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Thursday
Feb162012

Oscar's Best Animated Short Nominees. Predictions!

Amir here. Thanks to Shorts International and TIFF, I’ve had the privilege of watching the nominees for Oscar’s short categories before the ceremony for the first time. As enjoyable as it is to finally have a horse in these races and not leave that part of the telecast to refill my alcohol, I’m sad to say that I found this year’s nominees not just short, but also slight. Not that all the films are disappointing, mind you. There are some gems to be found but compared to last year’s batch, this was a letdown.  

Pixar's "La Luna"

Without further ado...we’ll take a look at the animated films today and I will be back with the live actions over the weekend. (TIFF inexplicably scrapped the documentary shorts from its schedule. If you’re filling your Oscar pools, however, the smart money seems to be on Saving Face. I’ve not yet heard a single bad word about that film.)

Dimanche/SundayDimanche is about a young boy whose dull Sunday routine of going to the church and spending the day with his grandparents is only improved by deforming coins on the train tracks! There’s a pro-environment message as the grizzly bear on the coin comes to life and interacts with the boy, but barring a few funny moments, the film is as lifeless as its premise suggests. The colourless and sketchy design of the animation doesn’t help the film’s cause either.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a marvel as far as the quality of animation goes. (The full length version of the film is available online and Nathaniel reviewed it last week.) I’m cooler on this one than he is. I find the story interesting and I like the idea behind its execution, but I feel like the gimmick is repeated a few too many times. I think Nathaniel’s bang-on about the redundancy of anthropomorphism in the books. At 15 minutes, this is the longest film in competition and it certainly feels that way to me.

Then there’s La Luna. If we need further proof that the Pixar guys can do no wrong with their short films, this is it. I fear that saying anything about the plot will ruin the fun of it for those in the dark. Suffice to say that this story of male bonding between three generations of a family is intimately personal and yet, its fantastical twist is so clever and sweet that everyone can connect with. As usual with Pixar, the quality and detail of the animation is breathtaking. (Read Michael’s Film Experience interview with director Enrico Casarosa here. La Luna will be released later in the year, attached to Brave.)

A Morning Stroll is by far the weakest of the nominees. It tells the story of a chicken that strolls along a street, walks up a set of stairs, pecks at a door and is let in by someone. This morning stroll happens once in 1959, once in 2009 and again in 2059 and each time, the chicken confronts someone new on the street. The allegorical representation of the collective demise of the human race through the eyes of a chicken is an amazing concept but I think the shoddy execution of the animation and unwelcome tonal shifts between the three episodes don’t give the humour any room to breathe.

"Wild Life"

Finally, Wild Life is a gorgeously painted Canadian pastoral about an Englishman who immigrates to an unpopulated Alberta at the turn of the century. One the surface, the film is about one man’s depression as he faces the typical hardships of immigration, particularly the freezing cold of Midwestern Canada. But I found it to be a rich study of personal alienation and a rare look into the lives of Canadian settlers who are far less explored that their counterparts south of the border. Of all the five films, this is the one that most benefits from the technique it chooses, the oil painting effect giving it a romanticist 19th century look that fits nicely into the narrative.

Oscar Predictions: Pixar's Day & Night couldn’t manage to take the prize last year despite being the most widely acclaimed of the nominees. I have a feeling a similar fate awaits La Luna. Flying Books’ charm will probably carry it to the podium.

Will Win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Could Win:
La Luna
Should Win:
Wild Life

 

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Reader Comments (11)

Great to see I'm not the only fan of Wild Life out there. It's been getting trashed by so many reviewers that I was beginning to feel down on myself for liking it. I do agree that Morris Lessmore is the front-runner. Not only is it imaginative, it tells a very American story of revival following a tragedy. And most importantly, it's a crowd pleaser.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

I agree with you about the lackluster quality of this year's animated shorts, but I did love the live-action ones.

About that animated category, I agree that La Luna is the best but that Fantastic Flying Books will probably win. Dimanche was also my least favorite.

I disagree, however, about A Morning Stroll-- I thought the animation was excellent. It wasn't as beautiful as Fantastic Flying Books or the paintings of Wild Life, but it wasn't supposed to be anything other than quirky. And the simplicity of the lines in the 1959 segment was fun.

I also thought that as interesting as the animation and story was in Wild Life, the comet metaphor just didn't quite work on all levels.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Oh, and I'll echo the choirs of praise for Saving Face. If the Academy is going to go purely for "Issue" films, then they should at least go with one as emotionally compelling as this one.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I thought last year's films just left the entire crop of this year's in the dust, although I can't comment on La Luna because our theatre didn't have it in its reel. How is that possible? They didn't even know why it was missing. or that it was missing, until I pointed it out. The Charles Theatre Baltimore and E-Street Landmark DC were both missing La Luna on Saturday last week.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjtagliere

ajnrules- I haven't read the reviews since I wanted to do this post, but I'm surprised to hear it got bad response. As for Flying Books, as I said, I like the concept, but I couldn't connect with it personally. It's too cutesy for what it's trying to convey.

Evan- A Morning Stroll's second episode was my favorite conceptually, I think because I can connect with the contemporary setting and I think it makes an interesting (and very true!) observation. The first episode was my favorite technically. I like the simple sketches as well. I think it's mostly the over-the-top violence of the third episode that threw me off.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

ajnrules- I haven't read the reviews since I wanted to do this post, but I'm surprised to hear it got bad response. As for Flying Books, as I said, I like the concept, but I couldn't connect with it personally. It's too cutesy for what it's trying to convey.

Evan- A Morning Stroll's second episode was my favorite conceptually, I think because I can connect with the contemporary setting and I think it makes an interesting (and very true!) observation. The first episode was my favorite technically. I like the simple sketches as well. I think it's mostly the over-the-top violence of the third episode that threw me off.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Yay, I always love this time a year when the nominated shorts head to the local very 'art' art house cinema nearby. It's always a time well spent seeing each one and quite a bit of bang for my buck in the end.

If I was personally voting, I'd have no problem giving it to La Luna. It was an interesting concept/story executed beautifully and I actually think it has a big chance of winning since it's a Pixar production and there are no clear-cut standouts and name recognition just might propel it past the finish line. This is not a year where there's a film like Logorama, a hands-down 'race is over' type of contender.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore felt too self-consciously cutesy and I wasn't engaged in the story at all. The animation was nothing original or spectacular either. Those 15 minutes felt very long to me. Pretty but I was not a big fan.

Dimanche was very slight but I appreciate the animation and simple story. I would've replaced it with a couple of the non-nominated bonuses they showed at the end of the presentation, which had more lasting impact.

Wild Life could be a spoiler since it's a very contained story told very confidently with its animation. One I respected more than I loved but since it is the only one with real dramatic weight to it, I could see how some voters would think that might equal best.

I think the winner, though, will be A Morning Stroll. It's flashy and contained enough, cool and edgy, silly and fun enough. Most importantly, thought, it sticks out like a sore thumb on weirdness alone and I can totally see animators going for it because of it's fairly flawless execution. And I wouldn't mind, I dug it.

Overall, not bad. And seemingly like every year, some of the non-nominated add-ons could've easily replaced a couple or so.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Also, does anyone else imagine who the likes of John Lasseter and Sylvain Chomet vote for? I always think it's fun, especially with the Pixar team who openly appreciate different animation forms, to think about how great animators in the biz might respond to some of the future directors of tomorrow.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Amir- totally agree about the third part being too over-the-top. I sorta forgave the film but imagine, like you, that many Academy members might not.

I'm still trying to figure out how it won the BAFTA.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Evan- well, its competition was entirely different. In the academy's lineup, it's the only British film.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I loved La Luna so much, but I agree that Flying Books is probably the winner.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRJ
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