The 2011 Academy Award Nominated Short Films: Animated Shorts

This year’s assortment of animated shorts is very kid-oriented, and, as such, a little disappointing for those who can grow armpit hair. There’s nothing to match 2008’s amazing La Maison en Petit Cubes, but there’s still some enjoyment to be had, and it’s a show I’d feel comfortable bringing a 10-year-old to. The only film aimed squarely at adults is Madasgascar: Carnet de Voyage, which mixes natural-media effects with 3-D animation for a tour of modern-day Madagascar. There are no talking zoo animals, and there’s a quarter-second flash of a naked breast as a woman is caught bathing, but it’s visually satisfying and mostly kid-safe, if a little light on narrative. Pixar’s Day and Night takes a clever idea, adds no other clever ideas to it, and stretches it out for six minutes, which, in Internet time, is three lolcat videos and a rickroll. Let’s Pollute is a pedantic but amusing short that apes 1950s-style educational films to encourage us to increase our pollution output. Some clever moments, and I think youngsters will enjoy it. The best of the films-for-kids in this collection is The Gruffalo, wherein a family of squirrels tells the story of a clever mouse who eludes predators by inventing an imaginary monster. Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane star, but, strangely, Mark Ruffalo does not play the part of the Gruffalo. The only film in the set that I loved was The Lost Thing. A bottle-top collector wanders about in a world that is entirely man-made except for a tiny strip of beach in front of a huge, concrete wall. There, he finds the lost thing, a sort of Maurice Sendak-esque crab trapped inside a Jules Verne-esque submarine. From a book titled What Manifest Abnormality Is That? to a just-glimpsed newspaper headline that reads “Flamingo Recaptured,” to a street sign that says only “Sign Not In Use,” the film is full of richly detailed imagery and a sweeping, sad story about what happens when nothing natural is allowed to touch the earth. Lost Thing alone makes this program worth watching, but all of the films are at least amusing enough, and there’s a special joy in watching the Oscars and being able to root for a winner in this tiny, overlooked category.


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