Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films 2015 (shorts.tv, NR)

boslaugh oscars_shortfilms_2015_75If you’re weary of the endless discussion about which nomination actually deserved it, it can be great fun to step away from the features and dip into the Oscar-nominated short films.

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It is Oscars Season again, and while most of the publicity is focused on films in just a few categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress leading the pack), there’s plenty of interest outside the big ticket features. Particularly, if you’re weary of the endless discussion about which nomination actually deserved it (and it would be well to remember that the voters are primarily old white men), it can be great fun to step away from the features and dip into the Oscar-nominated short films. That goes double if you’re looking for an alternative to the Anglo-American worthiness dominating the Best Picture nominees (the nominees in short animation come from the Netherlands, Canada, the U.K, and the U.S.).

If I were an Academy member, my vote would go to “Me and My Moulton,” directed by Torill Kove, a previous winner in 2007 for her film “The Danish Poet.” Kove’s simple clear-line style is a perfect match to this story of childhood in Norway, with its emphasis on presenting the world from a child’s point of view rather than the sentimentalizing hindsight of adulthood. This film also gets extra points for internationalism, because the author was born in Norway but first became interested in animation while living in Canada. In case you’re wondering, a Moulton is a small-wheel bicycle manufactured in the U.K.

If there were a special award for Visual Inventiveness (and why not? Live-action features get awards in all sorts of categories), it would go to “The Bigger Picture,” directed by Daisy Jacobs. Their style is slightly unsettling, but appropriate to the story, blending two- and three-dimensional art (the characters are life-size flat paintings, the sets real objects) to tell a grimly humorous story of the rivalry of two adult sons and the uncertainties and indignities they face in caring for their elderly mother.

“The Dam Keeper,” directed by Robert Kondo and Daisuke ‘Dice’ Tsutsumi, is a beautifully-crafted fable about bullying and the power of friendship (and art). Set in a pastel world populated by human-like animals (they wear clothes and go to school), It seems like a simple, kid-friendly story until taking a darker turn about two-thirds of the way through, but still ends up being too on-the-nose for my taste. There’s not much to say about the shortest film, “A Single Life,” other than it’s effective but limited in ambition, as directors Marieke Blaaux, Joris Oprins, and Job Roggeveen use Aardman-like animation and music to explore a single idea—a mysterious phonograph record (45 rpm, very retro) that acts as a time machine. The Disney film “Feast,” directed by Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, is the short familiar to those who saw Big Hero 6, where it preceded theatrical screenings of that feature.

The animated short films program runs a total of 82 minutes. Several other animated shorts round out the program, including “Sweet Cocoon,” “Footprints”, “Bus Story” and “Gallant Captain” or “Duet.” | Sarah Boslaugh

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