2016 Oscar Circuit: Best Animated Short

2016-oscar-nominated-short-films

Welcome to our annual Oscar Circuit series, our deep down look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2016. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your predicted winners in the comment section too!

AND THE NOMINEES ARE

  • Bear Story (Gabriel Osorio Vargas and Pato Escala Pierart)
  • Prologue (Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton)
  • Sanjay’s Super Team (Sanjay Patel and Nicole Paradis Grindle)
  • We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (Konstantin Bronzit)
  • World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt)

Continuing on with the Oscar Circuit series for the 2016 Academy Awards, we come now to Best Animated Short. Like I said last year when discussing this category, oftentimes this is a hard one to get right. Frankly, it’s one that can also mean the difference between winning or losing an Oscar pool, much like all of the shorts, incidentally. Notably, Disney/Pixar doesn’t fare too well here, outside of Feast last year and Paperman a few years ago, so it can occasionally be hard to familiarize yourself with the contenders, unless you see the brief run of all the shorts that play around this time in the season. Granted, that is easier than it has been in the past, but it’s still not nearly as convenient as seeing the nominees in the non short categories. This year, kind of like last year, there appears to be a sort of frontrunner, once again Disney/Pixar, ironically, but I’d caution that it’s not the sort of situation where you can’t foresee the leader falling short and one of the upstarts emerging victorious in the end. It appears to be essentially a two horse race, but one that could certainly have a surprise in store for us. This makes for an intriguing category, to be sure, not that this Academy Awards telecast needed any added intrigue, much like last year again. We’ll be on pins and needles for Best Picture, but still, it’ll be interesting to see how Animated Short turns out. Now, let’s take a look at the category and see what we see.

First I have a bit of history for all of you, as is the usual for me in this series. The last dozen winners in this category have been FeastMr. HublotPapermanThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreThe Lost ThingLogorama, La Maison en Petits CubesPeter & the WolfThe Danish PoetThe Moon and the Son: An Imagined ConversationRyan, and finally Harvie Krumpet, to wrap things up. This category tends to avoid the more well known shorts, by and large, though this time it might be another exception to that pseudo rule.

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Bear-StoryWe begin with Bear Story, though ironically enough it’s the least worthy of any major discussion. That’s not to say it’s bad in any way, but it just doesn’t have that extra little X factor to help drive it over the finish line. The film itself centers on an older bear who decides to tell the story of his life through the creation of a sort of mechanical theater. It’s an interesting premise, but the execution is just workmanlike. Nothing here, be it the animation, the plot, or the ending, calls major attention to itself, and shorts tend to need that in order to win. The nomination is very much its reward. Gabriel Osorio Vargas directs and this is his first citation. I can see another one coming in his future, but this time, he is just going to come up short in the end. I can see some voters finding it kind of adorable, but the emotional impact is more limited than you’d expect. Again, you really need to hit a voter hard in some way here to win the day, so that makes this a nominee that almost assuredly won’t end up being a winner.

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1025355-watch-richard-williams-unveils-trailer-prologue-shortIf you’re looking for the equivalent of having an old pro in contention, we have that in Richard Williams Prologue.  I have my doubts that this is a player worth taking too much note of, however. This is another nominee that just doesn’t feel like a winner, plain and simple. Director Williams has his fourth citation by the Academy here and he’s technically a three time Oscar winner as well, so that is one thing to hang his hat on here. He’s won once in this category for A Christmas Carol back in the early 1970’s, along with a Special Achievement prize for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Best Visual Effects for the same, along with being in his 80’s, so perhaps this is his last shot? Even so, while the short is somewhat able stand out from the pack, essentially being a hand drawn look at a battle between Athens and Sparta seen through the eyes of a child, it doesn’t add quite enough to the concept to make this nomination into another potential victory. It has a grit to it that nothing else has, due to its hand drawn nature, while also being beautiful in its own right, but it’s also very sleight, and that’s the kiss of death. Had two of the other contenders not been there, this could have been a default/weak frontrunner, but with strong competition, Williams is set for his first loss at the Oscars. Somehow, he’ll have to deal, with those two other Oscars comforting him.

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sanjays-super-team-hindu-deities-pixar_article_story_largeTime to discuss one of the two contenders that some people have actually seen. Sanjay’s Super Team is next up here and right now, it’s our mild frontrunner. It’s a tale of the generational gap between immigrant parents and newly Americanized children by way of superheroes, and more than well done enough to win on its own. That would probably be enough, in all likelihood, but Pixar’s player has the added bonus of being subtly touching and coming from a well known personal place in terms of its director. Speaking of, filmmaker Sanjay Patel is a first time nominee, but his story is being presented at the forefront of the campaign, which only helps. Honestly, I think it’s going to do the trick with enough voters to be a winner you can more or less confidently predict. There’s a surprisingly stiff bit of competition from one of the other nominees still to be discussed and an upset is possible, but this checks so many boxes and has so much in its favor that I don’t think I can go against it. Patel’s project is hardly a lock for a win here in Animated Short, but it’s definitely the frontrunner right now.

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1024821-bronzit-s-we-can-t-live-without-cosmos-receives-awardWe Can’t Live Without Cosmos comes up next and this is pretty much another also ran in Animated Short. By and large, it seems like another in an endless line of nominees that are solidly in third place or so, with no realistic shot at a win. This is a Russian tale of two friends who are also Cosmonauts, training and working in the space program together, until something happens that I won’t get into. Konstantin Bronzit‘s second nomination is well deserved, coming almost a decade after his first one in this category for Lavatory Lovestory, but it won’t go any further than this. I liked this one for what it was, appreciating the simple animation style and poignancy that it offers, but it’s another one that doesn’t seem like a winner, so that could give voters pause. Luckily, I have strong doubts that Bronzit will even come close to the stage on Oscar night. In another year, perhaps it could have been the alternate to a different frontrunner, but it’s one you can dismiss here without a whole lot of fuss. It’s worth seeing, sure, and I think it could wind up being the favorite personal choice for some of you, but it’s not going to pull the Academy Award upset. That distinction goes to our next and final short to be discussed…

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1023466-don-hertzfeldt-s-world-tomorrow-wins-sundance-short-film-grand-jury-prizeFinally, we have World of Tomorrow the potential dark horse/spoiler in the race this year. On the one hand, it’s so weird and different from the pack that it would appear to have no chance, being a high concept science fiction tale about  stick figures, one that utilizes clones, time travel, and a definite sense of absurdity. But, on the other hand, its director is so well respected and this has made enough Top Ten lists at the end of 2015 that voters have stood up and taken notice. Filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt has been nominated once before too, abut 15 years ago for the short Rejected, so the Academy is perhaps more comfortable with him than you’d assume. I’d vote for this one if I was given the opportunity, but I do see it as the second place finisher here, just in terms of making a realistic prediction. A last minute surge is not an impossibility, but it would definitely be one of the more interesting picks by Oscar to date. There’s likely to be a push for Hertzfeldt to pull the upset, but as cool a pick as that would be, the Academy is hardly known for being the cool kid. As such, you have to temper expectations.

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I’d say that the majority of my fellow pundits are predicting Sanjay’s Super Team to win like I am, so you can feel decently confident about that pick. That being said, I know a lot of folks are personally pulling for World of Tomorrow as well, and it does stand a chance to make the upset happen. The passion vote favors the upset, but having the entire Academy picking the winner, combined with Pixar pulling out all the stops, makes it somewhat of a long shot. It’s probably 60/40 in favor of Patel’s short over Hertzfeldt’s, but that could be a generous split, so make of that what you will. Personally, I would kind of love to see the upset, just in the name of originality, but while most of my heart speaks to World of Tomorrow, my head, along with a portion of my heart, points towards Sanjay’s Super Team. Either winner would be a strong one, so while Pixar seems in the driver’s seat right now, it’s hardly a done deal. If you’re betting, bet on Sanjay’s Super Team, but discount World of Tomorrow at your own peril here!

Will WinSanjay’s Super Team
Could Win: World of Tomorrow
Should Win: World of Tomorrow

CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS FOR ALL CATEGORIES:

PICTURE |DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR |SUPPORTING ACTRESS |ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY |ADAPTED SCREENPLAY |ANIMATED FEATURE |PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!