by Alan Yudman
Five animated movies. Each one better than the next. These five films are what the Oscar voters picked as the nominated Animated Shorts. I had the opportunity to watch all in one sitting this week. Here’s what I thought of each and which one could win an Oscar Sunday night.
SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM
How could you have an animated category without an entry from Pixar. The answer is, you cannot. And SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM is that movie.
Sanjay is a young boy who is bored with his father’s daily prayers, but is in love with a group of action heroes. When forced to pray with his father, Sanjay is distracted by his toys. Then in his fantasy he needs a Super Team to help defeat evil and calls on Hindu gods to save the day.
This is probably the most obvious of the nominated shorts. The message about honoring your father’s faith is clear and easily deciphered. The animation is typically well-done Pixar animation. It is not unique or ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination.
I’ll get this right out of the way. This beautiful combination of motion capture and pencil drawing was one of the most shockingly violent movies I have ever seen.
It depicts four warriors, two each from opposing tribes (or clans, it’s not clear). It begins quietly, scanning the four combatants, then escalates into fest of medieval weaponry and combat. Spears are thrust, swords are swung and arrows are loosed. And blood is spilled. Lots of it.
I suppose the quite beginning is simply a prologue to the eventual violence and the horrified reaction to it by a young girl who witnesses the carnage.
I was impressed by the technique, but far too disturbing for me.
WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS
This Russian short is funny and touching. Two cosmonauts are training for space travel. We learn they are best buds, who grew up with the same dream of traveling to the stars. They are at the top of their class and are chosen as the primary and alternate astronauts.
The launch occurs and something goes horribly wrong, and one of them is lost. The other retreats into a shell (or a space suit) and is inconsolable, much to the confusion of their trainers.
The animation is basic, yet effective. It is a well executed story about friendship, loss and hope.
WORLD OF TOMORROW
This is the most “out there” of the five films. Its simple stick figure drawings and primary colors belie its message.
Emily is a very young girl who answers a ringing phone in her home. On the other end is the future, in the person of a clone of Emily. The older clone takes the clueless child on a voyage of discovery about her own future and the future of her planet. The future is not necessarily a happy one.
The clone falls in love with a rock, a gas pump and finally a man who dies. Yeah, it is kind of dark. It is also a bit hard to follow all the detail crammed into the clone Emily’s speeches. Young Emily is unfazed and is a counterpoint with her random simplistic observations about what she sees.
This is a deep think and a lot of experts believe this is the favorite to win an Oscar.
This touching Chilean short was my favorite. An older bear tells his story through a mechanical diorama. He has wife and child, but one day the evil circus people come to their apartment house and kidnap a variety of animals, including Mr. Bear.
He is forced to perform and wonder what happened to his family. He escapes and runs back home to find his family still living in the wreck of the apartment.
Seems pretty simple, but it is a deep think. We only see the diorama play out when a young bear begs his dad for a coin to watch it. The happy family versus the tragedy of the Bear’s life.
It is also ever clear whether what we see in the diorama is true or just the fulfillment of Mr. Bear’s dream. I am fine with that. It allows the viewer to interpret it how they see fit.
It also seems to be the most beautifully animated, but it does not get hung up in its grandeur. The story and animation complement each other perfectly.
This is the movie I will be rooting for.