Oscar History

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A Look at the Animated Shorts

Eric here with a look at the animated shorts. If you missed previous nominated shorts coverage, Glenn investigated the documentary options, I looked at the live action shorts, and Nathaniel interviewed the director of Sing.

Pros and cons and predictions after the jump...

Blind Vaysha tells the parable of Vaysha, a young girl in the country who is born seeing the past out of her left eye and the future out of her right eye, never able to see in the present.  This strange little saga, ripe with metaphors, features an original and disturbing look:  it’s like medieval icon painting come to animated life.  It works, and the film is both heavy and heavy-handed in equal measure. 

Pro:  Unique and disturbing. 
Con: Overly dark?

Borrowed Time was made and developed as part of Pixar’s Co-Op Program, and it looks and feels very much like a Pixar project.  That means visually, it looks fantastic, and this one has a sad underbelly as it probes a man on the brink of suicide.  You can’t fault the artistry, but the narrative feels incredibly forced, and it seems to fall unsuccessfully between commercial and personal. 

Pro:  Visually pleasing. 
Con:  Grade-school dramatics.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes is the longest of the films at 35 minutes (the others are all under 10 minutes), and it’s a slog.  Done in a neo-noir style, it’s a ponderously-narrated tale about the life of an on-the-edge alcoholic and daredevil.  The story is filled with needless detail, the female characters are sketched (literally) with dangerous objectivity, and it wallows in tiresome machismo. 

Pro:  Cool factor? 
Con:  Unpleasant, with a repetitive script and lumbering pace.

Pearl chronicles a father and daughter relationship, centered around a car and music.  It’s all a bit idealized, but the movie has a sweet lingering effect that could sway voters.  The animation has a nice squareness and fluidity to it that separates it from the standard smoothness we usually see.  It feels like a personal movie made by your favorite hipster friend.  

Pro:  Warm and light. 
Con:  Not enough there there?

[Editor's Note: Pearl's nomination and awards to date surely come from its technological inventiveness. But in traditional screenings such as the travelling shorts collection that moviegoers were able to buy tickets to, and that Eric attended, you cannot see its 360º pleasures. The ideal way to screen it is online where you can engage with its interactivity. Clicking on the arrows will give you more and more details about the story as you can spin the camera all around the car to see the back seat, the passenger seat, etcetera. I interrupt this article to share this information because in a conversation on the most recent podcast, cut for its length, I had realized that Katey and Nick had also only just seen it through the traditional screening route and were unaware of the whole other movie they were missing. -Nathaniel]

Piper, Pixar's short that was screened before Finding Dory this past summer, is about a newborn bird who must learn to feed and fend for itself.  It's cute, it looks like a million dollars, and it will likely win this award, especially in the midst of weak competition.  But are we a little bored with these predictable Pixar shorts yet? 

Pro:  Winning and professional.  
Con: Typical Disney narrative. 

Will winPiper.  While it was a huge and happy surprise to see the independent Bear Story beat Pixar’s Sanjay’s Super Team last year, it’s unlikely one of these titles will pull ahead this year.  This is no knock to Pixar, who do amazing work when they’re firing on all cylinders.  But Piper lacks that extra bit of inspiration you expect from a winner.

Look out forPearl.  It has an outside shot.

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Reader Comments (7)

I have tickets to see these this weekend; it's become kind of an annual tradition for me. Sorry to hear it's a weak bunch this year, though if nothing else I'll appreciate the visuals on a big screen. Although I guess I'll need to see "Pearl" online or in the manner intended - thanks for the heads up, Nathaniel.

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

I actually think it's a strong set of nominees this year. I agree that Piper is probably the front-runner at this point, but the Academy always seems to find some way to give the Oscar to somebody else. Perhaps I'm a bit biased (because it is my favorite of the nominee), but I think that Pear Cider and Cigarettes has a chance to surprise. For one thing it's the longest nominee in the history of the category, and it's worth noting that every film longer than 30 minutes had won the award.

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

Pixar hasn't won in this category since 2001 for a short that screened in front of Monsters Inc. That's over 15 years of losing and at this point I'm not predicting one of their shorts again until they break this losing streak. I'm surprised that more people in the know haven't taken notice of this. Every year I see every seemingly informed predictor chase Pixar off the same cliff.

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJS

I actually like this batch of nominees. Apart from BORROWED TIME which I thought was dull, the rest are all interesting. I really enjoyed PIPER at the movies and Pixar don't really factor in if their features win (coincidental or not). I liked PEARL and the VR aspect is neat. BLIND VAYSHA may be my favourite of the bunch, but it's NFB of Canada so of course it's great and the animation is unique and interesting. PEAR CIDER was really well animated and I liked it used the medium of animation for something other than cute.

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I don't think in all my years of seeing the shorts, my favorites in any of the categories have ever won, so that puts Blind Vaysha and Sing out. I can't imagine anyone thinking Borrowed Time or Pear Cider... are worth a win. That leaves Piper and Pearl, and I assume Pearl will take it.

February 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBarryYorkBrooks

Piper - don't want to jump on the Pixar bandwagon but it's head and shoulders above the others

Pear Cider - kept my interest for a bit, but ultimately too long and repetitive

Borrowed Time - nicely animated but no there there as I think someone else said

Pearl - touching, could win

Blind Vaysha - really enjoyed the animation, was ready for it to be my favorite.. but the ending ruined it. Too much exposition, breaking of the fourth wall. A shame

February 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

(I tried posting this yesterday but it didn't take, apparently)

MJS- I think Piper will win this year because it's the happiest of a rather grim bunch. You have a good point about Pixar's track record in the category, but one thing to keep in mind is that the category used to be voted on only by people who went to the screening to see all the shorts. That favored a rather esoteric group of winners, often with distinct and intricate animation styles, that animators appreciated (see The Lost Thing, Mr. Hublot). Now that the category is opened up with screeners and anybody can vote, I expect to see more crowd-pleasing winners.

February 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

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