February 18, 2008

REVIEW: 2008 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

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.

The nominees:

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.


  1. Hey, good review! My LAMB write-up on this is forthcoming. Did you go to both Animated and Live Action at once? And did the goofs at the Lagoon make you get up and drag all your stuff to the lobby so they could clean the theater? I don't remember that happening last year; and there was more than a little grumbling the night I went.

    You said Madame Tutli-Putli will win... but which one did you like the best?

  2. Thanks much, Nayana. As a matter of fact, I only saw the Animated Shorts, so no hassle from the Lagoon workers.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on them. Now that you've held me to my prediction (dang it), I'll say that I think I "liked" them in this order:


    But really, I surprisingly did enjoy them all.

  3. What a great post, love the comparisons! I saw these shorts last week, and agree that they are so different. I don't know how you'd pick "the best".

  4. Thank you, Linda, and welcome to your new home for meaningless comparisons and "reviews" that don't actually form an opinion, hehe. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Animated shorts are sometimes my favorite part of the whole Oscar thing.

    They're usually inventive, clever and original...something the features are so often not.

    Having said all that, I haven't caught these yet this year. Not sure if I'll make it before Sunday, but you've inpsired me to try. Sounds like a good batch.

  6. That's funny you were able to match them up so well with the Best Film nominations. Is this year's batch archetypal or maybe did your idea mold your synopses? Going further, could you use these categories (nearly)every year and apply them to any film? Interesting how we can boil down the themes of 'our' stories and yet have the variety we do in film or any medium for that matter.

    Maybe this is all because I finally saw No Country last night. In some ways its the same old stuff but at the same time fantastic and fresh. Hopefully I can catch up on the rest of the nominees (that's just 2 of the 5) in the next week or so. Of course that is just so I can scoff at the Academy's decisions.

  7. I have only seen Madame and Pigeons - they ere great, my pick would be Madame. I wish I could seen them all before O. night though.

    I also loved how you mayched the Animated shorts with the Best Pic nominees, very fun indeed.

  8. I'm sure you'll enjoy them if you make it, Craig, but this is tough week to try to squeeze viewings in. I think Magnolia Pictures took them off the website I linked to, as they have a right to. Oh well.

    Good question and points, Boland. I didn't actually try to synopsize them to sound like the BP nominees, but they really are similar. Maybe there are just 5 types of movies that exist, and we see different versions of them over and over. Weird. Good thing you saw No Country, though I hope it wasn't bogged down with too much hype in your head. I still think a huge reason that I thought it was the year's best is because I went in deliberately deaf and blind about it.

    Thanks, Nick. It was a fun little experiment. Did you catch those two online? If so, maybe you can post a link for others since mine is dead. If not, well, at least you saw those two.

  9. I ended up being able to find all but "I Met the Walrus" online, and would agree that all four were fantastic. I thought that Pigeons was the best one, but would be fine with any of them pulling in the Oscar.

    I was just curious if anyone knows how exactly these shorts make money. I'm not saying money is the end-all, but I would assume that these don't just get made for fun. Anyone know ???

  10. No clue about the careers of short filmmakers (that's short-film makers). Maybe they work as assistants on feature-length films as well. Or maybe they're gym teachers and stock brokers. I guess it would only take some looking on IMDB to find out, but who has time to do that, anyway?


    OK, it seems these people do nothing but make Oscar-nominated short films, so...yeah.

  11. Nice write-up. Some of these sound fairly intense--would it be appropriate to take a 7-year old to see these? A theatre is screening all 5.

  12. Thanks for checking it out. Given what's on TV these days, it's likely the kid has seen worse, but that doesn't mean these would be great for them or anything. The themes would go over their heads, but there are some graphic scenes in Pigeons and Madame. If it wasn't for Madame, I would say no worries, but that one is somewhat disturbing.

    If you're an adult (parent?) that's concerned enough to even ask, the kid is probably being taken care of pretty well anyway, so they shouldn't be too affected.

    Wish I could say the same for parents who take their kids to the likes of Rambo.

  13. Thanks Daniel G. Maybe I'll save this for "date night" and rent Ratatouille for the boy. Appreciate the kind words.

  14. This is off the Oscar topic, but I wanted to share a couple of very well done animated short films I found while bumming around on YouTube.

    The Box Man, apparently inspired by a Kobo Abe novel, which I now am inspired to read.

    Hedgehog in the Fog (I used to have a hedgehog!)

    I hope you like them.

  15. Wow, Katie, those are awesome. The lighting and sound in The Box Man is outstanding. That guy could go on to do great work.

    And it looks like Hedgehog is like the Godfather of animated shorts, huh? For 1975 that's pretty impressive animation. Probably took them five years to make with the cameras they had then.


Related Posts with Thumbnails