2024 Oscar® Nominated Animated Shorts

Animated shorts may make us think of cartoons, but often they are much more. This year’s Oscar® nominated shorts come from around the world and all provide food for thought and contemplation. The nominated short films play in select theaters each year. Locations and tickets can be found at 2024 Oscar® Nominated Short Films – ShortsTV. Here are my thoughts on this year’s nominees for Best Animated Short Film.

Letter to a Pig, directed by Tal Kantor, 16 minutes. A Holocaust survivor is addressing a school class. He tells of the pig who saved his life and reads a letter he wrote in thanks. Most of the class is obviously bored, but one girl imagines a somewhat surreal world and contemplates human nature and the trauma that people carry.

There is insight to be learned from the man’s story and how something he considered utterly filthy could take on such humanity. I found his recollection more engaging than the bizarre dream world in the girl’s mind.

Ninety-Five Senses, directed by Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess, 14 minutes. An older man (voiced by Tim Blake Nelson) discusses the five senses with which we take in the world around us. With each sense, he shares memories that are based on those senses. We soon discover that he will have only a little more time to experience them.

While it starts off as just an entertaining celebration of our senses, it soon becomes something deeper. It becomes a contemplation of mortality and possibly of immortality that has its own set of senses.

Our Uniform, directed by Yegane Moghaddam, 7 minutes. An Iranian school girl thinks about the clothing she must wear to school. The animation takes place on backgrounds of various kinds of materials. But this isn’t really about clothing, it is about choice and identity.

She tells us that in Iran, she goes to school and the only option for what she can be in the world is female. The clothing itself is not oppressive, but the mindset that mandates such clothing—and such limited opportunities—certainly is.

Pachyderme, directed by Stéphanie Clément, 11 minutes. A recollection of a girl’s summer visits to her grandparents. It is a wonderful setting with garden, roses, fishing with grandpa, and grandma’s pies. But she fears a monster. One summer, it snows and the monster dies.

There is symbolism here that points us to think that this is a story of trauma and repression. The fond memories of childhood we see here cover up for the pain that has been suffered—and seemingly buried by the family.

War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko, directed by Dave Mullins, 11 Minutes. The story, by Sean Ono Lennon, is set in the trenches of World War I. A carrier pigeon brings messages to the front from headquarters. It is also used to send chess moves across No Man’s Land. Two soldiers, who have never met, find connection in this game. But then the time comes for an attack. Meanwhile the pigeon is bringing an important message back from HQ, but is struck by an exploding shell.

Like the story of the Christmas truce in World War I (see the wonderful film Joyeux Noel), this reminds us that those who we consider enemies are just like us. War is a violation of our shared humanity. Can’t we bring it to an end?

The program in theaters is filled out with two “highly commended” shorts. Wild Summon, directed by Karni Arieli and Freed, shows us the life cycle of salmon, but in human form. From egg to death after spawning, the salmon must deal with many preditors and other dangers to survive. I’m Hip, directed by John Musker, is the most cartoonish film in the program. A jazzy cat brings the beat generation up to date.

My top two films are Our Uniform and War is Over! Here are shorts that remind us of our humanity and the humanity of those different to us.

Photos courtesy of ShortsTV.

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