Discover this Year’s Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Still from Bao, directed by Domee Shi. Still from Bao, directed by Domee Shi.

Animated shorts have a very special place in my heart. I love animation as a genre and usually the Oscar nominated animated shorts are a great group of films, though not the only representation of the best work in the year. With every passing year, the finesse that animated films bring to the screen is simply amazing.

I’ll start with the first, our very own homegrown short, Animal Behavior. The National Film Board and the filmmaking duo of Alison Snowden and David Fine bring us a hilarious, yet ponderous insight into behaviour. While the film is set in a therapist’s office, where different animals participate in a group therapy session, there is an innate truth that the film is trying to speak to: how we are constantly trying to change how people behave and attempt to put them in boxes, and not letting them be who they really are. My favourite of the participating animals is the compulsive texter Cheryl, a praying mantis who can’t seem to keep a date for more than a few taps of her phone’s screen. There is also a compulsive cat Linda and a leech named Lorraine, who is a riot and also heart wrenching at the same time. Led by the canine Dr. Clement, this is a riotous and equally thought-provoking take on our innate nature and whether it requires change or not.

Late Afternoon by Louise Bagnall and Nuria Gonzalez Blanco, brings us Emily, who is sitting in a comfy armchair in a room that seems like it’s in a care home for the elderly, as she goes back and forth through her own life memories. The story sees Emily trying to find strings in the past to be able to tie together her present. Representative of a phase everyone has to go through, this story is about rediscovering oneself in the present.

Weekends, by Trevor Jimenez, is a delicate and poignant tale of a boy navigating the wake of his parent’s divorce as he splits time between their two homes. We follow the back and forth that the boy encounters as his parents begin to find love and happiness with other people. The boy goes between being the centre of their worlds to just another presence. It’s a beautifully animated story that looks at the repercussions of our choices and their impact on children, which may not always be extremely obvious, yet they leave indelible marks.

Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas’s film One Small Step is about a little girl’s big childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. Like any little girl, Luna goes through the pangs of coming of age and slowly finding her way through life’s trials, tribulations, and learnings. In all this, she tends to lose sight of the rock that was her strength: her father. Her father made her boots for her first launch into space, nurturing her dream even as a child. Luna’s continual chasing of her dream and the pointed learning of the value of family is at the heart of One Small Step. Will Luna make the first step that will take her to space, and what will she learn on the journey there?

My favorite one was Bao by Domee Shi, a stunning film, so beautifully done that I was left mesmerized over its 8 minute runtime: classic Pixar fare. The film begins with a dumpling springing to life as a little dumpling boy, which brings great joy and comfort to an aging woman, who is missing her son dearly. We follow the dumpling as he grows up into a little boy and soon a young man, who will probably leave the nest and fly out into the world. The mom is taken back down memory lane, where she remembers struggling to part with her son. When she can’t find a better way to hold on to her motherhood, she swallows the dumpling whole. Will she be able to reconcile with her pangs of separation? How will her sense of motherhood be redeemed when her son is no longer in close proximity? Bao is a tender, loving and delightfully emotional tale of parenthood and the natural continuum of life.

As part of its run up to the Oscars at the end of the month, Cinema du Parc has special screenings of all nominated animated shorts.

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