Monday, March 1, 2010

This Year's Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Dear Lord, it's been a long time since I've been on here, hasn't it? Apologies. First social life, then travelling intervened. For today, I'd like to offer up a fantastic little opportunity. Brace yourself, readers: the link below will allow you to view 4 of the 5 2009 Oscar-nominated short films.

Oh hell yes. Sadly, one of the films has been yanked off the Internet since I saw it. Such is life. Anyhow, take a moment to watch a few of these. Watching all of them back-to-back takes less than an hour, so if you've got a little time to kill, go crazy. If you don't feel like watching all of them, I'm going to take a brief look at each one below; scan through, see what sounds good, and watch one or two.

In order of their video appearance:

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (6:06 minutes)
This is, far and away, my least favorite short. In the film, the titular Granny tells her granddaughter the timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty, with a few embellishments and twists of her own to make the story fit into her world-view. The film has a fantastic premise (re-imagining fairy-tales from a decidedly cynical perspective), but fails to capitalize on that promise. There are amusing moments (I did giggle at the rather literal birth sequence, as well as the visual realization of 'the old fairy), but they never add up to a compelling whole. That this was nominated over other, superior shorts like The Cat Piano and Partly Cloudy is somewhat depressing. Oh well. It's only six minutes, so check it out anyway.

French Roast (8:17 minutes)
This tale of an uptight business-man in a cafe who realizes he's forgotten his wallet is a fantastic example of the storytelling potential of animation as a medium, as well as a showcase for stories told without dialogue. French Roast is entertaining, funny, and never over-stays its welcome. It might be a little too light-weight to win this category, but it's thoroughly enjoyable.

The Lady and the Reaper (8:20 minutes)
What a great little film. The Lady and the Reaper tells the tale of an old woman who is approached by Death: she tries to accompany him to the Other Side, but is thwarted at every turn by the efforts of an ER doctor straight out of a soap opera, accompanied by his three buxom nurses. The Lady and the Reaper is another film without dialogue, yet its silent style never hurts the film, which is visually inventive and full of (very) dark humor. The ending is a quite the shocker. Bonus points: make sure you watch through the first few credits. About thirty seconds in, we get a vision of Charon and the River Styx that's absolutely priceless.

Logorama (16:04 minutes)
Sadly, this one can no longer be found on the Internet. Too bad, because it's one hell of a short. The visual concept is rather brilliant: the entire film is comprised entirely of corporate logos. The main characters are two Pringles cans, a Michelin Man, and Ronald McDonald (whose crime spree is all too believable). The film is profane, violent (Mr. Peanut loses his head to a sniper battle), and cynical. I'll let you know if I can find this one to watch anywhere else, because it's completely worth the time.

Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (29:00 minutes)
I suppose I ought to just say it: I'm not a huge fan of Wallace and Gromit. I love the stop-motion animation, and it's all amusing enough, but I find it curiously lacking. Almost soulless. In this outing, Wallace and Gromit run a bakery, and are forced to pit their wits against a serial-killer who has been systematically knocking off other bakers in the area. The film isn't without its charms, but the constant film references took me out of the moment. Seriously, why do we need an Aliens homage, as well as references to Batman, Ghost, Psycho, The Blues Brothers, and The Empire Strikes Back in a film about a bakery? Cinematic in-jokes can be fun in moderation. Throw too many in, and you just look desperate.

Were I pressed to order the shorts according to my preference, it would be as follows:
1. The Lady and the Reaper
2. Logorama
3. French Roast
4. Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death
5. Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty

This is, of course, not ordered according to the likelihood of their win. I'll get into that later this week, but suffice to say that the Academy loves Wallace and Gromit. Did you catch any of these? If so, which did you like best?

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