Saturday, February 16, 2008

Academy Award Nominated Short Subjects - Animation

The Academy Award Nominated Short Subjects (both animated and live action) are in limited distribution around the country this week, from Magnolia Pictures. Luckily, they are screening at the Landmark Midtown Arts, here in Atlanta! As you should know, there are five nominees in each category, so it is a combined program of ten shorts. The animated portion lasts approximately 90 minutes. Forebodingly, the live action portions lasts two hours and 20 minutes. I will go into a rant about the live action "shorts" in a post to follow. But the animated nominees cover a broad spectrum of technique and style. It is as if the nominating committe found a representative from each possible technique: painting, drawing, cgi, clay, and puppets. In presentation order.

MEME LES PIGEONS VONT AU PARADIS (EVEN PIGEONS GO TO HEAVEN) (dir. Samuel Tourneux, France, 9 minutes, 2007, French with English Subtitles) Created in CGI, it is a witty little fable about religion, faith, life and death. I know, it sounds all so HEAVY, but the silly plot about a priest trying to sell an old man a machine that he promises will transport him to heaven, was in the end, a nice evil chuckler! Visually, the paradise sequence is glorious to look at! However, my only reservation is that technically, there are no apparent innovations for a CGI created short. Not to say that is a requirement, but I've come to expect it. The short is apparently and deservedly in the competition due to its irreverent screenplay.

MY LOVE (MOYA LYUBOV) (dir. Alexander Petrov, Russia, 27 minutes, 2007, Russian with English subtitles) Alexander Petrov, Oscar winner for The Old Man and the Sea (2000), continues his technique of painting on glass to beautifully tell the short story by Ivan Shmelev. Set in nineteenth-century Russia, it follows the romantic yearnings of a teenage boy between two women. As I said, the impressionistic paintings are gorgeously animated, the language is lyrical to listen to, the pacing is deliberate and since it extends past my "25 minute short subject threshold", I fell asleep. I'm sort of ashamed of that, considering the enormous effort (five years!) that Petrov and his crew put into a half hour of animating via painting! But it was just so... quiet!

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI (dirs. Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada, 17 minutes, 2007, Silent) In the spirit of full disclosure, I LOVE and am not very impartial towards the National Film Board of Canada! This gorgeously produced and technically wild blend of claymation and CGI continues to support the NFB's place as an international leader in animation. Now, I will admit that sometimes they will lose track of their screenplays in deference to their experimental artistic vision. And that sort of happens here. A brilliantly rendered train is the setting for a series of nightmares (or are they?) that frighten a timid and beautifully designed woman. My hesitation on this short is that there really isn't any point to the series of events that befall her. However, it is gorgeous to look at and stunningly edited.

I MET THE WALRUS (dir. Josh Raskin, Canada, 5 minutes, 2007, English) This mind blowing stream of consciousness,2D animation of fourteen-year-old Jerry Levitan's 1969 interview with John Lennon (captured on his reel-to-reel tape recorder) is rumored to be the front runner for the Oscar. Director Josh Raskin combines the pen illustrations of James Braithwaite (whose sequences are of the inteviewer) and Alex Kurina, computer illustrator, who breathlessly animates Lennon's answers. There are no real transitions between the two, however Raskin does maintain a palette and transfer quality for some visual continuity. One can argue about the significance of Lennon's profundities, however as visually presented here, they are mind blowing! The short is not necessarily technically groundbreaking, but it is artistically awesome!

PETER & THE WOLF (dir. Suzie Templeton, UK and Poland, 27 minutes, 2007) Suzie Templeton uses puppet animation to dramatize Prokofiev's classic musical piece. Templeton does give her film a definite visual style, though there are no technical innovations. What remarkable qualities there are in her film are the characterizations of the animals, particularly the Duck, Bird and Cat. She softened the story up a bit as far as the hunters' violence is concerned, though the Wolf's gulping down of the Duck is surprisingly graphic. Oh, and cat hater's everywhere will LOVE her for this film!

Maxxxxx says
re LES PIGEONS VONT AU PARADIS (EVEN PIGEONS GO TO HEAVEN): "Good bird!"
re MY LOVE (MOYA LYUBOV): "Is it bedtime?"
re MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI: "Belle! Belle!"
re I MET THE WALRUS: "What!"
re PETER AND THE WOLF: evil cackle

2 comments:

Brett W. Thompson said...

Wow! Thanks for posting stuff like this, you're a great writer! :)

Xanna Don't said...

I know we talked about these shorts at ATL-FF this year, but again my absolute favorite was Madame Tutli Putli. As for the story not going anywhere, I think what they presented could be a great intro to a feature length film. I hope they make one out of it, because it's some of coolest stuff I've ever seen. Loved it!