LAMB Devours The Oscars - Best Animated Short Film

(Originally written for LAMB on the 9th February 2010 and reproduced from its original publication here)

The Oscar for Best Animated Short Film can be an odd one. You would perhaps be forgiven for thinking that award winners would reflect changing times, trends and technologies in the animation genre; a natural evolutionary step-change from the hand-drawn charms of Flowers And Trees, the first winner in 1923, to a Pixar computer generated marvel in 2010. However, even though it is often marginalised, announced with little fanfare alongside the technical awards, The Academy likes to keep its audience guessing in this category just as much as in any other.

Last year the award went to La Maison En Petit Cubes, a rather rough-round-the-edges Japanese hand-drawn short which beat the silken CGI lines of British entry This Way Up and the charming mad-cap stupidity of Oktapodi, also a CGI entry. Two years before that, The Danish Poet, another very sparse hand-drawn animation, dethroned the mighty Pixar's Lifted, capping a double slap in the face for the Disney-owned studio, as Happy Feet triumphed in the longer category over Cars.

Already, prior to the ceremony, this year has been no different. A couple of months back a long list of ten films were announced for the consideration of Academy voters. Now at shortlist stage, we've already lost five and who fell at the first hurdle? That's right, Pixar. Gone too is Australian animation The Cat Piano, a film which featured the voice over talents of Nick Cave, as well as Cordell Barker's entry, Runaway, a film which looked to have all the trappings of 'typical' academy success.

And so we're now down to the following five. Covering different styles, themes, countries and messages it's difficult to predict what The Academy will do. The smart money would be on three-time award winner Nick Park, an apparent Academy favourite whose Wallace And Gromit animations last won in 1995. But then again... the smart money every other year, would have got you nowhere.

French Roast - Fabrice Joubert

CGI but in a unique, almost grubby, incarnation, we follow one man's day in a coffee shop as he continues to order drinks, ashamed that he has forgotten his wallet and is unable to pay. Charming, morally aware, visually interesting and with a great side character in the OCD-affected beggar, this is my favourite of the bunch.

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty - Nicky Phelan and Darragh O'Connell

Granny O'Grimm reads fairy tales to her granddaughter to send her to sleep. Shame though that in Granny's old-age and cynical hands, all is not as it seems. A great perversion of the Sleeping Beauty tale this has had brilliant campaigning and promotion from Brown Bag films and features a fantastic character to front the campaign.

The Lady and The Reaper (La Dama y la muerte) - Javier Recio Garcia

A beautiful, surreal, darkly-comic tale of the battle for an old lady's soul between death and the doctor trying to save her. Thankfully this has now finally become available to watch online and it doesn't disappoint. Not dissimilar to last year's This Way Up, this is highly entertaining.

Logorama - Nicolas Schmerkin

With the full film still not publicly available this looks like an outstandingly clever idea but one which will need a strong narrative to tie all its smarts together.

A Matter of Loaf and Death - Nick Park

Clocking in at only just shy of half an hour, the latest entry in the Wallace and Gromit series is way ahead of the other entries on length but not necessarily on story. Borrowing heavily from previous adventures, this nonetheless displays the charm, wit and slapstick silliness which the series is famed for.

(many of the films have longer write-ups, along with links to their official websites and picture previews over at the Film Intel website)

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