Charles Solomon breaks down this year's noms

Animation critic Charles Solomon evaluates the striking range in tone, medium and style in this year’s slate of animated shorts.

LAVATORY LOVESTORY

Russian animator Konstantin Bronzit uses simple black-and-white line figures to present an understated romance. A frumpy little woman sits at the entrance to an anonymous men’s room, collecting change, day in, day out. Gliding on a scrub brush, she fantasizes about figure skating with a handsome partner. Her dreary existence improves when she discovers a bouquet of flowers in her coin jar from an anonymous admirer. Bronzit’s minimalist vision offers a striking counterpoint to the brilliant palette and elaborate designs in most animated films.

OKTAPODI

In this CG short, two amorous octopi find their romance threatened when one is sold to a cook on a minuscule Greek island. The multilimbed Romeo rushes to the aid of his Juliet in a long chase scene punctuated with slapstick. Students Julien

Bocabeille, Francois-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi made the film in their final year at the Gobelins school in Paris. “Oktapodi” is an impressive film for a student project and has already won awards at major toon fests, including Annecy and Hiroshima.

HOUSE OF SMALL CUBES

In contrast to the humor of the other four nominees, Kunio Kato’s “La Maison en petits cubes” (House of Small Cubes) is suffused with a nostalgic melancholy that recalls Michael Dudok De Wit’s Oscar-winning “Father and Daughter.” A lumpy little man leads a bleak existence, staring out of his tiny apartment at a flooded city. When he dives to retrieve his favorite pipe, he rediscovers the past, submerged in his memory and the drowned rooms. The wistful charm of Kato’s hand-drawn film provides a welcome reminder that animation can convey subtle emotions as effectively as it provokes laughter.

PRESTO

A battle of wits between Presto the magician and his recalcitrant rabbit, this Pixar one-off was a pet project of first-time director Doug Sweetland. The bunny should have gotten a carrot before the show, and he’s not performing until he’s fed, despite Presto’s demands. One of the company’s top animators, whose work includes Woody imitating John Wayne in “Toy Story 2,” Sweetland cites Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and the Hanna-Barbera “Tom and Jerry” cartoons as influences on his film. Like “Wall-E” (which it accompanied in theaters), “Presto” uses pantomime rather than a barrage of one-liners to present its story.

THIS WAY UP

In this impressionistically stylized CG entry from award-winning British commercial directors Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes of Nexus Prods., two undertakers have a very bad day as they try to escort the body of a dear little old lady to her final resting place. On the journey, they have to contend with overzealous deer hunters, a hungry vulture and a boulder that seems to have rolled out of a Wile E. Coyote short.

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