This year’s five nominations for the animated shorts category of the Oscars run the gamut from black comedy to mystery to light-hearted romp. While some are charming and thought provoking, others fall flat or even offend.
FRENCH ROAST (France, 8 minutes)
A French businessman orders a coffee, only to find that he has lost his wallet. As he sits and adds to his tab, stalling, a police investigation involving a bank robber unfolds in the café. This short is one of the most artful, with a whimsical animation style and an enigmatic turn at the end, but the story and characters are superficial, and do not stay with the viewer after the closing credits.
THE LADY AND THE REAPER (Spain, 8 minutes)
This film is both deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. The Grim Reaper is about to bring a lonely widow to her beloved when a macho doctor and his team of curvaceous nurses jolt her back to life. A hilarious punching match between the cloaked figure of death and the representatives of modern medicine ensues. This short is endlessly imaginative, packed with funny details and contains artistic echoes of Spanish surrealism.
A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH (United Kingdom, 30 minutes)
Wallace and Gromit are back, and have entered the bread business — just as someone starts killing off all the town’s bakers. The absent-minded inventor and his dog are as delightful as ever, and this short offers both mystery and romance, but the story and animation style do not have the maturity of some of the other nominees.
GRANNY O’GRIMM’S SLEEPING BEAUTY (Ireland, 6 minutes)
A bitter grandmother guarantees nightmares for her granddaughter with her before bed retelling of “Sleeping Beauty.” In a hilarious reversal of the traditional tale, Granny O’Grimm identifies with the ugly fairy, turning the other fairies and the king’s court into ageist villains. This nominee may be the funniest of the year, and also serves as a commentary on the role of the old in society.
LOGORAMA (France, 16 minutes)
This film takes place in a world composed of corporate logos: each building bears a brand emblem, and Michelin men, Haribo boys and AOL instant messenger symbols walk the streets. The plot moves from a psychopathic shooter (Ronald McDonald) to an earthquake to an ocean of sludge. The message is clear, and nothing new: materialism is destroying the world. The delivery is relentless, and the 16 minutes could not feel longer.