Welcome to our annual Oscar Look series, formally known as “Oscar Circuit” – our deep dive 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 Look 2018. 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 own predicted winners in the comment section too!
And the Nominees Are:
- “Animal Behaviour” – Directed by Alison Snowden & David Fine
- “Bao” – Directed by Domee Shi & Becky Neiman-Cobb
- “Late Afternoon” – Directed by Louise Bagnall & Nuria González Blanco
- “One Small Step” – Directed by Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas
- “Weekends” – Directed by Trevor Jimenez
While “Animal Behaviour” is undeniably the funniest of the group, it eventually stalls out partway through the run time. It is one of the longest of the shorts with “Weekend” but never quite hits the heights of that short. The film follows a group of animals in a support group. In the group, they do their best to control their animalistic urges. In doing so, they try to avoid becoming a stereotype of their species.
The premise crackles to life, but again, at fourteen minutes, it might just be too long. Eventually, the gimmick becomes less effective. It’s a solid short, but it also does not create the emotions you feel from the other animated features this year. It also might be in the bottom two for actual animation because the style does not call for it be visually stunning. It should definitely have been nominated, but it probably does not have the goods to pull home the prize.
On its face, “Bao” seems like a pretty cute short. A mother finds that one of her Bao buns has come to life, and she mothers it into adulthood. However, when her Bao son begins to stray, she becomes distraught. The short comments on how food can bring family together, while also providing a way to pass along culture. It is brilliantly animated and might be Pixar’s best short since “La Luna” in 2011.
“Bao” gets the benefit of being the most seen of the films in the list by simply showing before “Incredibles 2.” However, will enough of the Academy that enjoyed the short actually turn out to watch the rest of the shorts and become eligible? My money says no. While the response to these shorts is often very enthusiastic among general moviegoers, this one did not seem to hit with the public. It is brilliant work, but if the movie lacks passion, that could really sink its chances.
On the flip side, director Domee Shi has already begun development on a feature-length film for Pixar. Perhaps the animators want to be out in front and award her strong work. Also going in the film’s favor, a Disney/Pixar animated film has won this category every other year since 2012. They lost last year, so maybe they continue the trend with a win.
As a woman sits in her living room, she transports through time to experience moments of her life in real time. The short examines the events through a woman with Alzheimer’s and can grow extremely sad at times. The relatively simple animation works for this story, giving the short a feeling of intimacy and warmth that can easily translate. However, there is nothing particularly new brought to the table. This one plays for your heartstrings, and that emotion can be infectious.
The biggest issue facing “Late Afternoon” will be the other shorts it goes up against. Other than “Animal Behaviour,” every other short wrestles with parenthood and the relationships we hold with our children. “Late Afternoon” can certainly strike close to home and its happy ending may draw some votes toward the short. However, it does not quite reach the heights of “Bao” or “One Small Step,” and they will likely siphon votes away. The work is nomination-worthy, but I find it difficult to say someone will put this at the top of their ballot.
“One Small Step”
As a young girl follows her dream to become an astronaut, her father supports her every step of the way. “One Small Step” turns the metaphor into a visual reality, as the man makes his daughter’s shoes. The young girl, Luna, grows up over the course of the story. While she’s attending college, she experiences major setbacks. But with the power of love and support, she pushes herself to new worlds.
Easily my favorite of the shorts, this one touches on many of the same themes as “Bao,” but inverses the relationship. Most of the story comes from Luna’s perspective, but the emotion strikes a nerve regardless. The use of a strong score buoys the film, and the absence of the music leaves you feeling unsettled. Considering this is not a Pixar short, there is a real chance that it will get a boost. With a visual composition that resembles Disney’s Oscar-winning short “The Paper Man,” the animation really stuns. This is my pick to upset “Bao” on the night.
Easily the most adult of the animated shorts, “Weekends” can be devasting to the right viewer. Director Travis Jimenez really brings an emotionally complex and interesting story to light as we follow a young boy living between two worlds. While his mother and family have divorced, the young boy watches his parents move on with their lives. However, while each of his parents continues to grow and evolve, our protagonist is stuck in a dark place.
I reviewed the short as part of the Animation Show of Shows, and Chris James covered it as part of the Academy shorts program. Both of us agree it gets really dark. However, it is also extremely well animated from start to finish. The moments when it devolves into horror are legitimately scary, and the visuals heighten the experience. It is a story that could only be told through animation, and that should give it a big bump. Also of note, “Weekends” won the Animated Short prize at the Annies. However, none of these shorts were nominated against it. It will be curious to see if the darker, more emotional “Weekends” can keep up the momentum against the happier endings of “Bao” and “One Small Step.”
Who Will Win: “One Small Step”
Who Could Win/Should Win: “Bao”