Oscars 2017: Reviewing the Animated Shorts

Photo Credit:http://www.animationmagazine.net/features/pixars-piper-prepares-to-take-wing/

The short categories at the Oscars are frequently overlooked by mass audiences, but there’s obviously lots to love within them, hence the recognition. This year, the animated shorts category is a varied bunch, ranging from Pixar far to long-form adult storytelling. Here’s how we review the five films nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2017 Academy Awards.

 

Blind Vaysha

Theodore Ushev’s beautiful, ancient-looking fable about living in the present is a stunning work of art with a powerful and poignant message. The narrator tells us of a girl who can see only the past out of one eye, and the future out of the other (when faced with suitors, she sees only a boy too young and a man too old, never what’s actually there in the present). Falling into the category of “accidentally political” thanks to our trying times, this small fairy tale is instantly captivating, drawing you in with its yesteryear images and timely dialogue. The lesson may be simple, but the execution puts you in a place of solid reflection that manages not to feel contrived. Grade: A-

Borrowed Time

Directed by Pixar artists Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj in their spare time, Borrowed Time is undoubtedly beuatifully animated, but it’s also too short for its own good. It has a dour start that never really sucks you in before it’s time for the character to go through a change that we see through a would-be emotional montage. Instead, it comes across as melodramatic and overstated, leaving only the gorgeous visuals to tide you over for its brief runtime. With just a few character-defining beats, this could have been the runaway hit of the bunch, but instead it’s aiming to be the most emotional, while forgetting that audiences need something to latch onto. Grade: C

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

The longest of the bunch by a mile, Pear Cider and Cigarettes is the story of a mind addled by addiction. It’s well animated, with an eery narration that makes the whole exercise feel unsettling. But the environments are fascinating to look at. Unfortunately, the film keeps its human characters in the shadows, choosing to assume the audience will identify with silhouettes and their very unique, not universal stories. At 35 minutes, this specific style starts to crumble as more details are introduced. Cutting the film down to 20 minutes would have saved a lot of its grander ideas, leaving this to be a short that’s too long and carry’s potential that overstays its welcome. Grade: B

Pearl

Technically speaking, Pearl marks a significant achievement in the world of animation. As the first VR film to be nominated for an Academy Award, a lot is riding on this little film to pioneer the way for more great art to be made in this new medium. Following the simple story of a father and daughter who make sacrifices in their lives for each other, while very clearly having a genuine love for each other, the whole thing feels a little simple. The positive message and generic storytelling make it feel like a really inventive Super Bowl ad. That’s fine, but it’s not much more than that without the actual headset. Grade: B

Piper

Pixar’s Piper, which originally debuted before Finding Dory, is some of the most photorealistic CG animation every achieved. Beautifully using nature in this brief coming of age story for a small beach-dwelling bird, Piper is the cutest of the animated shorts nominated for an Academy Award this year. It’s irresistibly charming, but also, story wise, a little on the safe side. The story of the young bird is fairly generic, and even goes as far as to over-reward its lead character, thus disrupting the more natural tone of the film. Still, Pixar knows how to do cute animals well, making this one an easily watchable, harmless little piece of animation. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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