Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Look at the Best Animated Shorts Nominees

With the Oscars now mere hours away, I finally share my thoughts on the nominees for Best Animated Short shortly follow (my thoughts on Best Live Action can be found here). Again I apologize for the delay, but due to many conflicts, it proved to be a little challenging to find them all. This is notably due to schedule conflicts and Shorts HD deciding to pull all of them off of Youtube after they crippled theater attendances. No known package exists of this year's nominees unfortunately. However, after some Googling and short cuts, I have seen all five nominees, and like the Best Live Action Shorts, I have plenty to say. Read more after the jump.

I really wish that there was a method that I could share for introducing you to this year's Best Animated Shorts, but unfortunately the only legal way that I can find it to buy them off of iTunes individually for $2.99. Either that, or find a loophole like I did by typing each out on Google and hoping for the best. It is a shame, because just like the previous entry, I have a lot of great things to say. The most notable thing is that I admire the variety of animation styles, including stop motion, hand drawn, and computer generated. At very least, that is one thing that I admire about this year's batch of nominees.

Another fascinating thing is that unlike the live action counterparts, the animated shorts usually are just that. They are shorts that tend to use no dialogue and rely heavily on visuals. That is a fascinating technique, especially since both Adam and Dog and Head over Heels manages to keep a competent story going for over 10 minutes each. However, which one do I think is the best? Unlike the previous, I think that my established comments will give plenty away.

The following is a list of the nominees with a little blurb that I feel best describes their story and my opinions of them:

Fresh Guacamole

Some could argue this very brief entry is actually live action, though the use of animation to show how making guacamole can be itself turned into a list of puns and visual tricks. It is a fun, narrative free tale that when I first saw, I assumed was just a random Youtube video. Months later, here it is at the Oscars. I am glad that it is being recognized for its ingenuity and ability to show a creative side of shorts that the Oscars often don't recognize.


Another fine piece of animation that plays on the familiar in clever ways. However, turning paper planes into an excuse to meet the love of your life isn't quite as fulfilling or unique. Seeing multiple paper planes fly like a pack of birds is humorous and enjoyable, but the narrative is not all that exciting. This short gets points for creativity and a nice, old school feel that puts it up there with the traditional Disney animation model. However, the romance makes it feel timid and the ending a little unsatisfying.

Maggie Simpson in: The Longest Daycare

As anyone who has known me will know, I am a die hard fan of The Simpsons. I even championed this to get a nomination before I ever saw it. However, the story of the littlest Simpson going to the Ayn Rand Daycare story turns into a great escape full with a Baby Gerald cameo. Plenty of inspired sight gags and the quiet Simpson proves why she is the most useful subject for a short as they turn the daycare patrons into an obstacle course. No fan of The Simpsons will be disappointed by this and it is definitely a welcome entry into the Best Animated Shorts field. However, it does make me wonder what The Simpsons short has that none of the existing Toy Story shorts has to earn a nomination, speaking as the franchise has fared better with the Academy.

Head Over Heels

One of the most unsuspectingly endearing nominees on this list is Head Over Heels, which takes a metaphorical broken home in the middle of a storm and turns it into a clever tale of how a couple cannot see the same way, literally. The animation is beyond spectacular and the layers to the movement only makes their achievements enhance the story more. Even the ending, which manages to turn the title into a loving pun, is probably the best conclusion to a story on this list. I was really into Head Over Heels, if just because it took stop motion and introduced something exciting to it.

Adam and Dog

While not explicitly explained, the titular Adam is of the Bible's Adam and Eve from the creation period. When Adam meets a dog, the two bond and begin enjoying lives as companions. There are plenty of extravagant shots of nature that make this one of the most visually impressive. However, at 15 minutes, the slow paced story cannot keep the interest going. The ending is a little predictable and the plot a little meandering. However, it is gorgeous animation, and just watching Adam and dog roam around the jungle is a fascinating example of what can be done with animation.

Of these listed, I really enjoyed Head Over Heels and Maggie Simpson in: The Longest Daycare the most. When you get the opportunity, I recommend checking out both of them. However, as I have implied many times, and have even marked on my ballot, I am going to stick with The Simpsons until the end. However, I would be fine with Head Over Heels or even Fresh Guacamole winning. I only worry that Fresh Guacamole will be overlooked because it is the shortest nominee in the Oscars' history and therefore may be seen as the laziest. That is far from the case, but compared to the efforts of the others, it is understandable.

According to statistics website Gold Derby however, I am way wrong. Paperman leads the pack with odds of 2:1 with Adam and Dog trailing with odds of 10:3. While I try not to play in favor of statistics, I still recognize the professional's decisions and it is only tragic that I pick their fourth place choice, which has odds of 11:2. I am not entirely sure if their voting system is accurate in all categories (this is my first year testing it out), but I really hope that Paperman doesn't win. It just wasn't as interesting in its craft as the ones that I spoke about.

However, unlike the Best Live Action Shorts, I have nothing but positive things to say about most of these choices. It continues to show an interesting list. I also love the choice of diversity in animation not only in this category, but in Best Animated Feature, which actually includes personal favorite ParaNorman! That is exciting.

In closing, I hope that you are looking forward to the ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane and look for my coverage/opinions of the ceremony by Monday afternoon. Also, stay tuned for my plans to bridge the gap between this season of The Oscar Buzz and when we start getting serious contenders again. Trust me, this blog isn't shutting down just because the Oscars are over.

Who do you think will win? Is The Simpsons capable of becoming Oscar winners this year? Is Paperman really going to strike big?

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