This year’s Oscar noms contain lots of things: themes of motherhood, love, right vs. wrong, man against nature, man against space, how many cars George Miller can blow up in a desert, the length of time an audience member can sit still while desperately wishing they could reach out and brush that frozen snot droplet from Leo’s mustache.
But sometimes the most emotional stories take the smallest amount of time to tell. That’s where the shorts come in. While most of these may seem to be just for kids on the surface, they can pack quite a punch to the tear ducts for viewers of any age.
Sanjay’s Super Team—Sanjay Patel, USA, 7 minutes
Oftentimes, Pixar’s shorts turn out as good if not better than their features. There are the cloud babies and perpetually put-upon crane in Partly Cloudy, the touchingly joyful La Luna, and Geri’s Game, the one with the old man playing chess against himself. Sanjay’s Super Team accompanied last fall’s The Good Dinosaur and managed to tell a full-length movie’s worth of conflict, sacrifice, and a child’s search for identity in under ten minutes. Precise, delicate sound work coupled with beautiful animation and a simple but universally compelling story makes this film one that will surely be remembered.
World of Tomorrow—Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 17 minutes
Hard to believe a film like this came from the same mind as such cultural touchstones as “My Spoon is Too Big” and “My Anus is Bleeding.” Look them up if you’ve never seen them before, they totally exist. And were nominated for an Oscar. In World of Tomorrow, a little girl is visited by a clone of herself who takes her on a tour of her own future, somehow creating a seamless blend of the surreal, dry humor, and heart wrenching sadness. It’s almost impossible to condense all of what this film is down into a few words, but “it’s about love,” “it’s about humanity,” “it’s about the horror of being unable to let go of things that are gone” might give some idea.
Bonus: if you love this film and also crying, check out It’s Such a Beautiful Day, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bear Story (Historia de un oso)—Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 11 minutes
Chile’s entry into the Oscars introduces a story within a story, as an old bear tells a cub about his past by using a moving diorama. As the bear turns a crank, mechanical animals act out a harrowing tale of abduction and escape. What’s incredible to watch is this film’s attention to detail—the robotic creatures look completely real, and in a few shots you can see dust motes caught in beams of sunlight.
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos—Konstantin Bronzit, Russia, 16 minutes
What seems to be a straightforward story about two cosmonauts in training slowly morphs into something more. A first it could be about rivalry, then maybe friendship, and then perhaps some kind of love, and it turns out it’s about all of these things, but not in the way you’d expect. The two comrades push and pull each other along in a journey to reach their dream of outer space, going through days of strenuous training and spending their nights jumping on their beds and imagining they’re floating in the void. But after their dream is achieved about halfway through and the film takes a bit of a darker turn, you start to realize that maybe this story is about something else.
Prologue—Richard Williams, UK, 6 minutes
Prologue is the product of an idea animator Richard Williams had when he was fifteen years old, and has only now been able to finally bring to light. You might know Williams from his work as the animation director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a film whose masterful mingling of cartoons and live-action is still some of the best ever done. In a preview video for Prologue he discusses his multifaceted approach to animation and how this short film is part of what he hopes will grow into a larger project in the future. The mesmerizing hand-drawn style provides the illusion that the camera is slinging effortlessly back and forth, while lovingly detailed images of butterflies and dandelion seeds blowing in the wind are interspersed with moments of bloody violence. Animation isn’t just for kids—it’s an art form in its own right.
Along with these five the Naro will also be showing four additional shorts: the multimedia tale of childhood If I Was God… directed by two-time Oscar nominee Cordell Barker, the stunningly lovely The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse, The Loneliest Stoplight narrated by Patton Oswalt, and Catch It, a dramatic thriller involving meerkats, a vulture, and a small fruit. All films in this program are rated PG with the exception of Prologue, which will be shown last just in case parents want to go ahead and get the kids out of the theater beforehand. The total runtime for the whole program is 86 minutes. If you miss these tonight, there will be additional showings of the animated shorts over the next two weekends.