Film Review: 2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated)

This Year’s Short Films Are Long On Talent

Devin D. O'Leary
5 min read
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
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Every year movie lovers are afforded a unique opportunity to catch up on their Oscar-nominated film viewing. Sure, you could go to the your neighborhood theater and try to watch all nine Best Picture nominees in a row—but it would take you more than 20 hours. Or you could watch an entire collection of Oscar nominated films in one fell swoop. Every year for the past 12 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “Best Short” Film nominees take a tour around the country—courtesy of Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures—showing off Oscar glory in bite-sized chunks.

In Albuquerque, the Guild Cinema (3405 Central NE) is the first theater to grab hold of this year’s honorees. From Friday, Feb. 10, through Monday, Feb. 13, the theater will be screening
Best Short Films (Animation). Tuesday, Feb. 14, through Thursday, Feb. 16, they’ll be screening Best Short Films (Documentary). It all wraps up Friday, Feb. 17, through Sunday, Feb. 19, with Best Short Films (Live Action). Catch all three collections and you’ll have plowed through 15 Oscar-nominated films.

Animated films are always a popular selection, and Guild Cinema starts its run with them this year. The
2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated) is a diverse collection, starting with “Borrowed Time,” a 3-D computer-animated Western. This gritty and compact story follows a broken-down sheriff as he revisits the scene of his greatest mistake. The story is simple—more of a single, vivid incident, really—but in just seven tight minutes, the film explores a lifetime of regret.

Also rendered in 3-D computer graphics is the animated animal fable “Piper” from Pixar. It’s the charming tale of a baby sandpiper learning to brave the ebb and flow of the ocean in order to secure a meal. Eventually, despite his fears, he develops a unique technique for landing some tasty shellfish. Where “Borrowed Time” is tough and melancholy, “Piper” is bright and cheerful. Even if you’ve seen this one already (it was attached to last year’s
Finding Dory), it’s worth a second viewing. As with all Pixar films, the technical aspects are astounding—but it’s the lovable story that sticks with viewers.

Unlike the previous two realistic-looking achievements, the 6-minute flashback-cum-music-video “Pearl” employs a more primitive form of computer animation. The characters here are rendered in a chunky, polygon-heavy style. (Think old school PS2 games.) Interestingly, this somewhat antiquated technique gives the film a dose of style. The story tells about a father-and-daughter relationship as seen through the front and back seat of their well-used automobile. Dad’s an itinerant musician, panhandling his way across America. Daughter’s a happy participant—at least until her sullen teenage years when dad’s hipster-hippie lifestyle starts to seem annoyingly alien. It’s sentimental without being cutesy. And the music is lovely. Basically the best car commercial never made.

“Blind Vaysha” is probably the most traditional of this year’s offerings, an impressionistic fairy tale told in what look like woodcut illustrations. The film’s limited color palette (mostly blacks and browns) drives home the old-fashioned feel, making this one of the more art-heavy selections of the year. On the other hand, the story—about a poor villager born with the ability to see the future out of one eye and the past out of the other—ends up being a surprisingly contemporary think piece about how we look at life.

To fill out its run time,
2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated) offers up a handful of extra films: “The Head Vanishes” (a French-Canadian drama about dementia), “Asteria” (a French sci-fi comedy) and “Happy End” (a rapid-fire black comedy from the Czech Republic). But the collection ends with “Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” the final and most ambitious of this year’s shorts. Unlike the others, this Canadian-English film is fairly adult-oriented. The art style is a noirish mixture of chunky, blocky illustration. Writer/director Robert Valley’s narrative started out as a couple of self-published graphic novels before making the leap to movie screens. His style has the ink-heavy modern comic book look of artists like Jim Mahfood or Jamie Hewlett. In the 35-minute short, Valley recounts his friendship with hard-living best bud Techno. Back in high school Techno was that wild dude who introduced you to all the best rock bands, gave you your first beer and got you arrested that one time. Years later, the two men reconnect. But by that time Robert is a semi-respectable real estate agent trying to launch his career as a graphic novelist. Techno, meanwhile, is a burned-out, troublemaking alcoholic trying to secure a liver transplant in China. The film recounts Valley’s crazy tale of babysitting Techno overseas while he waited for his (possibly illegal) new liver. Much like the first film (“Borrowed Time”), this one deals with a lifetime of regret. It’s brutally honest in its storytelling, and ends up being the most empathetic of the lot. In other words: It gets my Oscar vote for Best Short Film (Animated).
2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Animated)

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

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