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Movie fans love to watch for Best Picture Oscar nominees, and I have to say this year is a really good batch, but as a short film and animation aficionado, I often go straight to those lesser covered categories.
This year's animated short subjects are a diverse collection of directors, subjects, and animation styles. One thing fans will notice is not one CGI-looking animated film. Two of them are lovingly done in 2D animation style, and three in stop motion. That in itself is impressive.
Three of the nominated films are available to watch online, but I warn you: grab your hankies.
Directed and written by Rosana Sullivan for Pixar's indie short film division, SparkShorts, this is the story of friendship between an abused pitbull (used in a dogfighting ring) and a stray kitten. Yes, it ends happy, but the journey is heartbreaking and beautifully done.
What isn't to love about this Sony Pictures film from Matthew A. Cherry. Like KitBull, it takes on an old-school, 2D animated look as an African-American father attempts to style his young daughter's hair for the first time. Any dad, or daughter of a daddy, will get emotional in this funny and touching scenario, yet there's also an whole other layer to this film we later learn. Spoiler alert: cancer will never take away one's real beauty, especially when a beautiful heart is involved.
Los Angeles based animator Siqi Song grew up in China, and had the privilege of having a brother during China's One Child Policy. Not everyone did, and this film shows the lonely impact that could have on some. What if these lost siblings were allowed to live? Song's creative stop motion use of felted, handcrafted figures gives it an even more loving edge.
Another intricate stop motion film. French animator Bruno Collet lets us see through the eyes of a painter facing Alzheimer’s. This use of the artistic world shows how someone suffering from this begins to lose their perception of reality. Here's a peek at the work that went into it.
Here's another story of a father and his daughter, which has already gained Czech animator Daria Kashcheeva a slew of accolades in the indie animation field. It is a look at how emotional disconnects can spread through the years, especially in times of crisis. I've really been appreciating the handcrafted look of the three stop motion nominees, and this puppet-driven film is no exception. It is even more impressive when you consider she did this as a student film. Check out the frenzied camera work in the trailer.
One more thing I feel needs noting: there has already been people griping about not enough women or non-white people in the Oscar's main category. If they are fans of animated shorts, they would see a diverse list with films from around the globe, featuring characters of different ethnic background and nationalities. Not to mention at least three, worthy, women directors are nominated, and there's a four-legged friend representation.
However, this is more important that all of that when choosing a "Best" short film: they are all great stories told in just few minutes, and they all in their own way show the importance of family.
It looks like of all the categories for this year's nominees, the Animated Short Films are certainly going to be a tough category to predict. They are all winners.