2020 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

As strange as it may seem for this year’s animated shorts, a sense of melancholia is the order of the day. That said, there are some striking entries, along with the bittersweet, the morose and one that is simply silly.

From USA and directors Matthew Cherry, Everett Downing and Bruce Smith with what is clearly a crowd favorite, there is “Hair Love”. The film is about a young black girl coping with her hair in her mother’s absence. Dad tries his best to manage her ever changing troublesome hair styles which are compared to fearsome boxing matches.

To get confidence and inspiration the girl goes online to see hair clips that she made with a YouTube star. When the film’s surprise unfolds, it is engaging as it is poignant and certain to tug on your heart. Warm-hearted and genuine, “Hair Love” is sensitive without being cloying, and full of fun.

Next from the Czech Republic and Daria Kashcheeva is “Daughter.” A girl is trying to cope with the illness of her mother. When a bird flies into the hospital window, the girl recalls wanting to be a bird. She wore an ebony mask striving to hide from the world and her emotionally distant mom. Told with puppets and well done, the film is nonetheless eerie and downbeat. With mottled faces, frowns and more than a hint of Kafka, the film will not be for everyone but it is excellent in capturing a dreary atmosphere with rain soaked streets, pinched eyes and buildings deflated by sadness.

Although “Memo’rable” by French director Bruno Collet focuses on the somber subject of Alzheimers, it is rich and quirky and by no means depressing. Here a portrait painter endlessly devises ways to remember. He also has many conversations with himself. Colorful, and zany, full of meaning but never maudlin, “Memo’rable” portrays the full life of this man, illustrating the carnival-like potential that we all have within the experience of being human.

From China and Siqi Song, “Sister” is a wondrous and quirky tale of a baby sister’s effect on her introverted brother. Startling and visceral with deadpan mystery similar to David Lynch, this short is engaging right from the start. In just one minute it delivers a charge that is comparable to any feature film. This poetic tale will carry you along swiftly with ease, and there is a solid chance that you won’t guess the film’s final reveal. “Sister” is my personal favorite for its humor and mystery.

From Pixar and Rosana Sullivan, “Kitbull” is the story of a struggling kitten and an abused dog. Vivid, sweet and clearly influenced by Disney, the film still manages to compel, mainly because the oppressed pit-bull and the paranoid kitten are two separate and unique characters who clearly care for one another.

In addition, there are four other films in the category of “Highly Commendable.” The best of this lot is “Henrietta Bulkowski” by Rachel Johnson. Henrietta is an aspiring pilot with a hunched back due to a tumor. Doctors refuse to certify her license to fly. Still, she is determined, searching a broken plane to begin her first flight. Full of heart, emotion and drama, albeit a bit too sentimental, the film possesses two stirring characters.

The remaining three films from France and Ireland are pedestrian. “Hors Piste” details an ice rescue where two medical emergency men horribly abuse a man on a stretcher. Slapstick but not very funny.

“The Bird And the Whale” is about one bird and one whale at sea, while “Maestro” is about some supposedly quiet animals singing in a swamp.

Despite these lackluster few, the animated group this year is potent and entrancing albeit shaded with some drear. All of the main selections are a provocative, refreshing challenge.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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