Animation: Oscar nominees from Europe shine

Thanks to Yair Raveh and his film blog Cinemascope, I was privy to an early glimpse of four of the five Oscar nominated short animations for this year, and might I say… the field is as strong as any I have seen. Discounting the already widely-celebrated wizardry of America’s Pixar studio (in this case, ‘Presto’ directed by Doug Sweetland), the two films embedded below rose to the fore. Both lose no interest by choosing to drop dialogue, and if anything the artistic choice makes the virtuosity of the animation resonate all the more.

I’m in agreement with Yair- Russian director Konstantin Bronzit ‘Lavatory Lovestory’ has a certain magical whimsy about it, raising it above the high standards of the essentially gag based films it is in competition with. With a few calmly drawn lines, and selective dashes of colour, Bronzit is able to to tug the viewer’s heart strings and draw us in. He exhibits a deft sense of timing, from the slapstick bathroom collisions to the pathos exuded from a prolonged look of loneliness and yearning. Russia has a long history of rich humanist animation, and it’s great to see a hand-illustrated film, mostly in black and white sitting among the lavishly rendered virtually-lit worlds of the other filmmakers’ creations. Good luck, Konstantin!

The other film that I share a particular fondness for in the spread is ‘Oktapodi’ directed by Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand. The formula here is less complex; but the timing and creative variations on a classic chase-oriented gag cartoon make it a worthy contender. I have to admit too, my passion for octapi definately extends my appreciation for the film (check my own cartoon mascot, top right) even if they’re modelled anatomically incorrect with two ciphons. The camera angles and movement are dynamic and the film bustles along at a pace which keeps you hanging on, even in the few moments where the developments in the action are predictable and familiar. I need to mention that this film is a student production- a very polished effort from a team of young Francophones.

Not content with only having seen four of the five nominees for the Best Animated Short Academy award, I trawled for the absent film: ‘La maison en petits cubes’, a French/Japanese collaboration directed by Kunio Kato. Unable to find anything more than a brief teaser on Youtube, I had to settle for a still image, and this description of the film from ReverseBlog. Please let me know if anyone finds the film online… the blurb below paints an enticing picture!

Still from La maison en petits cubes (shortfilmcentral)
Still from 'La maison en petits cubes' (shortfilmcentral)

‘An old man wakes in the morning in the small room he calls home. He opens a hole in his floor, revealing a vast sea of water underneath, and begins fishing. It turns out that most of the world is now submerged, and the sea continues to rise. Our protagonist seems to spend most of his time building a new room in which to live on top of the old one, brick by brick, so he’ll have somewhere to go after the water floods his home. He’s done this many times before.

When he loses his pipe to the sea below, which has engulfed many stories of his home, he goes diving for it. His plunge into these literal depths stirs a corresponding dive into memory. As he descends, he recalls the moments of his life lived in these spaces—his daughter’s wedding in this room, a dinner with his wife in that; his life is retraced, floor by floor, story by story. Like most of the nominees in this category, the drama is wordless, depicted here through stunningly colorful, sumptuous hand-drawn animation.

A life remembered wistfully, not regretfully: La Maison en petits cubes is as simple as that. But in its beauty, purity, and emotional delicacy, it makes an impression that resonates well past its twelve-minute running time.’

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