A few short comments about a few Oscar-nominated short films.
World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt, 2015). Up for Best Animated Short. Hertzfeldt stuffs a lot into his seventeen minutes. It’s a philosophical examination of cloning, a clever futuristic sci-fi tale, a delightful presentation of a four-year-old, and an odd combination of dystopia and hope. 8/10.
Last Day of Freedom (Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, 2015). Nominated for Best Short Documentary. Uses rotoscoping blended with other drawings (more than 30,000 total), and occasionally, the distancing rotoscoping inserts into our viewing experience can be “more real than real”. Last Day of Freedom is one of those occasions. Several things contribute to its excellence. The drawing as a whole is remarkable, and serves the story well. The story, of a man with PTSD, is a strong one. And the decision to tell the story through interviews with that man’s brother adds a heartbreaking element. You can come away from the movie feeling angry about the ways our society mistreats its downtrodden, but you also come away with an affecting insight into the brother. It’s both a social commentary and a personal voyage. 9/10.
Chau, beyond the lines (Courtney Marsh, 2015). Also up for Best Documentary Short. This is the most straightforward of the three films I watched. Chau is a Vietnamese victim of Agent Orange. Marsh follows his story over the course of eight years (this isn’t always clear), as he attempts to live with his severe disabilities. Marsh lets the context of the U.S. use of Agent Orange lie in the background ... it’s evident in all of the kids in the care center where we meet Chau. But ultimately, what we get is an uplifting story about a boy with a dream, who begins fulfilling that dream as he becomes a man. Chau wants to be an artist, and after many struggles, he teaches himself to paint with his mouth. The resulting works are quite remarkable ... my expertise is limited, but his use of color is beautiful. 7/10.