Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: Oscar-nominated short films: Animation

"Get a Horse!"

Those who saw "Frozen" in theaters may remember this delightful 7-minute short film preceding the main feature. It's a wondrous mash-up of old and new Disney animation traditions. At first it seems we’re watching a venerable 1920s black-and-white cartoon with Mickey Mouse and his cartoon pals enjoying a hayride. But then they get into a road-rage scuffle with Peg-Leg Pete, the whole gang crashes through the screen and into our laps, bursting with color and originality. A pure delight from director Lauren MacMullan and her crew.


Daniel Sousa's hand-drawn short is a beautiful, elegant and minimalist animated exploration of a wild boy forced into mankind's rigid society, with predictable results. The animation seems to blend into itself, more shapes and colors than vivid lines and depiction. I loved how none of the humans or creatures have eyes, being perpetually cast in shadow. In the human world, objects tend to arrive in bits and pieces, so the boy's new clothes slide onto him, one button or sleeve at a time.


This terrific bit of Japanese CGI is like a mix of manga, water color painting and superhero comic book aesthetics. A man wandering through the medieval forest during a storm takes refuge in a strange shrine, where objects seem to come to life and challenge him. A handyman whose box of tools and hat proclaim he can "Fix Anything 'n' Again" -- even though he resembles a Kurosawa samurai -- he sets about plying his trade on the worn possessions, or tsukumogami, which legend says gain sentience after a century of service. Crisp animation and imaginative scenarios make for a delightful, giddy romp.

"Mr. Hublot"

A gorgeously detailed CGI animated film from Luxembourg, "Mr. Hublot" imagines an incredibly distinctive world and then spins a short, sweet and memorable story out of it. The title character is a scientist type shut inside his home/laboratory in a strange steampunk world where most of the denizens are mechanical. Even Mr. Hublot has an odometer on his forehead that records the activity of his thoughts. A creature of habit, his world is upturned when he spies a forlorn little robot puppy living in the street across the way. Bold, beautiful and iconic, inspired by the sculptures of S. Halleaux, written and directed by Laurent Witz.


"Room on the Broom"

This simple, straightforward bit of computer-generated animation is based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler about a witch and her cat who are being chased by a dragon. They keep bumping into other critters who need a ride -- a dog, a frog, a bird -- and soon their magic broom is overloaded to the breaking point. The hitch is that each new occupant is resistant to letting more onboard, which is eventually resolved in a message of inclusiveness. It's a nice-looking film with voices by Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins, with Simon Pegg narrating. But it goes on rather too long with too little narrative momentum.

No comments:

Post a Comment