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 2012 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 
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Wild Life - Directed by Amanda Forby, Wendy Tilby
Wild Life - Directed by Amanda Forby, Wendy Tilby

Wild Life is a just over 12-minute short film set in 1909 that tells the story of an Englishman who relocates himself to Alberta determined to become a rancher, though the film also features titled dialogue that compares the Englishman's existence to that of a comet.

Wild Life is a quietly poignant film possessing a low-key melancholy that likely fits the experiences of this dignified man as his life on the frontier bares no resemblance to that described in the letters he writes home. The film is the only one of this year's animated short nominees to feature spoken dialogue, though it's the film's fluid brush-stroked animation that leaves the strongest impression.

The film is directed by veteran short filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, and in addition to its Oscar nomination the film has picked up nominations for a Genie Award and an Annie Award.

Odds of Winning: 4-1

Dimanche/Sunday - Directed by Patrick Doyon
Dimanche/Sunday - Directed by Patrick Doyon

Patrick Doyon's Dimanche/Sunday is a 9-minute journey through the imaginative mind of a child whose Sundays aren't nearly as eventful as what goes through his mind. Forced to attend church and then visit with his grandmother. While these visits are rather bland and predictable, the lone child creates his own absurd and magical fantasies throughout the day.

The second of two entries for Canada's National Film Board (Wild Life is also an NFB film), Dimanche is easily the weakest and least satisfying of the 2012 Oscar nominees and pales in comparison to multiple animated shorts reviewed by The Independent Critic this year. While its watercolor animation with its muted tones is well done, there's really not much with the film that draws you in or even encourages you to keep watching even at a slight 9-minute running time. Considered a French language film, the film actually more features mumbles than actual communication.

Films that go this absurdly should be far more enchanting, and the life of a lone child on a Sunday morning is filled with both comical and dramatic possibilities that never manage to enter the picture here. Dimanche isn't a bad film, but it's difficult to fathom that anyone considered this one of the top five animated shorts of 2011. The film did win Best Short Film at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival and has also picked up an Annie Award nomination this year.

Odds of Winning: 25-1

A Morning Stroll - Written and Directed by Grant Orchard
A Morning Stroll - Written and Directed by Grant Orchard

While I wouldn't dare call Grant Orchard's Oscar nominated short film A Morning Stroll my favorite of the films nominated in the category of animated short this year, it is unquestionably the film that elicited the strongest response - mostly laughter. The 9-minute film takes place in the years 1959, 2009 and 2059 and wraps itself around a variation of the whole "chicken crossing the road" storyline, but in this case we get a street smart chicken and a not so street smart New Yorker.

Winner of Best Animated Short at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and also nominated for a BAFTA Award, A Morning Stroll is said to be inspired by a short story by Linda Elegant simply titled "The Chicken." Orchard's equally short film expands upon Elegant's concept by having the chicken journey from the simple times of 1959, complete with a very retro-styled animation that is beautiful to behold, to a post-apocalyptic 2059 that is more vibrant and gothic in its presentation.

As I was watching the early moments of A Morning Stroll, I found myself thinking what a lovely companion piece it would be to this year's silent film The Artist, but by the time the film has wound down it becomes clear that Grant Orchard has taken this film on a unique journey all its own.

Odds of Winning: 7-1

La Luna - Written and Directed by Enrico Casarosa
La Luna - Written and Directed by Enrico Casarosa

It should come as no surprise that the folks at Pixar, who failed to land an Oscar nomination for Cars 2 this year, have managed at least to salvage their stellar reputation by snagging a short film nomination with La Luna, an almost 7-minute meditative short that features what is arguably the best animation among this year's nominees in the animated short category.

La Luna is a coming-of-age fable about a young boy growing up in most unusual circumstances. The film takes place on a very special night when the young boy will join his father and grandfather in the family's very unique line of business. In a year where Pixar did the unthinkable and came off as a more commercial-minded studio rather than a critical darling, La Luna is a reminder of just how wonderful a Pixar film can be when all the magic is there.

Pixar has always had a knack for celebrating the wonders of childhood with respect and innocence, a knack that seemed lost in Cars 2 but one that is in full force here. Given the studio's resources, it's no surprise that the film is an animated marvel. Can it take home the Oscar this year? If the Academy wants to recognize Pixar despite their Cars 2 debacle, then this may give them the opportunity and it may slide into the winner's spot that should more rightfully go to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Odds of Winning: 3-1

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore - Directed by William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore - Directed by William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg

Easily the best of the 2012 Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short Film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a beautifully constructed, poignantly written tale that pays equal tribute to Buster Keaton, Wizard of Oz, silent films and glimpses of real life into what should unquestionably take home the golden statuette this year.

Co-directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg and penned by the award-winning author/illustrator Joyce, this is one film that is absolutely mesmerizing from beginning to end. The only tragedy would be watching it at a film festival where you couldn't sit there and watch it again and again and again.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is based upon an e-book and is the most emotionally resonant and entertaining film of this bunch. Every aspect of the film's production is incredibly well done including John Hunter's marvelous original music, Eva Contis's flawless editing and animation that manages to simultaneously feel retro in its style and contemporary in its magnificent use of technology and CGI.

Odds of Winning: Even

All Reviews by Richard Propes
Copyright 2012, The Independent Critic

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