Oscar shorts nominees highlight the world of animation

The Animated Short Film category displays great leaps of imagination and mastery of form

The Animated Short Film category in the Academy Awards should be the highlight of all Oscar-watching parties.

Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s heartwarming Paperman is an early favourite (Courtesy of Disney)

It is the category with the most variety between the nominees, and showcases a breadth of skills and imagination that is rarely found, even with the most advanced computer-generated imagery in feature films. Perhaps the most important reason is that the Oscar-nominated shorts are a legitimate excuse for serious adults to get excited about watching cartoons.

Five animated films made the cut for the 85th Academy Awards, with animation styles ranging from claymation to final line advection, a brand-new technique that combines two-dimension drawing with computer generated imagery. The shorts explore themes from the culinary arts, the Old Testament, Ayn Rand-themed daycare, and, of course, love.

Even with such great diversity, however, it is not difficult to foresee the winner of the award. Paperman, a Disney short film which had already won the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject, is this year’s obvious favorite.

A seven-minute black-and-white film set in 1940s New York City, Paperman keeps up with Disney’s tradition of playing on the viewers’ heartstrings with a sweet love story and beautiful imagery. [pullquote]Oscar-nominated shorts are a legitimate excuse for serious adults to get excited about watching cartoons. [/pullquote]

The story of two lonely people trying to find love in the bustling white-collar lifestyle set to the beautiful score by Christopher Beck is guaranteed to give even the most cynical of viewers a bad case of the feels.

The short has been released on YouTube last month, which certainly cannot hurt its chances to take home the golden statuette.

While Paperman may be an obvious choice of the Academy, Head over Heels is a no less deserving candidate. Head over Heels depicts an elderly couple who have grown apart — literally — as the wife lives on the floor and the husband on the ceiling, in a house that is free-floating through the air.

The short film tackles a challenging subject matter and form of animation, fully utilizing the advantages of animated versus feature film. In ten minutes, Head over Heels manages to ease the viewer into a world where the traditional laws of gravity do not apply, and to sneak in a plot twist at the end.

While it does not play on the emotions conditioned by years of watching Disney films, Head over Heels is a masterpiece of the genre.

Endearing in content and daring in form, the Oscar Shorts nominees combine the excitement of watching Saturday morning cartoons with aesthetic pleasures of arthouse cinema. [hr]

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