A Single Life -- This fiendishly clever Dutch short manages to encapsulate an entire life in just two minutes. Well, an unnecessarily abbreviated life. Filmmakers Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen show a young single woman who receives a record at her apartment, a jaunty tune of the same title. She finds that by moving the needle forward and back across the record, she can speed up or slow down time. So the pizza she was eating disappears and reappears, or, with bigger skips, her belly swells with a growing baby. Slyly simplistic-looking animation and a coy message about not letting anticipation ruin the moment.
Feast -- This year's entry from Disney is another winner -- both in terms of quality and its prospects for taking the golden statuette. (Disney/Pixar has had quite a run in this category over the years.) Told entirely from the floor-level perspective of gobsmackingly cute street puppy, it spins the tale of his adoption by a young man, who eventually gets a girlfriend, which puts a major crimp in their shared gastrointestinal bliss. Great-looking and heartfelt from director Patrick Osborne, an ode to food, bachelorhood, and life changes.
The Bigger Picture -- This funky and inventive British short combines stop-motion animation and chalk-like drawings to give a bold impression of movement and dimension. Two sons, Nick and Richard, are at odds over the care of their elderly mum. Richard is a well-to-do professional while Nick gave up his ambitions to be a full-time caretaker. Terrific voice work, and a truly original vision by writer/director/animator Daisy Jacobs.
Me and My Moulton -- An autobiographical tale by Torill Kove about growing up in Norway in the 1960s (with English narration) is a sad-but-sweet reminiscence on how parents can both disappoint and inspire you. Young Torill and her two sisters pine for a bicycle like all the other kids. But her mom and dad -- both conceptual architects -- are determined to do everything differently, from their three-legged dinner chairs (frequent child tip-overs be damned) to her father being the only one in town with a mustache. Spare visuals, bleak Norwegian outlook.
The Dam Keeper -- Brave, dark and daring, "The Dam Keeper" is a beautiful tale about finding acceptance from others, and oneself. In a fable-like setting, a lonely pig child operates the dam and windmill that keep the tidal forces of darkness at bay from the bucolic town below. But he is ostracized and ridiculed for his shabby appearance, until a new student arrives bearing a sketchpad and a dollop of hope. The animation is dense and deliberately vague by filmmakers Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi. Haunting, yet hopeful.