"The Lost Thing" is a 2010 Australian animated short film, written by Shaun Tan, directed by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, and starring Tim Minchin. It was nominated and won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It runs about 15 minutes, and is made with CGI animation.
The movie tells the story of a teenage boy in an unnamed city, who goes to the beach to collect bottle caps. While there, he finds a "Lost Thing", which seems to be a 15 foot tall teapot/crab combination with the personality of a dog. He plays with it on the beach, and then goes home, with the "Lost Thing" following him. He consults several people about what to do, but they are either indifferent or apathetic to his new friend. There is a "Federal Bureau of Odds and Ends", but he receives warning that it is a place for forgetting, and is instead given mysterious directions of where to go with the Lost Thing. The film concludes with a somewhat bittersweet ending.
One of the first things I have noticed while watching the short animated films nominated for Academy Awards is how diverse their artistic style is. Adam and Dog had a realistic, natural and beautiful art style, while French Roast was comedically grotesque. I would best describe "The Lost Thing" as being fantastical, and perhaps a bit grotesque, although not in a frightening way. The film also manages to do a lot of world building, although not in an explicit way. I got the impression that the characters were living in a world that was a kind of casual dystopia, a world that was grim and impoverished, but not out of maliciousness, just as a matter of course.
The message of the film, which comes from the plot and the world portrayed, is also understated. Other film makers might hit us over the head with the message: "we live in a world where conformity forces us to ignore the wonderful things around us" (if that is indeed the message), but this film allows us to work those things out for ourselves. One of my favorite images from the movie was incidental: a statue that the main character passes is two men shaking hands, with the head of one replaced by a video camera, and the other's head replaced with a television set. A very succinct metaphor for a world where true experience of reality is replaced by a series of recursive images.
Overall, I would say the reason why this film is so good, and why it deserved to win the award, is while the other films have taken one aspect of film making and done it well, this took several aspects, and did them all well. This film not only creates a world, it tells a story, and does it all with superior visual production.