Ranked: 2019 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

Feb 24, 2019
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Anyone hoping the animated category provides a respite from the harming of children in Live Action Shorts will be disappointed that its theme isn’t all that uplifting: the sad passage of time. This shouldn’t necessarily be surprising. The outdated idea that animation must be lighthearted and for children dismisses the meticulous craft that goes into animated storytelling and specifically animated shorts, which are almost always the most complete stories despite shorter run-times and often no dialogue. This year is no exception.

By Shawn Hazelett
1

Directed by Trevor Jimenez

Weekends

A young girl lives primarily with her mother, but spends the weekends in the city with her bachelor father, who provides the kind of temporary fun all children love, even if he’s remiss in other ways. When each parent begins dating another significant other, the dynamic shifts dramatically. One of the longer animated shorts, Weekends is nonetheless incredibly taught, using contrasts and surreal imagery to convey its points. Even when story beats are open for interpretation, you get the bigger idea, and the result is daring storytelling with unexpected warmth underneath.

2

Directed by Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco

Late Afternoon

An elderly woman suffering from memory loss attempts to piece together fragmented parts of her life to get a better understanding of the present. There’s a sense that the start of each day forces her to start anew, and, on the rare day in which she achieves a breakthrough, the joy is worth the struggle. Late Afternoon is very smart in firmly establishing the look of its characters, creating a baseline from which the narrative seamlessly drifts in and out of time. In a situation almost always portrayed as pathetic and indignant, Late Afternoon convincingly finds warmth, pride, and achievement.

3

Directed by Alison Snowden and David Fine

Animal Behavior

In the vein of Wreck-It Ralph, a group of animals engage in a group therapy session in which they discuss how their wants and needs often clash with their animal instincts. A praying mantis, for example, bemoans the fact that she kills her lover after sex. When a gorilla joins the therapy, things go a bit haywire. The story is fairly predictable and perhaps a bit long, but this rare animated short with dialogue lives and dies by its jokes -- fortunately, the jokes are almost always on-point.

4

Directed by Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb

Bao

As a woman eats dumplings, suddenly, one pops to life as a baby. Without missing a beat, the woman cares for it and the narrative skips through various parts of its life -- from hanging around the bad crew in grade school to getting into soccer to growing a goatee as an angsty teen, and ultimately drifting away from his mother. Pixar’s annual entry comes with its usual wit and charm, but it gets a little too cutesy without the heart of previous films. Perhaps because the premise is so quick a little too early and without question -- the reasoning makes sense, by the end. Bao is favored by many to win the award, and, if it does, it’s not necessarily unqualified, but there are far better entries in the category.

5

Directed by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas

One Small Step

A young girl dreaming of becoming an astronaut works hard toward her goal, but continuously experiences a setback preventing her progress. Each little failure is symbolized by a broken shoe, and she has a secret champion in her father, who repairs each shoe. Why does he repair her shoes in secret? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t made clear, and there are far too many additional questions and leaps preventing One Small Step, which has good ideas and a good heart, from realizing its full potential.

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