Silence is golden in this year’s collection of Oscar-nominated animated short films, packaged together for limited theatrical release so that we can all see them before Oscar night.
Five different films, none with a word of dialogue, showcase a wide range of animated styles in demonstrating the endless possibilities of the medium.
You may have seen Disney’s “Paperman,” a black and white (with touches of red) romance between an office drone and a girl he almost meets on the train. It was attached to “Wreck-It Ralph,” and it plays like the Oscar favorite – polished, sweet, funny and darned near perfect. Our hero empties his office of documents, flinging paper airplanes out the window in an effort to attract the attention of a woman he’s never spoken to in an adjoining hi-rise office building.
The movie’s signature, unforgettable image? A tornado of paper airplanes swirling, almost in conspiracy, to give him a hand in chasing down the fair lady.
But if “Paperman” plays like a favorite, the wondrous anime-styled “Adam and Dog” will have any fan of dogs and animation pulling for it. Disney veteran Minkyu Lee’s film is a Garden of Eden account of how Dog discovers Man, Man discovers Dog, and Man ditches Dog when Woman shows up. It’s a lovely parable, touching in the ways it builds the Origin Myth of how people and dogs got together.
Timothy Reckart’s almost-as-touching “Head Over Heel” is another parable, this one a stop-motion clay animated story of a long-married couple who live upside down from each other in a house that aimlessly floats – him on the floor, her living on the ceiling, lovers no longer connecting – until the day he finds her old ballet slippers. Events are set in motion to bring them together again. A little slow, but beautifully detailed and heartfelt.
You saw “The Longest Daycare” attached to and utterly outclassing the latest “Ice Age” cartoon. It’s a Maggie Simpson short, a politically barbed “Simpsons” story of Maggie’s first day at the Ayn Rand School for Tots. She is condemned to the “Nothing Special” wing of the school, but finds inventive purpose in defending a caterpillar ready to turn into a butterfly from her creepy kid nemesis. The opera “I Pagliacci” and the D-Day movie “The Longest Day” are parodied.
And the stop-motion animated “Fresh Guacamole,” by PES, inventively treats grenades as avocados, baseballs as stuffed with dice and lightbulbs as low-hanging fruit that can be mashed up and served with poker chips as the green goodness of guacamole. Cute.