OSCARS DEATH RACE: Surveying the race for Best Animated Short

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by Sarah D. Bunting
February 23, 2012 7:48 AM
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Fearless Sarah D. Bunting of Tomatonation.com is making it her mission to watch every single film nominated for an Oscar before the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 26, 2012. She is calling this journey her Oscars Death Race. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here. And you can follow Sarah through this quixotic journey here.]

Dimanche/Sunday. It seemed promising despite the crude animation; the sound design is witty, and it started out as a sort of fantasia on how children perceive things. But it keeps killing animals off horribly for no reason, and the surrealism comes and goes when it's convenient. A clearer visual style might have helped, but I don't think it knows what it's trying to say.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The ending is mournful and beautiful, but the emotion is unearned, and the more I thought about this one, the less it held up. The books themselves, bird/butterfly hybrids, are endearing, but between the scattershot hat-tips to The Wizard of Oz, the internal logic that isn't, and the over-long and show-offy tornado intro, the story doesn't jell.

La Luna. The Pixar entry. Short and sweet, but didn't get much reaction from me or the theater at large. Usually a Pixar short is either really cute or hee-larious, or has one or two memorable images or new ways of thinking about a visual; this has a lovely rendering of oar marks on water at the beginning, but I had to check my notes to recall it. The competent pacing alone could snag it the statue…sometimes "professional" and "not an utter muddle" is enough in this category.

A Morning Stroll. It's far from perfect, but chickens are so funny to me, and the animated chicken who ties this triptych together is SO fluffy and has SUCH teeny legs that I immediately loved the short. In the first segment, it's basically animated as a couple of swoops, a beak line, and little stick legs, but it grooms itself so evocatively regardless…it's probably just me, the chicken thing, but it's cute. AMS also uses clever fonts and does a couple of new things with zombie humor (although it gets a little too in love with that subject in the final third), and it's the most fun and least self-serious of the lot. Definitely my favorite.

Wild Life. Gorgeous to look at, and almost there: good character beats (a dog busts out a wicked side-eye, for instance), switches up styles. But there's too much going on, too many interstitial cards and explainy letters, and not enough development of the central character except via the dismissive opinions of others. It's like it doesn't trust itself.

Should win: A Morning Stroll. La Luna is a bit dull, and Wild Life isn't quite cooked.

Will win: La Luna.

Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.comFor more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here.

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