Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oscar Animated Short Films (2010)

First off, I wrote this post some time ago, but getting access to The Lost Thing was delayed and I held off posting until after the Oscars. Now that things are said and done, for the first time in a decade I liked the winner the most.

Each year it seems like I get more into this Oscar category. This year I went as far as to watch a few films that didn't even make the short list (Top 10). About 30 short films qualify each year, a number that I'm sure is growing. Qualification is winning a film festival during the year. At the same time you can win a festival while being released say 2 years earlier, which takes a spot away from a film that could have qualified. I honestly do not know what festivals any of these films won.

WINNER:
Director: Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan
Runtime: 15 min
Country: Australia
Vote: 8/10

Easily my favorite this year. Maybe the anticipation of it's itunes release Feb. 22nd helped. Really it is just a cool little short film. Unique styling, interesting story that keeps you interested, and a good soundtrack. I felt that it was one scene too long and the ending was a little bad. If I had a vote this would get my pick. This also has the best idea for a film that could before feature length in the future, kind of like 9.
Director: Teddy Newton
Runtime: 6 min
Country: USA
Vote: 8/10

The biggest misconception with Oscar predictors is that this category is Pixar's to lose, just like Animated Feature. They couldn't be more wrong. Last year Partly Cloudy was short listed but failed to get a nomination. Two years ago Presto did not win. Three years ago Pixar was not nominated in this category. Four years ago Lifted lost; One Man Band, Boundin', and Mike's New Car all lost before that! All told, it has been a decade since Pixar has won this category with For the Birds, which is their 3rd and last win in the category in 23 years. Entertainment does not win this category. New and different does. Many of the shorts I just listed were my favorites, but they were nothing NEW. Only Wallace and Gromit seem to be able to win without being new here. The short is very cute, and aired before Toy Story 3 in theaters this year. Day and Night are characters that show each other all of the wonderful things they get to see. Definitely worth checking out, but I won't put it for the win on my ballot.

Film: Let's Pollute
Director: Geefwee Boedoe
Runtime: 6 min
Country: USA
Vote: 8/10

Probably the most witty short film in the group. This satire about American's and how much they pollute was really clever. Telling people that using stuff twice is pointless and to throw stuff away instead of using it twice. Growing up with a mother who was very conscious about not polluting, a lot of these jokes really hit home. Check this one out. Note: the youtube version is French, but you can still get the gist of the jokes.


Film: The Gruffalo
Director: Max Lang, Jakob Schuh
Runtime: 27 min
Country: UK
Vote: 7/10


This actually aired on BBC on Christmas Day and features voice work by Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, and James Corden. The fame of the cast and the popularity of the Children's Classic make this a real contender for the win. Many feel that it should have been made into a feature length film, personally I found it pretty slow at time and it does have the longest run time of any nominee in 3 years.


Film: Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Director: Bastien Dubois
Runtime: 11 min
Country: France
Vote: 6/10

Available on youtube with subtitles, the only foreign nominee, which is strange because there are usually several. This short film has an awful pace with some spectacular visuals. The first half is a young man traveling to some sort of religious funeral, then the last half looks like a journal with pictures that move. Images come to life and the animated scrap book just looks amazing. The story just made no sense to me, that doesn't seem to be a problem with the voters in this category so I will pick this one to win the Oscar.

Films that made the short list, but did not get nominated:
Film: Coyote Falls
Director: Matthew O'Callaghan
Runtime: 3 min
Country: USA
Vote: 6/10

A 3 minute Road Runner vs. Wile Coyote short film, available in HD on youtube, that was shown as a preview to 3D animated films in the theater this year. Being short listed was enough of an honor because it is just too short. We are familiar with the characters, so it was fun, but not worthy of much recognition.




Film: Sensology
Director: Michel Gagné
Runtime: 6 min
Country: USA
Vote: 5/10

This reminds me of a lot of the 1960's and 1970's artistic animated films on the Library of Congress National Film Registry. I could even see this getting picked in a decade when it becomes eligible. An animated visualization of two Jazz musicians, it is amazing how long 6 minutes can feel. Director Michel Gagné has done work on The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles so he is not new to the business. It was fine with me that he did not get a nomination.



Qualified Films (won a Festival) that did not make the short list:
Film: Animated History of Poland
Director: Tomasz Baginski
Runtime: 8 min
Country: Poland
Vote: 6/10

After reading some people's comments of the short list, it was felt that these two were slighted recognition. Since they were available I gave them a shot. It also gives me a feel for films that these were up against for nominations. This one has absolutely no dialog and the only text on the screen is time frames that the images took place during. Polish history teachers should show this to their classes, but the reality is I didn't get most of it because I'm not all that familiar with Poland's history. For what it is, it was pretty neat.


Film: My Name is Maria
Director: Elio Quiroga
Runtime: 4 min
Country: Spain
Vote: 4/10

Probably the worst short film of the group. I'm very happy that this one was left off. I don't mean any offense to Quirogo or the staff that worked on this because the visuals were alright. The story was by far the most depressing animated short film I have ever seen. It is centered around a little girl that witnesses her family go through economic difficulties, then some sort of war, all dying in the process. Morbid and Depressing.

This year is not a easy pick, a lot of people are going with Pixar... prove me wrong and take that risk if you want. The most popular is The Gruffalo, the obvious and maybe best choice. Personally I'm picking Madagascar because it is foreign, doesn't make any sense, and has the best art work which tends to win over cute story in this category.

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