Handicapping the 2015 short film Oscar races
If you've been reading us this season then you know we've already given you pretty thorough analyses of this year's short film categories. I watched all the films that made it to the final consideration stage and offered up thoughts on each and some somewhat informed predictions. In the end, though, it was still tricky to guess, but I did get four of the five animated players right. Now, with nominees announced, it seems worth it to review. So let's…
All things considered, the animated short category is difficult to handicap. Particularly with the infiltration of other voters, as theses categories are opened up to the entire membership via screeners, it's just hard to guess which way preference will fall. The biggest surprise for me was that Glen Keane's gorgeous, heavily promoted "Duet" missed out on a nod. I frankly thought it could have put up a fight to win, but that's how it crumbles sometimes.
However, for many, the frontrunner might be Disney's "Feast," which is certainly the year's most-viewed nominee as it screened ahead of "Big Hero 6" in theaters across the world. But there's folly in this logic that just because it's more widely-viewed, it has a leg up. Just last year we saw "Mr. Hublot" beating out "Get a Horse!," despite that Disney entry being more prevalent. In all likelihood, there isn't much blind voting going on out there with the honor system in place. And "Mr. Hublot," a film that would obviously appeal to animators, came out on top. But "Feast" is a much better film than "Get a Horse!," and, like "Paperman" before it, plays with technology in new and exciting ways. It could indeed be formidable.
But I say watch out for films like "The Dam Keeper" and "Me and My Moulton." Beginning with the former, at more than 18 minutes, it is far and away the longest of the nominees. As I've written before, it's a fable of sorts about a pig whose duty it is to maintain a large windmill, which keeps poisonous clouds away from a tiny animal village. It becomes a story about acceptance, but it's the technique on display that really stands out. It's pretty jaw-dropping, assembled from over 8,000 paintings, a blend of hand-drawn animation and brush strokes. Directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi, it should be noted, were formerly art directors at Pixar, working on features like "Ratatouille" and "Monsters University."
But "Me and My Moulton" is also a strong possibility, coming from a former winner in the category, Torill Kove ("The Danish Poet"). This one tells the most conventional and complete story of the five nominees as Kove revisits her childhood with an homage to her family, reflecting on the relationship between parents and children and the inherent disconnect therein. The design is typical Kove, sporting minimalist, singular flourishes within a modest palette. And it is, of course, traditionally animated.
I would call it a race between those three, but I truly love "The Bigger Picture." I had my fingers crossed it would get in, as it's such a bold combination of varied media, mixing life-sized, wall-painted characters and real objects to tell a story of two brothers struggling to care for their elderly mother. The production commitment is something to behold, and it's worth noting that it is the most laureled of the nominees to date.
Meanwhile, the shortest of the bunch — "A Single Life," at under three minutes — is certainly refreshing for its brevity. As I've written before, it's the best kind of entry in a race like this: clever, in and out and with a punchline. The main character receives a mysterious vinyl record and discovers that by moving the needle around on the disc, she can move forward and backward in time. But I imagine both of those will struggle to top the others, particularly in a race that isn't necessarily exclusive to voters who come from the world of animation.
Continue to the live action shorts on the next page…