Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films 2013 (Shorts HD, NR)

aynrandschool 75Among the animated shorts, “Adam and Dog,” an 11-minute film written and directed by Minkyu Lee, stands out for sheer beauty and ambition.

 

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Fresh Quacamole, above Maggie Simpson and the Longest Daycare

Time was when you had to live in New York or Los Angeles, or be a member of the Academy, to see the short films nominated for Oscars each year. No longer—the cable channel ShortsHD has put together separate packages for the animated, documentary, and live-action shorts, so you can now see them without leaving St. Louis County.

Although shorts aren’t commonly included with feature screenings, they’ve become a standard way for young (and sometimes not-so-young) filmmakers to get their work recognized by the powers that be, and these programs give you a chance to see what they can do while working in a relatively small space. All of this year’s animated films are silent, in the sense of not using dialogue, but all use rich soundtracks to help tell their story.

Among the animated shorts, “Adam and Dog,” an 11-minute film written and directed by Minkyu Lee, stands out for sheer beauty and ambition. It won the 2012 Annie for Best Animated Short Feature, and offers a glimpse of what life on earth might have been like in the early days of creation, before it go so crowded with automobiles and buildings.

For something really different, there’s the two-minute film “Fresh Guacamole” by PES (Adam Pesapane), which blends surrealism with an upbeat pop aesthetic in a demonstration of how to make guacamole from objects like grenades, golf balls, dice, and little Monopoly houses. (Yes, really.)

The other three nominated films are skillfully done, but lack the same sense that they are the product of a new talent that simply must be recognized. “Head Over Heel,” a 10-minute film directed by Timothy Reckart, is a stop-action animation heavily influenced by Reckart’s experience at Aardman Animations (he worked on Shaun the Sheep and The Pirates! Band of Misfits). The story is that of a married couple who, although they continue to live in the same house, have literally grown apart to the point where they don’t even obey the same laws of gravity—one lives on the ceiling, one on the floor. Can this marriage be saved?

John Kahrs’ “Paperman,” a seven-minute black-and-white film that you may remember screening before Wreck-It Ralph last fall, is a love story set in mid-century New York City. The main character, a lonely young office worker, tries to communicate with a beautiful stranger working in a nearby office block by sending paper airplanes from his office to hers. Fortunately, it’s summertime and set in the days before air conditioning became universal, so everyone keeps the windows open.

Finally, David Silverman’s five-minute “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’” offers up some Simpsons goodness in a small package, as Maggie must find her way through the mean hallways of the Ayn Rand Daycare Center. Her chief nemesis, Baby Gerald (the mean-looking kid with the unibrow), has a hobby of smashing butterflies, and Maggie takes on the task of protecting them because, just like her big sister Lisa, she’s an animal lover through and through. While I’m always up for more Simpsons, this film feels like a short-story version of an episode of the television show (of which Silverman is a veteran), and hence doesn’t really stand out from anything you might see on one of the weekly broadcasts. | Sarah Boslaugh

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