Saturday, February 17, 2007

The day before Florida: The Oscar shorts

For all you non-spammers out there, and I know there are indeed a few of you, I didn't prognosticate on who's going to win the Oscar for best short subject because I haven't seen them. I still haven't seen the Documentary shorts, and probably won't, so I won't comment on them, but as to the rest here are the reviews:

Best animated short film

The Danish Poet
A Mikrofilm and National Film Board of Canada Production

Written and Directed
by Torill Kove

This is a shaggy dog story. After a cosmic beginning, The Narrator(voiced by Liv Ullmann), tells the story of how a Danish poet suffering from writers block, travels to Norway to see his favorite writer, gets sidetracked and so on and so forth, until…well that’s the punchline of the joke and we wouldn’t want to spoil that, right. The film is filled with Scandinavian in-jokes and visual puns galore, most of which are actually funny.

These distract us from the actually rather boring story being told. The 2D animation is standard National Film Board of Canada style, and is rather pretty. This has a better than even chance to win the big prize.

Lifted
A Pixar Animation Studios Production

Directed by
Gary Rydstrom

A space alien allows his apprentice to abduct an unsuspecting earthling, but the apprentice isn’t particularly good at working the machinery. This is an excellent use of cartoon violence as the victim is asleep the entire time and therefore feels no pain.

The character design is rather original, which is something Pixar is very good at. Since Pixar usually wins at this time of year, this has a decent chance.

The Little Match Girl
A Walt Disney Pictures Production

Directed by
Roger Allers

This was originally supposed to be a segment in the now-cancelled “Fantasia 2006” feature that Disney was planning, and was the last thing that the justly famous 2D animation studio did before the Mouse foolishly shut it down.

On a technical level, this is about as good as the artform can get. The design is perfect, the artwork moves flawlessly and the music fits the story. Unfortunately, the story is rather weak (little MG can’t make any money selling matches, and hallucinates as she freezes to death), but that’s not Allers’ fault, it’s Hans Andersen’s.

Disney’s recent nominees haven’t won, and I don’t think it will this year, either, although this may be the academy’s last chance to do so.

“Maestro” (Szimplafilm)
A Kedd Production

Written and Directed
by Geza M. Toth

Few things are as good as a joke well told, and that’s basically what this is. A cartoon bird is about to go on, and his dresser is a mechanical claw robot thing coming out of the wall. The animation is excellent, and the punch line is priceless. I think this will win.

No Time for Nuts
A Blue Sky Studios Production

Written and Directed by
Chris Renaud and Mike Thurmeier

One thing about Scrat, he’s good for a laugh. This time he comes across a time machine, and chases his lunch all across the various phases of the Quaternary period. Many of the jokes actually work, and this is for the most part your average 1940s animated cartoon done in ‘00z CGI. Not bad, but not brilliant.

This is going to be a bonus extra for the Ice Age II or III DVD, and the people at Blue Sky are going to keep submitting these to the Academy until Scrat manages to win one of these things.

Best live action short film

Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)

Written and Directed
by Javier Fesser

One of the things UNICEF does with the money little children collect during Halloween is produce propaganda films, and this is a good example of the genre.

Binta (Zeynabou Diallo) is a very cute little girl living in Africa. Her father(Agnile Sambou) is a fisherman and her uncle is a jerk. We know he’s a jerk because he won’t let his daughter Soda (Aminata Sane) go to school because that’s tradition and he’s the boss.

So Binta plots revenge as her father goes from government office to government office with a big idea of his own. This is about the use of humor to humiliate people, and since this is a cute film for children the use of a degrading racial epithet for white people is used freely. Binta’s revenge is also rather ingenious. It has a chance because there are lots of rich white people out there who feel guilt about having too much money.

Éramos Pocos (One Too Many)
An Altube Filmeak Production

Written and Directed
by Borja Cobeaga

Mamma can’t take it any more! So as the film begins she leaves. Dad(Ramón Barea) and son Fernando (Alejandro Tejerías) are clueless as to why and soon discover that they’re incapable of keeping a tidy house. So one of them has an idea. Why not get Grandma(Mariví Bilbao) out of the rest home and have HER do all the cooking and cleaning?

This is a brilliant plan and it works, until, that is, we get to the punchline. This being a short, it’s a single dramatized joke and as such it works rather well. If there were justice in the world, this would probably win.

Helmer & Son
A Nordisk Film Production

Written and Directed by
Soren Pilmark and Kim Magnusson

Dad has locked himself in the closet and won’t come out, so the rest home has called his son and daughter to try to coax him out.

This is also, a dramatized joke, although it’s more than that, mostly sitcom, as the brother and sister bicker about various topics. The ending is actually rather touching. This is one of those: “getting nominated is reward in itself” type things.

The Saviour

Written and Directed
by Peter Templeman

The film begins with Malcolm’s (Thom Campbell) face. He and Carmel (Susan Prior) have just done the deed and he’s happy as a clam. However, she wants to end it. Apparently, he’s too busy being a missionary among the heathens living in Suburban Melbourne for her tastes. His partner Paul (David Somerville) is getting sick of trying to convert the neighborhood on his own and getting the door slammed in his face.

He knows that Malcolm is making progress with at least one person on the block, so he wants to help do God’s work, although Malcolm says that she prefers one-on-one instruction. Things change when Carmel’s husband(Rhys Muldoon) shows up.

This film is all about the hypocrisy of missionary work, and is surprisingly sympathetic to everyone involved but Malcolm. One can see why this got nominated and why it won’t win.

West Bank Story

Written and Directed
by Ari Sandel

There is no reason that this thing should be here. This is a minstrel show. You know, one of those movies like “Norbit” or “Soul Plane” which would be called racist if it wasn’t made by blacks. Really bad stuff, which makes money anyway. Well this is one of those. What do you expect for a Masters’ thesis from USC?

The difference is that this is about JEWS and ARABS, and takes place in the occupied West Bank, where two fast food franchises, KOSHER KING (there’s a sign that says “the chosen” something or other), which is run by…no, not Watusis, and Hummus Hut, which is run by occupied Arabs. Of course both hate sides hate each other, but one, an Arab named Fatima (Noureen DeWulf), is secretly in love with an Israeli soldier named David (Ben Newmark).

Since this is a musical (a parody of “West Side Story” Lenny Bernstein must be rolling in his grave). We get lots of dancing and singing while the racist stereotypes [a guy in a menorah suit, IKK!, David is so smitten by Fatima, he lets a terrorist in a black mask go by…ugh!] go at their cartoonish paces. The music is actually rather good and the cast does a decent job, but it still gave me the creeps.

Sure, it’s gotten raves, but mostly by lefties with bad taste in music.
The originality of it, which I must admit is there, and the excellent dancing and production values, may have gotten this into contention, but this if this wins, I’m going to demand a refund. I don’t know from whom, but…jeez!

1 comment:

Howard said...

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