The Oscars for CARTOON Nominees
Available in Theaters Now
Oscars Recognize Quality Work
In all the categories of excellence recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the majority do not receive much attention in mainstream news. While nominations for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, and Director hog our notice, many categories worthy of recognition exist. Nonetheless, professionals advance film entertainment by their contributions in many arenas.
To illustrate this situation of ignoring the little guys, a many-a truth-is-said-in-jest moment occurs at the end of a Muppet movie. As credits roll at the end, the voice of Fozzie Bear, one of the characters, urges that they fast-forward through all those boring words. Kermit the Frog objects, stating that all those employees have mothers and families which want to see their loved one’s contributions acknowledged. Hear, hear! The same applies to the nominees for all the smaller, technical, yet equally important achievements in the film industry.
Oscars for Animated Shorts
The Academy has been awarding Oscars for animated and live action shorts since 1931, according to a Smithsonian Magazine blog. Unlike the best picture contenders, these shorts were rarely seen by the public at large. How, then, could one give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the decision? Fortunately for us viewers, in 2005 ShortsHD started packaging these works into programs for theaters and cable release.
“ShortsHD teams with Magnolia Pictures to bring the Oscar nominees to theaters, at the moment on 200 screens… On February 21, many of the shorts will become available on iTunes. The packages are also available via some “On Demand” cable systems.”
This year the package in theaters includes 4 shorts on a highly commended list to make the run time 1 hour and 20 minutes. My friends and I found them to be better than the nominees.
Home Theater System
Here is the list in no particular order:
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” Moonbot Studios Louisiana, USA. 15 minutes. No dialogue.
“Dimanche” National Film Board of Canada. 10 minutes. Grunty inflections. Some written French and English.
“La Luna” Pixar, USA. 7 minutes. Grunty inflections.
“Wild Life” National Film Board of Canada. 13 minutes. English dialogue.
“A Morning Stroll” United Kingdom. 7 minutes. No dialogue.
First, I think it is absolutely unfair that the category of animated shorts includes both hand-drawn oeuvres and computer-generated multimedia “pixar-ish” productions. That is not a level playing field and quite subject to the personal preferences of the judges. I am from the baby Boomer generation, so I grew up quite comfortable with black-and-white television, movies, and photographs. I appreciate the gradations and subtle effects which can be shown in black-gray-and-white. (So does Woody Allen.)
“A Morning Stroll” uses black and white and then color. It is 2-D and pretty bizarre, even apocalyptic. I did not care for it at all, but could appreciate the attention to detail.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” color pixar. Too long and a weird maybe-story line. I did enjoy the way books were depicted with little bird legs and they moved, tilted, and flew exactly like real birds. Kudos to the part of the team that created them.
“Dimanche” black and white. This film resonated with me. It depicts a small child’s small town routine on a Sunday. He puts a coin on the railroad tracks to get flattened by a passing train, goes to church, and visits elderly relatives. It is a dear story with no dialogue needed.
“La Luna” color pixar. This also involves a small child and elders, although I puzzled over whether there was a plot for most of it. It includes cute mild competition between the father and the grandfather. Sound effects for the moon’s surface were good.
“Wild Life” primarily black and white with occasional pastels. This has a story! Hurray! It is the recounting of an adventure turned misadventure with some mockery of the colonializing British. There also are inter-titles providing an enigmatic corollary theme story. The backgrounds of gray and white impressionistic Van Gogh-like watercolor swirls are a visual treat.
Playing alongside the nominated films are four ecologically-themed “Highly Commended” titles, the most entertaining of which is “Skylight,” a public service announcement about the dangers of global warming that features a variety of exploding aviary and terrestrial lifeforms, especially.
Nullarbor - 10 minutes – color, pixar-ish. outback A male-ego car race between a gritty man and a older ain’t-gonna-take-no-baloney man over the barren outback landscape of Australia's Nullarbor Plain. Entertaining. Surprise ending.
Amazonia - 5 minutes – color, 2-D.
A little tree-frog tries to eat as predators and prey do their things around him. A larger frog lurks- is he friend or foe? Excellent feature: background music is Beethoven's Symphony No.8.
Skylight - 5 minutes – color, 2-D.
A mock documentary about global warming with exploding life forms and demented penguins! Silly, fun, and easy to understand. My favorite.
Hybrid Union - 4 minutes – color, pixar-ish.
Two little robots race a mysterious big flying saucer. It forces them to form an alliance - The Hybrid Union! It was ok.
Oscars on television
Tune in on Sunday, February 26th on ABC. The presentations will be broadcast live in more than 225 countries worldwide. Keep your ear perked for the winner of the Animated Shorts.
Text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.