2018’s Brilliantly Rendered Batch
Once again, ShortsHD is bringing this year’s batch of Oscar nominated Live Action and Animated Short Films to a global audience. In the United States, check your local Landmark theater to see if either Showcase is now playing. Here’s our rundown of the Animated films, chiming in from all over the globe. This showcase is planned to play along with three bonus animated short films: Lost Property Office, Coin Operated, and Achoo.
Contributing reviewers include Taylor Blake, Jeffrey Knight, Krystal Lyon, and Anna Drehmer. Get an edge in your Oscar pool, and more importantly, be informed about some solid, if short, cinema that is being celebrated:
Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant, USA, 5 minutes
Kobe Bryant…Oscar-winner? Yes, this is a world we may be living in come March 4th. Truth be told, I started to roll my eyes when this short started with Bryant winning in a buzzer-beater slam dunk. Is this a short all about how legendary Kobe Bryant is to the game of basketball? In a short created, narrated, produced by…Kobe Bryant?
But what I feared would only be a self-congratulatory tribute—and it’s definitely self-congratulatory—flipped the script halfway through its 5-minute runtime. What starts as Kobe’s love letter to the game he’s played since he was six turns into his farewell to the game his body can’t keep up with anymore. Glen Keane’s sketch-heavy, sepia-toned animation and the John Williams score elevate this short into something sweet. – Taylor Blake
Max Porter and Ru Kuwuhata, France, 5 Minutes
How do you connect with your family, specifically your father? That is the question that is asked in the beautiful French stop-motion animated short Negative Space. It’s not always afternoons of catch or building forts that remind us of the significant and perplexing relationships we have with parents. Sometimes it’s the ordinary routine of life that is most embedded into our memories. Negative Space is based on the poem by Ron Koertge, in which a son connects with his father over the organized art of packing. I am always amazed at the emotion and truth that can be shared in an animated short. Negative Space contributes to that awe with the attention that is paid to the small specifics that fasten you to someone and what you remember about them when they are absent. It does all this with magically minimal animation and few words in five quick minutes. This tiny gem is a wonder to behold and ponder and it will make you think about your own father and the humdrum details that become extraordinary when linked through love. – Krystal Lyon
Dave Mullins and Dana Murray, USA, 7 minutes
Lou, paired theatrically last year with Cars 3, is the latest silent short from the animators at Pixar. The story of a boy tormenting his fellow classmates by stealing their toys on the school playground quickly draws comparisons to the original Toy Story – here we have another dark haired, pale skinned bully who is eventually confronted and put in his place by sentient toys. So the studio has either come full circle thematically or has simply run out of ideas – viewer’s choice! Overall, the short is pretty paint-by-numbers for Pixar. As usual though, the animators make good use of the setting, hitting the nostalgia button with their attention to detail (those spinning tic-tac-toe squares, y’all!). And this time it shows compassion to its antagonist by reminding us that certainly bullies are themselves created by pain, and that any chance of redemption for such behavior lies in going back and making things right with the ones we have hurt. Side note for film nerds, the film makes a point to emphasize the origin of its title in the last scene, Frances Ha style, which is quite appropriate for Greta Gerwig’s Oscar year. – Anna Drehmer
Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer, UK, 29 minutes
When it comes to the British production company Magic Light Pictures, there’s something about both the storytelling and the visual style that I cannot get on board with. But if you liked their 2009 short The Gruffalo or 2015’s Stickman, you’ll likely enjoy their latest offering Revolting Rhymes. Based on a book of fairy tale parodies by Roald Dahl, the film attempts to weave three of these together into a 30 minute short. I will say the story is at least more engaging this time around, and it makes several attempts to subvert some of the traditional fairy tale tropes – in one instance it even seems to flirt with a same sex romance between two characters, but eventually backs away from it. (Come on folks, either celebrate a friendship or a romance – being wishy washy serves no one). The directing and music are excellent, but once again both the plot and the animation leave me somewhat cold. It does dare to go for a dark ending though, which I appreciate, and seems fitting for a Dahl adaptation.
Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon, France, 7 minutes
A group of frogs finds themselves exploring a house after -something- has happened. We’re only slowly let in on what exactly happened to the owners of the house- a gaudy mansion in the tropics- but it’s quickly apparent that whatever went down wasn’t good. As they explore the house, the frogs pursue their own interests, be it the desire for a tempting treat, the opportunity to mate, or just plain curiosity. They have their cute and amusing little adventures and are completely disinterested in whatever happened here, in the same uncaring way that nature just goes on doing what it does, regardless of the human triumphs or tragedies that occur within it. – Jeffery Knight