Eloise Wright and James Gill assess the nominations for the Best Animated Short Oscar
In a moment of reflection, the protagonist of Negative Space recounts the way he bonded with his late father whilst growing up, through the art of packing.
Adapted from Ron Koertge’s poem of the same name (2014), film students Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata carefully created a masterpiece worthy of the sorrow and nostalgia that the story carries. The narrator takes us through the steps of perfectly packing his father taught him, each item laying itself out, folding itself up and making its own way into the suitcase, as if animated by a life of their own.
Remembering, the narrator revisits his memories of these times he felt close to his father, together and apart, now forever in the past. The short concentrates on just using Koertge’s short poem for narration, the rest of its message coming through the beauty and attention to detail it possesses. His father now gone, all that is truly left of him is this inherited special knack for making good use of any nooks and crannies, or negative space. Can you blame him for only being able to wish there was not so much wasted space in his father’s coffin?
Negative Space is not only a technical marvel, but also a strikingly moving story of lost parents, the characteristics we pick up on as children that make them our parents. The loss of a parent is one almost too painful to bear, yet it is through our memories of them, the traits we inherit from them (good or bad) that allow us to keep hold of something from them.
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes is here brought to life in a two-part animated film co-directed by Jan Lachauer, Jakob Schuh, and Bin-Han To with breath-taking detail and care that gives the entire viewing experience magic. It takes some of our internationally canonical fairy-tales, such as Snow White or Jack and the Beanstalk, and provides a number of delightfully unexpected twists and turns to the original plots.
The first episode of the two opens one rainy evening in a small café, where a middle-aged woman settles in the window booth with her cup of hot tea. A lone, tall wolf dressed in a trench coat and hat follows in tow, asking the woman if he may join her as he waits “for an old friend”. We are as suspicious as the sweet lady, who, perhaps to her own detriment, is too polite and frightened to refuse.
The Wolf notices her book of fairy-tales on the table and, opening it, voices his dislike of Little Red Riding Hood, and pointing out the book’s error in Snow-White’s hair colour. Hence begins a small exchange which gives the premise to the wonderful story-telling we are about to behold.
In this version, the lives of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood intertwine so imperceptibly that one wonders how this is not how the story originally goes. Other fairy tales are merged together throughout the two episodes, and much like a Russian doll, a story seems to naturally come out of another.
With each episode being 28 minutes long, only the first episode was able to be nominated for Best Animated Short, which rules out the second from being taken into consideration. As much of a delight as the first part is, the pure brilliance of the animation comes through when watching both parts as there is a continuity within this special universe where one is not quite sure what is make believe or not.
Revolting Rhymes ends with the unexpected, and was an incredibly emotional experience. Its beauty and eloquence were truly astonishing, communicating some truths that may have escaped its predecessors, bringing a perfect balance to the old and the new. Therefore, I am afraid that part one was not intended to be a stand-alone episode, and may suffer from that when it comes to selecting a victor amongst the 5 nominees for the Best Animated Short Oscar.
On November 29th, 2015 Kobe Bryant wrote a letter for the Player’s Tribune, a media platform for professional sportsmen. It detailed his love for basketball, a love which brought him five NBA Championships and 18 NBA All-Star appearances.
Narrating the film himself, Bryant talks about his upbringing, his determination and his challenges. About how his work ethic made him become the legendary player we admire today. Accompanying these powerful words is an awe-inspiring animation painstakingly drawn frame by frame with pencil and then filmed in sequence. Glen Keane, a 2013 Disney Legend, directs the short and is joined by fellow cinema great John Williams who composes a subtle yet powerful score.
The short ends with Bryant saying how, although his heart and mind could play until the day he dies, his body cannot take any more, and this season will be his last. In his final game, against the Utah Jazz, he scored a season-high 60 points. A special end to a special career.
Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of this film is its length, only five minutes 21 seconds. Three greats of their respective fields came together to make something beautiful, with such purity and heartfelt sincerity that when the credits appeared I wished for more.
Disney-Pixar have a long history of showing a short animated films immediately before one of their major releases and Lou is no different. It was released in June 2017 alongside Cars 3 and follows the guardian of a children’s playground.
Lou, who gets his name from a ‘Lost and Found’ box with the missing letters L, O, and U, is an anthropomorphised collection of random toys and clothing children have forgotten on the playground. When the bell rings and the kids go back inside, he collects everything left behind to return later. One playtime Lou spots a bully taking away the toys from others. With each stolen toy he gets angrier and angrier until he decides to give the bully a taste of his own medicine.
As is the case with all Pixar films, the level of quality and polish is second to none, a neat lesson for children about bullying without being overt. That said, in comparison to shorts that have won the Best Animated Short category in the past for Pixar, such as Geri’s Game or For The Birds, Lou is a tier below. While enjoyable, it lacks that same innovation, that something special that separates the good from the great.
Garden Party is a sumptuously animated, if strange short by a group of French students as their graduation project. It follows a group of frogs as they explore a mansion and it’s surroundings.
The film opens to a small frog leaping into an unkempt pool and immediately we notice the incredibly photorealistic CGI. The attention to detail is exquisite with even the little ripples of the water shown. As we become introduced to more frogs we are given clues as to why the mansion is abandoned; food left to rot, bullet holes in the security camera’s and doors — there has evidently been a shootout.
Nevertheless the frogs roam around without a care, gorging on the food and generally exploring. One frog jumps onto a control board, buttons that switch on lights, pool jets and music. With the pool lit up an army of frogs go over, in all shapes and sizes. Suddenly and concluding the short, we see a body size to the surface, animated in gorey detail.
The short is a magnificent display of the possibilities of modern animation yet the peculiar story they chose takes away from that slightly. That final shocking moment seems unnecessary and could have perhaps been presented in a manner more in line with the rest of the short.