2011 Oscar Live Action and Animated Shorts

Charlie and I got to see all of the Live Action and Animated Shorts over the weekend (we just couldn’t squeeze in a showing of the documentary short subjects too, alas) thanks to Landmark’s E Street Theatre in DC. Have to say, there are no duds in either category, just ones not up to the strength of its fellows. So good pickings overall. I definitely want to make seeing all of the nominees a tradition.

ANIMATED SHORT:

Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage — The one that, were I a voter, I’d cast my ballot for. Someone’s sketch-journal coming to life and illustrating a trip to Madagascar, which switches styles effortlessly and looks amazing. I was almost disappointed they showed this one first because nothing else could live up to it. (It also helps that I am a big fan of travel writing.)

The Lost Thing — Based on Shaun Tan’s children’s book of the same name, it’s got the strongest “message” and the inventiveness of Tan’s illustrations is just amazing. Beautiful, beautiful work.

Day & Night — The one everyone’s seen thanks to it being at the front of Toy Story 3. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really good, one of Pixar’s best short animated features to date. The only reason why it’s not at the top has to do with the strength of the first two (especially Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage). If Day & Night wins, it’s not for a lack of talent and skill involved. I’ll still be pleased if any of these first three win, honestly.

Let’s Pollute! — A fun parody of informational films from earlier days with a strong, in-your-face environmental message. I suspect that’s going to actively turn some people off though (there’s no subtlety at all involved).

The Gruffalo — My least favorite, it’s not bad but it’s a very literal adaptation of a children’s book, and it overstays its welcome at 29 minutes. The repetition of events and phrases that works well in reading a kid’s book gets tiring in this adaptation. It’s nicely animated and the actors they got for the voices are all strong, but toward the end I began actively wishing it was over.

LIVE-ACTION SHORT:

The Confession — Once again, the best one was the first one aired. Great child actors, emotionally brutal, and even though you see some parts totally coming a mile away it still grabs you and squeezes hard. Really happy this one was nominated.

God of Love — This one was, however, the most enjoyable one to watch. Loved the entire cast, the sensibility, the music, everything about it. It’s very light and fluffy unlike The Confession, and this is one I’d want to watch again. Just great, and I want to see more from this filmmaker.

Wish 143 — It’s good (and it’s got the best basic concept, with a teenager with cancer getting a facsimile of the Make-a-Wish foundation asking what he wants, and he says to lose his virginity), and it earned its nomination, but… this is a short film that felt like it was trying to cram an entire movie into its shorter length. Emotionally it’s all over the place. I’d actually quite like to see this one remade into a full-length film; it’s got more than enough material to do so. (Added bonus: Margaret Slitheen appearance!)

Na Wewe — Is it wrong to say that this short film needed a minute or two trimmed off of it? I can see why it got nominated, because it’s an extremely tense story set during the Hutu/Tutsi conflicts in Burundi. But the cycle goes one too many times, I think, and part of the resolution ultimately relies on an extremely lame pun. This is one that I liked less the more I thought about it, and while it still ended up in 4th place in my book, the amount in which it was in fourth place slid down a great deal.

The Crush — It’s not a bad idea, but the child actor who plays the lead is really poor. As the entire short film hangs on him (he’s in all but maybe two scenes?) he drags this one to the bottom. The other aspects (the writing, the directing) are good, and when it was all said and done I had a smile on my face, but I think this film is lucky that everything else was strong because that kid needed to be recast and badly.

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