Oscar Animated Shorts at the Charles Theater by Lydia Youngman
A minute and a half into watching my first animated short—nay, Oscar-animated short—and I was already a snob. I began a three-pronged system of criticism to judge these films based on their aesthetics, story, and the more nebulous factor of atmosphere.
The Charles Theater shows a compilation of short animated films that have been nominated for the 88th Academy Awards. Even though only five animated short films are nominated, others have been added to extend the overall running time to 86 minutes. At the same price as a standard movie ticket, you get your money’s worth.
Sanjay’s Super Team (dir. Sanjay Patel, USA, 7 mins.)
Sanjay’s Super Team is a Pixar film and it has all the features that people love about Pixar: a certain digital animation aesthetic, a tightly constructed story, and themes about love and family. Semi-biographical, the short tells the story of Sanjay, a young boy obsessed with superheroes, as he struggles to relate to his devout Hindu father. It’s a nice film, but it doesn’t push the boundaries of the art form the way some of the other shorts do.
World of Tomorrow (dir. Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 17 mins.)
World of Tomorrow is odd. It begins with a young girl, Emily, getting a visit from an older version of herself who takes her on a journey through the future. It has an unusually simplistic style of animation, the characters almost stick figures.
The film is mostly a monologue, only occasionally a conversation and that sets it apart from the other silent nominees. The only problem was that the music was too loud, often overpowering the script.
Bear Story (dir. Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 11 mins.)
Set in a beautifully animated world of wind-up animals, Bear Story is a story-within-a-story. A bear builds a wind-up world that tells the story of animals getting spirited away from their homes and forced to join the circus. It wasn’t immediately engrossing for some reason, but a fourth of the way through I was hooked. I cried the whole time.
We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos (dir. Konstantin Bronzit, Russia, 16 mins.)
We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos stands out from the rest because of the way it balances comedy with tragedy. It’s not a bad film, but it seemed a little long. It made its point and continued to linger. The animation style was clean and simple, putting the focus on the stars in outer space. It didn’t stand out for me.
Prologue (dir. Richard Williams, UK, 6 mins.)
Prologue began with a warning: All children should leave the theater due to the last short’s graphic violence and nudity. Besides its beautiful animation—hand drawn by Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, A Christmas Carol) over the course of years and years—graphic violence and nudity is all Prologue has to offer. It depicts a small battle between the Spartans and Athenians as witnessed by a little girl. The pacing was odd and it seemed rushed towards the end. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get from it.
For me, the competition came down to two films: Bear Story and World of Tomorrow. Bear Story is close to perfect. The animation, the atmosphere, and the story are all beautifully done. But World of Tomorrow makes you think. It lingers in your mind long after you’ve left the theater. Which type of film is more deserving of accolades?
The Oscars were on February 28 and Bear Story emerged victorious, which ultimately felt right. Director Gabriel Osorio and producer Pato Escala gave an incredibly touching speech, dedicating the film to refugees everywhere. Bear Story is Chile’s first Oscar.
The Charles Theater is located on 1711 North Charles Street.
Lydia Youngman is a writer from Albany, New York. The facts: Irish dancer. Loves working with little kids. Terrible with directions. Fears spiders like Ron Weasley, unless someone else in the room is fears spiders more, then yes, fine she will kill the spider.