Sunday, February 7, 2016

Oscar Animated Shorts 2016 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The 2016 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

Animation has always been at the forefront of experimental cinema for the simple reason that the genre of animation appears more plastic and immediate than live action. The animated film historically often starts with a pen, paper, a bit of clay or an inanimate object put in motion.

All the better to portray alternate worlds.  And indeed, there are certainly many alternate worlds in this year's short animated films selection.

The show starts with a zany bang with the Pixar produced "Sanjay's Super Team." A young boy is obsessed with a superhero TV show, at exactly the same time that his father is attempting to pray at his Hindu shrine causing great family dismay. One day the boy is brought to the shrine and becomes transported to an alternate land where Krishna and Hanuman fight great battles for Sanjay's hapiness. This colorful story is clever and fast moving in the great tradition of Disney. It also has a philosophical accent: comparisions are made between the father's religion and the son's TV watching. Both involve hero worship.

"World of Tomorrow" by Don Hertzfeldt depicts a noisy and hectic world where memories and people are cloned and human attachment is secondary. While the story is similar to Orwell and Aldous Huxley, the visuals are startling and irreverent as cacocophy and color overlap and become one element or presence.

We are also in the realm of science fiction in the Russian made excellent short "We Can't Live Without Cosmos" by director Konstantin Bronzit. The film showcasing a quirky sensibility with crisp visuals will keep you guessing and laughing from start to finish as two best friends train for a space mission together. Full of deadpan humor but by no means melancholy, the film does have an existential and bittersweet edge. The longing tone of this film mimics Alfonso CuarĂ³n's "Gravity."

If animals get at your heart, there is "Bear Story" about a solitary and wistful bear who portrays his story of circus suffering each day in a diorama. Affectionately told with more then a few gasping moments, this simply told tale will pull at your heart. The film is all the more potent because, despite its quirkiness, this is not kids' fare.

One movie that delivers comic relief is "If I Was God" by Cordell Baker. Free-wheeling and exuberant in the manner of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," this film about a boy in junior high definitely delivers.

If you still prefer uplifting, there is a warm and cute story of a traffic light, narrated by comedian Patton Oswalt and "A Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse." The latter is well done and fetching but as innocuous as a Saltine cracker.

The most subversive and controversial of the group is by far "Prologue" by animator Richard Williams of  "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" The film graphically explores the universality of human violence and war in no uncertain terms. The film suggests that this urge, though abhorrent is as primary as a flower and a bee and just as unavoidable. This film is a shocker that will no doubt instill shrieks among the unsuspecting.

This medley rivals the live action category and may even surpass it. Taken as a sojourn, this Oscar bunch makes a good trip, plumbing either the animal mind or the human heart with quirk and equality.

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