Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reviewing the Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Okay, now let's take a look at the Oscar-nominated animated shorts. GO!

LAVATORY (LOVESTORY) -- In this Russian entry, the drab, lonely, black-and-white life of a lavatory attendant is turned upside down when colorful flowers start mysteriously appearing in her money jar. From there, she explores the depths of the men's bathroom in order to discover the identity of her supposed secret admirer. A cute, funny tale with simple but effective hand-drawn animation.

OKTAPODI -- Super-quick, 2 1/2-minute ditty from France about two octopi lovers whose blissful fishtank existence is thrown into upheaval when one of them is taken away to be eaten. The other sets out on a wild goose chase through the streets of Greece to get her back, and of course, hijinks ensue. Spectacular CG animation that is a nice homage to Pixar... but that being said, it's no Pixar. Still good, though!

LA MAISON EN PETITS CUBES (PIECES OF LOVE, VOL. 1) -- Surreal tale from Japan (despite the French title) of an old man living alone in a town that has become submerged in water. In order to battle the rising tide, he keeps building new levels on top of each other. When he drops his pipe into the lower levels, he dons scuba gear and goes down to retrieve it, reliving the fondest memories of his life as he passes each underwater level. Ethereal, hand-drawn animation and music make for a unique, emotional experience.

THIS WAY UP -- Simply put, this is a story of two morticians trying to deliver a casket to a funeral. However, things don't quite go according to plan and they are continually thwarted, Looney Tunes-style, as, among other things, a boulder crushes their hearse, they fall off cliffs, lose the corpse in tree branches, and come face-to-face with the devil himself. It's dark and fabulously un-PC, with perfectly-dreary CG animation, and it's laugh-out-loud hilarious. Maybe the only other nominee that can really give Pixar a run for its money....

PRESTO -- Pixar are the current masters of animation in all formats, and this year, not only did they hit a home run with WALL-E, but they preceded that masterpiece with this one, perhaps the best short film they've ever graced us with. It's the story of a stage magician named Presto who, in the rush before showtime, forgets to feed his hungry rabbit. As a result, until he gets fed, the rabbit decides to sabotage the magic show by messing with Presto's magic hats, with increasingly disastrous results. It's another clear homage to the madcap zaniness of Looney Tunes -- you could totally see Bugs Bunny in the starring role -- but it takes things to a whole other level. The action is non-stop, the gags are hilarious, the characters are perfect and the animation is amazing -- all in all, it's yet another triumph from the geniuses at Pixar, and the clear winner of this year's Oscar!

In conclusion, come Oscar night:

WILL PROBABLY WIN: Presto... hail Pixar!

Also, since the Oscar-nominated films were so short, we were treated to a bunch of other great shorts from the past year. VARMINTS is a spectacularly-animated cautionary tale about a world ravaged by recklessness and indifference. JOHN & KAREN offers a quick glimpse into the lives of a polar bear and a penguin as they attempt to reconcile their relationship. Disney-esque GOPHER BROKE follows a hungry critter as he desperately tries to get his paws on some tasty treats. SKHIZEN is the sad, compelling tale of a guy who survives getting hit by a meteorite, only to find himself 91 centimeters from where he should be in his plane of existence (bizarre and amazing -- I'm not sure why this didn't get the Oscar nod!). Lastly, HOT DOG is about a feisty little pooch who follows his dream to work for the fire department... with mixed results to say the least. Good stuff, all around!

Aaaaand there you have it. The Oscars are this Sunday and I am ready and rarin' to go. I have once again seen all the major nominees, as well as a few of the foreign films and documentaries, and now, for the first time ever, the short films, as well. In case I haven't mentioned it, I love movies. :)

Can't wait for the big show!

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