanese, because the film doesn't come with subtitles.
Well, here are the five nominees. They all seem to be evenly matched. Get a Horse! has been the front-runner it seems from the time the shortlist was announced. However, while it has great technique, it is still largely a slapstick film, and the Academy hasn't awarded one of those since it seems like The Chubb-Chubbs back in 2002. And would the Academy be willing to vote for it if they really are going to vote for Frozen for Best Animated Feature? Feral is the film I think it's best, with its deep use of symbolism, but it is a very raw film, with minimalist animation, and may not be the Academy's cup of tea. Mr Hublot is the third of the film it seems everybody predicted correctly. It's a tender and heart-warming tale. The film may not be very deep, but it's substantial enough for the Academy, but would they scorn the film's steampunk atmosphere? Tsukumo and Room on the Broom may not be at the same level as the other three, but even they have their ardent supporters. Room on the Broom may have generated the most laughs at the showings I went to, and not just because it was twice as long as any of the other nominees. It's certainly an evenly matched race. I'm still going to stick with the upset by Feral, but it's possible that Mr Hublot could come up and take it, or they'll end up giving it to Get a Horse! in the end. It's going to be an interesting race.
My rankings (by quality)
Feral > Mr Hublot > Get a Horse! > Tsukumo > Room on the Broom
My rankings (by preference)
Tsukumo > Mr Hublot > Get a Horse! > Room on the Broom > Feral