Starting this Friday, Varsity Theatre screens the (often elusive) Oscar-nominated animated shorts in a special engagement prior to the awards ceremony on February 26. In preparation, we watched them all and picked our winners.
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg
USA, 15 minutes
A fierce windstorm—the kind begging someone to cry out “Auntie Em!”—lands Morris Lessmore and his beloved collection of books in an Oz of flying, piano-playing novels. Animated by William Joyce, formerly of Pixar and Dreamworks, this whimsical short has trademark Pixar heart and wit: “Why does the weasle [sic] go ‘pop’?” Lessmore writes in his journal. “Does it matter?”
Where else? An iPad app turns the film into an active storybook (don’t test its flight capabilities, though).
Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby
Canada, 13 minutes
This beautifully handpainted short tells the story of a remittance man—a wealthy young Englishman sent to rustic Alberta in 1909 to be a rancher—with documentary-style comments from the folks who know him. Each still deserves its own frame and a wall to hang it on.
Where else? Download it—for a small fee—from the National Film Board of Canada (Canadians can watch for free).
“A Morning Stroll”
Grant Orchard, Sue Goffe
UK, 7 minutes
Like one long gag, an extended “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke, a chicken moseys down a New York sidewalk and turns heads in 1959—but can’t compete with a smartphone in 2009. It’s sharp and funny, but lacks the narrative depth of the other films.
Where else? It’s making appearances at film festivals around the world, but we don’t know when Seattle will have another chance to see it.
Canada, 10 minutes
First-time filmmaker Doyon tells the story of a young boy trying to entertain himself on a dreary Sunday as he is dragged to church and his grandparents’ house. Unfortunately, the film conveys his boredom a little too well with its sluggish pace. The few moments of action are, strangely, the deaths of animals—a rabbit is run over by a car, and a fish loses its head in the kitchen.
Where else? Like “Wild Life,” this one is available from the National Film Board of Canada.
USA, 7 minutes
In Pixar’s submission, written and directed by Casarosa, a boy is taken out in a boat in the middle of the night by his father and grandfather and initiated into the family business—custodians of the moon. The underlying coming-of-age plot feels stale, which, despite a few truly clever moments, knocked it down our list; however, the film might snag a solid grip on the Academy’s heartstrings.
Where else? Attached to Pixar’s Brave, out June 22.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2012
Out Feb 10, Varsity Theatre