Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2013: Best Animated Short Film

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT SUBJECT

paperman

1. PAPERMAN

2. FRESH GUACAMOLE

3. ADAM AND DOG

4. MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “THE LONGEST DAYCARE”

5. HEAD OVER HEELS

Where’s Pixar? Amazingly, the super-studio doesn’t show up here (what, didn’t they do a short — any short — this year?), but Disney, going solo this time ’round, has brought its game up — way up — a notch with Paperman, which played prior to the Oscar-nominated feature length, Wreck-It Ralph. A light, but exceedingly warm-hearted entry, the 7-minute love story depicts a cute-meet on a train platform: he, tongue-tied, misses his chance as she, all wide-eyed Disney heroine, dashes onto her train. Luckily, through match-making paper-airplanes that dance in the wind — perfectly in synch with Christophe Beck’s whimsical score — they meet again, and happily ever after surely ensues. A mix of glorious 2D and CG animation and the romantic nostalgia of a black-and-white picture, you’ll be reminded of The Artist, intentionally, as well as last year’s short winner. This charmer, by director-animator John Kahrs (Toy Story 2; Monsters, Inc.) is the Annie Award-winning frontrunner and can be viewed here.

If the Academy weren’t so sentimental, it may be rightfully swayed by the dazzling stop-motion of Fresh Guacamole. Director PES (born Adam Pesapane) transformed familiar objects — pin-cushion tomatoes, grenade-avocados, chess-piece salt-shakers — into a deceptively delicious bowl of guac. At 1 minute and 46 seconds, this conceptual stunner is the shortest film ever to be nominated for an Oscar, but despite its winning ingenuity (at a theatre, the audience I was with applauded this piece), it’s a brief, one-trick pony that will largely be viewed as a clever stunt. Watch it here.

Adam and Dog was made in 2011 and won the 2012 Annie for Best Animated Short Subject, so its nomination this year is a bit confusing to me. Nevertheless, the Disney-trained animator Minkyu Lee — he was an apprentice animator on The Princess and the Frog — inspired by a National Geographic article on the origin of dogs, created a hand-drawn short about the relationship between dog and man. The nature backdrops are beautiful in their simplicity: orange-speckled fish swimming in a pond, dog panting amidst lush green foliage, Adam walking through a golden meadow against a rising sun. But in the 16-minute film, not much happens, and the story is tenuous at best: dog meets man, loses man, finds man again. Is he really man’s best friend? (I don’t know: Adam seemed a little too taken with Eve, if you know what I mean.) Its minimalism and ambiguity will likely turn off some voters.

Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare” is a cute tale about the young Simpson being denied entrance into the “gifted” daycare program, and exerting all her infant might to save a butterfly from being squashed by creepily unibrowed little boy (apparently you’ll recognize him if you’re a Simpsons fan, but lacking that background knowledge, you’ll feel like you’re missing something). Screened before the feature Ice Age: Continental Drift, it is the only other Annie nominee in the group. While it’ll win traction with voters who are Simpsons diehards (do they still exist?), Maggie isn’t a strong contender. 

If Paperman doesn’t walk away with the prize, Head Over Heels will. Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly’s stop-motion claymation is about an older couple who over time have drifted so far apart as to live in opposite gravities: she resides on the ceiling, he on the floor. Interestingly suggesting Amour‘s central couple, which may or may not benefit a win, as well as the style of the Academy favorite, Wallace & Gromit, it’s also an Annie winner this year, garnering the Best Student Film prize. But at 10 minutes, it felt the longest of the bunch, lacking some much-needed buoyancy to both story and animation. Watch it here, and then re-watch Paperman to lift your spirits.

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