Animation time, bitches! GO!
FRENCH ROAST (France) -- Amusing little French ditty about a guy who has a cup of coffee at a cafe, only to realize that he forgot his wallet. Instead of owning up to it, he just keeps drinking more coffee. Meanwhile, odd encounters with the waiter, a homeless guy, a policeman and a little old lady thicken the plot. The animation is good and the story is fun, especially if you are enamoured with Paris, as I am.
THE LADY AND THE REAPER (Spain) -- It seems that the success of Pixar's UP spawned a number of short films dealing with old people and/or death. Kind of morbid... but in this case, it is in the best possible way. A lonely old lady awaits death so that she may be with her beloved husband once again... however, when her time comes and the Reaper arrives, she is snatched from his clutches by a pompous surgeon who saves her life. Not to be outdone, Death fights back and a madcap battle that is reminiscent of Looney Tunes and the Benny Hill Show ensues. Hilarious, gorgeously animated, touching and dark as hell -- a great little film and my pick for Oscar gold!
A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH (UK) -- Wallace and Gromit are back! This time, they're working as bakers, and cousin, business is booming! However, mystery is afoot, as local bakers appear to be disappearing with alarming regularity. When Wallace meets and fall in love with his longtime bread-related crush, the "Bake-o-Lite Girl," it's up to Gromit to keep them in bread AND make sure that his master doesn't get in over his head. If you're a fan of Nick Park’s grand creation, this film will not disappoint -- and will undoubtedly win the Oscar (have they ever lost?). Personally, I like'em fine, but I'm not a rabid fan by any means. Funny stuff, though!
GRANNY O'GRIMM'S SLEEPING BEAUTY (Ireland) -- I have no idea why this one was nominated. It’s about a seemingly-sweet old lady who tells a raging, bitter, warped version of Sleeping Beauty to her terrified granddaughter. I liked the contrasting animation styles -- CGI for granny & kid; stylized 2D for the story itself -- but the skit is all build-up and shock value with no real payoff. I realize that I am a bit of a Pixar apologist, but the fact that this forgettable mess was nominated over the far-superior PARTLY CLOUDY is a crime against humanity.
LOGORAMA (France) -- Oh man, this one is CRAZY. It’s set in a Los Angeles-esque world in which everything is made up of recognizable corporate logos and mascots. I do mean EVERYTHING, ranging from pedestrians who look like AOL icons, to Michelin Man policemen, to traffic lights modeled after the Stop-and-Shop logo, to the MGM lion in a cage at the zoo (which is run by a flamboyantly gay Mr. Clean), to a murderous, rampaging Ronald McDonald... this film is no-holds-barred, wildly entertaining and I cannot believe it actually got made! Loaded with strong language, violence, car chases and natural disasters, this is truly the ultimate scathing of an over-marketed corporate America as only the French could portray!
Aaaaand the little gold man should/will go to....
I'M ROOTING FOR: The Lady and the Reaper
WILL PROBABLY WIN: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Oh, before I forget, since the Oscar nominees were so short, we were also treated to three “highly considered” films, as well. They were as follows:
PARTLY CLOUDY (USA) – Much like Pixar’s feature presentation, this year’s short film is not one of their best efforts -- but it’s still a world better than most other films. Actually, this film, which tells the story of where the babies come from BEFORE the stork delivers them, has grown on me after re-watching it on Blu-Ray and again on the big screen. The animation is splendid, the characters are memorable and the story is refreshingly original. Puzzling that it didn’t get the nomination... would’ve been interesting to see Pixar vs. Nick Park in a battle of the animated short titans!
RUNAWAY (Canada) – Mildly amusing but mostly forgettable piece about a train that hits a cow and careens out of control. The conductor is off gallivanting and it’s up to the lowly coal-pusher to save the day. Meanwhile, a bit of a class struggle occurs between the well-to-do set and the steerage passengers, with surprisingly dark results. I liked the traditional animation, which was some of the most unique of any of the entries... but overall the film just wasn’t that great.
THE KINEMATOGRAPH (Poland) -- Lovely, affecting film about an old inventor who is on the cusp of a major breakthrough that could change the world: moving pictures with color and sound. He works feverishly on his project, neglecting the outside world and his loving wife... and before he knows it, life has passed him by. Profoundly sad, somewhat disjointed, but beautifully animated -- particularly the way that the characters look like they're made of wood, complete with tree rings embedded in their skin.
In conclusion: Oscar Night is still a few days away, so get your sweet asses to the IFC Center immediately and see these films! Totally worth $25 for three solid hours of short film insanity!
P.S. In case you missed it, you can read my reviews of the Live-Action nominees right....... HERE!