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Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts offers topic and style diversity

Each year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominates five short films for the Best Animation Oscar. This year’s compilation offers diversity. From hand drawn to computer animation, with everything from muted to vibrant colors, realistic to surreal scenes, these five Oscar nominees testify to the wide range of subjects and styles gracing animation.

The first in the order of presentation is directors Alison Snowden and David Fine’s Animal Behaviour from the National Film Board of Canada. In a therapy session, a variety of animals talk, yell, whine and fight as the canine psychotherapist loses control. It’s clearly meant to be more amusing than I found it, in addition to the misspelling in the poster on the wall of “it’s.”

From Disney-Pixar, director Domee Shi‘s Bao animates a lonely Chinese mother with an indifferent husband. She finds comfort in a dumpling she’s fashioned when it becomes a companion, first a baby, then a boy, and, to her dismay, a young adult who wants a life of his own, leading to unexpected developments. A fine allegory, Bao benefits from exquisite animation and a wealth of Chinese cultural details.

Third, in Late Afternoon, Irish writer/director Louise Bagnall, director of The Breadwinner, entertains with glorious colors and elegant segues from the chair-bound life of an elderly Emily who journeys in her imagination to various events in her past. Of note are the ways objects and colors sweep Emily and us from one reality to another capturing so thrillingly how our memories prompt inner voyages.

Fourth, in One Small Step, a joint US China production, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pointillas follow Luna from her initial dream of life as an astronaut to its realization. As important, Luna’s father makes one contribution after another through his shoe-repair business, not the least being Luna’s many shoes. This is a film that inspires and almost brings tears of joy.

Finally, a US nominee Weekends tells another story through carefully observed details. With 2D animation over hand-drawn charcoal backgrounds, director Trevor Jimenez watches a boy shuffle back and forth, over the weekends of the title, between his divorced mother and father. He must navigate this physical and emotional divide as he gains experiences and insight. These five Oscar nominated works offer diverse ideas and styles of animation.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.