Great films come in small packages The Tivoli Theater shows animated Oscar nominees

Lindsay Adams

An Englishman moves out to experience the “Wild Life” without any idea of what he is up against.
An Englishman moves out to experience the “Wild Life” without any idea of what he is up against.

With the Oscars season quickly approaching and promotional videos with Billy Crystal on every station, the Tivoli in Westport is presenting all the nominees for the Oscars short film categories.

An extremely unrepresented and under-acknowledged medium, the short films are nominated in three separate genres: Animated, Live-Action and Documentary.

Many famous directors started out making shorts, which allowed them to break into feature filmmaking, such as “Doodlebug” by Christopher Nolan, “Vincent” by Tim Burton, “Luxo Jr.” by John Lasseter and “An Exercise in Discipline” by Jane Campion. Many of these shorts are stylish and clever and show the early examples and evolution of their style.

The five films nominated for the Oscar race are “Dimanche/Sunday,” “A Morning Stroll,” “La Luna,” “Wild Life” and “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”

The first film shown, “Dimanche/ Sunday” was not bad, but somewhat incomprehensible. It was charmingly drawn with simplistic and unusual lines, but it lacked a plotline.

“A morning shell” tells a story about a chicken, a zombie, and changing time periods.
“A morning shell” tells a story about a chicken, a zombie, and changing time periods.

“A Morning Stroll” tells the story of a man who passes a chicken on a street corner. The story is repeated on the same street corner in 1959, 2009 and 2059. While the story seems simplistic, the changing times as expressed through the method of animation are imaginative. It is the slickest and most technically impressive.

“La Luna,” a film from Pixar, banked on the magical and nostalgic premise to save it from a slightly weak storyline, and was not extraordinary considering what Pixar has produced in the past.

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is a 15-minute film that tells a full and nuanced story. Each moment is filled with importance and narrative. The film is both whimsical and magical. It was one of the stand-outs and would receive my vote for best animated short film. It explores the mystery and beauty of reading and manages to encapsulate the wonder the reader feels the first time they are drawn into a story.

“Wild Life” features beautiful painted animation and interesting connections between the story of a young, rich British man who moves out to the wilderness and the story of a comet. While it never quite clicks, many of its individual elements are strong. There are funny moments when there are pseudo interviews with the townspeople, and the ending achieves a melancholy strain.

Morris Lessmore is pulled in a new magical world through reading, in “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”
Morris Lessmore is pulled in a new magical world through reading, in “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”

The other shorts included in the screening were “Skylight,” “Hybrid Union,” “Nullarbor” and “Amazonia.” Ironically, many of the stand-out films were the ones that did not make it into the Oscar running.

“Skylight” matched an offbeat and cutting sense of humor with animated penguins and a dramatic voice-over. It is a must-see that kept me in stitches.

“Hybrid Union” was a throw-away film. The story encompasses several robots racing each other, though the purpose is unclear. The animation of the robots was interesting, but the film was forgettable.

“Nullarbor” was a grimy and more adult film about two men who get into a competition of one-upmanship over a pack of cigarettes while driving down the Nullarbor, which is Australia’s longest, straightest and most desolate highway.

The character animation was intricate and the setting was wonderfully rendered, with a darkly comedic twist.

“Amazonia” was a slightly disturbing film about the food chain in the Amazon. It was executed in bright and childlike animation, which made its dark undertone more unnerving.

These Oscar-nominated short films are currently running at the Tivoli in Westport and are free to any UMKC students or staff with a UMKC photo ID.

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