Oscar Guide 2013: Best Short Film - Animated
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
There is a key change in the way the Best Animated and Live Action Shorts, as well as the Best Documentary Feature categories will be decided. Members will receive screeners of all nominees and the voting will be opened up to the entire membership, and the honor system will be used, as it is with every other category, as to members actually seeing the films in play and voting accordingly. No more showing up at special screenings and proving you saw them by signing in, at least with these categories.
This could be huge in a category like Best Animated Short, where big studio productions often lose out to smaller, more artful fare because those voting are usually animators very interested in the product. This is why it's been a while since Pixar has won here, for instance, and this year, it'll be all the more crucial, because three of the nominees are involved with big companies.
The nominees are…
This is a pretty solid group of nominees, as it tends to be, really. The animators know how to whittle this down to a nice assortment of media and it's always a diverse bunch. If it were a typical system of voting, I might be tempted to predict otherwise, but this year, it could boil down to a studio effort that played before this year's Best Animated Feature Film frontrunner.
The best of the lot (in my opinion) is the first on our list: Minkyu Lee's "Adam and Dog." The film won Best Animated Short at the Annie Awards last year and tells the story of man's first relationship with, well, Man's Best Friend. Set in the Garden of Eden with Eve eventually coming along to complicate things for the little mutt protagonist, every frame of the film could be a painting on a wall. Lee also self-funded the enterprise while working as a Disney character design animator on films like "Winnie the Pooh" and "Wreck-It Ralph," which will surely be seen as commendable by fellow animators. In another year, I'd be tempted to predict it. The film is a longer breath than the other films and is really absorbing. It could still win, frankly.
To be perfectly honest, the 2-minute "Fresh Guacamole" is one of my favorites of the bunch. It's slight, short, not at all thematically potent, but it has an energy and an excitement for the form that is contagious. Animator PES (Adam Pesapane) first started building on his aesthetic -- using everyday odds and ends to varying animation effect -- in his short film "KaBoom!," and it's come to a peak with this brief romp that depicts a guacamole recipe cobbled together from unlikely sources. Nevertheless, I doubt he has much of a chance to win as the other contenders simply have more meat on their bones. I hope the "Garbage Pail Kids" film he's developing comes to fruition, though, because I love his voice.
Like "Adam and Dog," Timothy Reckart's "Head Over Heels" might be very formidable in any other year. It's a student film that has won prizes all year long, most recently taking the Best Student Film prize at last weekend's Annie Awards. It tells a meaningful story of a marriage grown apart, the theme laid blatant with the husband living on the floor and the wife living on the ceiling. It's wrought with claymation, always nice to see, and it's ultimately touching and maybe even a little profound. That would tend to go a long way, but will opening the voting up to a broader group mean something more intimate like this fails to gain the proper traction? Or will it transcend that altogether?
I like "The Simpsons" as much as the next guy, and "Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare'" is a fun little film with a delicate twist. Director David Silverman is also a great guy who has been with the show for ages (and indeed, used to work with "Wreck-It Ralph" director Rich Moore on the series). But the film wasn't aiming at awards or anything grand, it was merely conceived as a nice gift to fans of the show and played before screenings of "Ice Age: Continental Drift." So I don't know that an Oscar is in its future, but who knows? It would be cool to see a Simpsons movie win an Academy Awards, no? And when opening up the ballot to the entire membership, the Fox voting bloc could come out in force behind it. So keep that in mind.
In any other year, I would say beware predicting Annie Award-winner John Kahr's "Paperman," because it has all the elements of a film that gets shut down by the animation branch. Films like "One Man Band," "Lifted" and "Presto" from Pixar, as well as "The Little Matchgirl" from Disney, and even "A Matter of Loaf and Death" from Aardman, have been passed over for indie productions from promising artists. This Disney film is indeed one of the best shorts, technically and conceptually, that the studio has ever done (it played before "Wreck-It Ralph"), but still, this kind of thing has a tendency to be upset. I say again, however, with the voting change, a big studio effort could get a rallying cry behind it, so it might be a safe pick after all this year.
Will win: "Paperman"
Could win: "Adam and Dog"
Should win: "Adam and Dog"
Should have been here: (abstain)
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
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