Review: 2010 Oscar Shorts
Every year folks gather around their television sets and watch as the stars flaunt who theyâ€™re wearing on the red carpet and we all lumber through more than three hours of ceremony to hear first-hand which film is crowned Best Picture. Unfortunately, two of the categories that appear in the festivities but go mostly unrecognized are the awards for Best Live Action and Animated Short Films. That is, until recently, when the lineup of nominated shorts began screening in theaters for the general audience to experience and enjoy. This is great for two reasons; one being an increased exposure for the filmmakers, the other being an increased interest from the audience in these films as a part of the annual awards culture.
Thanks to the indie and art house theaters that have taken the reigns, I encourage everyone to make an effort to see as many of the foreign and short films nominated for Academy Awards, prior to the big event. For one week only in Saint Louis, Landmark brings the nominees to the public to screen at the Tivoli Theatre, starting on Friday, February 19.
The animated shorts nominated for the Academy Award this year are not surprisingly dominated by CGI techniques, but Nick Parkâ€™s classic stop-motion remains a contender once again. Story is less of a determining factor in this category than concept and execution, which is my favorite pick for the best of the best this Oscar season goes to LOGORAMA.
FRENCH ROAST (France, 8 min.) — directed by Fabrice O. Joubert â€“ is a simple and charming little silent story about the generosity of others and the fact that appearances are often deceiving. A well-to-do man enjoys his coffee in a French cafÃ©, but when he finds his wallet missing, a Chaplin-esque pursuit of means to pay his bill ensues. The CGI animation has a distinctly old school yet three-dimensional style and is musically accompanied by a jazzy score.
GRANNY Oâ€™GRIMMâ€™S SLEEPING BEAUTY (Ireland, 6 min.) — directed by Nicky Phelan â€“ donâ€™t be drawn into the fairy tale trap of this film, because itâ€™s a much darker twist on the classic Sleeping Beauty story you grew up with. Bitter about her age, Granny subjects her grandchild to her own nightmarish retelling of the tale. Certainly not intended for the little kiddies, this CGI-animated film combines claymation-influenced reality scenes with colorful two-dimensional fairy tale sequences.
THE LADY AND THE REAPER (Spain, 8 min.) — directed by Javier Recio Gracia â€“ initially, this film feels like what you might expect to get if Guillermo del Toro directed a Pixar movie, dark and moody, wrought with a romantically Gothic sense of pending doom. However, the story quickly devolves into a typically shallow slapstick chase as the Grim Reaper and a handsome doctor play tug of war with the old ladyâ€™s life and soul. While it is fun and technically accomplished, thereâ€™s not a great deal of depth to the story.
LOGORAMA (Argentina, 17 min.) — directed by Nicolas Schmerkin â€“ in a world saturated with brand loyalty and positive PR producing corporate spokes-characters, this film takes all that and turns it upside-down. The film forces a gritty, real-world story onto a parallel world made up entirely of these corporate trademarks and logos. Michelin Men cops talking like Tarantino characters, a psychotic Ronald McDonald turned to crime and an effeminate Mr. Clean, these are just some of what to expect from this satirical social commentary with South Park flair.
A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH (U.K., 29 min.) â€“ directed by Nick Park â€“ everyoneâ€™s favorite stop-motion animated clay characters Wallace & Gromit are back. The absent-minded inventor and his faithfully resourceful pooch pal find themselves facing off against a serial butcher of bakers. Wallace, the luckiest dimwit in the world, is drawn into danger while Gromit, his self-sacrificing dog, protects his master and saves the day. The story more or less fits the typical formula of W&G films, but as usual, itâ€™s the stunning technical and artistic expertise of Nick park that makes the film magical and enjoyable.
The live action shorts nominated for the Academy Award this year have a darker than expected, but definitely welcome theme about them. With the exception of the Swedish entry INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA, little humor is to be had, replaced by dramatically tragic stories. This yearâ€™s live action shorts are a tough call, when considering the best, as theyâ€™re all excellent, but for very different and unique reasons.
THE DOOR (Ireland [in Russian], 17 min.) â€“ directed by Juanita Wilson â€“ is a bleak and somber reflection on the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The story is told of one family, of many, forced from their homes within the effected area and the parents who struggle with their loss of so much more than just a place to call home. THE DOOR is a heartbreaking, eye-opening film, quiet like funeral service. This film may be short, but contains enough dramatic substance and emotional impact to fill a feature-length movie.
INSTEAD OF ABACADABRA (Sweden, 18 min.) â€“ directed by Patrik Eklund â€“ Tomas is a 25-year old amateur magician, eager to become a pro, but when he meets his new neighbor he does whatever it takes to impress her with his magical showmanship, even if it means getting a â€œrealâ€ job to appease his skeptical father. At first resembling a Swedish Napoleon Dynamite with a touch of Harry Potter, Tomas has one major trick left up his sleeve to prove his skeptics wrongâ€¦ he believes in himself. This feel-good short will certainly conjure up some genuine laughter.
KAVI (India, 19 min.) — directed by Gregg Helvey — tells the story of a young boy who dreams of going to school and playing cricket, but is trapped working hard labor with his parents, enslaved to a ruthless business owner making bricks. The story is told from the boyâ€™s point-of-view, offering a childâ€™s perspective on the pain of the forced laborers and the hope he struggles to maintain for his and his familyâ€™s life. KAVI is a film that portrays both the beauty and the ugliness of modern-day India.
MIRACLE FISH (Australia, 18 min.) â€“ directed by Luke Doolan â€“ follows a schoolboy that gets bullied on his birthday, but gets a strange surprise after sneaking into the schoolâ€™s sick bay and falling asleep. When he awakes, he finds himself all alone in the school, mysteriously empty as if all others had suddenly vanished. Having begun as a curious boyâ€™s adventure, the film gradually becomes a frightening transition from innocence to innocence lost, develops an edge like the Twilight Zone, and ends with a climactic jolt to the head.
THE NEW TENANTS (Denmark, 20 min.) â€“ directed by Joachim Back â€“ introduces two seemingly mismatched roommates recently moved into an apartment building, a building that reveals a dark history and a cast featuring actors Vincent Dâ€™Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan as bizarre fellow tenants. Eerily eccentric like David Lynch, smart and dialectically rich like the Coen Brothers, THE NEW TENANTS is a mysterious, philosophical and entertaining slice of the life abnormal. This little movie is a trip!