Thursday, February 21, 2019

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Animated Short

The nominees:
Animal Behaviour (B)
This clever short launches right away into the obvious proclivities of its animal characters, using them as subjects they need to discuss in therapy. The notion of working through issues that are defining characteristics of certain species is indeed funny, though this short dives a bit too deep and fully into its premise, covering sexual cannibalism and other wonderful topics in just fourteen short minutes. This feels more like a trailer for a TV series that could better handle this idea.

Bao (B+)
Pixar’s contribution to this field, which played before “Incredibles 2,” is an extremely endearing story about an empty-nester who conjures up a new child when a dumpling she makes comes to life. There’s never been a better argument for doing away completely with dialogue, as this heartwarming tale, clocking in at just seven minutes, manages to convey the power of relationships and spending time together through inventive humor.

Late Afternoon (B)
This Irish short featuring the voice of Fionnula Flanagan as an elderly woman recalling memories from her past comes from Cartoon Saloon, which has produced Best Animated Feature nominees “The Secret of Kells,” “The Song of the Sea,” and “The Breadwinner.” This exploration of its protagonist’s life through the disjointed events she recalls and can’t quite place feels very much like those, using its plot as a canvas on which to travel. That journey is captivating if not terribly structured.

One Small Step (B)
It’s easy to be inspired by this simple story of a young Chinese-American girl who wants nothing more than to become an astronaut. Formative moments in which she finds a space helmet and then ultimately applies for an actual training moment are conveyed without conversation and with straightforward imagery that represents the power of what being able to explore space means to her. There’s not much more to it, but it’s sweet.

Weekends (B)
This film is a powerful representation of the effects of divorce, as a young boy goes back and forth between his parents’ two homes. Animation proves enormously useful as a tool here as his imagination runs wild and colors his experiences, illustrated on screen with very little dialogue to detract from the feeling of being trapped in this cycle of nonstop moving. It’s decent and worthwhile, but ultimately a bit unfocused.

Previous winners: Dear Basketball, Piper, Bear Story, Feast, Mr. Hublot, Paperman, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

For your information: “Animal Behaviour” co-directors David Fine and Alison Snowden won this award in 1994 for “Bob’s Birthday,” and Fine was also nominated in 1985 for “Second Class Mail.” “Animal Behaviour” is produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which has won six prizes out of thirty-five nominations. “Bao” comes from Pixar, a fourteen-time nominee with four wins. The other three are all either from companies never nominated or independent distributors.

Who should win: This list is much, much more palatable than the live action field. All five were perfectly good, though “Bao” came off as much more fully rounded to me than the rest.
Who will win: I feel like either “Animal Behaviour” or “Weekends” could earn enough votes, but I think Bao is far enough out front.

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