I had the great pleasure to catch the five Animated Short nominees last weekend. In contrast to the Live Action Shorts, these are truly a trip into some new dimensions in film. Each of the nominees features breathtaking animation, some of which I've never seen before (or seen so impressively), and since none of them are American you get a little slice of culture, too. You can try to see them here, but it's a really great experience in the theater - go whenever you have a chance in the future. I do not think you'll regret it.
Instead of "grading" these, I'm going to match them up with what I consider their 2007 Best Picture nominee equivalents. No reason - I liked all of these, so it's just a match game.
I Met the Walrus - Josh Raskin (Canada, 5 min, ink drawing/computer graphic animation):
- This is not so much a short film as it is an animated visualization of words. A 1969 recording of John Lennon rambling about peace, war, governments, and the world is turned into an impressive layout of graphics, images and words in pink, brown, and ivory hues. Something about this reminded me of a Gap commercial or something "hip" like that. It's very cool, but it's just not what you would traditionally call a film. It's the most uplifting of the five nominees, and the political ideas and rants might appeal to the Academy.
- 2007 Best Picture equivalent = Michael Clayton
Madame Tutli-Putli - Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (Canada, 17 min, stop-motion/CGI animation)
- If David Lynch made an animated film, this would be it. A meek woman boards a train to an unknown destination. Stuck in a sleeping car with a disgusting tennis player, a creepy kid, and two chess players, her trip turns downright macabre when a mysterious blue light signals organ-harvesting thieves to board the train and gas the passengers. Ah, and I haven't mentioned the moth, white bright light and chirpy sounds that the woman follows in her desperation. I'm already lost again, which I think was kind of the point. This was the most disturbing, most impressively animated, and most memorable nominee.
- 2007 Best Picture equivalent = No Country for Old Men
Meme Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis - Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse (France, 9 min, 3-D CGI animation)
- The ultimate battle between good and evil, life and death, angel and demon. When "Death" is supposed to come calling, a "Priest" steps in and saves the elderly Frenchman whose time has come. The priest's motive? Milking the man of his last dollar before death. A humorous trick is played before one character receives a karmic comeuppance in a very abrupt ending.
- 2007 Best Picture equivalent = There Will Be Blood
Moya Lyubov - Alexander Petrov (Russia, 27 min, hand-painted animation)
- A teenage Russian boy is caught in a love triangle in 19th-century Russia. His dreams and fantasies are lovely, disturbing, and really hard to follow. But I guess that's how dreams are. Watching this was like seeing the world in watercolor - hard to describe. Petrov is the only previous nominee in this group, and a previous winner at that. Maybe that makes him the favorite.
- 2007 Best Picture equivalent = Atonement
Peter & the Wolf - Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman (UK/Poland, 27 min, silicon model/stop-motion animation)
- The classic story of poor Peter and his heroic task is retold here in stunning stop-motion animation. This was the funniest and overall most entertaining of the nominees, but its ending drags - and I don't even know if it's the "right" ending. Something didn't feel right about it, but I'm not going to spend time looking up the accuracy of children's stories (not that I wouldn't look up other trivial information). The music was great, as you would expect.
- 2007 Best Picture equivalent = Juno
Predicting which of these five will on Sunday is, at least for me, a complete shot in the dark. They are so different from each other that I don't know what will appeal to the Academy members' tastes. I Met the Walrus seems totally out of place here, but maybe that's why it will win. Madame Tutli-Putli is the most impressive artistically, but the story is creepy and weird. Peter & the Wolf is a classic, and the other two are terrific stories. Without having a serious inside connection, I don't know how this can be accurately predicted.
I'll go with Madame Tutli-Putli.
...(or Moya Lyubov). Forget it, who knows.