Last week, I talked about two Oscar-nominated films, Biutiful and The Illusionist. Now this week, there are a whopping fifteen Oscar-nominated films opening. The films are not feature length, thank goodness: there are three sets of short programs opening this weekend, two at the Lagoon Cinema and the other opening at the Riverview Theater. So to get ahead in your upcoming Oscar pools, it would be wise to try to catch these films in their limited runs.
So far I’ve only able to watch one of the collections, the animated short films. The live action short films will be playing at the Lagoon, along with the animated short films, while the short documentary nominees will be playing at the Riverview.
The five animated shorts in the collection are all worthy of the prestigious Oscar and one of them, Day & Night, many people saw if they saw the Oscar-nominated animated feature Toy Story 3 in theaters. The Pixar-made Day & Night is a wonderful take on daytime and nighttime, with two different cloud-like characters competing as to which part of the day is the better one. Director Teddy Newton’s film features no dialogue but different emotions and images on each of the characters’ bodies; as each tries to defend itself, they come to a compromise, leaving both of them seeing each other for who they really are.
From France and Madagascar comes Carnet de Voyage (translation: A Journey Diary). Director Bastien Dubios uses different types of animation to explore a beautiful picturesque travelogue. Seamlessly moving from black-and-white to color to oil paintings, many of the characters featured in the short don’t have faces and look to be drawn in stencils. There are some great moments of using his entire canvas in making a stunning portrait of life through scenic vistas.
A short that felt like it could have been longer but coming in close to under six minutes, writer/director Geefwee Boedoe’s very funny Let’s Pollute uses the style of an educational film that might have been used in the 1960s to show viewers the benefit of polluting. In voiceover, a deadpan Jim Thornton works wonders with lines like, “Corporations will lead the way to pollution.” The film left me thinking about the absurdity of how Americans are consumed by manufactured products.
From writer/director duo Max Lang and Jakob Schuh, the charming UK short The Gruffalo is the longest of the shorts, at twenty-seven minutes; they make each minute count. It’s a story within a story of a mother squirrel telling her two younger squirrel children about a mouse who ventures into the woods looking for food, only to encounter three different animals: a fox, an owl, and a snake. They all threaten to eat the mouse, but the sly mouse manages to elude each of them by telling them that he is off to a “gruffalo” whose favorite meals happen to be a fox, an owl, and a snake. The animation is similar to Pixar animation with some CGI special effects, but The Gruffalo is helped by its storytelling, leading each animal in a different direction only to be led back to the cunning mouse, who has bigger plans for each other them when he finally comes into contact with a “gruffalo.”
The last of the shorts might be my favorite: from Australia, The Lost Thing (above). Written and directed by another duo—Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan—The Lost Thing has a Wall-E type story, as a young boy takes a visit to a beach where he encounters a strange “crab creature” that seems to be abandoned. As the creature and the boy play on the beach all day, he can’t help but wonder where the creature has come from. He attempts to bring him home to his parents’ house, his parents want nothing to do with it and he is left to search for a new home for his creature friend. The Lost Thing delicately weaves melancholy and sadness into its brief 15-minute narrative; I couldn’t help but feel real emotion for the crab creation. It’s trying to find its place on earth, like so many of us looking for a way to connect with others, even though we may feel a little different than everyone else.