Oscar-nominated animated shorts have repetitive stories, wild visuals

"Get a Horse!" meshes old Mickey and Minnie with new technology. Credit: Disney
“Get a Horse!” meshes old Mickey and Minnie with new technology.
Credit: Disney

The Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation

As with their live action counterparts (this year’s batch is reviewed here), the animated shorts the Oscars fete tend to be distressingly homogenous. Three of the five are slight tales of unlikely friendships, as though that was the only tale that melts hearts. But within that relatively narrow structure lies endless variation. Even when the content is similar, the style is rainbow diverse.

The cutest relationship is the one in the French “Mr. Hublot,” whose title seems to be an homage to Jacques Tati’s beloved M. Hulot. In fact, it has nothing to do with him: The hero is a part-robot humanoid living in a clangy, rusty mechanical metropolis, where even the flowers are made of metal. His lonely life is invaded by a homeless robot puppy, whom he takes in — and bonds with even as he grows more and more enormous. That this distinguished world and look is wasted on a tale that’s simply sweet is galling, but not by much.

Meanwhile, the English “Room on the Broom” crowds a mess of British stars — Rob Brydon, Sally Hawkins, David Walliams — plus ex-pat Gillian Anderson onto the soundtrack of a story about a witch who keeps befriending animals. Simon Pegg narrates in rhymes, and all of the actors help charm their way through a story you’ll never remember seeing, even given the climactic appearance of a dragon.

There’s no cuteness in “Feral,” a Russian number about a boy raised in the woods captured and domesticated by tamed man, with the expected less than successful results. The style is as rough as its animalistic hero, and the palette is monochromatic, and its few colors are so muted to barely be noticeable. It’s got nothing on Francois Truffaut’s “The Wild Child,” with the exception of gorgeous expressionism that escalates into a purely symbolic and striking closer.

By contrast, all the major colors, and many more besides, are all over “Possessions,” from Japan, about a man who winds up in a haunted shack, where he encounters living umbrellas, drawings and other inanimate objects. It’s faintly reminiscent of the late Satoshi Kon (“Paprika”), and while not nearly as trippy, it gets close.

Most of the world has already seen “Get a Horse!” tacked onto the front of the soon-to-be billion-dollar grosser “Frozen.” But it’s worth seeing it again, even without the original 3-D, as it’s a dizzying mesh of two distant eras of animation, with an old black-and-white Mickey cartoon popping out, “Purple Rose of Cairo”-style, through a modern movie screen. Even before it heads into the world of color and smartphones, it’s a delight, with the kind of playful sight gags that only get made when someone’s deliberately trying to be retro.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.


Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.


Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…


U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…




Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.


Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…


Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.


Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.


Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…


Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…