Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
For as much flak as the Oscar nominating committee is getting this year about the lack of diversity in the feature film categories, at least there is some in animated shorts. Leave it to this category to be light-years ahead of the pack in almost every way imaginable. Each year, this category gets harder and harder to predict the winner as they are all standouts in this field. This year was the toughest as they all should be commended for their technical achievements, pushing the genre forward in new, creative ways.
Here’s our stab at helping you fill out your Oscar party ballots.
PROLOGUE (Director: Richard Williams, UK): This is the shortest entry in the bunch, clocking in at just 6 minutes, however it’s nothing short of being the boldest entry. Taking place 2,400 years ago, it’s the tale of two warriors fighting in a field – and of a little girl who witnesses the bloody, brutal battle. The emphasis here is on fluid movement in pencil sketching. Williams plays around with viewer’s perspective, alternating from close up to medium to establishing without any hint of jarring transition. Aesthetically striking, detailed, precise.. and there’s nekkid butts and a scrotum stabbing. What more would you ever want to see?! Maybe a little more substance over straight-up style. 3.5/5
WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS (Directors: Konstantin Bronzit, Russia): Two lifelong friends dream of becoming cosmonauts, participating in rigorous training in hopes to be sent into outer space. When one of them is sent off, the other must find the wherewithal to carry on. Broznit crafts a beautifully rendered narrative about friendship, fidelity, goals and grief. As humorous as it is heartbreaking and hopeful, its throwback aesthetic will connect with audiences. 5/5
BEAR STORY (Director: Gabriel Osorio Vargas, Chile): Every day, a street-busking bear takes his mechanical diorama down to the street corner, offering it up to the public for a coin. The yarn he spins is about a circus bear longing to return to the wife and child he was forced to abandon – and, as we pick up in clues, his story is auto-biographical. This melancholy, wordless ditty has a heartrending message wrapped in a pristine package. Reinvention, redemption and reward are resonant themes. Turning personal tragedy into something that cathartically enriches others’ lives is a fantastic sentiment – a cornerstone belief in the power of cinema. 5/5
SANJAYS SUPER TEAM (Director: Sanjay Patel, US): This is the story of a young Indian-American boy who’d much rather escape into the television than participate in meditative prayer with his Hindu father. His compromise? To imagine the gods as superheroes and himself as the fighter of the flame. This is tremendous in terms of diversity. Patel’s narrative is universal and deeply personal at the same time. It’s colorful eye candy to bliss out on as well. Plus, there’s a sweet kick at the end that’s heartfelt and summons a few tears. 4.5/5
WORLD OF TOMORROW (Director: Don Hertzfeldt, US): I’ve adored Don Hertzfeldt’s off-beat sense of humor ever since his Oscar Nominated short REJECTED back in 2000. I have it memorized. It comes as no surprise that he’s been recognized again by the Academy for his prescient wit. In this introspective short, a clone travels from the future to explain what’s in store for her “prime,” little Emily, whose childlike wonder provides much of the daft absurdity. Compared to his previous works, it’s unlike anything he’s attempted before though fans will see his hallmarks throughout. Though it doesn’t quite capture me as a few of his earlier films have, its refreshingly different, clever and charming. 4/5
THE OSCAR NOMINATED ANIMATED SHORTS will open in Los Angeles at The Nuart in West L.A and in Orange County at the Regency South Coast Village, all on January 29. For more information on where you can find these shorts playing, go here.