Every year, the creativity and innovativeness of filmmakers from all around the world is given the spotlight and the recognition they deserve with the Oscar “Best Animated Shorts” nominees. The animated short film genre allows for some of the most creative and diverse voices in the Oscar-nominee universe. This form of filmmaking allows for the storytellers and filmmakers to step outside of their comfort zones and really explore their voices and societal themes and issues.
This year’s group of films were no exception to that outside the box filmmaking or the tackling of such hot-button and current issues such as China’s “One Child” policy, death and illness, family or self-acceptance and love. Although this year’s crop is not quite as heavy as last years, most of the nominees succeeded in using an imaginative approach to storytelling that make them worth the watch, just be prepared to shed a tear.
And the Nominees Are:
“Dcera” (Daughter) (Daria Kashcheeva)
“Hair Love” (Matthew A. Cherry & Karen Rupert Toliver)
“Kitbull” (Rosanna Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson)
“Memorable” (Bruno Collet & Jean-Francois Le Corre)
“Sister” (Siqi Song)
This Czech short film by Daria Kashcheeva tells the story of a girl looking back on her childhood when she tried to share about seeing an injured bird with her father. Shot using puppet animation, this film oftentimes looks crude and rough, but it offers up unique visuals that make this animation stand out. The story deals with themes of familial relationships and dealing with loss in a touching way that leaves a lasting impression. Although this does make for a memorable submission, it’s not strong enough to stand up to some of the other nominees this year.
This super cute story of a young African-American girl trying to “tame” her natural hair. She tries watching YouTube tutorials to style it and viewers are left wondering where her mother is to help out because most of us know that sometimes getting your hair to cooperate is a tough job. In comes her dad who comes in to help her out, but he struggles as well since he has no clue what he’s doing. He also turns to YouTube and it just so happens that the tutorial he uses was made by her mother.
This six-minute animation is one of the more realistic nominees and deals with a subject matter that seems inconsequential, but is really much deeper than it first appears. The story is all about self-acceptance and loving your hair, something that many African-Americans and others who don’t necessarily conform to the long and straight hair aesthetic. It’s also great to see the father, especially a black father, stepping into the more traditional “mom” role, something that has been going viral on social media a lot recently. Mostly silent, the words in this short really mattered. “Hair Love” was also the more visually pleasing and cheerful out of the bunch and even ended with a happy ending.
This short definitely has picked up a lot of stream with a lot of Hollywood backing from the likes of Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, and many others. The film’s writer/director even has an interesting back story as Matthew A. Cherry was a pro-NFL player before turning his sights to filmmaking…maybe like Kobe Bryant before him, Cherry will become a pro athlete with an animated short Oscar.
“Kitbull” is the work of Rosanna Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson under the Pixar SparkShorts banner who strives to spotlight and produce works from diverse voices. Completely silent, this 9 minute short is the cute little story of a stray kitten and a pitbull, bred for dogfighting, that become best friends. It’s the tried-and-true story of two unlikely animals becoming friends. With themes of friendship and overcoming differences, this is another short that leaves us with a happy ending. This film also makes viewers think about people/groups/animals getting a bad wrap and stereotypes and how that can lead to animosity and hate, but if we look at what we have in common and try to really get to know those people, usually those wraps and stereotypes are undeserved. Don’t judge a book by its cover and make assumptions.
This short has the backing of a big studio and Hollywood animation royalty name, but it just may be the weakest submission of the bunch. It’s a cute story but lacks more hard-hitting substance. The animation style is also a little underwhelming. The cute story and the Pixar name won’t be enough to bring home the statue.
The French animated short “Memorable” is about an elderly couple who’s world is becoming more and more surreal. This stop-motion claymation is visually striking and realistic and has one of the more comprehensive narratives out of the nominees. “Memorable” also has the most dialogue out of all the submissions. This film is one of the more hard-hitting, emotional shorts dealing with dementia and aging. Visually, the style of this film complements the characters and their state of mind, but may still fall just short of taking home the statue.
The final nominee, “Sister” is an almost 9-minute look at a man reminiscing about growing up in China in the 1990s with his younger sister. He goes on to imagine how things might’ve gone differently. This short has a plot twist ending as it deals with a heavy issue that has been making the rounds a lot lately, China’s “One Child” policy. Also the subject matter of Amazon’s jarring and thought-provoking documentary “One Child Nation,” “Sister” deals with the heavy subject matter in a sensitive and emotionally touching manner, but it’s still not quite as heavy as last year’s “Bao.” The animated nature of the short (the felt puppet animation) helps to bring a little levity to the serious subject matter. “Sister” makes for a strong contender.