The Great Oscar Baiter Day 23: "Fifty Percent Grey"
Content Warning: Today's short film features imagery of self-harm/suicide.
Some shorts are easy to talk about. Maybe they have a compelling story or beautiful animation. Perhaps they represented an important milestone in film history or introduced an iconic character. Or maybe they’re just incredibly offensive, which is always good for at least a paragraph. But some shorts just give you nothing to work with. Fifty Percent Grey is one of those shorts.
Released in 2001 and directed by Ruairi Robinson, Fifty Percent Grey is definitely an odd short. It's ostensibly a dark comedy, although it's not particularly funny, and the short really only has one joke. There are a lot of short films like this, where most of the runtime is dedicated to setting up a single punchline. That's perfectly fine, but in order for it to work, the punchline has to be worth it. If it's a dud, the whole thing feels like a waste of time.
Unfortunately, Fifty Percent Grey is a bit of a dud. It doesn't help, of course, that the punchline is fairly obvious from the start. Making matters worse is the fact that the animation is incredibly ugly. I suppose you could argue it's an artistic decision, but it certainly doesn't help the short's case. At least if it was nice to look at that'd be something.
Still, the whole thing is only three minutes long, and I suppose that this sort of thing appeals to someone. It appealed to the Academy enough for them to nominate it, but not to give it the win. Fifty Percent Grey instead lost to Pixar's For the Birds. That's not one of Pixar's best shorts, but at least it's something.
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