I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It is extraordinary, the emotion that can be captured in smudges of color. I’ll be stunned if Daisy Jacobs’s deeply moving “The Bigger Picture” [IMDb] doesn’t win this year’s Oscar for Best Animated Short. A tale of two adult brothers coping with their elderly mother’s decline, this offers a fresh and unusual combination of moving paintings on flat surfaces interacting with 3D objects (and sometimes stretching into a third dimension themselves) to create a film that is full of humanity. Grief, anger, jealousy, rage, fear, pity, and love blend in a tapestry of feeling that beautifully captures the confused emotional chaos of a family at its most trying time.
Color is gorgeously smudged in my other favorite among the animated-short nominees, the adorable and poignant “The Dam Keeper” [IMDb]. Filmmakers Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi have worked as art directors on some of the biggest and most beloved animated features ever (including Ratatouille and Toy Story 3), and they bring that talent for imbuing nonhuman creatures with recognizable emotion to their story of young Pig. It’s Pig’s job to keep an apocalyptic dust away from his pleasant little village by running the windmill at the town’s edge to blow the dust away. He doesn’t seem to mind the work, but being derided as a “dirty pig” by the other kids at school doesn’t seem very fair, and makes for a lonely life. Kondo and Tsutsumi use a breathtaking painterly style to fill Pig’s world with hope and heartbreak. I was in tears — and not only tears of joy — at this one. (“The Dam Keeper” is narrated by Lars Mikkelsen [When Animals Dream].)
The other nominees are:
• Torill Kove’s “Me and My Moulton” [IMDb], the hilarious story of a little girl in 1960s Norway and her mortification at the nonconformity of her family, told in a chic, vibrant modernist cartoon style
• Patrick Osborne’s “Feast” [IMDb], the Disney entry, a dog’s-eye view of a man’s romance and marriage that is thoroughly charming but nevertheless feels like it’s treading a path already well worn by Disney
• “A Single Life” [IMDb], by “Job, Joris & Marieke,” a quick and quirky little oddity about a woman who discovers a magical 45 vinyl single that allows her to skip around to different moments of her life; cute but slight, it has no power to linger.
The theatrical presentation of the Oscar nominees also includes four shorts additional shorts that have not been nominated: “Bus Story,” in which the adventures of a rural Canadian school bus driver play out with scraggly humor; “Footprints” [IMDb], from the wonderfully demented mind of Bill Plympton, an ironic nightmare about a man stalking a destructive creature whose presumptive horrors grow in his mind the closer he gets to his goal; and two pieces that feel like auditions to work as an animator for Disney, the hand-drawn “Duet” [IMDb], in which romance is expressed in dance and other human movement, and “Sweet Cocoon,” animated with the Pixar software, about a fat caterpillar trying to squeeze into a too-small cocoon.
See the official site for showtimes and locations across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.