With the Academy Awards on the horizon, Landmark Cinemas is releasing a pair of programs showcasing some of the harder-to-see nominees. Oscar Nominated Short Films 2018: Animation presents a great collection of little films that come highly recommended. It’s a perfect way to see an exceptional variety of tales using different animation styles (with a mild warning to parents that many in the package aren’t intended for children)
The first short features NBA player Kobe Bryant. Dear Basketball takes a letter the athlete penned in 2015 announcing his retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant himself narrates the pencil animation and John Williams scores the short, which features the basketball star as a boy and as a man at the top of his game. The visual accompaniment is impressive, with young Bryant playing the game fusing together with moments on the court. It’s a brief and beautifully drawn little short, although the score does feel a bit over-the-top and the sentiment self-congratulatory. Admittedly though, it’d be hard for the tale of success not to come across in this manner and it is enjoyable overall.
Negative Space is a low-key, French effort based upon a piece of poetry that is likely autobiographic. It features the narrator reminiscing about his unusual relationship with his traveling businessman father and how they bonded over the packing of dad’s luggage. While the lead describes the detailed process specified by his parent, it is all shown using various creative techniques. Clothing moves in and out of the room like a wave and there’s even a brief segment of an undersea world populated with socks, belts and shirts. It all ends with an amusing and bittersweet observation. While muted in tone, it’s certainly unique, intriguing and darkly humorous.
LOU is Pixar’s seemingly annual entry for awards consideration. Originally playing before Cars 3, the segment is set on a school playground and follows a bully who likes to take things from fellow students. The items of a Lost and Found box take on magical properties to gently help the intimidating boy learn his lesson and treat his fellow students respectfully. It’s a well-produced segment with some exceptional imagery as the bin contents take on various forms while the two are in conflict. Still, while perfectly enjoyable, this reviewer can’t say that the short is among the most memorable from this animation house.
Loosely based on the Roald Dahl book of poems, Revolting Rhymes is a UK-German production that incorporates half of the author’s source material into a fun and darkly humorous tale (truth be told, it’s the first of a two-part short that aired in Britain over the holidays). It incorporates Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and the Three Little Pigs, adding unusual plot twists on the classics. For instance, Hood is trigger-happy when it comes to dealing with wolves and Snow White ends up taking refuge with an apartment full of horse jockeys. The story is told from the point of view of a Wolf as he explains the real truth behind the legends to a nanny waiting to go to work. Like the others, it’s good-looking and has a sharp, dry and occasionally grim sense of humor that comes courtesy of the source material. The short also features an amusingly empathetic and charismatic villain in the Wolf. In a strange way, its unresolved ending adds an additional layer of macabre humor and dark introspection to the proceedings; this segment’s finale likely works better than the official one in the second released short. Overall, Revolting Rhymes is my personal favorite.
Garden Party is another impressively animated tale from France set around a dilapidated mansion. The story follow a group of frogs as well as other reptiles that investigate the grounds, foraging for food left out on the counters, discovering random items laid about and getting themselves into comical trouble in the process. This computer generated effort looks gorgeous, with some shots of the lead animals moving around the grounds appearing almost photorealistic. It also has an amusingly sly and grim finale that is scored with ridiculously peppy music; in a sense, it seems to be poking fun at the somewhat saccharine Pixar formula.
Of course, I’ve found that over the years my own favorite rarely wins. But that’s just a testament to how proficient all these animated shorts are. Truthfully, although this reviewer may nit-pick, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. And viewers who go to the cinemas will also be treated to three additional animated tales filling out the program. One can’t go wrong with checking out Oscar Nominated Short Films 2018: Animation. Not only is it helping put these interesting films into the public eye, but it also provides terrific entertainment for the viewer.