Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animated

Dear Basketball: B
Negative Space: B+
Revolting Rhymes Part One: B+
Garden Party: B+

["Highly Commended"]
Lost Property Office: B
Weeds B
Achoo: B-

dear basketball Dear Basketball (USA, 6 minutes) precipitated a fair amount of humor on Twitter about basketball player Kobe Bryant somehow becoming an Academy Award nominee -- because he wrote and narrates the poem that makes up the audio of this entire short. I don't particularly see any pressing reason to make fun of it. I have close to zero interest in basketball, sure, but I can still recognize sincerity when I see it. This isn't the greatest poem in the world, but that's beside the point. This is effectively evocative with its animated pencil drawings and earnest delivery.

negative space Negative Space (France, 5 minutes) is a light hearted little stop motion short, with rather odd looking characters that sort of look like papier-mâché, about a boy who learned how to pack suitcases from his father. This one kind of touched me in a personal way because my stepmother also taught me how to maximize space in luggage by rolling up my clothes. This kid has a few more rules, hence the aversion to "negative space" used inefficiently, which serves as a cute little punch line at the very end.

LOU (USA, 7 minutes) is far from the longest short in this year's group of nominees, but, it should come as no surprise that as the Pixar submission, it's easily the strongest. This one, about stolen toys come to life to teach a playground bully a lesson, has charmes that practically leap off the screen. Here Pixar continues its knack for presenting stories that are equal parts enchanting and moving.

revolting rhymes Revolting Rhymes Part One (UK, 29 minutes) is based on a story by Roald Dahl, and is thus a suitably twisted mashup take on several fairy tales at once: Little Red Riding Hood (who here becomes a vengeful badass); Snow White; and the Three Pigs. The story is narrated by the wolf who has lost his two nephews, and we find out how that happened. This one is by far the longest of the animated shorts, but with a pacing that never lulls, it remains engaging and fun from beginning to end.

garden party I might be more tempted to dismiss Garden Party (France, 7 minutes), if not for its stunning, photorealistic animation. It's mostly of frogs, each of them lazily exploring what increasingly becomes clear is an abandoned mansion whose inhabitant has been shot and killed. Thus, it goes from peaceful and beautiful to dark and disturbing pretty quickly.

lost property office Lost Property Office (Australia, 10 minutes), the first of the "Highly Commended" shorts used as filler to stretch the full prohram to a barely feature length 83 minutes, is another stop motion short, this one in black and white with impressively detailed, art deco cityscapes. It's just a man who ultimately gets laid off and finds a way to turn all the junk he works with into an escape, but it does have its charms.

weeds Weeds (USA, 3 minutes) is the shortest of all the shorts here, but as a brief parable about "daring to dream," does wind up being memorable, as we watch a dandelion struggle to escape the fatally dry and hot part of a sidewalk and make it to where a nearby sprinkler hits. Short as it is, it's easy to see this one only barely missing out on getting an Oscar nomination, particularly considering its crisply rendered animation.

achoo Achoo (France, 7 minutes), on the other hand, is easily the weakest of all offerings here, and it's too bad it gets presented last instead of allowing something strong to be used for going out with a bang. At least there is a "bang" here, as it tells us how fireworks were created -- by a dragon with a cold. The animation here is well done, but the story is somewhat weak, and I can't really decide how I feel about the rendering of the one Chinese human character, who is a little too much of a caricature, even for a cartoon.


Overall: B+