2019 Oscars: Animated Short

Throughout this blog I will reference an article written by NPR ‘s Andrew Lapin.  You can find that article: HERE

My pick is Late Afternoon, I will review it last in this blog.  First up, my least favorite…

As always, this blog contains all of the spoilers, you have been warned!

 

Bao, directed by Domee Shi (USA) / Runtime: 8 Minutes / Release Date: 15 June 2018

First, I would like to congratulate Domee Shi for being the first female director at Pixar.  Kudos!  I feel like saying, “You know who is going to win, whether merited or not.”  Instead, I will just type it out.  This was my least favorite of the nominations.  I felt it was somewhat choppy.  I hated the ending.  I was not the biggest fan of the overall animation compared to the other nominees.

Bao was announced in the twitter feed of Walt Disney Canada: “Snack on Pixar’s next short Bao from #Canadian director Domee Shi! Set in #Toronto, Bao tells the story of a Chinese mom suffering from empty-nest syndrome, who gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings comes to life! See Bao ahead of Incredibles 2 this summer.”

Per Andrew Lapin of NPR: “Pixar’s annual entry in this category follows a Chinese woman who becomes mother to an adorable, anthropomorphic bao bun. Written and directed by Domee Shi (the first woman to direct a short film for the studio) and originally shown in theaters with Incredibles 2, the pat seven-minute snack delivers on its concept in all the expected ways, and is carried over the finish line by the winning character design of the bao-child, who smushes his doughy little noggin trying to head-butt a soccer ball. It ain’t “Sanjay’s Super Team” or “One Man Band,” but “Bao” is a decent late-period Pixar dumpling.”

I guess telling it in the above mentioned manner makes it seem sweet and innocent.  Except for the fact that when dumpling grows up, finds a loose morals kind of woman and decides to move out, the sweet mom decides to drop all pretenses and eat him!  There, I spoiled it.  I know.  What do I take away from this tale?  Do as your parents say/want or suffer the repercussions to the extent of, but not limited to, death.

*****

One Small Step, directed by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas (USA/China) / Runtime: 8 Minutes  / Release Date: 25 Jun 2018

This little story had me at the thought of a young girl wanting to be an astronaut! Ooooh and a loving father to boot.  Speaking of boots, look at hers!  Then the story took a turn and I thought the kid was an asshole with regrets later in life.  I loved the animation, the story – not so much.

According to Oscars.com: “Bolstered by the unwavering support of her devoted father, a humble cobbler, Luna Chu grows up determined to become an astronaut. Although she is sometimes daunted by the obstacles she faces, Luna always shoots for the stars.”

Per Andrew Lapin of NPR: “To the Moon, young ones. Like First Man in reverse, and very closely mirroring “Bao”‘s story beats, this weepie follows a little girl who dreams of outer space and her humble shoemaker father who supports her until he no longer can. Many time-lapse shots of breakfast tables to follow.Upstart animation house Taiko Studios is fueling its rocket ship with the same Disney corn syrup its young production staff grew up on – just take a gander at the laughing child with the giant eyes, playing make-believe in a cardboard box. (Co-directors Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas are former Disney animators whose credits include Zootopia and Big Hero 6.) “One Small Step” is a modest charmer with a clean CGI look that has the misfortune of being sandwiched between so many other sad-parent nominees. If you coo instead of rolling your eyes once it’s revealed that the girl’s name is Luna, you will love it.”

I love that Lapin calls this a “weepie”.  I am left wondering if there are any uplifting shorts out there.  I am trying to suss out what I take away from this story.  Is it that you should pay more attention to your parents while they are here?  Is it to follow your dreams in the face of failure?  Is it that kids are just assholes and then you die?  I still don’t know….

*****

Weekends, directed by Trevor Jimenez (USA) / Runtime: 15 Minutes / Release Date: 15 April 2018

Divorce, as seen through the fanciful eyes of the child in the middle of things.  Such a melancholy story with solid animation.

According to Oscars.com: After his parents split up, a young boy must adjust to living with his mother during the week and his father during the weekend. Their new routine is difficult on all of the family members, but is especially confusing to the youngster as his parents move on with their lives without each other.

Per Andrew Lapin of NPR: “The best of the four “parent traps” in the 2019 slate is this surreal Toronto-set indie following a little boy who cycles between his divorced parents every Friday-through-Monday. Drawing on his own childhood, writer-director Trevor Jimenez crafts a dark, confusing world of ping-ponging emotions, as the parents’ urges to be their best selves around their son are undone by the arrival of new partners and new challenges. Disturbing imagery also abounds: a man with a half-lit candle for a face, a house entirely submerged underwater.  More nuanced and character-based than the other entries, “Weekends” dwells on telling details like the mother’s frazzled domestic life, the father’s obsession with MTV and samurai swords, and the boy’s struggles to adjust to different sleeping quarters. Jimenez captures the fractured, otherworldly nature of divorced life with aplomb and wisely eschews a cozy ending, instead letting the film’s difficult psychology ruminate in our minds for many weekends to come.

What do I take away from this story? In the gibberish of the Beatles: “Obladi, Oblada, life goes on, brah la la, how the life goes on.”  That might be harsh but it is the reality.

*****

Animal Behaviour, directed by David Fine and Alison Snowden (Canada) / Runtime: 14 Minutes / Release Date: 11 June 2018

It is the only nomination not dealing with parental issues.  I watched it with Husband.  We both laughed darkly at the various attempts at humor.  It was funny, irreverent and I loved it.  I had a hard time choosing between this one and Late Afternoon as my pick for favorite.  I would be ok with either winning.

According to Oscar.com: “A group of five animals with emotional and psychological problems meets for therapy with compassionate canine Dr. Clement. Their group dynamic is rattled by a new member, Victor, a gorilla with anger management issues who believes that talking cannot change someone’s innate tendencies.”

Per Andrew Lapin of NPR: “The only nominated film this year not about parenthood is a deliciously dark Canadian comedy about a therapy group session for wild beasts. Led by an adorable pit bull in glasses who has successfully repressed his own urges to sniff other dogs’ butts, the group includes a pig with a chocolate addiction; a bird with a traumatic past; and a praying mantis who can’t stop killing and eating her boyfriends. But the road to recovery is upended by a new arrival who brings some, well, monkey business of his own. Writer-directors David Fine and Alison Snowden (they’re previous winners in this category for “Bob’s Birthday” in 1995) deliver lots of clever therapy gags. The sight of a room full of animals reacting to their own natural selves with horror befitting a human makes “Animal Behavior” a great chew toy for the mind. Plus, the movie manages to be arch and morbid without being mean, a balancing act that usually takes years of therapy for most comedians.

*****

Late Afternoon, directed by Louise Bagnall (Ireland) / Runtime: 9 Minutes / Release Date: 24 April 2018

Of all the shorts on parental relationships for this award season, this one touched me and felt personal.  When the older woman watches the replay of her life in her cup of tea I can see my Dad suffering from hypoxia.  When she hears the echo in the cave and then says “I don’t want to be left behind”, I found my cheeks to be wet. It was beautiful and devastating in one big wallop.

Louise Bagnall, the director, has shown us her wide range of animation talents (Song of the Sea, Bread Winner).  The work she has done is so different yet all are very captivating.

This is my pick.  I connected, was sucked into the story and it unexpectedly evoked tangible emotion from me.  I hope it wins.  It was beautiful.

According to Oscar.com: “Emily, an elderly lady with dementia, is increasingly alienated from the world around her. Whenever she sees her reflection, Emily wanders through memories of her childhood and young adulthood, and thereby attempts to use her past to reconnect with the present.”

Per Andrew Lapin of NPR: A biscuit in a teacup becomes Proust’s Madeleine for an elderly woman suffering from dementia, triggering her remembrance of things past in this abstract portrait from top-notch Irish studio Cartoon Saloon (who were also behind acclaimed features like The Breadwinner and Song of the Sea). This studio is particularly gifted at squeezing dollops of feeling from simple, pared-down settings and character designs, and writer-director Louise Bagnall smartly trusts this principle as her story leaps back and forth in time. Fionnula Flanagan does some lovely voice work as Emily, the woman who can’t seem to place the strange person helping to pack up her things. Done in a hand-drawn style, the lush animation obscures a flat story but also helps the piece resonate for anyone who’s ever struggled with elder care.

*****

Andrew Lapin’s Picks:

Will Win: “One Small Step”

Should Win: “Weekends”

versus

Michelle’s Picks:

Will Win: “Bao”

Should Win: “Late Afternoon” or “Animal Behaviour”

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