I realized after watching: Cancer, death of a parent, dementia, abortion, dogfighting, deformity and death of a bird, that the Oscar-nominated (and honorable mentioned) shorts were almost relentlessly melancholy. Then a couple extra French shorts came on and they were cute, funny and charming—I mean, to the point where they didn’t really fit with the rest.
The first one was “Hair Love”. Watching this I knew it would win, not because it was the best, but because it was diverse. It was also one of the less melancholy entries, as a (black) father struggles to do his daughter’s hair. Black people and hair, man. It’s cute. The punchline involves cancer in a fairly predictable way, but it was not ineffective.
The second was from the Czech Republic, “Dcera”, which means daughter. The animation here was a very rough stop-motion (or stop-motion-like) thing. I found it effective in telling the story of a woman watching her father die and recalling an incident in her youth when he failed to comfort her (though not callously), and a later incident where he’s putting her on a train. The Boy and I probably liked this the least, but I think it was because we didn’t really understand what was going on in parts of it. That is, I think part of the issue was cultural.
The third one was primitively animated—and, again, this isn’t an insult. It was actually interesting all the different modes of animation, and how they were used to different effect. In this case, the characters are simply drawn, and it’s a simple story of a man’s “Sister”. It’s a real gut-puncher and one of the best of the lot. Let me add that the topic here was abortion, and I don’t know when or why the word went out that China’s One Child policy law was bad, but I’ve been seeing a lot of indications TPTB are backing off their ZPG dogma (publicly). This doesn’t reflect on the creator of this short, whom I believe to be very sincere. But the gatekeepers control what gets out…and this got out.
Another gut punch came in the form of the first French entry, “Memorable”. This depicts a man’s increasing dementia by diverging from a realistic depiction to an increasingly abstract one, with pieces missing. The Boy thought this one was the best. But…melancholy.
The last of the nominated shorts was “Kitbull” about an adorable little kitty who befriends a pitbull kept chained up in the yard where the kitty hides out. Adorable, no? Well, not when you realize the pitbull is being trained as a fighting dog and his owner plans to beat him for losing. Good lord, people.
I know you’re depressed about Trump being President and probably winning a second term, but jeez.
The first of the “honorable mention” shorts was “Henrietta Bulkowski” about a young woman with a hunchback who wants to fly. It’s sweet, but heavy-handed. I like that kind of…parable? allegory?…fairy tale, I guess, so I probably liked it more than The Boy. I think what weakens it is that Henrietta’s character is too self-possessed, when we finally hear her talk. It turns her into an emblem and makes her less sympathetic thereby.
This was followed by the Irish “The Bird and the Whale”, another very melancholic fairy tale that isn’t allegorical, I don’t think. At least, if I start thinking about it in literal terms, it becomes horrifying. The medium of oil (?) on glass was interesting and lovely, for sure.
“Hors Piste” is French for off-road. This was our favorite. It’s done in an ’80s style TV-action show with a couple of Don Martin-type characters who helicopter into the Alps to save a skiier. But they crash their helicopter and end up having to ski back down. It’s just five minutes of silly fun, like a Road Runner cartoon, and while neither the Boy and I favor slapstick, it won us over. Now, part of this may have been the previous 70 minutes of melancholy, but still I think it’s much harder to make people laugh for five minutes than to cry or tug on heartstrings.
The last one, also from France, was a two minute pond-life-as-orchestra gag. It was done in a “realist” style and was charming and not melancholy.
That sums it up. We were glad to have seen it, overall, and found it interesting and entertaining, if depressive.