The idea of this post came when I was writing my previous post, 7 short movies about love. I snapped into this cool website, http://shortoftheweek.com, a website that focuses to gather and review short movies. So, here it is. There are five shorts competing for this year’s Oscar in category “Best Short Film (Animated)”; they are “Adam & Dog”, “Fresh Guacamole”, “Head over Heels”, “Maggie Simpsons in ‘The Longest Daycare’”, and “Paperman”. I’m trying to review each of them from my point of view, and because I’m reviewing short movies, I’m trying to write as short as I can.
“Adam & Dog”
Some people said, if Terrence Malick makes an animation, it will be like "Adam & Dog". The story of "Adam & Dog" is not clearly told, it is more to be a visual experience than a story-based short movie. "Adam & Dog" is about a dog in a heavenly-looked land (perhaps it is our earth at the beginning of time) searching and knowing its surrounding. While it mostly meets animals with their own wild characteristic, soon it meets a man (who seems to be Adam, the first human in the planet) whom it found is more friendly and interesting. Then, both creatures try to know each other before they begin to be friends. Well, actually I don't wanna admit that the story of "Adam & Dog" is as simple as that, because I believe that there's a larger value and meaning in the story. I'd like to find a good philosophical layer in the story, which "Adam & Dog" tries to tell not by the actions of the roles, not even by dialogue, but by the beautiful shots it mostly have. There's a sense of nature in "Adam & Dog", making it a bit abstract but still astonishing with the portraits. The pretty shots cover it from its abstractness, making it still enjoy-able although it becomes less pointed. It's good for its visual experience, but due to its lack of straight-forward, to-the-point plot, it may become less interesting.
ADAM & DOG / STYLE 2D Animation / RUNTIME 15 min / DIRECTOR Minkyu Lee / MORE INFO
I’m a bit surprised that "Fresh Guacamole" is regarded as an animation. It's actually made using stop-motion technique of some still-photographs—not of some illustration or puppets or clay figures. That's why, without the stop-motion, it feels more "live-action" than "animation". And it is very short, too, for it is clocking around 2 minutes only—breaking the record as the shortest animation short ever nominated in Oscar. "Fresh Guacamole", somehow, contains a unique material. It's about how to make a fresh guacamole, not by food ingredients but by grenades, dices, and casino coins. It's attractive and easily gets our attention. Interesting, surprising, but finally feel too short to be regarded as "having a story". From the fake ingredients used to make such a fresh food, actually there's a potent of deeper thoughts to dig (grenade becomes guacamole = war into peace?), but it forces viewers to see it just as a one-shoot thing. It's like a commercial video, because it barely has a plot (a narrative structure!) and, I think, not even correctly categorized as an animation. For the sake of entertaining only, it does a good job, but regarding it as an animated short movie, it is the least creative among the five.
FRESH GUACAMOLE / STYLE Stop-Motion / RUNTIME 2 min / DIRECTOR PES / MORE INFO
“Head Over Heels”
For me, “Head Over Heels” is nice, a bit tear-jerker, and sweet. An oldman lives together with an old woman in a house which, uniquely, has opposite gravity. The oldman lives on the floor while the old woman lives on the ceiling. Still, they are connected with love that is hardly said but hangs heavily in between them. I’m shy to admit this but, really, “Head Over Heels” makes me cry. It’s just... very sweet. The story of this clay animation short was developed well, and regarding to the short duration it has, it tries not to talk much about the unusual premise it carries out. Sometimes this “opposite gravity” brings questions to viewers, but the story—and the love—flows nicely, prohibiting you to be confused and disturbed with this premise. That being said, I feel that this unusual premise is just a way to analogously show up obstacles in such a romantic story. Perhaps the characters were not beautifully modeled, and no specific or outstanding special effects used beside the stop-motion technique used to capture the movement. Still, the power of “Head Over Heels” comes from the unusual premise, the development of the story, and its ability to touch your heart. Nice work.
HEAD OVER HEELS / STYLE Clay Animation / RUNTIME 11 min / DIRECTOR Timothy Reckart / MORE INFO
“Maggie Simpsons in ‘The Longest Daycare’”
I’m not a big fan of “The Simpsons”, but who on earth does not know this popular yellow family? “Maggie Simpsons in ‘The Longest Daycare’” is a tie-in of “The Simpsons”, focusing on the character Maggie Simpsons, the baby in the family. She was taken into Ayn Rand Schools for Tots while her mom was going away. Then, she had to spend her “longest daycare” as she tries to keep a butterfly away from an evil kid. “The Longest Daycare” has no dialogue and is still the same with any other episode from the series. There’s a mild rude humor in it, making me both tickled and grin. It’s so specific, so characterized with “The Simpsons” itself. For me, although it’s still entertaining, “The Longest Daycare” becomes less original compared to the other four contenders. The story is still amusing, the 2D animation technique is fanciful and full of color, but it leaves no mark in my mind. What I had is just laugh, nothing more than that. The power of “The Longest Daycare” is in its way to deliver ridiculousness and dark humor, and while it’s developed greatly on this side, it’s lack from other sides that supposedly push it to be more noticeable. It’s just pure comedy in a 5-minute animation. Funny, but less memorable.
MAGGIE SIMPSONS IN "THE LONGEST DAYCARE" / STYLE 2D Animation / RUNTIME 5 min / DIRECTOR David Silverman / MORE INFO
The last but not the least, “Paperman”. “Paperman” tries to put classic Disney animation back to life with its black-and-white animation. Still about love, “Paperman” talks about a man who met a woman in a train station. He hadn’t got a chance to know her more, but luckily, he saw her in the building right across his office. As he flied a paper plane to get her attention, he was forced to fly more and more paper planes until he found out that love works in a magical, mysterious way. For me, the story of “Paperman” could be just as sweet as “Head Over Heels”, except that “Paperman” is fully powered with many aspects. The animation technique is one aspect that pushes “Paperman” to be the best of the five, but the background music is very supportive as well. All these aspects collaborate perfectly, making the simple but nice story becomes more developed. Finally, “Paperman” seems flawless from all around. It is black-and-white (and red, for the kiss mark), but it is very eye-catching and blends nicely with the story. It settles your mood, leaves you smile, warms your heart, and seizes your day. It’s a fantastic 7-minute animation, and although I hope something slightly more for its ending, “Paperman” is still the most prominent from the other four. And of course, it deserves Oscar.
PAPERMAN / STYLE 2D Animation / RUNTIME 7 min / DIRECTOR John Kahrs / MORE INFO