One of the more interesting categories for Oscars and one I overlooked when making my Oscar predictions article is the category for animated short film. This is such a fascinating genre. You only have such a short amount of time to tell a story and also it needs to be visually creative. There are 5 nominees and I’m going to try and rank them in the order that I predict they will finish based on nothing more than which one I liked more than the other. These are all so different and good that I could see anyone of them winning. Four of them focus on their unique twist on time while one is just a moment in time. It was fun watching these and you should definitely check out any and all that sounds interesting to you.
5. Borrowed Time: Is a 7 minute short that is a western. It gives us two versions of events that happen to a sheriff at a certain cliff in the desert. One is the past event that happened at this location. The other is the present as it is happening now to the Sheriff at this same location. These two are intercut with each other with the past being presented as flashback obviously. The present sheriff seems to be tormented about something as he seemingly prepares for suicide while approaching the edge of the cliff. The past shows us the sheriff as a child with his father as they are on trying to get away from someone while on a horse drawn carriage. They are approaching the cliff as the horses trip on some rocks causing the carriage to careen towards the edge. What will happen in the past and the present?
This one had solid animation. It was similar to what you’d expect from a Pixar movie. The story is sad but not completely without hope. I enjoyed the western aesthetic. However this one was the least enjoyable for me because it was too sad without much of an arc for the character. He went from tormented to sad and that’s it. The mainstream animation while technically amazing was too generic for me.
4. Piper : Piper is a Pixar production that is 6 minutes long. This one showcases an event that happens at a beach. A mother bird is trying to teach her young chick how to feed by herself along the shoreline. This is fraught with peril however as the waves of water always crash the shore. The birds know to get away from the wave but not the young bird that has waves splash on him, soaking him. The little bird is now really scared to try and get food along the shoreline. The little bird wanders a little closer to the shore but not all the way when he meets a baby crab. This baby crab helps the little bird see the world differently and before we know it the little bird is able to provide food for his whole family.
This is a simple, sweet short film. The animation is typical hyper realistic Pixar style and is a joy to see. It looks like an actual documentary on Animal Planet or something. The little bird has an inspirational arc that can teach something to all of us or confirms what a lot of people may already realize about life. Sometimes the things we are the most afraid of are some of the most enjoyable parts of life. This is easily the most humorous and light hearted short. It’s a fun story but being one note like a typical Pixar movie, it didn’t have enough emotional range for me. I felt one way the whole time kind of like with Borrowed Time.
3. Blind Vaysha: This one is an 8 minute short film and too me it was the most fascinating of the 5 nominees. It is the story of a girl, named Vaysha, who is born with a right eye that can only see the future and a left eye that can only see the past. This girl cannot see the present as it is however. This leads her to be virtually blind as she can never see anything as it is at the present moment. Thinking its black magic, townspeople try all sorts of tricks to heal her which don’t work. Vaysha grows up with this disability but is looked at as unique and beautiful. She is desired by many suitors but she only sees them as a child and their older self. This causes her grief. She can see the beginning of time and the future at the same time but can’t ever live a normal live. She becomes reclusive when one day she decides she must get rid of one her eyes. Which eye will she choose?
The animation is very unique in this one. It seems like some sort of Picasso painting being brought to life. I appreciate the creativity of this look. The story is also fascinating. We have a seemingly gifted girl but she can’t ever use this gift to benefit her. It’s also a nice allegory for how a lot of people live in the modern world. Some people are stuck in the past, drunk with nostalgia and refusing to change, while others are always worrying about the future. Both of these types of people don’t appreciate or see the present for what it is, which is what matters most. Vayesha’s curse is that she is both of these people at the same time. This is quite a conflict. I was intrigued the whole time but again, I felt the same way the whole time. Intrigued but that’s it. Also I think this could be a little too far out there to win the whole thing.
2. Pear Cider and Cigarettes: Nearly 30 minutes long, this short was almost my favorite of the bunch. It is certainly the most technically brilliant of the five in my opinion. This is a narrated story that features no dialogue besides what the narrator tells us. It’s the story of man named Techno that seemed to live the most when he didn’t care about living or dying and then seemed most lifeless when he did care about trying to live. More specifically it’s about Techno’s life after meeting his buddy Rob, who tells us the story. Rob and Techno meet in high school. Both are different but end up being friends. Techno lives such a wild lifestyle that he eventually ends up with health problems and ultimately a bad liver. Techno goes to China to try and get a liver transplant. Rob is his friend who eventually helps him out along the way.
I love the animation in this one. The style coupled with the narration reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Sin City. The use of black and white with splashes of color here and there also add to the similarity. There are some moments of humor in this but overall it’s a depressing story even if not entirely a sad one. It’s dark with a touch of noir. I think what hurts this short is the length. After a certain point, it just seems too repetitive. The tale it tells is a fascinating one which comments on various things such as drinking, drug use and a fast lifestyle but as I’ve mentioned with the other shorts, I felt the same way the whole time.
1. Pearl: This one is a 6 minute short and what a short it was. It is the story of a young girl, her dad and their life. The catch is that their life is centered around a hatchback car. This story takes us from the childhood of the girl where her and her dad basically are homeless living in the car. They have a fun times driving around the country while her dad makes money here and there playing music. Eventually the dad realizes his daughter needs a more stable life and he buys a house. What was once their home is now a transportation vehicle to take his daughter and friends to school and him to work. Life becomes less carefree and more mundane for both as they, father and daughter, seem to grow distanced. Eventually the daughter starts to play music like her dad and become more carefree like her dad used to be leading her and her friends to start a traveling band. They travel around in the old hatchback while the sad dad stays behind. The daughter starts to have fun again with her friends traveling around in the old car while remembering past memories of fun times in this same car. The band achieves some success but the car breaks down and it needs to be taken away. Will she ever see her father again and what happens to the car that holds so many memories?
I loved this one. It was my favorite and I believe it will win. The animation was amazing as it was done in some sort of virtual reality video game style. Everything happens from the perspective of inside the car. This also covered so much time in a very limited amount of minutes. A lot of story is told. What really got me about this short, is the roller coaster of emotions I felt. You experience a whole range watching this and that’s what makes this worthy of winning. All the other shorts felt one note to me in terms of their emotional spectrum but this one doesn’t. To achieve that in a short amount of time is amazing. It also has a great song that plays the whole time. I’ve include the full short above for everyone to enjoy (its best viewed on a YouTube app on a mobile device although you can still get the idea on a desktop). It is perfect and everyone should check this one out.