Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films (2017) Review

By: Oberst von Berauscht & Henry J. Fromage –

It’s another fairly random year for the Oscar Animated Shorts category.  You have the requisite technically exquisite Pixar entry, then European and/or decidedly adult fare to follow.
Blind Vashya
Oberst: Blind Vashya is the story of a girl who one day discovered she couldn’t see the present, one eye saw only the past, while her other sees only the future. There is an intriguing  art style, the story behind Blind Vashya really didn’t connect with me on any level. There seemed to be an issue translating the narration into English, as the narrator feels detached and is unable to really build any sense of mystery or wonder in the fantastical story.
Henry: I liked the weirdly off-kilter traditional animation as well, but agreed, this metaphor just doesn’t really fly for me as anything but simplistic myth-making with a college freshman-level of reality analysis.  These pure European art-cinema shorts never end up taking it all, and this is one of the weakest entries in that category I’ve seen.
 
Borrowed Time
Oberst: This short Western film by two Pixar animators and using Pixar resources was ultimately not released by Pixar, but as an independently produced short film. This was likely because of the darker, more adult themes explored which don’t exactly gel with the family-accessible reputation Pixar enjoys.  The story, about a man who returns to the scene of a past trauma, is not anything particularly deep, but it is beautifully shot and staged. The film has a classic American Western feel that makes me long for a more fleshed-out Pixar-quality animated feature in the Western genre someday. In hindsight, it is easy to tell this was done part-time, as it lacks the “reaching for the fences” quality that short animations tend to gun for.
Henry:  Yeah, honestly there’s not much more of a story than “man comes to horrible memory place to commit suicide, but is prevented by positive memory”.  I didn’t find much to recommend here outside of the setting and I guess the willingness to go to some decidedly non-Pixar places with the subject matter.
 
Pearl Cider and Cigarettes
Henry: This clearly autobiographical story of the animator’s live fast, die young buddy and his struggles trying to prevent the inevitability of that second, final part of the phrase is a stunner stylistically, and very, very adult in its themes.  You can feel the heartbreak in his telling this story, this way, but it’s beautifully realized.
Oberst: Very engrossing personal story, with an art design that comes right out of a graphic novel.  The story of Techno; a party-hound whose self destructive behavior both endeared and isolated him from others, and the close friend who spent time trying desperately to save him from himself.
 
Pearl
Henry: Apparently designed for the Oculus Rift, the format shows in the weird stretching of the image, which is enough to surprise me this got nominated.  The subject matter is sweet in a Pixar-esque manner, though, following an itinerant father, his daughter, their old car, and their song through their lives and onwards to an affecting finale.
Oberst: I can definitely see that watching this using VR would be quite a fun experience.  It’s a earnest, sweet little story using a song as the theme for a lifetime of experiences. Without the VR, though, it’s a stretched screen image that is not particularly cinematic.  Which brings to question whether you can classify it in the same type of film at all if it doesn’t fully work without interactive elements?
 
Piper
Henry: Another Pixar short that pushes forward the medium and is just so fucking cute that you know it’s gonna win.  It really does the former, though, achieving their highest degree of photorealism yet.
Oberst: A supremely brilliant visual feat, one of the most detailed CG animations I’ve ever seen.  It was also just damned charming.

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