I lied, the Oscar-nominated animated shorts come first. As I was watching them I kept thinking about how the next short was better than the last. Which kind of felt like a cheat because the latest one was probably fresher in my memory. This probably will show my biases about aesthetics but the audience during my screening saw, in the order that they were presented, go from capturing the mundane to portraying the fantastical, from the most rudimentary forms of animation to the most breathtakingly detailed. Oh, and before I talk about each short, I would just like to say that this is the first time I’ve seen these selections.
Patrick Doyon’s Dimanche portrays a titular regular Sunday in rural Quebec. It evokes the cloudy whimsy of childhood with its sensory interpretations of trains and elephants and the protagonist looking up while the adults, presumably his aunts and uncles, have indiscernible conversations. ‘Rudimentary’ is probably a belittling comment to describe this, as it does play with two-dimensionality. There’s also something remarkable with the economy of drawing birds and humans with simple lines and shapes. There’s also a texture that smoothed out, computerized animation hasn’t completely captured, making me miss the paper and pencil animated movie.
Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s Wild Life makes my biases resurface because I graduated high school to get away from stories like this ad nauseam. Most versions I’ve heard about Prairie settlement on the Canadian West which are full of Eastern European characters and that’s represented with a vocal cameo by the hilarious Luba Goy. But our protagonist here is a young British man who fancies himself as a cowboy. But just because it’s tenth-grade history doesn’t mean that it has parallels now, that a lot of co-dependent overgrown children still today. Some sequences feel like two frames interchanged to simulate movement but the sound brings that conceit to life. And I’m a sucker for watercolour so this gets a pass.
Contrasting those old school historical Canadian annies are two shiny ones from south of the border. The fourth one being William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the most widely-seen short when it hit online by itself. It’s a bit lengthy and sleepy – what kind of ADD do I have? – but the latter half of the short makes the titular books look tactile. It also hits on the ‘important subject matter’ criteria that may or not be important for the voters in the Academy, but it does touch on the topic of temporal loss and how books can comfort us from those anxieties.
Lessmore reminds me of Up – book balloons! – and so does this last annie, Enrico Casarosa’s La Luna. It’s a 20th century version of a myth, as a three-generational Italian family who look like fishermen are actually out on the sea to work on the moon so they can clean it up. They take us on a journey that includes stars, both shining and exploding, on the moon. And spoilers, they make the moon wax and wane. This short is also the closest thing we’ll have to Melancholia getting an Academy Award nomination, with the moon and all, so it gets my vote. And this short is produced by Pixar and those guys know how to push their stuff so I’m not worried.
Oh and there’s the second one, Grant Orchard’s submission, the most forgettable of the bunch, which is a shame because it mixes both old school black and white and colour computer animation. It also has a gross-out, apocalyptic spin in the end as it envisions a zombie chasing a chicken down the street, a contrast from the earlier scenes when it’s just a man seeing a chicken. It also has the sleek, urban, virtual Fernand Leger that reminds me of that short that won in 2008-2009 I think, I can’t remember the title. Although A Morning Stroll doesn’t evoke that technological aesthetic though.
Yay! These shorts were very popular during Family Day when I watched them so they’ll still be playing from today until March 1st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Images vis TIFF.