(Yes this intro is an edited copy/past of last year‘s)
I love short films. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I watch usually at least one a day online – either judging for a festival or at shortoftheweekcom – and attend many festivals and watch online. Hell, I even judge for the Crypticon film festival. This past weekend, I went to the Grave Plot Film Fest (review for last year; this year soon) and on April 11th will be Bone Bat (tickets on sale now!). I’m lucky as the PNW has so many options – the Lovecraft Film Fest in Portland, Seattle International Film Fest (www.siff.net); and Walla Walla Movie Crush among the many.
So of course I check out the Oscar Nominated Short Films every year. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t chime in with my thoughts of the five nominated films. Here they are in order of the showing in the Shorts.tv presentation (currently theatrical; soon rentable on VOD from your favorite source). After I’ll place my rankings and award thoughts.
Hair Love; USA; Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Tolvier. 7m.
An African-American father and daughter bond over trying to do her hair. This was so sweet and charming. Gorgeous, crisp, clean, 2D style animation help built a heartwarming tale of connection and celebrating natural hair. In the news this very week are stories of African-American students who are forced to cut their hair for whatever racist reasons the school administration comes up with, so we have a timely and important short But, this happens time and time again, so it’s always timely I’m sad to say. Also important is joyfully celebrating a father and daughter working together and connecting, with no judgement of “hair is a woman’s task” or the like. On top of this, there is a sadness pushed through, although we get a happy end. I had happy tears in my eyes. Plus points for fanastic shot choice, that gives a great push to the story telling. (Watch it here through Sony’s YouTube)
Dcera (Daughter); Czech Republic; Daria Kashcheeva; 15m.
Another father-daughter story, this time far more sad. As she sits with her dying father in a hospital room, each of them reflects upon a time when they tried connect but the other pushed away. While I liked the stop-motion and the dirty feel of the paper-mache design, this was entirely too long. Many still shots of contemplative sadness (the puppet makers do a great job of emotion on undetailed faces) add up, especially each time we flash to the past or away. After a while I’m thinking “this feels personal, and I get it… but please wrap up.”
Sister; China; Siqi Song; 8m.
We continue with the family-connection (write what you know right), here moving to a boy talking about his annoying little sister. Of their fights, their games, and his memories growing up in China in the 1990s. In the time of the One Child Policy (there was a documentary about the subject this past year too; I’ve not seen it). While mainly no doubt meant to be a talk over what was lost over the policy, it also serves as an Anti-Abortion story. Take that as you will. The fuzzy stuffed animal like stop motion was a great choice for a new type of character design. It’s simple but gets it all across very well. I ultimately have mixed feelings on this one. There isn’t enough of a story to really hold up the musings.
Memorable; France; Bruno Collet & Jean-Francois Le Corre; 12m
I’m going to show my hand; this was my favorite. Memorable is the best use of the animated medium to tell the story, incredibly clever with how it does it, and is just heartbreaking. The story is of an older man (seems to be around late 60s) with a memory disease. We watch, tears in our eyes, as we see a visual representation of the horror of how this affects him. The subject is/was a painter and the creators use a 3-D stop-motion impressionist design to his world. Utterly breathtaking. This allows the world to shift as his perception changes and the art breaks down. The final movement of the short is incredible.
Kitbull USA; Rosanna Sullivan & Kathryn Hendrickson; 9 Minutes
The required Pixar short. That’s not a dig, just a commonality every year. Uncommon as this is the only one not to a family connection. It’s a story we’ve seen before, but still engaging and wonderful. A stray cat befriends an abused pitbull. We watch as they learn to trust and love eachother. The animation is hand-drawn 2d and exquisite. Animal lovers will see the familiar movements of their animals in the pair (the cat getting the full-pupil-crazy-eye got a big response). Not much more to say except fuck animal abusers, I wish nothing but the worst for them. Hell, abusers overall. This short is available on Disney+.
I didn’t find this year’s crop to be as outstanding as a few of the other years, but that doesn’t mean they were not good. Not every year will present World of Tomorrow and We Can’t Live without Cosmos in the same set (maybe that’s why that insipid bear short won that year… still salty).
My rankings from not-as-good to best
2. Hair Love
One: Memorable (spelled number to avoid indent)
What will win? I honestly don’t know. I hope Memorable but I think it’s either going to be Hair Love or Pitbull.