This year's Oscar-nominated animated shorts boast no true marvel, though that's hardly damning. Of the five, it's the Disney-imprinted Feast that hews the closest to familiar aesthetics, utilizing a beautiful CG style -- think Bolt, but a bit flatter and more expressive -- for a sweet vignette about a pet dog with a gigantic appetite. Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed's seven-minute gem is an alternately amusing and touching ode to one of the Mouse House's favorite clichés, “The Circle of Life.” That subject is also addressed, more cursorily but with appealing whimsy, by Dutch filmmaker Joris Oprins's A Single Life, in which a vinyl record allows a girl to magically fast-forward and rewind her life. Brief and sly, Life touches upon unpleasant realities with a deft hand, which is more than can be said about The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi's sluggish eighteen-minute effort, which squanders painterly animation (full of deep, florid brushstrokes) about a pig trying to make a friend at school.
The specter of death hangs over The Bigger Picture, a morose tale of two quarreling brothers grappling with their mother's demise that's the most visually daring of these nominees, thanks to a blend of Claymation environments and two-dimensional hand-drawn characters. A less combative story about siblings is presented by Me and My Moulton, director Torill Kove's stylish autobiographical snapshot of growing up alongside two sisters in Norway with modernist-architect parents. Drawn with bright, colorful lines that faintly recall the classic children's book Madeline, it's a droll depiction of fitting in, and of how -- for kids -- the greatest happiness often comes from pleasing one's parents.