OSCAR GUIDE: Best Short Film (Animated)

Posted by · 9:17 am · February 4th, 2010

French RoastThis is one of the few times the animated short category doesn’t have an American in the bunch.  One of the big snubs, in fact, was probably Pixar’s “Partly Cloudy.” So I wouldn’t bank on any domestic bias this time around.

The animated short films feature a wide array of creative prowess, but it almost seems unfair to have such brief exercises up against longer-form narratives. The shortest entry of the bunch is roughly six minutes long, while the longest is nearly 30. You get vastly different pros and cons when you get that mixture of pace and comedic (since most animated shorts are comedies) timing. Nevertheless, none of them stands out as outright bad, so that’s certainly a plus.

The nominees are:

“French Roast” (Fabrice O. Joubert)
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” (Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell)
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” (Javier Recio Gracia)
“Logorama” (Nicolas Schmerkin)
“Wallace & Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death'” (Nick Park)

Usually you see more of a diverse mixture of media when it comes to this category, but this year the field is dominated by four CG offerings (one of them with some traditional animation tossed in), with one claymation piece being the outlier.  Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures will once again be releasing all the shorts theatrically prior to the Oscars.  Keep an eye on TheOscarShorts.com for more information.

Fabrice O. Joubert’s CG “French Roast” is delightful enough, and the gag is pretty simple (as you might imagine): a Frenchman enjoying his afternoon coffee realizes he’s apparently left his wallet at home, so in lieu of making matters known, he runs up a giant coffee tab as he considers his options. Meanwhile, a homeless man with alfalfa sprout-like dingy hair, a nun who is more than she appears to be and a rotund policeman offer plenty to keep visual interest in the piece. Things don’t get too repetitive though there isn’t an overriding sense of the piece actually being about anything, even if film does end in an, “Awwww,” moment that is well-earned. Of the five nominees, I might be inclined to think this one will be bringing up the rear, but I could certainly be wrong.

Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell’s “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” is one of the funniest entries in the category. The film features a tiny grandmother with towering, Marge-like gray hair who turns the classic “Sleeping Beauty” bedtime story into a certifiable nightmare with her personalized, jaded telling of it to a frightened youth. A unique blend of CG and traditional animation (cutting back and forth from the bedside setting to Granny O’Grimm’s vision of the tale) could tickle the committee’s fancy if the humor isn’t enough to get them there. The closing credits are accompanied by her twisted lullaby, which sends the viewer away laughing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more support for this film than the other nominees that clock in under 10 minutes.

The Antonio Banderes-produced “The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” from director Javier Recio Gracia keeps the CG comedy going strong. The film is a nifty romp about an elderly dame — still sad over the loss of her husband — who receives a welcome visit from the Grim Reaper one evening. The film dips into farcical territory as a battle of wills ensues between the Reaper and a buff and handsome doctor fighting for the woman’s life. In spite of a brisk eight-minute running time, the film is wonderfully imaginative with nods to Chicano art here and there. The color palette is quite vibrant, making it one of the more beautiful nominees, and it ends on a morbid note that is nevertheless quite funny. A mid-credits denouement plays it up for laughs one more time.

Nicholas Schmerkin’s “Logorama” is committed if nothing else. Featuring a world dominated by an array of familiar commercial logos (which becomes a commentary on an American landscape saturated in corporatism), the film spins a police drama with foul-mouthed Michelin Men cops and a villainous Ronald McDonald at the fore. The film always finds creative ways to implement the logos (my favorite being the XBOX “X” used to illustrate cracking pavement). When it begins to appear as if the film will never rise above this gag, however, the carnage yields a flood of oil, which soaks the corporate scenery and even draws on Katrina imagery as a bald eagle flies off, The Ink Spots’ “I Don’t Want To Set the World On Fire.” The socio-political indictment becomes rather palpable by film’s end.

“Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death'” from director Nick Park has everything you’ve come to expect of a Wallace & Gromit tale: cheeky humor, a handful of action set-pieces and an interesting narrative weaving it all together. In this latest chapter of the mild-mannered inventor and his faithful pooch, someone is murdering bakers. Twelve have fallen victim so far as the story begins. A love interest is introduced for Wallace in the form of former “Bake-o-Lite girl” Piella and the pieces fall into place from there. At a robust 29 minutes, the film is by far the longest of the lot. It is also clearly the film with the most resources available to it. The running time allows for a broader story to be fleshed out and developed, but beyond that, it’s just a lovely yarn typical of Park’s finest work.

Will win: “Wallace & Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death'”
Could win: “Logorama”
Should win: “Logorama”

Should have been here: (abstain)

Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death

What do you think deserves to win this year’s Oscar for Best Animated Short?  Have your say in the sidebar poll! (Note: I recognize most of you will not have seen all of the films and therefore don’t have an opinion on the matter, but in the service of uniformity, we’ll offer a poll anyway.)

→ 29 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

29 responses so far

  • 1 2-04-2010 at 9:32 am

    Mr. F said...

    I just watched them all (Logorama, Granny, French Roast, and Lady and the Reaper are on youtube and Wallace & Gromit is available somewhere on the internet) and my favorite is by far Logorama.

    Wallace & Gromit and Lady and the Reaper were fun, but I didn’t care for Granny or French Roast.

    Logorama should win but Wallace & Gromit have a history, so they will probably win.

  • 2 2-04-2010 at 9:35 am

    david said...

    I’m just wondering if because they have shown Nick Park so much love in the past, that the Academy might feel the need to award someone else this time around (deserving or not).

  • 3 2-04-2010 at 9:47 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Well, one must note (as I should have in the piece) that in order to vote in this category, one must attend the screenings and prove that you’ve done so. And you never know what will tickle the animators’ fancy (I learned that lesson a few years back with “The Danish Poet.”)

    When you sit down and actually watch the films, it becomes apparent that two really stand out. So it’s possible that those who vote on the shorts will think Wallce and Gromit have had their time in the sun, and Logorama is hard to argue with from a standpoint of ingenuity and impact.

  • 4 2-04-2010 at 10:24 am

    Silencio said...

    I was thinking Lady and the Reaper would win…but I’m not sure now. Wallace and Gromit have been honored so much I think they’ll look elsewhere. The only other contender as epic is Logorama. And it does have the serious edge. I think I’m gonna go on a limb and predict Logorama.

  • 5 2-04-2010 at 10:29 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Should’ve been there and should’ve won: Partly Cloudy (Pixar)

  • 6 2-04-2010 at 10:34 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Also worth checking out, AWN’s annual animation Oscar showcase:


  • 7 2-04-2010 at 10:58 am

    Doug said...

    I’m disappointed that The Cat Piano didn’t get a nod. I thought it had beautiful animation and the narration by Nick Cave was really good.

    After watching the five nominees I find it difficult to choose which is the best. All of them are worthy of nominations. I’d say Logorama, Wallace & Gromit and Lady and the Reaper stand out above the other two.

    Also, I’m glad Partly Cloudy didn’t make it. It’s one of Pixar’s weaker shorts in my opinion.

  • 8 2-04-2010 at 11:09 am

    DCIJB said...

    Logorama should win. It is the best movie of the year, period.

  • 9 2-04-2010 at 11:23 am

    Michael said...

    I just went through the nominees and I think there’s some really fine work in this category. The most original and in this way also impressing movie for me was Logorama, which I think is a well execution of a fantastic idea.

    Interesting is that even in this category you could bring it all down to the David vs Goliath clichee, with W&G sure being the giant and the other competitors acting as David(s), with Logorama hopefully having the biggest chances to manage a surprise win.

  • 10 2-04-2010 at 11:28 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Logorama is a clever idea, but poorly executed with no story whatsoever.

    For my money, I’d like to see them give it to The Lady and the Reaper, which is chock-ful of energy and beautifully designed and animated.

  • 11 2-04-2010 at 11:47 am

    N8 said...

    [EDITOR’S NOTE: While I’m sure we all thank N8 for his/her diligence in tracking down URLs at which the Oscar animated shorts can be viewed, we’ve nevertheless been asked by a Shorts International/Magnolia Pictures rep to take the comment down. Industrious readers will no doubt have little trouble tracking them down, however.]

  • 12 2-04-2010 at 11:52 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    aspect: No story whatsoever? Watch it again, man. It might be abstract but it is most certainly about something.

  • 13 2-04-2010 at 12:39 pm

    Michael said...

    The first time I watched it I didn’t think it had too much of a statement. But when you watch it the second time and are no longer overwhelmed by the abstract world it is set in, you realise the sharp criticism behind it. Even the Michelin guy (the cop) is confused by the incredible variety of options brought to him at KFC.

    And, oh, how could you not see the meaning in the end. When this whole perfect trademark world is swept away by oil. Everything breaks down, it’s just not so easy after all. (watch the downfall of the IBM logo – that’s brilliantly done)

    But even if I am kind of over-interpreting the movie, it still is very funny too. Ronald Mc Donald as the evil badass, the gay Mr. Propper, the kind of rebel Haribo kid, the two Pringles guys discussing about who would be the sexiest of their kind, the two M&Ms on the street wondering where the cops are when one time you need them, just before they get driven over by our two Michelin heros and so on and so on.

    Well, and I do not even start about the hilarious ending when even the world ends up being only the Universal logo. And even the cheap jokes, like the “Milky Way” Milky Way worked perfectly in my opinion.

    Yeah, after watching the movie 4 times since I found it two days ago, it kind of grew on me. :D.

  • 14 2-04-2010 at 2:05 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Wow. I thought Logorama was junk. The one and only nominee that I thought was great is French Roast.

  • 15 2-04-2010 at 2:07 pm

    David said...

    I’m also disappointed with the absence of The Cat Piano. It was really creative and dark.

  • 16 2-04-2010 at 2:21 pm

    Conor said...

    To be honest, I found “Logorama” to be the worst of the bunch. Not particularly clever or entertaining, and the “message” didn’t work for me either.

  • 17 2-04-2010 at 2:23 pm

    Karl said...

    after seeing those 5 short animations, i’m really dissappointed that Kinematograph isn’t among them. it was a wrthy contender…

    of those 5 i’m pretty sure Wallace & Gromit will win. not only it’s the best one from those 5, but it’s also the longest. and if you will check the previous winners of this category, you will know ‘the longest short is, the better chance to win’…
    i also like French Roast & Granny O’Grimm.but the latter ended too quickly for me,i didn’t expect the end of story in this place,and it left me wanting more,so i’m not fully satisfied with it.
    Logorama was interesting from the start, but i don’t really get it.ok, logos are around us everywhere, so what? the flood has to come & clear the world (like in bible, the story with Noah’s Ark).
    and then there’s Lady and the Reaper, i didn’t like this whole fighting scene, it was boring & too literal…

  • 18 2-04-2010 at 2:26 pm

    Al said...

    The Cat Piano.

  • 19 2-04-2010 at 2:41 pm

    Scott said...

    I found Logorama, well, not annoying exactly, but I didn’t particularly like it. Not sure how you compare the Wallace & Gromit (which I presume will win) with the others. I quite liked French Roast and Granny O’Grimm – but like others I wish this list had included The Cat Piano.

  • 20 2-04-2010 at 2:58 pm

    Brady said...

    1) The Cat Piano should have been nominated and should have won. It’s above and beyond my favorite of the short list. It’s filled with tons of ingenuity.

    2) Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty I find far better in the abstract, not while actually watching it.

    3) French Roast just seems a little laborious. I was not continually entertained by the new people to plague him in his attempt to pay for the coffee.

    4) I haven’t seen “Loaf and Death” but I’m sure it’s like any other Wallace and Gromit.

    5) Logorama hits its message home in the first… 20 seconds. We are surrounded by corporations. I think the plot falls short of the others, I think the concept is great but could have been executed better at times.

    5) So The Lady and The Reaper is my new favorite. It’s clever enough, I love its use of music, and the Patrick Warburton-esque doctor is great.

  • 21 2-04-2010 at 4:58 pm

    James The Greatest said...

    Having been at the semifinals screening, I have to say that there was a lot of love for The Lady And The Reaper (which I liked but didn’t love; the gag felt obvious to me).

    Sleeping Beauty got a lot of raucous laughs, but the CGI animation is definitely lacking.

    While everyone loves Wallace & Gromit, I think the train of thought (however wrongminded it might be) is that Nick Park’s been rewarded enough. Loaf And Death’s nomination is his prize this time around.

    Logorama did have a lot of love in the room, but the violence might prevent it from winning with the older-skewing audience of those screenings . Let’s hope I’m wrong.

  • 22 2-04-2010 at 6:01 pm

    Maciej said...

    I’m all for the radical aspect of Logorama (in theory) and there are a few good gags in it, but the dialogue is just terrible, juvenile shit.

    Haven’t watched he Wallace and Gromit yet, but of the others I really enjoyed the Lady and the Reaper.

  • 23 2-04-2010 at 6:21 pm

    Conor said...

    Agreed, Maciej. The dialogue in Logorama was needlessly profanity laden and stupid, and The Lady and the Reaper was my favorite.

  • 24 2-04-2010 at 9:51 pm

    cineJAB said...

    where are Cat Piano and the Pixar one?!!!

  • 25 2-04-2010 at 10:48 pm

    Jessica said...

    Doesn’t the average age for the screenings of this skew to the older crowd? That’s just what I’ve heard. I think because of that Logorama may turn off folks because of the dialogue, and they may relate to the old lady in The Lady and The Reaper a bit more. Unless I’m over thinking it…

  • 26 2-04-2010 at 11:38 pm

    Movie_Dearest said...

    “A Matter of Loaf and Death” is on DVD, has been out for awhile on Netflix. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a disappointment for this longtime “Wallace & Gromit” fan. I’ve seen all 5 and thought “The Lady and The Reaper” was the best and funniest. So glad “Partly Cloudly” didn’t get the requisite Pixar slot as it is easily the poorest of their shorts.

  • 27 2-05-2010 at 5:38 am

    parker said...

    The dialogue in Logorama was needlessly profanity laden and stupid


  • 28 2-05-2010 at 7:53 am

    stylewriter said...

    First, thanks to those who posted links. It was a pleasure to be able, for once, to see the shorts and have a rooting interest (I run a movie group and everyone was thrilled when I forwarded them the links).

    French Roast is beautifully animated, but it’s also kind of boring. Logorama, for me, was a terrific idea that went nowhere fast. W & G was a disappointment and I consider myself a big fan. Grandma Grim was cute, but it felt like a missed opportunity to me. The only one I wanted to see a second time (and did) was The Lady and the Reaper which was funny and had a great ending.

  • 29 2-09-2010 at 7:32 am

    starry said...

    I’ve only had a brief look at most of them so far but Logorama at least has invention. The political idea and the language may put some off but that’s their loss, people should judge it on artistic merit.

    French Roast is probably my next favourite as it has some nice character animation. Generally though I find CG quite cold, but it’s worse in the other two that I haven’t mentioned for me.

    Wallace and Grommit probably my third place. It’s well done but it’s just rehashing what they have done before (and reached their peak with The Wrong Trousers).