The 2006 Academy Award Nominated Shorts-Animated ***1/2
Once again, Magnolia Pictures is giving us the chance to get a glimpse at the short films nominated for Oscars. This is one of my favorite events every year-digital prints of the five short films in both the Live Action category and the Animated. The only downside is that it is two programs for the price of two. If you want to see them all, you have to pay twice, but it is well worth it. In the animated category-
LIFTED-Directed by Gary Rydstrom(United States)
The yearly Pixar short of an alien getting evaluted on his abduction skills, and failing horribly. This is my personal pick for Best Animated Short-a short and refreshing trip that is better than "Cars" was-and the visuals are, as usual, very impressive. This will be playing before the new Pixar movie this year.
THE DANISH POET-Directed by Torill Kove(Denmark)
The longest of the five, and the most dense, "The Danish Poet" tells the story of a poet who goes on a trip and falls in love-only to have destiny, fate, and another man break the couple apart. The visuals and narration make this out to be something that is from a storybook, but this fairy tell isn't anything groundbreaking or overly witty. It is good, though, has a lot of heart, and seems to have a lot of effort well used. I loved it.
THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL-Directed by Roger Allers & Don Hahn(United States)
A depressing little tale, in the vein of "Grave of the Fireflies" is Disney 2-D animation at it's best. This has the look and feel of a classic Disney tale. "The Little Matchgirl' tells the tragic story of a little matchgirl who uses the last few matches she has to keep warm, and to also reveal her dreams of family and a home to call her own.
MAESTRO-Directed by Geza M. Toth(Hungary)
Nothing special, and doesn't have a comic moment until the very end, "Maestro" shows an animal getting ready to perform for his big show, which ends up being something very surprising. Amusing, but not Oscar material.
NO TIME FOR NUTS-Directed by Chris Renaud & Michael Thurmeier (United States)
The litte rat Scrat from "Ice Age" is back once again, and he still can't seem to keep his hands on that acorn. And this time he finds a time machine, and ends up getting shifted through time. "No Time for Nuts" is a very funny time travel story, and constantly entertaining.
On the whole it was strange to find that the animated shorts were better than the live action. Usually it's the other way around, with the animation being a mixed bag. All the animation this year is short and sweet, and we never get the time to get bored with any of them-last year there were two that were almost unbearable. And since Magnolia wants to divide them into two programs, and the animation only adds up to about forty five minutes, they've decided to put some of the other contenders in the second half of the program. I wouldn't replace any of the films above with the following.
ONE RAT SHORT-Directed by Alex Weil(United States)
The ballad of two rats-one a test rat and the other a subway rat. The story is a little blase, but the visuals are perfect, with amazing detail on the rats.
THE PASSENGER-Directed by Chris Jones(Australia)
A young boy gets on a bus on a rainy day, only to sit down next to a fish that turns into some kind of creature. Passable, but doesn't hold attention well.
WRAITH OF COBBLE HILL-Directed by Adam Parrish King(United States)
The most heavy of this set, telling the story of Felix, a young boy from a deadbeat Brooklyn home-with a mother who doesn't feed him. Felix ends up getting entrusted with the keys to the grocery store next door, and every night goes inside to take some of the food with his friends. "Wraith of Cobble Hill" has some good topics to discuss, good old fashioned animation, and a decent story.
GUIDE DOG-Directed by Bill Plympton(United States)
My third trip to "Guide Dog" after seeing it attached to "Hair High" and "F*ck." And if I see "The Animation Show 3" I'll be seeing it there too. "Guide Dog" is about a dog that that see a Help Wanted sign in a window, and signs up to help the blind. But this dog is dangerous wherever he goes, and kills all of his clients. I love "Guide Dog" very much, and I loved Plympton's first "Guard Dog" even more. It is a shame that this one wasn't nominated for the Oscar, because it is very funny short from a master.
A GENTLEMAN’S DUEL-Directed by Francisco Ruiz Velasco and Scott McNally(United States)
Not very funny, and a little annoying, "A Gentleman's Duel" tells the story of two rivals trying to get the attention of the woman with large breasts. The dirty humor here has the feel of animators saying to themselves "Ooooo, let's make a dirty joke in a cartoon."