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Friday, December 01, 2023

From treat-hungry puppies to turning back time on the turntables, this year’s Oscar-nominated animated short films are sure to tug on the heartstrings of voters and viewers alike.

“The Dam Keeper”

By Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

This short tells the story of a pig who serves as a village dam-keeper, keeping the town out of “darkness,” as his father told him. Every morning, the pig wakes up early to do his duty before heading to school, where he is bullied and belittled by his classmates. One day, a friendly fox approaches him, sketchbook in hand, and the two become friends, against all odds.

This might sound like a typical animated story geared toward children, but the simplicity and utter care with which Kondo and Tsutsumi treat this tale is beautiful. The animation is in soft, wisp-like strokes: There is no dialogue (save for a book-ending narration by Lars Mikkelsen), but there is a tinkling, emotive soundtrack that provides the unspoken words. It is a story showing the importance of kindness, which resonates at any age.

“Me and My Moulton”

By Torill Kove

This everyday tale of a young girl’s life with her 1960s abstract family in Norway is more of a chapter in a story than a full narrative. The middle of three sisters narrates her life while colorful illustrations visualize her thoughts. Each subject change comes as quickly and randomly as if in a young girl’s mind, and the seemingly simple request of a bicycle for her and her sisters makes the girl constantly question why her family isn’t “normal.”

This short film flickers from thought to thought, but the overlying message, being grateful for what you have, comes full circle in the end.

“The Bigger Picture”

By Daisy Jacobs and Chris Hees

The U.K.-based short revolves around two brothers and their varying care for their aging mother. One brother tends to the house while the other brother is only present sporadically. The former’s frustration is shown through an interesting mix of abstract art (in the way the characters are illustrated) and real-life objects (like plastic wrap used as water pooling in a shower, or being poured from a tea kettle).

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This particular short is less message-driven than the others, but the resonating conclusion leaves a satisfactory end for the brief tale.


By Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Most people may recognize this short from its spot preceding “Big Hero 6,” but even without the Disney moniker, this adorable story of a puppy and the man who takes him in, feeding him various foods and treats as he grows older, is just as heartwarming.

The tale is told through each treat the dog gets, with the man growing older and eventually meeting a woman. The food relates to feelings, and eventually, it’s up to the dog to make his owner happy again. We all know Disney has a knack for plucking all of the right heartstrings with its storytelling, and this film is no exception — this is definitely my pick for the winner.

“A Single Life”

By Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins and Job Roggeveen

The shortest (and perhaps most creative) of the nominees, this film shows a young woman who discovers she can go through various times in her life through a mysterious vinyl record she received on her doorstep. With no dialogue, the humor and storytelling comes directly from the woman’s expressions — and eventual attempts to stop time before it’s too late.

While I don’t believe this will take home the Oscar, it earns bonus points for definitely being the most interesting. 

Have you seen any of the Oscar-nominated shorts? If so, what are your favorites? Tweet your picks @AlyssaVHolcomb and tune into the Oscars to see who wins!

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