Every year when it comes down to placing bets at one’s local Oscar party, there are always a few little boxes on the ballot that nobody has any clue how to mark–the short film nominations.
Luckily I was able to attend a screening of the Oscar-nominated shorts up for an award this year (working in Hollywood has it’s perks!), so without further adieu, here are my thoughts on the various animated films:

THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE
Developed by Moonbot Studios and directed by William Joyce (currently involved with Dreamworks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians), this is a delightful film about a man tasked with caring for anthropomorphic books and helping them find good homes.  With a wonderful message of how books can brighten the lives of everyday people (shown in the film by using color vs. black-and-white), the film is definitely a crowd-pleasure.  Though it gets off to a rocky and somewhat nonsensical start, this is the most-likely candidate for taking home the award Oscar night.  Better yet, the entire film is online and can be viewed below:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Rating 4/5
A MORNING STROLL
Studio AKA in London brings us this offbeat tale of a New Yorker encountering a chicken on the street–that’s the whole movie.  But the story is told three times: once in the past (shown in sketch-style black-and-white), once in the present (satiring of how connected we are to our cell phones), and once in a post-apocalyptic future.  This was my personal favorite of the short films shown, but is probably a little too strange and twisted to take the award home.  I loved it!  Trailer below:

A MORNING STROLL ( Trailer) from STUDIO AKA on Vimeo.

Rating 5/5

LA LUNA


It wouldn’t be the Academy Awards without an entry from Pixar.  Cars 2 may have been unable to get them in the running for best animated feature this year, but they are still up for best short with this entry about a young boy and his too grandparents of have the interesting job of cleaning falling stars off the moon.  Though lacking the humor of previous Pixar entries, the whimsical storytelling and gorgeous detailed animation is there as always, and it ends with the delightful moral of marching to the beat of one’s own drum to get the job done.

Rating 4/5

DIMANCHE / SUNDAY
The weakest film of the bunch, this French Canadian entry was convoluted and confusing, and had something to do with a young boy placing a coin on the train tracks and a giant bear.  The animation style is reasonably interesting, but overall this one can be skipped.  Trailer below:

Dimanche / Sunday (trailer) from doiion on Vimeo.

Rating 2/5

WILD LIFE


Another French Canadian entry about a young Englishman staking out a ranch in the Old West.  The piece is carried by some amazing hand-painted animation as the man faces the troubles that come with living on one’s own.  A rather loose metaphor involving a comet ties the piece together, though it feels a little forced and the movie could probably live just fine without it.
Rating 3/5

Info on where to catch screenings of the nominated short films can be found on the official Oscar short film website: http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/locations.php