(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Short Cuts 2021, Part 1: Oscar's Animated Short Film Nominees

For the 16th year, ShortsTV presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films in select theaters and digital platforms starting today (watch the trailer here). These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see all of these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make or 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 Film.

This year's is a full slate of first-time nominees, half American and half international, with three contenders traditionally animated, one CGI and one a hybrid of the two. Connection, either finding one or avoiding one, is a recurring theme among the five nominees, fitting considering the year they represent.

And the nominees are... 

Burrow, Madeline Sharafian & Michael Capbarat (USA, 6 minutes), clip.

An intrepid bunny just wants to build her dream home (complete with disco!) but finds that her new underground neighborhood is a little crowded. The most traditional toon nominated this year, this charmer recalls those lovely illustrated children's books of your youth, lovingly brought to life with mirth and warmth.

Oscar Connection: This Pixar Sparkshort was originally planned to be released theatrically with Pixar's Animated Feature nominee Soul

MD Rating: 7/10

Genius Loci, Adrien Mérigeau & Amaury Ovise (France, 16 minutes), trailer.

A young woman finds herself drawn into a bizarre spiritual odyssey through an ever-changing urban milieu. This year's "arty" entry utilizes a mixture of pale watercolors and stark black ink drawings in it's attempts at expressionistic imagery, but the result is just a muddy visual style masking another pretentious attempt at "deep meaning".

Oscar Connection: Adrien Mérigeau previously worked on the Cartoon Saloon Animated Feature nominees The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea.

MD Rating: 3/10

If Anything Happens I Love You, Will McCormack & Michael Govier (USA, 13 minutes), trailer.

A mother and father struggle to deal with an unspeakable loss in the aftermath of a senseless tragedy. Netflix's first nominee in this category shows how animation can dynamically depict emotions – sadness, guilt, overwhelming grief – through simple lines and shades of color. Despite some conventional moments, it is a powerful story artfully told.

Oscar Connection: Laura Dern, who won the Oscar last year for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Marriage Story, is an executive producer.

MD Rating: 7/10

Opera, Erick Oh (USA/South Korea, 9 minutes), trailer.

A celestial pyramid depicts the trials of humanity. As a myriad of events unfold, ominous music intones while tiny, button-faced beings (saviors, servants, soldiers, slaves...) scramble about in a perpetual march towards an inevitable doom. A mesmerizing sensory feast you'll want to watch more than once to take it all in.

Oscar Connection: Erick Oh was an animator on the Oscar winning films Brave, Inside Out and Piper, as well as the nominated shorts The Dam Keeper, Sanjay's Super Team and Lou.

MD Rating: 8/10

Yes-People (a.k.a. Já-Fólkið), Gísli Darri Halldórsson & Arnar Gunnarsson (Iceland, 9 minutes), trailer.

Residents of an apartment building face their daily routines in a (relatively) positive manner. The only straight-forward comedy among this year's cartoon contenders strives for absurdism but its one-joke premise – the only dialogue spoken is "já", Icelandic for "yes" – literally gets lost in translation.

Oscar Connection: It's a big year for Iceland at the Oscars this year. In addition to this nominated short, the main characters from Best Original Song contender Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga hail from Iceland as well.

MD Rating: 4/10

Coming soon: Reviews of the Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Documentary Short Subject.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.


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