I’ll admit I don’t have much interest in the Oscars, but since I do invest a fair bit of time in animation, I thought I should take a look at this year’s Animated Short nominees. For those interested in having informed opinions about more the awards this year, Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International bring the Oscar-nominated animated short films to theaters so you can. The full piece can be read at The Reeler, but as always, you can read the teaser below.
A little like Sarah Jessica Parker’s proposed reality show pitting all artists against one another as if sculptors and painters had comparable skills, this year’s Oscar-animated shorts awards one prize for a group of work needing three. Considering the range of animation technique — puppets to broadcast design to painted animation — it's hardly surprising the first question I had exiting the theater was why anyone would attempt to determine “the best” animated short when the skill sets and results are so entirely different.Puppet and computer animation constitutes the largest genre of animation represented this year, taking 60 percent of the entries. These films include Suzi Templeton andHugh Welchman’s collaboration Peter & The Wolf, retelling the legend of a boy, his animal friends and a wolf; Madame Tutli-Putli, Chris Lavis’s tale about a woman's experiences on a hijacked train; and, from France, Even Pigeons Go To Heaven, Maciek Szczerbowski and Simon Vanesse’s short about a corrupt priest who tries to sell heaven to an old man. Coincidentally or not, each of these animated shorts address depraved human behavior.
The Arty Broadcast genre of animation was met by one nominee this year, Josh Raskin’s I Met The Walrus. This short provides a visualization for a guerilla style interview between John Lennon and 14 year old Jerry Levitan in Toronto in 1969. Representing the oil-painting-come-to-life category, Alexander Petrov’s My Love features the story of an annoying teenager and his two ill-fated crushes.
Aside from lacking a way to accurately compare the genres, this kind of decision-making inevitably privileges of one genre over another. Naturally, I can't wait to see the scandal unfold this year if one of the puppet animations wins; will this signal an increased interest in puppets and computer animation? Is oil painting animation dead? What of arty broadcast design? Of course, if oil-painting animation was actually in question as a legitimate genre, nobody would look to My Love as evidence of life within it; I can't remember the last time I involuntarily sighed so much through movie. With far too much visual noise and stylized paint handling/pastel drawing, the sentimental aesthetic choices matched those within the narrative of the film. Never has the stupidity of a teenage boy “in love” been so painful to watch.
To read the full piece click here.