9 February 2019 | loganholley
Simplistic, masterful storytelling
EDIT: I made a couple of factual mistakes that have been fixed, or should be fixed. Also, I fixed some incorrect phrasing. I'm sad this lost to Pixar, but whatever, it's still good on its own merits.
I just saw the 2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts last night -- both Live Action and Animated -- as is tradition for me. While the Live Action shorts were rather meh (both of the ones from Canada were beautiful, poignant, thought-provoking, and just as haunting; the one from the US was unnerving while also showcasing relevant political commentary and a surfeit of black humor; the rest of them were not so good), I was very impressed with the animated shorts this year. Usually, when I go to see these things, I'm more excited for the Live Action shorts because that's where most of the meat lies. Typically, the animated shorts are a fun diversion, but rarely do they engage me as much as this year's had. As much as I like Pixar, I swear, if they win again just because they have another cute short without a whole lot of substance, I'm going to pull my hair. If Weekends wins, however, I won't just be surprised, I'll be happy.
Weekends is a beautiful, harrowing look into the mind of a boy whose parents have split up. On the weekends, he visits his father, who drives him to Seattle while blasting Dire Straight's song Money For Nothing. While hanging out with his father is fun, it quickly becomes apparent why the boy's parents are no longer together. His father, an Asian-American, is big into Japanese Culture, spends long nights watching cheesy movies on the television while downing snacks, and wakes up early sometimes to play Video Games. Meanwhile, the kid's mother is a quiet, reserved person who slowly plays the piano every morning, studies accounting, and doesn't have a single television in sight, relying instead on the imagination of the kid to bring him fun and joy. In between his visits to and from Seattle are nightmares that grow increasingly surreal, disturbing, and bizarre.
Weekends uses the most of its simple set-up to deliver one of the most personal experiences I've ever seen from an animated short. Without using a single line of dialog, a single moment of text-on-screen, it tells its story in a way that respects the viewer's intelligence by allowing them to piece things together. It's very simplistic, but there's a certain mastery on display here that's hard to ignore.
It would be remiss of me to not also mention the excellent animation. While far from smooth, the stylistic approach not only fits with the short on a tonal level, but also helps draw the viewer in. It almost feels like a really good child's painting at times, one of the ones that holds up even into adulthood. It's unlike any of the other animated shorts and in a very delightful way.
Overall, this is my pick for this year's animated short. Seeing it in the theater was a magical experience and I can't wait to see what the guy who made this does next. If it's as good or any better than Weekends, then this is certainly someone to keep an eye on.