The Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation (1:27, NR) â€” other: miscellaneous, bargain basement, originalThese are the 7 short features (not properly “cartoons”, since none of them is funny) in this compendium, in order of appearance:(1) Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Travel Journal), Sacrebleu Prod., France, 11 min.(2) Let’s Pollute, no company listed, USA, 6 min.(3) The Gruffalo, Magic Light Pic., UK/Germany, 27 min.(4) The Lost Thing, Passion Pic., Australia/UK, 15 min.(5) Day & Night, Pixar, USA, 6 min.(6) Urs, Filmakademie Baden-WÃ¼rttemburg, Germany, 10 min.(7) The Cow That Wanted To Be a Hamburger, Bill Plympton Studios, USA, 6 min.The 1st 5 are the Oscar nominees; the latter 2 are bonus features thrown in by distributor Shorts International as “highly commended”. The last 3 have no dialog; neither does #1, but it does have on-screen wordage rendered in English subtitles. #3 is sparsely narrated in rhyme. Most are hand-drawn, except #1 seems to have been largely rotoscoped, while #5 (which you may have seen preceding Toy Story 3) is of course the most slickly produced, using Pixar’s state-of-the-art computer animation tech. #7 is merely produced by Plympton; it does not feature his distinctive hand-drawn style.It’s the inherent nature of anthologies â€” even themed anthologies, which this most certainly is not, aside from the Oscar thing â€” to be a mixed bag. That’s true here in spades, as there is a wide range of animation styles on display. But you’d think that at least the quality would be high, since these were deemed to be award-worthy. Alas, not so. #1 and #6 in particular were utterly pointless, #1 seeming to be random incidents during the writer’s vacation trip in Madagascar, while #6 was a drudgerous journey of a peasant from his valley hut to the far side of the barrier mountain range, hauling his aged mother in a wooden chair strapped to his back. #4, with its giant orange tentacled teapot (the eponymous lost thing), had a certain endearing whimsy largely offset by its gloomily gray visual spectrum. #2 uses really primitive crayon drawings to beat to death its counter-intuitive theme about pollution being the cornerstone of Western civilization; as satire goes, this is one of the most heavy-handed pieces of propaganda I’ve seen outside any 6-minute slice of Faux News.The highlights for me were #3 (in which a mama squirrel regales her 2 squirrelets with a tale of a clever mouse who outwits potential predators with made-up descriptions of his big buddy the gruffalo, until he meets an ACTUAL gruffalo) and #5 (in which 2 transparent homuncublobs cavort and marvel at the scenes visible inside each other, 1 by day, 1 by night, until at the end the sun goes down inside one while rising inside the other, and they switch places). But #3 was longer than it needed to be for such a minimal tale, and I’d already seen #5, so some of its original magic had worn off.All in all, then, a kind of disappointed “poor” rating from me. I fret that good hand-drawn animation may be becoming a lost art, but maybe it’s just a down year; that was certainly the case with 2010’s science-fiction feature-length films. I guess they can’t all be winners.We’re certainly not ready yet to hand out a “no award”, but it may be time to cut the category down to only 3 nominees, which was sadly necessary for “best original song” a couple of years back when they couldn’t find a full slate worthy of nomination.
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Collective screening of the Academy Award nominated short films from the Animation category for 2011.
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