Film Reviews
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” Image courtesy of the Oscar Shorts

The Oscar nominated shorts programs are always a mixed bag, but never more than this year. The five candidates include two based on actual experiences and three of fanciful animation. The most surprising true story, “The Flying Sailor,” imagines in both two dimensional, drawn animation and computer generated images a seaman’s life flashing before his eyes.

Charlie Mayers, the real person to whom the film is dedicated, was walking on the Halifax docks in wartime 1917 when two ships accidentally collided in the bay. Given the period, one exploded monumentally with its TNT cargo catapulting poor Charlie two kilometers, where he landed naked and alive. National Film Board of Canada creators Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby present a slow-motion ballet with Charlie’s life flashing before him, accompanied by interpretive music.

By contrast, the other fact-based animation, inspired by creator Pamela Ribon’s travails, is director Sara Gunnarsdóttir’s “My Year of Dicks.” It relates Houston-based Ribon’s attempts to lose her virginity from August through November 1991. Graphic descriptions and crude language dominate. Much more upbeat and endearing, Charlie Mackesy’s “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” follows four gorgeously hand drawn characters, as all learn wisdom and compassion for each other. Among its lovely lessons, the horse teaches that asking for help isn’t giving up, it’s refusing to give up, and the boy knows that when he matures he wants, above all, to be kind. Uplifting, it inspires and delights.

Clever and amusing, “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It” watches failed telemarketer Neil rebel when he encounters a provocative ostrich. A screen within a screen highlights Australian Lachlan Pendragon’s hands creating the stop-motion animation that a bewildered Neil ingeniously, but only temporarily escapes. Fantastically inventive, it took Pendragon, who voices Neil, ten months of production during the pandemic.

Finally, in “The Ice Merchants” João Gonzalez’s two-dimensional animation soars and swoops with father and son ice sellers who parachute off their sheer rock home into a village daily to sell. Musically splendid, the wordless story honors isolation as it also nods to a missing relative. In fact, music and sound play a key role in all animation, an outstanding element in all these works. The five Oscar nominated animated films screen at several venues, among them the Hi-Pointe and Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac. You may want to check for other listings.

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