I look forward to checking-out The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films every year. Normally, within the group of five, there are at least one or two standouts. However, that’s not the case this year. Instead, we have a lineup that is universally weak in story and largely unimpressive. Here are the Nominees:
“Bear Story” (Chile, 11 min.) – This short comes from Chile. It’s about a male bear who’s created a wind-up diorama of his tragic life with his wife and son. The soft animation works but the tale is slow and not nearly powerful enough. C+
“Prologue” (UK, 6 min.) – The animation is hand-drawn pencil and paper from the legendary Richard Williams. That, itself, is quite an achievement. But the thin Athens vs. Sparta battle story is so basic, and the outcome so meaningless, that it left me flat. C
“Sanjay’s Super Team” (USA, 7 min.) – Pixar’s nominee debuted in theaters with “The Good Dinosaur” back in November. It tells the (mostly) true story of little Sanjay who prefers watching his favorite superhero TV show to doing his Hindu rituals with his father. But he uses his imagination to bring these two worlds together. I didn’t love this the first time I saw it, but I actually appreciate it more after the second viewing, and out of this group of five, it’s by far the most positive, commercial and effective. B-
“We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” (Russia, 16 min.) – The first half is largely comedic, as two life-long best friends go through rigorous training to qualify to become cosmonauts. There is a dramatic twist midway through, but I can’t say I was surprised by it or what happens next – and definitely not as emotionally invested as I wanted to be. B-
“World of Tomorrow” (USA, 17 min.) – It’s about a little girl named Emily who is contacted by a third-generation clone of herself, informing her of what is going to happen to society in the future. The sarcastic, quite dark humor is sharp, and this sci-fi satire does have a lot to say. But it could’ve been much stronger if it was shorter and tighter. B
And the four “Highly Commended” shorts shown are:
“Catch It” (France, 5 min.) – Meerkat mayhem ensues when they battle with a vulture for a delicious treat. Very basic and unimaginative, with a really goofy ending. D+
“If I Was God…” (Canada, 9 min.) – This tale of a grade-school boy and his science class frog is rough to watch. C-
“The Loneliest Stoplight” (USA, 6 min.) – For me, this is best short of the nine. Bill Plympton’s comedic look at a stoplight (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is creative, quirky and memorable. B
“The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse” (France, 7 min.) – Not terrible, but it’s a story we’ve seen before so many times (including in these Animated Shorts competition practically every year). C
Overall, On The Official LCJ Report Card, the “2016 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation” gets a C, the lowest grade I’ve given this program in the seven years I’ve been seeing/reviewing the animated shorts.
Running Time: 81 min.