February 05, 2013

Oscar Nominated Short Films

Stole away for the evening tonight, to watch the Oscar Nominated Short Films - Live Action and Animation - over at Real Art Ways. The Live Action and Animated films are playing now through Feb 14th, the Documentary films arrive Feb 15th. Click through to find out more about the films and see the trailers.

First off, apologies to Real Art Ways. My membership expired in September - and I have just tarried on signing back up. I wrote a check out and everything, but figured I'd drop it off the next time I was there. And I've been horribly anti-social (and also a big underfunded) since then; this was my first foray back in months. But I'm back on the member roles and hope to show up in the real world occasionally as we start to move towards spring.

Now, on to the films. First, up, the Animated Shorts, in order of viewing:
Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" - Maggie Simpson attends the Ayn Rand Daycare Center, where she finds a caterpillar and faces off against her nemesis.
I'm a huge Simpsons fan, have been for years, and the creative team has kept me amused for over two decades. But I just do not get this (or any other animated franchise) in this category. Yeah, cute story, yeah, nice to see an underused character fleshed out, yeah nice to see the show animated in a bit more detail and texture. But....not really what I want to see. 
Adam and Dog - A playful dog exploring the newly created world comes upon the first man.

OK, maybe it's the dog owner in me, maybe watching the Genesis story from a different perspective and fleshed out, made human, was enough. But I was sobbing. Beautiful old-school animation, sweet, substantial. My vote for the Oscar, hands down. 

Fresh Guacamole- An unseen cook uses a series of unusual ingredients to prepare a bowl of guacamole.
Totally charming, very short (2 minutes) and a little bit of a one joke wonder that sustains and amuses for the lentgh of the short.

Head over Heels - The emotional distance between a long-married husband and wife has resulted in an unusual living arrangement.
Very sweet, and little weepy, done with puppets. It has a little bit of the cleverness of last year's winner
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, although a bit less magical. I liked it, did not love it.
Paperman - A young man working in an office tries desperately to attract the attention of a girl in the building across the street.
Very clever animation and story, and aiming for the same turf as Mossis Lessmore. But a little too perfect and Disneyfied for my taste. Suffers a bit too much from "me too" flying paper, sweet romance, wind all hearken back to last year's winner.  

Between the films, there were some bits by Morris Lessmore's William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg who were funny, smart, and magnanimous in telling their story. Nicely done!
 
Now, on to the Live Action films, again, in order of viewing:
Death of a Shadow - A soldier attempts to ransom his soul from Death and return to the girl he loves.
Beautiful, creepy, dark, romantic, steam-punk. All of this and more. It was a really engaging, creative, beautiful film. Not my favorite, but the competition was fierce in this category.
Henry - Henry, an elderly concert pianist, undergoes a series of confusing experiences as he searches for his wife.
And...more tears. Having a friend's mother struggle with Alzheimer's, this film was especially poignant. Again, not my fave, but a real winner. 
Buzkashi Boys - Two boys in Afghanistan, a blacksmith's son and an orphan living on the streets, dream of winning a popular and fierce polo match.

This one gets my vote for the Oscar, in a very strong field. The Kabul cinematography is stark, gorgeous, and so very sad - shot amidst burned out buildings, palaces, and rubble. The story is amazingly simple and yet so well told. I am sure there was a lot of money behind this (including the US Dept of State) and it shows - normally I'd discount that but for this one time, it does not matter. There is no sign of ongoing war here - just the charred remains of decades of war, poverty, and a beautiful, up close and personal, and so very sad story set in that backdrop.

Curfew - A young man on the verge of committing suicide receives a call from his sister asking him to babysit his niece.
Like Paperman, this film has a similar vibe to last year's winner (in this case, God of Love) - albeit darker. It was very sweet, had it's whimsical moments, and a precocious and lovely child actress. It all worked, totally worth the watch - just not my winner.
Asad - A boy from a poor Somali village must decide between piracy and life as a fisherman.
And...this must be the year of putting boys in ravaged landscapes and telling a story. The heart of this film is in the right place (almost all the actors are Samoli refugees or asylum seekers) and the story has it's moments. But the darkness and horror are neither fully explored nor completely redeemed. The ending / resolution seemed a little off - fantastic, impractical, unsatisfying. Tore at my heart strings, but something lacking in the storycraft here.


As with the Animated Shorts film, the between film patter was handled by last year's winner, Luke Methany. Not as effective - partly because there was just him, with no partner or foil to bounce memories off. And partly because, dark horse that God of Love was, he's not quite as seasoned as Mssrs. Joyce and Oldenburg - so a bit more of the "gee whiz, I won" and a bit less of the "we've been at this for 15 years, we've done a lot of grunt work, so keep hold of your dreams no matter what" that made the Animated segments work so well.

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