While I could see the merits in all the nominated animated shorts this year only two really caught my eye, World of Tomorrow and We Can’t Live without Cosmos. Both are science fiction and use very different animation techniques. World of Tomorrow is a US film that follows a young girl on a somewhat mind bending look at her far distant future. The script and acting is excellent and to some extent is dependent on that more than the animation itself – a problem I will address shortly. Still I really enjoyed the film and hope it is the winner this year. The second film is We Can’t Live without Cosmos and is from Russia. It follows the story of two friends who train to be cosmonauts. The story is humourous until the end which takes a dramatic turn. Again the animation is maybe a bit dated but the story is great and told entirely with images and no dialogue. Very entertaining and surprising. Certainly deserves the nod if World of Tomorrow doesn’t get it. The other nominated films are in my opinion mediocre or in the case of Prologue completely unnecessary.
Animated films are a real challenge for me. I like them but having to arbitrarily pick one for best picture either feature length or short is next to impossible. Unlike live action films which use… live action…, animated films are very individual works of art that use very different styles of images and reflect the vision of an artist much more so than do live action films. I suppose many will jump all over this as nonsense but I find I can’t get away from it. Also live action films have many more categories in which to be judged and maybe that is my struggle. Animated films don’t get to be nominated much for their artistic qualities (cinematography, effects etc) or for the story or acting (best actor, screenplay) or music (soundtrack or song) They could be so nominated but almost never are. As a result, one is forced to pick one movie and that seems so unfair.
The live action shorts for 2016 are all very good and it is hard to pick. Whereas it is virtually impossible for a comedy or farce to make it as a nominee for best feature length film or Best Picture, this is not a problem with the shorts. In this case we have some heart wrenching dramas, a lovely romantic film and a total farce. My favourite is the farce – an Israeli film called Ave Maria. My second favourite is the romance – Stutterer, but I suspect the winner will be a very unhappy film called Shok. All the films came from different countries and I really liked them all to be honest. Ave Maria, my favourite, is about an Israeli family (husband, wife and mother-in-law heading back late one Friday afternoon from occupied Palestine to Israeli territory. They crash into a statue of Mary outside a convent run by nuns who have taken a vow of silence just as the Sabbath falls. This confluence of events leads to a very very funny confrontation and a wonderful punchline when it all wraps up in, yes, just 15 minutes. It is hard to find these films unless you are lucky enough to have something like TIFF in your city. The other idea is to look on iTunes for them which happens every now and then.
Stutterer is from the UK and as the name implies is about a young man with a severe stutter. Again very short but the lead actor (Mathew Needham) turns in a great performance. It tells the tale of a young man who stutters so badly he is learning sign language to more easily communicate. He carries on a 6 month texting relationship with a girl who after the 6 months suggests that they meet face to face. He is of course terrified but finally agrees. The ending when the meet is perhaps predictable and very sweet but keeps from being maudlin or sickening by the gentle nature of the film and great performance.
The third film – Shok – is UK/Kosovo production and is set in Kosovo in 1998 in the midst of civil war. It follows the story of two Albanian pre-teens who are forced to live in a racist/ genocidal conflict. It does not end well but that gives nothing away as one can see that from the opening scenes. It is very well done. I struggle to watch films that put children in situations they cannot hope to handle and this film just manages to make my cut. Still not fun if you are not okay with films that exploit the suffering of kids.
The other two films (Everything will be Okay and Day One) were very upsetting to watch depending on your personal circumstances and while well done don’t make my cut.