Who’s got short shorts? TIFF’s Oscar short-film showcase: Part II – Animation

The Oscars are coming up, airing Sunday, February 22nd for over 40 million people. Yesterday I looked at one of the hardest to follow Academy categories, the award for best live action short. Today we’ll take up another short category, certainly the most fun, the Oscar for best animated short. TIFF in Toronto is showing these for at least the next week, as well, and if you’re in the States, you can find listings for the Academy Awards short programs here.

Unlike the live-action shorts which are hard to call for a winner, the animated shorts have a huge frontrunner, by a little company called Disney. Feast, directed by Patrick Osborne (Paperman) and Kristina Reed, is the story of one man’s love life as seen through the eyes of his best friend and dog, Winston, and revealed bite by bite through the meals they share. I’ve only seen a teaser, but it looks insanely cute, and people are showering it with the Disney love.

A Single Life is an amusing little short about a woman, Pia, who begins to travel through space and time when she plays a vinyl record. Skipping ahead or back with the needle shifts her in time, just a little for a small movement, or years, if she skips ahead a big chunk. The results are predictable, but funny all the same. Directed by Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins and Job Roggeveen from the Netherlands, it’s a cute spit-take of a movie.

The Bigger Picture from the UK and directed by Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, uses an unusual animation style, using life-sized painted figures and stop-motion to show the morbid comedy of two competitive brothers caring for an elderly parent. It’s got a little more bite than some of the other shorts here, its odd style working well with the disjointed clash of feelings the brothers experience.

Me and My Moulton comes from Academy Award-winning animator Torill Kove out of Norway. It’s a wry tale about a seven-year-old girl who longs for a bicycle so that she can be more like the other kids in her Norwegian tow. She’s embarrassed by her unconventional, modernist architect parents, who can never do things the way normal people do. The film’s charming and droll, showing childhood alienation with a sly, nonchalant wit.

The Dam Keeper from American directors Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, is both cute and unsettling, an oddly moving parable about bullying and friendship with a backdrop of environmental destruction. Young pig works tirelessly to keep the windmill dam spinning in order to protect his town from roiling clouds of polluted ash outside the walls — but when a new student joins his class, he is faced with a decision that could change the town forever. With a fantastic oil pastel animation style and an evocative score, it feels like you’ve been plunged directly into the world of a children’s storybook. Great work.

TIFF’s programs for the Oscar Shorts run from Saturday, January 31st to at least Thursday, February 5th. For screenings and more info about the Animated program, see here.

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