Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MD Reviews: Short Cuts 2015, Part 1


Once again, ShortsHD The Short Movie Channel (a.k.a. ShortsTV) has theatrically released this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the first of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Animated Short.

2015's batch of Oscar nominated toons hail from four countries and range in theme from science fiction to comedy. Three are computer animated, with the other two go the traditional, hand-drawn route. As is increasingly more common in the category, all but one have little to no dialogue, relying heavily on the visuals to tell their stories.

In addition to my reviews and trailer links, I've suggested a similarly-themed Oscar nominated feature film to pair with each animated short nominee to create your own Academy-sanctioned double feature!

Bear Story, Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala (Chile, 11 minutes).
Through the use of a handmade clockwork diorama, a papa bear tells the story of his abduction by a sinister circus and his daring escape to return to his family.With its intricate mechanical figures, Bear Story (original title: Historia de un oso) looks like stop motion animation but was actually created digitally. A melancholy fable that draws parallels to slavery and the even the Holocaust; so, yeah, a bit of a downer.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: B
Pair it with: No, not The Revenant (with its infamous bear scene), but rather Mad Max: Fury Road. Both have a steam punk vibe and feature a wounded hero separated from his wife and child.

Prologue, Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton (UK, 6 minutes).
It's Spartans versus Athenians in a vicious battle to the death. The shortest and, with its brutal violence and full frontal male nudity, by far the last one you'd call a "cartoon". From three-time Oscar winner Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), Prologue (also a BAFTA Award nominee) plays more like an exercise in form and movement than an actual story, but its imagery is nevertheless enthralling.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: B-
Pair it with: Ultra-violence in a stark natural setting? Yeah, this is the one to go with The Revenant.

Sanjay's Super Team, Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle (USA, 7 minutes).
While his devout father performs his daily prayers, a bored young Indian boy makes things interesting for himself by imagining the Hindu gods as superheroes. A cute, original (and autobiographical) premise ends up being surprisingly unsurprising. Yes, it's better than Pixar's other 2015 short Lava, but that isn't saying much.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: C
Pair it with: Originally screened with the non-nominated The Good Dinosaur, Sanjay's super team is actually more appropriately matched with Riley's super team (better known as her emotions) in Pixar's other 2015 nominee, Inside Out.

We Can't Live Without Cosmos, Konstantin Bronzit (Russia, 16 minutes).
A pair of cosmonauts, best friends since childhood, vigorously train for an important but dangerous space mission. This bittersweet tale of friendship and loyalty is made even more uplifting (no pun intended) if read as a gay love story (they're shown sharing a bed, for example). Bronzit was previously nominated in this category for Lavatory - Lovestory in 2008.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: B+
Pair it with: These good-humored astronauts would certainly get along with Mark Watney, the quippy hero of The Martian.

World of Tomorrow, Don Hertzfeldt (USA, 17 minutes).
Adorable moppet Emily meets a mysterious visitor who takes her on a fantastic tour of the future. The least aesthetic and most talkative of the 2015 nominees is also, quite easily, the best. Hertzfeldt (a nominee fifteen years ago in this category for Rejected) uses black comedy to great effect in his tale of doomed humanity that somehow ends up on a hopeful note. Already an Annie Award winner and, hopefully, soon the Oscar winner.
Watch trailer, or watch the entire short at Netflix.
MD Rating: A
Pair it with: A feminine scientific creation are prominently featured in both this short and Ex Machina.

Coming soon: Part 2 takes a look at the five Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: A Who's Who of Who's Out and the Out Movie Guide.

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