Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation

Is it a pity category? Not even live action, not even features? Forget that: Animated shorts, when made well, have a beautiful way of boiling down everything that ever was and ever will be great about movie storytelling. In the Dutch film A Single Life, a woman puts a record on her turntable, comes unstuck in time, and whips around through her own life like a hapless Vonnegut hero. That the movie takes not even two-and-a-half minutes to run its course only underscores the premise-essential poignancy — or horror, if that’s how it strikes you — of being over before you know it. On the other hand, The Dam Keeper, about a lonely little pig who operates a windmill to keep poisonous clouds from engulfing his town, doesn’t do quite enough with its 18 minutes, but maybe that’s part of the idea. In the British film The Bigger Picture, about two adult brothers trying to cope with and care for their elderly mother, characters are painted on the walls of a room full of objects with which they interact. It’s an arresting technique, but perhaps nowhere in this bunch are the toughest questions of aesthetics interwoven with those of daily life more satisfyingly than in the Norwegian-Canadian Me and My Moulton, whose narrator wryly observes, “Our parents are modernist architects, and that causes problems.” Meanwhile Disney returns to its animated-short roots, or so the PR line goes, with the impeccably Disneyish Feast, which adorably reveals how one schlubby dude’s romantic life plays out in the feeding of his Boston Terrier puppy. In general, the only shortness that’s a problem here, and it’s typical, is the shortsightedness of the Academy: There’s just so much more original and award-worthy animation being made in any given year than this somewhat puny batch of nominees ever can contain. Still, they’ve picked some good ones.