a theatre, film & pop culture review
The Bigger Picture is this year’s Feral – the arty, existential short that animators and experts go nuts for, but that puzzles the rest of us. Two quarreling brothers struggle to care for their elderly mother in this mix of stop-motion and hand-drawn animation that is somber in tone and color. This is one for the aficionados, not the typical voter, so it doesn’t have much of a chance here.
A Single Life, The Bigger Picture‘s tonal and aesthetic opposite, is bright and cartoon-like. The briefest of the nominees, clocking in at under three minutes, concerns a young woman who receives a mysterious vinyl record that allows her to travel through her life, forward and backward in time. A one-joke sketch with with a funny punch-line it’s not substantial enough to gain traction here.
Feast, Disney’s contribution which preceded Big Hero 6 in theaters, shows just how strongly food can bond people – and pets – together. Depicting a man’s life through the eyes of his pup – and his pup’s humorously outrageous appetite – the animation features soft lines and pastel hues and favors sweetness over substance. Some think Disney’s an easy win in this category, but as we saw last year, that’s not always the case. And Feast is no Paperman.
In the year of West Anderson – the Academy is showing the most love it ever has to the writer-director – Me and My Moulton could’ve been his animated short film. Super-Scandinavian and as droll as they come, the Crayola-colored, picture-book short is told from the perspective of a middle daughter as she and her sisters try to convince their hipster parents to buy them a bicycle. Wry and insightful, Torill Kove perfectly captures kids’ embarrassment of and affection for their weirdo parents. This is Kove’s third nomination (she won in 2007), though, and some may find it a bit too Norwegian for their tastes.
The Dam Keeper starts out quietly, but its emotional build is staggering. A little pig, in charge of a windmill that keeps the “darkness” out, befriends a mischievous fox as others his age taunt and tease him daily. A compelling and richly developed parable about bullying and loneliness, the short looks as good as it’s written. A mix of colored-pencil-like hand-drawn animation and warm painterly strokes, the animation at times seems to shimmer – or shiver – with emotion. It’s smart and poignant without being saccharine, and with two former Pixar art directors at its helm, it’s the obvious, and deserved, winner.