The Oscar-Nominated Films
Borrowed Time (USA; 7 minutes) — A man reflects on a childhood accident that took the life of his father. There’s really nothing more to the plot than that, but it looks really good (although the characters seemed overly cartoonish for the subject matter) and has an emotional bite to it.
Pearl (USA; 6 minutes) — A girl reflects on her lifelong relationship with her car, and more so with the events connected with it. Her road trips with her musician father. Her road trips with her own band. It’s an interesting choice to show it right after the thematically-similar Borrowed Time, but it more than holds its own. It’s apparently available as a virtual reality experience, but I only saw it as a traditional 2D theatrical presentation.
Piper (USA; 6 minutes) — A baby sea bird is pushed out of the nest by its mother so that it can learn to fend for itself. There are some initial scares with the tide, but before long the chick starts to learn the ropes. This is the film with the highest production values (it originally played before Finding Dory) and the least significance, but it’s good for what it is.
Blind Vaysha (Canada; 8 minutes) — Vaysha was born with a curious vision impairment: her left eye can only see the past, and her right eye can only see the future. She has no ability to see what’s happening right now, and apparently very little ability to handle living with her view of the world. It’s an interesting concept, but the film doesn’t do much with it and feels much longer than it actually is. The crude, highly-stylized animation also didn’t do much for me.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes (UK/Canada; 35 minutes) — Rob and Techno are good friends, despite being very different. Rob has always been a responsible, productive member of society, while Techno has been reckless and irreverent. Upon learning that Techno has died, Rob reflects on their experiences together. This is clearly a very personal story for the filmmaker, but that does not at all translate into a film that is engaging to an audience who already knows the outcome. It’s way too long and poorly paced, and Techno is a highly unsympathetic character that it’s difficult to connect with or care about.
The Highly-Commended Films
Asteria (France; 5 minutes) — A couple of astronauts land on an unknown planet, only to find that they’re not the first to arrive. Some small alien creatures got there first and have already planted their flag, but they’re smaller and appear to be weaker, so the astronauts plan to just take it from them. It’s completely insignificant but reasonably entertaining.
The Head Vanishes (France/Canada) — An elderly woman’s head has become separated from her body, but she’s coping with it. It’s a metaphor that deals with a touching subject, but it feels a little too clumsy and on the nose to truly achieve its intended goal.
Once Upon a Line (USA) — A man is content to live a pretty uneventful life, represented by minimal black pencil outlines on a white background. Then he meets and falls for a woman who’s all in pink, and he can’t see things the same way anymore. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed this more if Anomalisa hadn’t vastly outclassed it in every conceivable way, but I’m really not sure that’s true.