casey Time for something new: Thanks to a local independent theater, we sat watched all of the 2017 Oscar nominated animated shorts, and now we’re gonna talk about ’em.
brooke Yes! There were give shorts nominated: Borrowed Time, Pearl, Piper, Blind Vaysha, and Pear Cider and Cigarettes. First I want to talk real quick about the three bonus shorts included in the screening we attended: Asteria, The Disappearing Head, and Once Upon a Line.
Of the three, I liked Asteria the best. It’s the shortest at just 4 minutes and posits a landing scenario where the astronauts from Earth are not the only ones trying to stake a claim there
casey It’s cute and funny, the kind of thing Pixar might have made except considerably more violent, and I mean that as a compliment.
brooke Yes, the animation was very Pixar and the violence was incredibly entertaining. The next one was The Disappearing Head, which was odd, but I kind of liked.
casey It is an allegory about dementia featuring an older woman with a detachable head taking the trip to the beach while being stalked by a giant, stern figure the woman swears isn’t her daughter. I didn’t connect with it, but I appreciated its off-kilter imagery. Once Upon a Line, meanwhile, uses a black-and-white, hand-drawn 2D style to tell the story of a man living a boring life who falls in, and then out, of love.
brooke I liked the concept of Once Upon a Line, but I didn’t think it stood out.
On to the nominees! Borrowed Time looks very Pixar, because it is a side project from a couple of Pixar animators. It’s a simple story of an older man visiting the spot where his hero (and possibly dad?) died–an event that still weighs heavily on his mind.
casey The story is sad and bittersweet, although I can’t say it made a tremendous impact on me. Following that is Pearl, which follows a young travelling musician as he matures and has a daughter who ultimately follows a very similar path, to his pride and chagrin. The entire thing takes place inside their old, beat-up car, and is filmed over a catchy background song. It also turns out that seeing it on a standard movie screen like we did isn’t quite the optimal viewing experience.
brooke Apparently it’s the first ever VR film to get a nomination, and while that’s really cool, I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe I’d change my mind if I saw it with VR goggles but I thought it rather boring. On the movie screen it looked like the computer had a hard time rendering edges, and made it look unfinished. Director, Patrick Osbourne, also did the short Feast, which had a similar look. Also, I kept getting annoyed at the characters for playing the guitar while driving.
After that was Piper, my personal favorite of the batch and the eventual Oscar winner. It follows a sandpiper on a beach, learning for the first time how to get its own food and is freaking adorable.
casey The story is simple and cute, and the animation is gorgeous, achieving a level of realism that leaps right over the uncanny valley. Everything from the grains of sand on the beach to Piper’s wet feathers looks real enough to touch, and the animation captures the herky-jerky movement of the birds amazingly. I keep thinking that computer animation is no longer worth being impressed by, but Piper proved me wrong.
brooke It also got the most reaction from our theater audience, and it’s hard not to laugh while watching Piper because it’s so damned charming. Beautiful animation and sound effects, simple story, and an adorable protagonist… what’s not to love?
The next one was my least favorite… Blind Vaysha. It acts like a simple fable but is missing an ending.
casey Vayzsha is by far the weirdest and least accessible selection, telling the story of a girl born with one eye that only sees the past and another that only sees the future. It’s animated by hand using a striking linocut style, but it’s more strange than engaging, and it ends with a fourth-wall breaking didactic message that I found extremely off-putting. I appreciate that something this experimental got some attention, but it didn’t work for me.
brooke Me either. The animation was pretty cool and definitely original, but I didn’t enjoy the film.
The final short is very different and not very short… Pear Cider and Cigarettes clocks in at 34 minutes and looks like a cross between a graphic novel and a Gorillaz video.
casey I liked it a lot, and it’s also completely different from the rest, using its flat noir style to recount the personal narrative of a man who flies to China to help a self destructive friend through a difficult liver transplant.
brooke The noir mood serves the story well, and producer Robert Valley makes some interesting visual choices like reusing animations and leaving some parts uncolored or in sketch forms. It’s a little long, and the first third drags a bit, but by the end the story comes alive, even though though it’s clear how things are going to end.
casey I think the longer runtime really helps establish the film’s depth, even in the slower parts.It’s not for everybody like Piper is, but it’s very good. I think I agree with the Academy Piper is the best of the bunch, but Pear Cider is a close second.
brooke And I fully endorse that. Piper‘s win was well-deserved.
And those were the 2016 Oscar Nominated Shorts! Some are showing on YouTube or Vimeo, and I’d recommend seeing them all.