Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: Oscar-nominated short films -- Animation

Sanjay’s Super Team


This terrific short from Walt Disney showcases one of their rising animation stars, Sanjay Patel, who directed “Sanjay’s Super Team” based on his own childhood as an Indian-American. Obsessed with super-heroes and TV, he at first does not heed his father’s call to Hindu prayers. Then in a daydream he manages to morph the three primary protectors of the faith with super-powered beings who do battle with a shadowy villain. It’s a lovely commentary on melding traditional spiritual outlooks with modern technology, and entertaining to boot.

World of Tomorrow

Writer/director Don Hertzfeldt was previously nominated in this same category 15 years ago, so hopefully his persistence will pay off. It might just with this trenchantly funny/depressing look into the future of one little Earth girl, Emily, told in deceptively simple stick figure drawings. She is contacted by her third-generation clone from hundreds of years into the future, who shows how people in the future live through the collected memories of their forebears in the “Outernet,” a Matrix-like neural landscape of the mind. Clone Emily tells tales of her life, such as falling in love with a moon rock and later an alien hatchling, and a clone named David created with no brain so he could reside in a museum for patrons to watch him age. “Now is the envy of all of the dead,” she instructs Emily Prime, who’s too young and giddily cheerful to grasp any of it. It’s the blackest of humor, but glows with imagination.


An impressive-looking bit of animation, created essentially by a single person (Richard Williams), manages to shock and disturb but fails to find any deeper meaning in its spare 8 minutes. We open with beautiful pastel pencil drawings of nature, bees pollinating and such, and then a butterfly flies past four warriors seemingly stuck out of time. They slash and rend each other horribly – gosh knows how many red pencils Williams used up – for little purpose that we can divine. Aesthetically wonderful, but detached from any kind of narrative or moral sensibility.

Bear Story

Just a lovely and heartbreaking piece from Chile, beautifully told in a combination of computer-generated and simulated stop-motion animation. A tired old bear works as a street barker selling visions into his amazing little mechanical diorama, which relates the tale of his life through herky-jerky metal figures and scenes. He is separated from his family during the Pinochet dictatorship and forced to perform in a degrading circus act, tottering around on a tricycle while juggling balls. Then one day a new daredevil act offers a chance of escape and reuniting – or so he hopes. Gorgeously made and full of pathos.

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

During the Cold War, two Soviet cosmonauts train hard to be selected for the space program, but find plenty of time for play and whimsy, too. Their oddball antics are frowned upon, but their diligence is rewarded and they get the chance to ride a rocket. But only one can be launched at a time, and the possibility of disaster and separation looms. Told in simplistic cartoony animation with clean lines, it’s an engaging portrait of friendship amidst a sterile militaristic setting. Just because we reach for the stars doesn’t mean we have to forfeit our humanity.

Additional (non-nominated) films in program:
“If I Was God”
“The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse”
“The Loneliest Spotlight”
“Catch It”

Trailer BEAR STORY / HISTORIA DE UN OSO from Punkrobot Studio on Vimeo.

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