2012 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation
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Around this time each year, as offices kick off their annual Oscar pool, movie lovers scramble to predict the big winners. As they’re filling out their ballots, they probably feel pretty comfortable with categories like Best Picture or Best Actor. After all, they’ve most likely seen some of the big movies, so they’re prepared to make a somewhat educated guess on the matter. The problems arise, however, when it comes to those lesser-known categories—especially the short films.

If you’re determined to win this year’s Oscar pool, though, you’re in luck—because several theaters around the country are once again showing collections of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films. There are three different collections, featuring five nominees each—but, of course, always the sucker for a good animated film, I went straight for the animated selections.

In this year’s animated collection, you’ll find a stunning selection of eye-popping shorts, most of which seem to fit within this year’s old-school, silent film trend (think: The Artist).

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore offers a beautiful mix of both color animation and black and white, seemingly paying tribute to The Wizard of Oz while adding a kind of Hurricane Katrina twist.

The film follows Mr. Lessmore as a terrible storm blows his beloved books from his hotel balcony. Desperate to retrieve them, he ends up discovering a stately old building that’s filled with stacks and stacks of bright, colorful, lively books that change his life forever.

Not only is it beautifully animated, but it’s also an imaginative tribute to the magic of books.

La Luna is Pixar’s entry. The polished 3D animation stands in striking contrast to its competitors—but its story is just as whimsical.

As night falls, a boy steps into a boat with his father and grandfather and rows out to meet the rising moon. They climb a long ladder to the moon, where they proceed to work together to clean it of glowing, glittering fallen stars.

Fans of animation expect nothing but the best from Pixar—and La Luna is no exception. The lifelike animation is absolutely gorgeous—and although the characters don’t speak any real lines, their distinct personalities shine through.

A Morning Stroll is a quirky little film in three parts, telling the same story in three different time periods, using strikingly different styles of animation.

In all three parts, a man is walking down a city street when he crosses paths with a chicken. He then watches as the chicken hops up to a door, knocks with its beak, and is let in.

Despite its simple (and increasingly bizarre) story, the variety of styles makes the film stand out—from the sketchy, jazzy, black and white of 1959 and the simple computer animation of 2009 to the futuristic 3D horrors of 2059. It’s an odd little film, but it’s an intriguing one nonetheless.

Sunday (Diamanche) is another simple film, following a young boy on his Sunday routine—from the rattling of the passing train in the morning, through the weekly church service, to dinner with his family at Grandma’s house.

The basic, elementary-school-like drawings have almost no color, and the story is a little sleepy, but it also boasts some playful and surprisingly clever touches.

And, finally, Wild Life follows a pampered young Englishman as he moves to the Canadian frontier in search of adventure. Of course, he’s completely out of place in the Wild West—and his neighbors are quick to point that out—but his letters home tell a very different story.

With its fun, varied animation—sometimes resembling a dancing watercolor painting, sometimes looking more like a crayon drawing—it’s artistically but lightheartedly rendered, with an amusing sense of humor to add to the fun. But you might be surprised by its unexpectedly dark conclusion.

Whether you’re out to win this year’s Oscar pool or you just appreciate the art of animated film, this year’s collection of shorts is well worth the price of admission—especially when you consider that you’re getting five Oscar-worthy films for the price of one. Of course, watching them won’t guarantee that you’ll make the right prediction on your Oscar ballot, but it does promise to be a worthwhile experience.

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