Wednesday, February 10, 2016

One Category at a Time: Animated Short

As always, the shorts are a unique and seldom disappointing viewing experience, boasting an international potpourri of content. All but one of the live-action entries are multilingual, and the animated efforts are striking for the variety of media on display. I hope that Shorts HD continues doing what it's doing. It's never been easier for audiences to preview these once uninvestable categories before the show. Predicting winners, however, is still about as head-scratching as it ever was. Best we can do is rule a handful of titles out.
On the Animated side of things, the only one I have a hard time imagining as a winner is Richard Williams' Prologue, apparently titled so because it merely is the intro to a larger project. The brief and bloody fight scene it depicts between Spartan and Athenian warriors may turn off a lot of voters, or simply disinterest those looking for more narrative pull. It can chalk the nomination up to its impressive pencil-shaded technique, and honestly, I'm 100% fine with that (I'd have given Glenn Keane the whole shebang last year for what was ultimately a stylistic exercise). Williams already has three Oscars, so don't feel too sorry for him.

But of the other four, I wouldn't be terribly surprised by any of them winning. I still think Sanjay Patel's semi-autobiographical Sanjay's Super Team is more notable as an awesome laser light show than as particularly compelling narrative, but it is cute and accessible, telling a personal story that reaches beyond its cultural specificity. Could it become Pixar's first winner here in 14 years? It just might.

I think it'll face stiff competition from the more emotional pull of contestants like Gabriel Osorio's Bear Story and Konstantin Bronzit's We Can't Live Without Cosmos. The former is a marvelously designed CG rendering of what can only be described as the most elaborate music box ever, telling a sad tale of a bear taken from his family to be a circus animal, allegorical of Pinochet's reign in Chile. The latter takes a poignant, bittersweet look at the intimate relationship between two astronaut training partners. Both will have fans, but they could split the vote of those who don't mind opting for a melancholic cartoon.
I wish with all my heart that the truest challenger to Pixar is Don Hertzfedlt's brilliantly trippy, wonderfully weird, and paradoxically profound stick figure sci-fi World of Tomorrow. Built around the time-traveling encounter of a young girl with a clone of hers from the future, it ruminates on where humanity is headed through hilarious absurdist humour and philosophical revelations so sad they're funny. Conventional logic suggests AMPAS would never go for something this outre, but I felt the same way about Logorama in 2009, so you never know...

Will win: Sanjay's Super Team
Runner-up: Bear Story

Should win: World of Tomorrow
Should be nominated: If I Was a God

Tune in later today for my guesses for live-action shorts.

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