The Oscars have always been one of the most important nights of the year for Hollywood, with all the big names dressing to the nines and winners floating to the stage in a mess of tears and drawn-out gratitudes.
However, many of the categories get out-shined by the likes of "Best Actor" or "Best Picture," especially the nominated short films. This makes predicting winners very difficult for viewers at home.
Luckily, Regal Cinemas Downtown West Cinema 8 is now showing the collection of nominated animated short films, including a few honorable mentions, with a giraffe and ostrich introducing each film. The giraffe and ostrich were interesting hosts, using puns about certain animated characters to drive their humor. However, some of the humor got dark rather quickly when the giraffe made a joke about Thumper from Disney's "Bambi" having Parkinson's disease. Despite some poor taste, the hosts were adequate and moved the shorts along nicely.
The Nominated films:
The first film shown was "Get a Horse!," made by Disney in the U.S. The short, which was shown before Disney's "Frozen," tells the tale of Mickey and his friends dealing with the ever-pesky Peg-leg Pete. However, the classic tale has a new twist, utilizing characters ripping through a movie screen to be 3D animated in the "real world." Typical comedic hilarity ensued, complete with cartoon violence and Mickey saving the day. The best part of the short was that they used Walt Disney's original voice acting for Mickey, an impressive feat of nostalgia. This short is a likely winner due to the little Mickey touch and Disney's relevance as of late, with movies like "Frozen" and "Saving Mr. Banks" creating buzz.
The second short was entitled "Mr. Hublot" and was made in Luxembourg and France. The 3D animated short lacked any dialogue whatsoever, a touch that was rather nice; it being a foreign short without subtitles allow for appreciation of the lovely animation. The short is about Mr. Hublot, a cyborg-like creature living in a very Steampunk world. Mr. Hublot has a rigid daily routine that is interrupted when he adopts a robot dog off the street. In the end, it's a lovely tale about friendship and compromise that will leave a smile on your face. Although this short may deserve the win, it will likely fall to Disney.
Keeping with the theme of silent shorts, "Feral" from the U.S. is a beautifully animated silent tale of a young boy rescued from the wild by a man in the woods. The animation was stunningly hand-drawn with wispy lines and well-placed shadowing. The actual plot of the short is confusing, wrought with more metaphors than solid plot points. The animation definitely deserved the nomination but won't be enough to secure a win, especially with such a confusing story.
"Room on a Broom" from the U.K. was next. Simon Pegg narrated this 3D animated story about a witch that makes friends with some animals who eventually help her out of trouble. Each animal has varying reasons for asking if there's "room on her broom," all of which make her pet cat very upset. In the end, it's a cute lesson on friendship, although it felt more like a storybook's DVD accompaniment than a short film. Unfortunately, its animation and storyline are not good enough competition for this group.
Next was "Possessions" from Japan, a tale of a man who takes refuge in an abandoned cabin while lost in the woods during a storm. The cabin is possessed, forcing the man to fix certain possessions before allowing him to leave. The animation is very similar to other Japanese animated works, with bold colors and solid lines. However, the difference in animation between the man and his surroundings was visually distracting, as was his constant gasps and breathing. The story followed a Japanese myth explained in the first credits of the short. It was cute, but didn't necessarily deserve a nomination, especially compared to some of the honorable mentions.
The first Honorable Mention animated short was a crowd favorite, called "The Blue Umbrella." Shown before "Monster's University," it's a tale of two umbrellas' love and how things that are meant to be will happen in the end. The song playing throughout this short is a lovely melody that beautifully accompanies the short, and the animation is a mixture of real life and CGI that leaves the viewer feeling that it was very real. You find yourself rooting for that umbrella as it tries to find its true love. This was snubbed a nomination, as it mirrors the feelings of last year's winner, "Paperman."
Next was a rather strange film. "A la Française," from France, tells the story of the French Court, with one difference: They're chickens. Set in Versailles, the chickens dance, hunt, play croquet and just enjoy each other's company. Eventually things go awry in a slew of hilarious mishaps, including a chicken catching two other chickens in the bedroom. This short was hilariously weird with slightly adult undertones that made it wonderful to watch, but a nomination was not deserved. The animation was good but not great, and the story shallow.
The last short, narrated by George Takei, was the most jarring to the audience. "The Missing Scarf," tells the story of a squirrel asking his other woodland friends if they've seen it. The squirrel is animated to look like origami, but his friends are all simple shapes and bright colors. As the squirrel asks around, he learns his friends each have their own problems with things like self acceptance and fears of failure. However, his final friend, the bear, turns out to be in an existential, nihilistic crisis that takes everyone by surprise.
All in all, the shorts have solid competition this year, and the academy has a tough choice to make.