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Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts (2011)

February 19, 2011

Each year at this time, Shorts International releases both the Academy Award nominated Live Action and Animated Shorts for a limited time in a limited amount of theaters. For a separate charge, each selection of Shorts are shown back to back. It’s the best way to catch up with these Shorts and approach that Oscar ballot with more knowledge. In Chicago, these shorts can be found at the Landmark Century Cinema, a good place to get lost in the dark….

  

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Day & Night 

directed by: Teddy Newton /6 min./(USA)

Probably the most recognized of the nominated shorts since it preceded last summer’s megahit “Toy Story 3” (itself nominated for Best Picture), and it deservedly stands alongside the other nominees. Day is a sunny fellow who comes across Night, a stranger with a dark side that Day has never seen. Sparks fly at first, then suspicions rise and soon they try to one up each other. But then something happens and they discover each other’s unique qualities. As they learn the different perspectives each of them has on the same world, a mutual respect and admiration develops. If only humans could develop in such a way. The retro 50’s style with its jazzy soundtrack is a hoot and the laughs are still intact after my multiple viewings of this fun short. Pixar doesn’t always have an entry in this category but they could, since this is how they started.   

RATING: ****

letspollute1.jpg 

Let’s Pollute

directed by: Geefwee Boedoe/6 min./(USA)

This sarcastic throwback to the educational films of the 50′s & 60′s plays like a modern satire, teaching children to embrace pollution. Narrated in a witty and biting Phil Hartman style, “Let’s Pollute” explains that pollution is our heritage and keeps our economy growing strong. There are helpful how-to’s and tips on being a better polluter and preparing for a congested, wasted and blighted future. It’s a good exercise on satire and with all the documentaries out there on how awful we are to our planet, this was a clever and hilarious flip on it all.

RATING: ***1/2

LOST AND FOUND: Oscar-nominated short "The Lost Thing"

The Lost Thing

directed by: Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan/15 min./Australia/UK

In one of the more uniquely designed shorts that combines steampunk sensibilities with Salvador Dali like concepts, “The Lost Thing” is told from the perspective of a teenage boy who finds a bizarre-looking creature while collecting bottle caps on the beach. As the lonely boy recounts his tale we’re taken on what becomes a meaningful journey of discovery and serendipitous connection. identity, couched in a simple tale of serendipity. The creature is an imaginative conception, housed in a scarlet metallic contraption that looks like a giant teapot. Its appendages resemble something like an octopus and a crab, slithering and jutting out of its shell.  upon a bell, attached to a green appendage that juts from a large, red, ball-shaped object. The boy tries to find a home for this “lost thing’ as it follows him around, and in the process the filmmakers give us an environment of mystery and intimacy. It’s a whimsical, humorous tale that draws more upon its visuals than it does its storytelling, which didn’t grab me as much 

RATING: ***

Madagascar, carnet de voyage

directed by: Bastien Dubois/11 min. /(France)

Beautiful watercolors and pastels come to life as Dubois takes on a visual diary through Madagascar that tells us of the vibrant people and the intoxicating island they inhabit. It’s a journey that provides insight and discovery from a Westerner’s point of view, learning the customs and traditions in an observant and creative manner. Like famadihana, where a deceased relative is removed from the tomb and wrapped in new burial garments. The dead are then remembered with a celebration by those who knew them, in an act of grief, mourning and tribute. I really enjoyed he variety in the imagery used….there’s two-dimensional ink drawings, intricately designed cloth, and photos that seems to animate to life on the screen. It’s as if Dubois’ memories and travel journal blends together to tell a colorful tale the is always in motion. Accompanying the short is a wonderful score with indigenous sounds that authenticate the experience.

RATING: ****

The Gruffalo

directed by: Jakob Schuh & Max Lang/27 min. /(UK/Germany)

Based on the best-selling books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler, this is the most easily accessible for young children. It’s the tale of a very imaginative and brave mouse (James Corden) who encounters a trio of predators (a fox voiced by Tom Wilkinson, an owl played by John Hurt, and a snake Rob Brydon) and winds up outsmarting them one by one. He does so by scaring them off with creative descriptions of a fictional creature known as The Gruffalo. The entire story is told by a Mother Squirrel (Helena Bonham Carter) to her two enraptured offspring. It’s an absorbingly delightful tale, told with excellently detailed animation that effortlessly breathes on the screen. Told by a game cast, this enjoyable story is imaginative, fun and funny.  

RATING: ****

 

Shorts International also included two additional animated shorts in this screening, which were presenting along with the five Oscar nominees. There was Bill Plympton’s “The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger”, from the USA and Moritz Mayerhofer’s “Urs”, both telling two very different stories in two completely different styles. Plympton’s is a 6 minute short, ultimately a children’s fable about a calf who becomes obsessed with a Happy Burger billboard decides, with much exuberance, that a home between two buns is his destiny.  It speaks on advertising and the love between a mother and her calf. Plympton has had two previous Oscar-nominated shorts, using cell animation, this is more of a straightforward cartoon approach, cleverly scored by Corey Jackson who provides the voices of all the characters through music. It’s cute, clever, and strange, but no nominee.

Neither is Mayerhofer’s “Urs”, a 10-minute film, which tells the story of two people living in a long-abandoned farm village surrounded by immense mountains. There’s the titular character and his elderly mother, who refuses to leave. Urs takes it upon himself to strap his mother to his back after their goat is killed by falling rocks, embarking on an arduous journey over the mountains with the hope of a better place to live. It’s the most abstract and painterly looking of all the shorts, yet leaves much to be desired in the are of character. There didn’t seem to be anything else to what we see beyond what the characters are doing. The color scheme used is captivating but the characters seemed lifeless.  

So, there are the five nominees for the Best Animated Short category for this year’s Oscars, which will be telecast on ABC, February 27th. Maybe that helps in deciding what film to vote for as you scour your Oscar ballot.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cartoonguy808 permalink
    March 15, 2011 1:22 pm

    I havent seen anything on these forums on this film called “Aargh”…it looks soooo great!
    Check out the trailer! http://bit.ly/gwklxV

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