Two of the noms share a comically macabre tone.
In Javier Recio Garcia’s Goya-winning “The Lady and the Reaper,” Death and a hotshot surgeon wrestle — figuratively and literally — over the fate of a weary little old lady. The cleverly minimal character designs make clear graphic statements: The sharp, angular figure of the Grim Reaper contrasts nicely with the rounded form of the bent old woman. Gracia demonstrates his visual wit when he juxtaposes the line on an electronic heart monitor with the ups and downs of a roller-coaster ride.
“Granny O’Grim’s Sleeping Beauty,” by Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell, turns the classic fairy tale on its head, retelling the story from the point of view of the angry, aged fairy who wasn’t invited to the princess’s christening (the elegant sorceress Maleficent was a Disney invention). In a mix of styles, the embittered grandmother, who sports a Don King hairdo, and the terrified moppet she’s putting to bed look like gray puppets, while the characters in the story Granny recounts are flatter, more stylized and brightly colored.
Fabrice O. Joubert’s “French Roast” begins with a realistic situation: A man in a Parisian cafe discovers he’s forgotten his wallet when a surly waiter brings the check for his morning espresso. As he racks his brain for a solution, a series of weird characters parade through the cafe, complicating his problem: a scruffy beggar demanding a handout, a curiously wealthy nun and a drunken cop. Joubert’s style (featuring character designs by DreamWorks secret weapon Nico Marlet) is less original than the aforementioned shorts, though the CG animation in “French Roast” is more polished.
Set in a world composed entirely of familiar trademarks, Nicolas Schmerkin’s “Logorama” transforms from a parody of a Grand Theft Auto-style crime story, with Michelin Man-cops hunting down a renegade Ronald McDonald, into a full-blown disaster-movie send-up. The French-made CG short pokes irreverent fun at a world swarming with corporate identities, featuring a diverse cast of brand mascots (from AOL Running Man pedestrians to a trash-talking Bob’s Big Boy brat), all living in the shadow of Afri Cola palm trees and Energizer streetlamps. Schmerkin’s clever logo-overload pastiche virtually invites copyright infringement cases.
Four-time Oscar winner Nick Park’s addlepated inventor Wallace and his intelligent canine companion Gromit take up a new career as bakers in the CG-aided stop-motion mystery “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” featuring increasingly ambitious setpieces for the mismatched duo. Wallace falls hard for Piella Bakewell, the former star of the Bake-O-Lite Bread commercials, but the resourceful Gromit uncovers a disturbing link to a string of murdered bakers. (“Cereal killer strikes again!”) Park continues to refine his animation of clay figures, finding new subtleties of acting and expression.
The Oscar Shorts program opens in over 100 theatres nationwide starting February 19, followed by an additional regional roll out. For a list of theatres, visit shortshd.com/theoscarshorts.