The Oscars are coming up this Sunday, which can only mean one thing … Best Animated Short Film! OK, fine, I do care about Best Picture, and whether Ellen will pull off her hosting duties (I’m optimistic), but Best Animated Short Film is one of those off-the-radar categories that seems less predictable and thus more enticing — like the people who win could actually just be ordinary, hard-working humans briefly elevated to the realm of Oscar celebrity.
I hadn’t yet seen all of this year’s Oscar-nominated animated shorts, so I went looking for them online. None of them is available in full, but there are trailers and clips. The five nominees seem to cover a wide range of animation approaches and styles: there’s “Feral,” the beautifully drawn story of a boy who grows up in the woods; “Get a Horse!,” a new Walt Disney Animation Studios entry that looks like an old one, featuring 1920s-style hand-drawn animation and archival voice recordings of Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse; “Mr. Hublot,” the story of an OCD bachelor who gets a dog, done in a sepia-toned 3D and CGI; “Possessions,” one of four short anime films in a quartet compiled by manga artist and director Katsuhiro Otomo (although “Possessions” was made by Shuhei Morita); and “Room on the Broom,” which is based on a children’s book and seems the most kid-aimed of the lot.
There are also three runner-up films, shorts that Oscar voters highly commended but didn’t quite nominate. Of those, one is a bland Pixar entry, “Blue Umbrella,” which you can watch a bootleg version of on YouTube; another is “The Missing Scarf,” which looks smart and design-y, and is promised to be online soon; and the third is “A la Française,” which is excellent and available to watch in full!
“A la Française” is the “graduation movie” (which I assume is something like a thesis project) of five students at SUPINFOCOM Arles, a computer graphics university in France: Julien Hazebroucq, Emmanuelle Leleu, Morrigane Boyer, Ren Hsien Hsu, and William Lorton. In lush, seemingly sun-drenched visuals that hint at Louis XIV’s nickname, the seven-minute-short re-creates the world of 1700 Versailles … except that all of the inhabitants are chickens. (France’s national animal is the Gallic rooster.) These chickens are dressed, of course, in outrageous outfits and sport period-appropriate hats and hairdos, and they do things like play badminton and have affairs. It’s goofy, clever, and incredibly well done. Enjoy it! And then go see the Oscar-nominated animated shorts, playing hopefully at a theater near you.
The Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts 2014 are currently playing at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue, West Village, Manhattan), BAM Rose Cinemas (Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn), The Landmark Theatre (10850 West Pico, Los Angeles), The Logan Theatre (2646 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago), Embarcadero Center Cinema (1 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (100 Northern Avenue, Boston), and more locations nationwide.