The 2007 Academy Award Nominated Shorts-Animated ***
February ends up being one of my favorite times of year because it gives me a chance to catch up with some of the short films that have been nominated for awards. This is the fourth year that I managed to see all the Oscar shorts, and they have become increasingly popular each year, which is why Magnolia Pictures continues to even bother distributing them. Three years ago I saw a mish-mosh of several of the short films, but not all, but this marks the third time where I've been able to see both programs-the animated shorts and the live action, each with a separate admission, but usually well worth the trip. And it gives you a chance to see some of the films from the two categories that are usually glossed over the most-although the short subject documentaries probably don't get much audience attention, and I still have no clue where you'd be able to see those. And so, for a cheap price of twenty-three dollars, you are able to see the ten shorts up for Academy Awards.
I saw the animated programs first, and you must understand that as in all short films complilations-and I've seen quite a few from the "Animation Show 2005," to Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes,"-there are some duds and there are some real winners. I think the best year for the Oscar Shorts was in 2006, when all five of the live actions were dark and seriously witty and kind of brilliant, and most of the animations were worth the ticket as well. Last year I wasn't impressed by four of the live actions, and the animated ones had left much to be desired.
The five films in the animated category were-
MEME LES PIGEONS VONT AU PARADIS (EVEN PIGEONS GO TO HEAVEN)
France, 9 minutes, French w/ English subtitles, CGI
We were off to a good start with this rather cute little tale about a greedy Frenchmen that allows himself to be conned into buying a machine from a man that promises to take him to heaven. It's short, very entertaining, and the simple animation looks quite appealing. The ending is dark, but extremely clever.
MY LOVE (MOYA LYUBOV)
Russia, 27 minutes, Russian with English subtitles, Drama
"My Love" probably suffered mostly from being too long. It's animation is unlike anything that I have ever seen before-done in a watercolor effect where every single shot and image looks like something out of a painting. It follows the story of a young Russian boy who has affections for two very different women. I did lose interest in the story, despite the visuals being quite striking, and this was certainly a lull in the program.
Canada, 17 minutes, Claymation/CGI, Drama
"Madame Tutli-Putli" started off quite witty and smart. A women is on a train and checking out all the wacky characters aboard with her. Two of which are playing a chess game where the pieces move themselves every time the train hits a bump on the tracks. One of which makes disgusting hand gestures to her in suggestive fashion. But what started off in one direction quickly turned into something darker-something that seemed right out of a David Lynch film. And it began to just get plain incoherent at the end, something that it never recovers from, leaving a rather blase image in my head.
I MET THE WALRUS
Canada, 5 minutes, English, 2D Animation, Documentary
I am quite convinced that "I Met the Walrus" will end up winning the Oscar, even though it isn't my pick if I were an Academy voter. It was also the only one of the five that got applause at the end of it. It is an interview that a young boy had with John Lennon, only with some rather neat visual animated tricks to go along with it. I did like this little film, but it was more of spectacular that actually being something moving and original. Sure enough the audience clapped, but I doubt they clapped at the actual film itself and instead was just excited to hear Lennon talk about war, peace, and everything in between.
PETER & THE WOLF
United Kingdom & Poland, 27 minutes, Drama
My pick for the Oscar is "Peter and the Wolf," set to a classical piece tells the story of a young boy, his pet duck, his pet bird with a balloon tied to it, and the evil cat that lives with them, and their struggle to survive a hungry wolf. The animation is great, its very funny, and sustains interest despite the rather long length. I really liked this little film and I hope that it walks away with the Oscar come Feb. 24th.
One thing to note this year was how long both of these programs were. In past years, the animated films total running time barely extends over an hour, and Magnolia has to throw other noteworthy animated films from the year to just give it an eighty minute running time, but this year all five of them managed to do that one their own. I think last year's shorts (which are reviewed on this site!) barely hit forty minutes, and I sat through another forty minutes of rather medicre little films from the year. The live action shorts this year totaled to about 137 minutes, and they are usually about 95.