Well, here we are again—Oscar time, when everyone will tune in for a long, long four hours to watch Hollywood explain to the world, for the 80th time, why Hollywood is just so gosh-darn awesome. Excited? I know I am. As always, however, some of the awards handed out may prove a bit mystifying to the general public. Best Animated Short, for instance. Who watches shorts anymore? That’s right—bohemian film buffs living in New York, and pretty much no one else. But the award is still there, reminding us of a simpler time when the clips before the movie were entertainment, instead of ads for Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. So for those of you who need to mark your Oscar ballots, I now present a rundown of the five pictures up for the award…
(Samuel Tourneaux, France)
In this stop-motion missive, a priest tries to sell a man a machine that he claims will take him to heaven. The animation is excellent, but the morality play is a little facile and a bit overdone.
Will it win? Possibly. Oscar does love iconoclasm.
But should it? Any film that features Death as a central character is okay by me.
(Josh Raskin, Canada)
Based around the actual audio of a high school student’s interview with John Lennon in 1969, this one is essentially a free-association piece that consists primarily of computer-processed 2D animation.
Will it win? I doubt it. Of the five, it’s the least ambitious. But then, it is short and sweet.
But should it? It’s my personal favorite, and easily the most thought-provoking of the lot.
Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada)
This is easily the weirdest of the five, which is saying something. Essentially a surrealist stop-motion piece, it explores the psyche of a lonely woman on a train. It’s intelligent, but unfortunately, the animation is downright ugly—though perhaps that was intentional.
Will it win? It’s just pretentious enough to pull off an upset, I think.
But should it? It does have a certain charm that’s hard to resist.
My Love (Alexander Petrov, Russia)
How you feel about this one pretty much depends on how you feel about impressionist painting and Oedipal melodrama—because that’s pretty much all it is.
Will it win? Only if the members of the Academy can stay awake through the whole thing.
But should it? No. Note to Russia: A “short” should be…y’know…short.
Peter and the Wolf (Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman, U.K and Poland)
A new, wordless adaptation of Prokofiev’s program music, done this time with stop-motion. The attention to detail here is incredible: if you were to walk in halfway through, you might think for a second that you’re watching a live action film.
Will it win? As the least weird of the five, this one could be the dark horse.
But should it? What’s not to love here? Fantastic music, beautiful animation, happy ending. This is definitely one of the two best.
You’ll probably notice that there’s not a single American short on the list—mildly surprising, given that the Oscars are in place to honor American filmmaking and all. Then again, maybe it doesn’t make sense to give an award to a country that doesn’t appreciate short-subject filmmaking in the first place. In any case, now you know what they’re all about, so feel free to impress all your friends with this knowledge at your Sunday Night Oscar Party.
…And I’m out.