In what may be a first, and in keeping with the growing adult nature of animation exemplified by the Oscar-nominated “Anomalisa,” the five Academy Award nominees for best animated short this year include one which, if MPAA rated, would probably get an R for graphic violence and nudity.
Well, that’s the way it was on the battlefield in the Bronze Age, as Homer’s “Iliad” will testify. In colored pencil drawings as exquisite as those in a Renaissance artist’s sketchbook, legendary animator Richard Williams’s “Prologue” renders scenes of sometimes naked warriors who do terrible things to each other with edged weapons and arrows. A child witnesses the carnage and runs to the comfort of an older woman, who looks up with eyes that have seen it all before.
“Prologue” will screen last, so you can take the kids out beforehand. That way they won’t miss Don Hertzfeldt’s delightfully mindboggling and ultimately despairing “World of Tomorrow” (includes cloning and time travel), or Chilean director Gabriel Osorio’s graphically ingenious if sentimental “Bear Story,” about an ursine sad-sack who turns his loss into art via an intricate mechanical theater. There’s also a melancholy and oddly homoerotic tale of the bond between two cosmonauts — Russian director Konstantin Bronzit’s whimsical, bittersweet, and disappointing “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos” — and Indian filmmaker Sanjay Patel’s “Sanjay’s Super Team,” an unconvincing, saccharine fantasy of a kid addicted to cartoons (we watch an animated film with a character watching an animated film) who takes up his father’s pious faith when the boy transforms the Hindu deities into superheroes.
Included in the program are five “Highly Commended” also-rans, all of which seem condescendingly intended for a kiddie audience, with the exception of “The Loneliest Stoplight” — subpar, but worthwhile Bill Plympton.
★ ★ ½
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS 2016: Animated
Directed by Sanjay Patel, Don Hertzfeldt, Gabriel Osorio, Konstantin Bronzit, and Richard Williams. At Kendall Square. 86 minutes. Unrated (as PG, except for “Prologue,” which plays as R).