Monday, February 9, 2015

2015 Oscar Shorts: Animated (Brockway)

The 2015 Oscar Shorts: Animation

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

As with magic, in the free associative realm of animation, anything is possible. In this universe, the earthly constraints of gravity, of time and space, suddenly melt into irrelevance.

This is certainly true of the animated shorts this year which offer a selection that is rich and diverse.

To start, director Torill Kove gives us "Me and My Moulton," a vignette of three daughters in an ultra-controlling family who want a high tech bike. The charm of this piece is in its slight humor. The dad is a kind of Walter Mitty blind in one eye, with dreams of valor and machismo. When other fathers are joining the army, this parent is obsessing over Picasso and modern furniture. The middle daughter, who wants a "normal" childhood develops a psychosomatic illness. The bright simplicity of line offers verve and affection to what could have been ho hum.

Next, in a Disney venture, there is "Feast," about a small puppy with food on his tongue. Simply told and visually popping, this is more than just a salivary tale. As the dog journeys with his owner, he gobbles plate after plate with immediate lust. One day by chance, when his owner is bitten by romance, he goes on a date accompanied by nouvelle cuisine and parsley. Winston, the puppy, is disgusted. After a time, his owner is single once more and the epicurean puppy resolves to return the parsley to his owner's beloved. Although it is cutesy and sentimental, the bouncy and carbonated visuals, a Disney trademark, never fail to beguile.

From Britain there is the daring "The Bigger Picture" by directors Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, who employ life-size canvases in their figures which recall Jonathan Borofsky and de Kooning. The narrative concerns two brothers, one ambitious and the other not so, engaged in sibling rivalry. Every instance hits like a punch, each flicker evolves into the spark of a masterwork, while the story gives able tribute to the likes of Samuel Beckett. Do not miss this one.

Also not to be overlooked is "The Dam Keeper," about an apocalyptic and bullied pig who literally
holds life together in his cloven hooves. The animation with its rich golden oranges and deep blues is captivating enough, but it is the story about a generous and giving piglet invariably harassed and teased as he toils alone in a solitary mill that held me in place. This fable is as poignant as it is punchy.

Then, lastly for consideration, is the gallows humor of  "A Single Life" from the Netherlands directing team of Jobs, Joris and Marieke. Vibrant, sly and uncompromisingly irreverent, using all of a mere two minutes, it says it all and you won't be wanting the 45 rpm record depicted in this playful, yet sardonic tale.

Some honorable mention goes to "Bus Story" about a hopeful bus driver who gives a sour curmudgeon something to really worry about, "Footprints" by Plymton -- an O. Henry-like episode of revenge, "Sweet Cocoon" about a vain caterpillar that turns into an incarnadine Diva, and finally "Duet" a singularly rapid but overly pretty coming of age mood piece that gives tribute to Disney with big eyes and pouting mouse looks.

This year's sorcery seems to break from the past. There are no Grufallos and decidedly  more grim grins but this is all to the better. The philosophic shadow play  makes for much provocation and some high dazzle which one should dare to see.

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