Monday, February 22, 2010

The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

Every year, I try to take in the Oscar Nominated Short Films. I am disappointed that the Documentary Shorts never release themselves into theaters, but I have a lot of fun watching the Animated Shorts, and the Live Action shorts often give you a glimpse at good filmmaker in the future. This past weekend, I checked out the Animated shorts – which consisted of the five nominees and three that were “Highly Commended”. I won’t go in the order they were shown, but rather I’ll cover the Highly Commended, before moving onto the actual nominees. Below are my thoughts on all eight shorts.

Highly Commended
The Kinematograph **
Directed By: Tomek Baginski.

This was undoubtedly my least favorite of all the film shown. It is a computer generated animated short (like they all are, save one), about a man in Poland who is working on the first movie camera. He spends so much time working on his invention, that he doesn’t notice the fact that his wife has TB – although we do because she coughs a few times, and that is never a good sign for a movie character. The film does have an impressive visual look to be sure, but I was just not very drawn into the story. In short film, the characters are often little more than cookie cutter creations – as the short running time pretty much demands – but this film tries to get to care too much about its characters in too short a period of time. It doesn’t work. At 12 minutes, the film drags a little bit here and there as well.

Partly Cloudy ***
Directed By: Peter Sohn.

Most people have probably already seen this short from Pixar, as it played at the beginning of Up earlier this year. This second viewing confirmed what I thought the first time – which this is a highly enjoyable little short that tugs at the heartstrings but it is not in the same league as Pixar’s best shorts. The story is about a cloud that creates babies, and the stork that delivers them for him. While all the other storks get to deliver puppies, and kittens and babies, this cloud creates more monstrous things like crocodiles, which really do a number on the poor stork. The film is enjoyable, and was with everything Pixar makes, brilliantly animated, but it does repeat itself a little bit. Even if I would have placed it in the final five over some of the actual nominees, I do understand why for the first time in a while, Pixar went without a nomination.

Runaway ** ½
Directed By: Cordell Baker.

As the only non-computer animated film, and one from Canada, as I was doubly rooting for Cordell Baker’s film to be something special. But aside from a wonderful score, this was one of the lesser efforts on display. The film is a about a train with three cars – the engine, the car right behind full of rich people, and the car behind them with poor people in it. I certainly understand what Baker is going for here – the rich get richer, exploit the poor, and don’t realize that right around the bend there is massive trouble. They are happy as long as just that minute is perfect. But for such a simple message, Baker takes a while getting there, and he starts to repeat himself. As well, he didn’t need the voices of any of the people to be here – it would have been far more effective had it left it out. Runaway is a mildly enjoyable little short, but like the other films in the “highly commended” section; I understand why it didn’t get picked to be an actual nominee.

The Nominees
French Roast ***
Directed By: Fabrice Joubert.

This film from France (surprise, surprise), is a charming, wordless little film that only lasts about 7 seven minutes, but is still quite enjoyable. In it, a rich man is sitting in a café having a coffee, when a homeless person comes in and begs for change – and the rich man ignores him. Then, it turns out that the rich guy forgot his wallet. Rather than admit his mistake, he orders coffee after coffee, to stretch out the time he’s there – and even toys with the idea of stealing money out of an old ladies’ purse. The computer animation is quite good, and the film has a fun, jaunty score. No, the film doesn’t really mean anything, and the denouement is exactly what I expected about 30 seconds into the short, but it is a fun little film nonetheless.

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty *** ½
Directed By: Nicky Phelan & Darragh O'Connell

The shortest film in competition is also one of the out and out funniest. It has an Irish grandmother telling her grandson the story of Sleeping Beauty, with her own demented take on it. The result is an hilarious little bedtime story that pretty much forgets about Sleeping Beauty, and instead focuses on the “young, pretty” fairies, all of whom ignored the old fairy, with the bad hip (who, of course, looks just like Granny O’Grimm), even though “she spent her life serving the community”. A great blend of computer animation, and hand drawn, this movie is hilarious from start to finish – yes even the song over the end credits is wonderful.

The Lady and the Reaper ** ½
Directed By: Javier Recio Gracia

This was my least favorite of the five nominees – and to be honest, I definitely would have nominated Partly Cloudy over this, and possibly Runaway as well. While this short gets off to a very promising start with its great use of the song “We’ll Meet Again”, as an old lady looks at a picture of her beloved dead husband. It looks promising as the Grim Reaper appears, and starts to lead her away. But right before they are going to pass through to the other side, she is brought back to life by a hunky doctor, thus setting off a madcap battle for the woman between the Reaper and the Doctor, complete with an unnecessarily long sequence where everyone pops in and out of draws. The film has a wonderful visual look, and some great comic moments. But when a short film starts to repeat itself at only 8 minutes, and cannot come up with something more original than a sequence straight out of Bugs Bunny, you know you’re in a little trouble.

Logorama ****
Directed By: Nicolas Schmerkin

For me, Logorama was far and away the highlight of the this short film package. This was a brilliant, 17 minute long comic, crime story where everyone and everything in the movie is a logo, or corporate symbol of some kind. The bad guy in Ronald McDonald, and the cops are all Michelin men. They chase McDonald through an environment of all where every building is a logo. A hostage crisis and shootout breaks out (poor Mr. Peanut). The film is smart, funny, original and daring. Brilliant usage of the logos in both ways we expect, and in ways we don’t (the cracks forming in the earth and looking like the X box logo was sheer brilliance), and the film does have a serious (albeit obvious) point about how corporate culture is destroying us. This is the only short here I would describe as a must see.

Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death *** ½
Directed By: Nick Park.

Finally we come to the final, and (at 30 minutes) by far, longest of the films in contention. Nick Park’s beloved Wallace and Gromit return for their 6th adventure in the last 20 years. As usual, the film is full of great cinematic references to classic Hollywood films – both obvious and subtle. The main thrust of the story this time is Wallace and Gromit are now bakers, and Wallace falls in love with the Bake O Lite girl, a spokeswoman for bread, who Gromit believes could be the serial killer who is killing bakers in their town. The film is delightfully, drolly British and fun throughout. I do not think it reaches the heights of some of the other Wallace and Gromit adventures (and is nowhere near as good as the feature The Curse of the Wererabbit), but it’s hard to complain about a film this much fun.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for posting this, I've been looking for the kinemotgraph short for a long time, just couldn't remember the name, thank u so much for sharing