As regular readers might know, one of my favorite annual traditions is reviewing the Oscar Nominees in the Category of Best Animated Short. I find the animated shorts each year to offer new opportunities for creativity where the sky’s the limit. However, I must say that this year I found the nominees…not necessarily disappointing but certainly more depressing it seems than past years. There was less of the usual whimsy and romance that had enchanted me in years past and a darker tone to the nominees in general. Perhaps this was just a fluke or perhaps it speaks to our times. But the longest ‘short’ by far coming in at over a half hour was the Canadian Pear Cider and Cigarettes a fatalistic tale of addiction and self-destruction. There’s no doubt of the artistry of the animation but to say the storyline was grim would be like saying the Himalayas are a little steep.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes may have been the most extreme example but it wasn’t the only one. Borrowed Time (clocking in at 7 minutes) has an old Sheriff confronting horrific childhood trauma. The French Canadian The Head Vanishes (9 minutes) is a melancholy allegory about aging, memory loss, and dementia. And Blind Vaysha (also from Canada) tells a story of a girl with a horrible disability; her left eye sees only the past, her right eye only the future and the present never exists for her. It is, the narrator informs bleakly, a story that can have no happy ending because these two visions are irreconcilable.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; by far my favorite offering of the evening was Piper from the USA. This computer animated skit measuring in at just 6 minutes about a sandpiper hatchling trying to leave the nest for the first time was quite delightful, and a rare ray of hope and optimism in what otherwise felt like a journey through darkness.
Top photo: Bigstock