Deadlines intervened, but I did want to remark on these lovely shorts. As dark and dour and dank and depressing as the live action shorts were this year, that’s how tender and warm and ephemeral the animated shorts were.
Collectively, the five (well, four of the five: Animal Behavior is just kind of silly) attest to the power and endurance of food and family. They were mostly nostalgic in tone, drawing on shared memories of when we were all safe and warm and innocent, ruefully taking us to the same point of memory as does Emily in Our Town: “But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy.” One (One Small Step) is more forward-looking, showing how we can grow onward and upward from that foundation to better ourselves and surpass our limitations; but even that optimism is rooted in irrevocable loss.
Tweet Tweet, while not perfect (not clear why we see the action through a bird), and not even technically a nominee, as it was “just” an honorable mention, struck a similar note of life lived in the midst of loss. The entire action takes place, perhaps not so subtly but certainly very aptly, on a tightrope as the character moves, literally, from babyhood to the inevitable — which, as her life spans much of the past century, rather devastatingly is made of barbed wire for a portion. Here is the trailer, which I don’t think half does the short justice; it is apparently available (for a small fee) for streaming in full online.
I also loved the melancholic, yet pragmatic, yet deep, yet whimsical, and very real Weekends, which I’m sure every child of divorce — and every parental survivor — can find much truth in. The ambiguity of the piece particularly resonated for me, as did the mother-child bond — a bond that persists in spite of all and through the wrenchings and ratchetings of other cares, hopes, pressures, and fears. It’s also a beautifully and lovingly made film, hand-drawn and pitch perfect. Read and see and hear more about it from the filmmakers here; the trailer is below.
The other film that really resonated for me was Late Afternoon. This is an exploration, manifestation, of an elderly woman with dementia — that sounds so sad; but it isn’t, it’s joyful and poignant and accepting and tender. It roils and eddies and billows as we float with the old woman, Emily, into a teacup and down a droplet into her past and her memories. And they are good memories, and she had a loving and happy life. And still does.
This link has more about Late Afternoon, as well as a link for downloading.
These then were the highlights of the animated shorts, which is not to slight the winning Bao, which is also quite lovely. How can one not be soothed and assuaged by its message of familial reconciliation over dumplings?