Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review: Oscar-nominated short films


8 minutes

“Sister” is an autobiographical stop-motion film by Siqi Song that looks at his relationship with his sister in 1990s China. The figures have a soft-and-fuzzy look, almost like stuffed animals. He is annoyed by his baby sister who monopolizes his parents’ time and steals his things. In some fanciful sequences, he pulls her belly button out, releasing the air with one, or pulls the same trick on her nose. He loses a tooth and together they plant it in a pot, growing a beautiful tooth tree. A little predictable and flat.

Hair Love

7 minutes

A little girl wakes up and tackles her kinky mane of hair, to disastrous results. Her dad tries to help, ineptly, and they bond over the experience. A little help arrives in the form of some tutorial videos from her (absent) mother, and bonding and fanciful life-lessons ensue. I liked the high-end, imaginative CGI and fantasy sequences where dad takes on the hair in a boxing ring. A heartwarmer by Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver.


9 minutes

This one's a keeper. Lovely animation from writer/director Rosana Sullivan and her team, a mix of deceptively simple-looking CG in the background with hazy pastels in the background. A ratty black street cat lives in a pile of junk behind a house. One day the owner brings in a large, angry-looking pitbull to live in a cage in the backyard. The cat's all hackles and defensive posturing, but then a plastic bottle cap helps break the ice. This is the perfect use of the short film form.

Dcera (Daughter)

15 minutes

I loved this animation style. At first we think we’re looking at crude papier-mâché figures with splotchy skin and barely discernible features. Then, the eyes blink. The head moves, they turn and walk, and we realize this is not stop-motion but some other form of animation from writer/director Daria Kashcheeva and her team. The story is very simple and still: a woman visits with her father in the hospital. A bird smashes through the window, dead. This recalls a childhood incident with another injured bird. The daughter brought the injured animal to her parent and was ignored, prompting her to create a bird mask and imagine herself as the forlorn creature. There are no words spoken, just quiet contemplation.


12 minutes

This trippy little surrealist fantasia tells the story of a French painter, Louis, and his wife, Michelle. He’s very amiable but insists the year is 1965 to therapist. Is he suffering from dementia? Or is this just a boundless jaunt through the imagination? The stop-motion animation looks like built-up layers of paint that from one painting style to another, leading to some exquisite scenes, many of them inspired by famous paintings like Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” Imaginative and sad.

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