Bao: B+
Late Afternoon: A-
Weekends: B
Animal Behaviour: B-
One Small Step: B+

[“Highly Commended]
The Wishing Box: B
Tweet Tweet: B

bao This year's set of animated shorts, better than average but falling short of particular greatness as always, starts with the one short many of us already saw, as it was presented last year prior to screenings of Pixar's Incredibles 2. It's an 8-minute short called Bao, American and about an Asian mother's evolving relationship with her son -- as represented by a dumpling. I think. Honestly this one went, at least in part, kind of over my head, although the animation is up to typical standards of Pixar excellence and still has charm to spare. Who knew a dumpling could be so adorable?

Late Afternoon, a 10-minute short from Ireland, proved to be my favorite of the bunch, alternately wistful an melancholy though it was. This one will hit particularly close to home for anyone who's had a family member suffering from dementia. Here, an elderly woman's mind washes back and forth between current reality and other eras of her life, as her grown daughter packs up the stuff in her home. The relatively rudamentary animation here is well suited to the subject, and is well rendered particularly as the old woman struggles to hold onto her memories, moving from joy to sorrow and back at regular intervals. The end result is something quite moving.

weekends The longest of this year's animated crop is the 15-minute Weekends, an American short detailing a young boy as he grows accustomed to visiting his father on weekends shortly after his parents' separation. Eventually each parent finds a new romantic partner, with varying results of which the child has limited understanding. The water color animation is very pretty, but the length of the story exceeds necessity.

animal behaviour I really wanted to love Animal Behaviour, the 14-minute short from Canada about several different animals in a group therapy session, as it's the kind of thing that's right up my alley. What's not to love about a group of characters so diverse it includes not only a dog, a cat and pig, but also a bird, a gorilla, a praying mantis and a leech? And they all have their own mental issues -- I just wish those issues had been explored with a little more cleverness. This one seems to coast a bit on its concept alone, although I will admit it still got a few good chuckles out of me.

one small step One Small Step is the one animated short nominee with two countries of origin: USA & China. This 8-minute short details the astronautical ambitions of a girl as she grows up struggling through school, at the expense of noticing the attentions and assistance of her cobbler father. He regularly mends her shoes, she regularly fails to notice until she has finally reached her goals and then it is too late. This one also has excellent animation, which is somewhat ironic given how little of the story calls for it as a necessity (as opposed to shooting it as live action). Honestly, the most deeply affecting moment is the clip during the end credits, with one of the directors so excited to hear his short was nominated he starts crying. Three of the nominated shorts feature clips of this sort at their end, it's always a nice thing to see.

photo Often these presentations feature five nominees of such short average length that several "Highly Commended" extras get tacked onto the end. This year there are only two, the first being Wishing Box, a 6-minute American short with impressively crisp animation and slightly lacking in substance. I pirate discovers his monkey can pull anything it wishes for out of an otherwise empty box, much of it fruit it wants to eat. Once the pirate's greediness gets the monkey on board (so to speak) with wishing for riches, a fairly predictable lesson is learned.

tweet tweet Tweet Tweet, a short from Russia, is arguably among the most intriguing of all the shorts here, and I would submit that it was more deserving of a nomination than, say, Animal Behaviour. Being intriguing does not mean it necessarily makes sense, however: the entirety of its run time features human feet on a tightrope that runs across the screen, along with a bird. There are clearly profound metaphors intended here, though I couldn't tell you what they are. The animation is excellent, though, and a lot of thoughts about both Russian history and of life and aging is packed into its twelve minutes.

late afternoon

Overall: B