Courtesy of Magic Light Pictures

February 14, 2018

Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films Delight at Cornell Cinema

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With the Oscars right around the corner, Cornell Cinema recently screened the nominees for best Animated Short. All five films showcase completely different styles of animation and stories. A love letter written by NBA legend Kobe Bryant, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s dark take on fairy tales and frogs uncovering a chilling secret are just a few of the shorts included in this years selection of nominees.

Dear Basketball is based on a poem of the same name written by Kobe Bryant. It utilizes a sketch-based animation, helping draw the audience in with a black and white color scheme that created a youthful look and fast pace. Featuring a swelling score by John Williams, Kobe narrates his basketball journey by means of an ode of love. The short starts with a young Kobe practicing basketball with a ball made up of his father’s socks, adding a layer of humanity to a man that most feel they already know. He continues to thank the sport for making him feel alive and giving him the chance to make his Laker dreams come true. As a person that grew up in Los Angeles watching Kobe play basketball, I enjoyed the nostalgia, although the film did not have the same extensive breadth as the others.

Garden Party was visually stunning with surprising twists. The film’s animation is so lifelike that I couldn’t help but wonder for a few seconds during the opening if it was live action. Frogs abundantly live in the remains of a sprawling estate filled with luxurious rooms and a large pool. Each exploration by the frogs showcases a different space in disarray; in one scene, a frog lands on a gun with bullets next to it, furthering the intrigue. In the end, an unexpected turn brings full circle the subtle critiques of excess.

Lou is a Pixar film that starts out in a school playground and follows a red blur that picks up toys and puts them in the Lost and Found bin. During the next recess, a child begins to take the other kids’ toys; as he walks away with them, the same red blur takes a human like shape and tries to take the toys back. The audience sees a flashback of a young boy, J.J., who lost his teddy bear to an older kid. The bear is in the Lost and Found bin, but in order to get the bear back, J.J. must return all the other toys. This enjoyable short had a powerful message, but lacked some of the emotional depth found in the other shorts.

Negative Space was perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch due to its concept and stop-motion animation. The narrator explains how he and his father bonded over the intricacies of packing a suitcase. Over the course of the film, the audience sees that, as the son got older, he would pack for his father, and in return would receive an appreciative text from his father. When the film cuts to the current time, the son packs his luggage and jumps into a car and in a beautifully animated sequence the road becomes a luggage zipper and transitions into the ocean. The end scene depicts the narrator’s destination: his father’s funeral. This at times humorous and unique, elegiac short ends with the narrator saying the funeral was pretty terrible as he looks at his father’s casket and notes all the wasted space.

Revolting Rhymes’ running time clocked in just under thirty minutes; the other shorts all varied between four and seven minutes. It is a BBC adaptation of the Roald Dahl book of the same name featuring recognizable voices such as Dominic West from The Wire and Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones. The short is narrated by a wolf to an older woman, combining Little Red Riding Hood, The Big Bad Wolf and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The stories are melded together, with some major differences: the seven dwarves are ex-jockeys with gambling problems, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White are best friends, and Little Red Riding Hood shoots two wolves. There are strong comedic elements, hinging on the subversion of tropic fairytale storylines, but the running time lessened the strength of the story.

Overall, Garden Party and Negative Space were the two that stood out. Both featured distinctive animation and surprising stories. While Garden Party started out seemingly about nature and the adventures of hungry frogs, the film shifted to showcase the dangers of excess and limits of luxury. Negative Space also begins with a funny concept about the importance of packing (and truly gives some helpful packing advice for those prone to just throwing clothes into a suitcase before a break). Although stop motion animation in its nature can be quite robotic, this short showed its fluidity with scenes taking place underwater and on the road. Negative Space really stays with the audience, imparting sadness, happiness and a true sense of authenticity which might help it win the Oscar.

Ashley Davila is a junior in the college of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected]