- That Wasn’t Me (Aquel no era yo, 2012) – New title: The Third World Sucks, but Sometimes White People Make it a Little Better. This title will be used a lot in Oscar-Nominated shorts. Most years, there is one.
- Just Before Losing Everything (Avant que de tout perdre, 2013) – My definite favorite. This was the only one of the five shorts that made me feel afraid for someone. A scene of a woman walking calmly through a department store has never been so intense.
- Helium (2014) – New Title: Cancer Ward. We’ve all seen Cancer Ward before. Filmmakers: you can stop making Cancer Ward.
- Do I have to Take Care of Everything (Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa?, 2012) – Next to two hack jobs trying to make me feel sad or angry and another piece that actually succeeds in making me feel fear, it’s nice to have a light bit of fluff.
- The Voorman Problem (2012) – Amusing, contains Martin Freeman.
- Feral (2012) – There are definitely points given for being pretty. After all, this is the entertainment industry. Beyond the pretty, however, there’s not a lot to get from this one. At least it’s a story we don’t see every day.
- Get a Horse! (2013) – Being a short from Disney about Disney and the magic of movies, I can definitely see the Academy patting themselves on the back with this one. Not my pick, though. While there’s plenty of clever meta-humor to it, there are other, more deserving pieces.
- Mr. Hublot (2013) – Please tell my boss I won’t be in today. I have died of boredom.
- Possessions (Tsukumo, 2012) – As with so many Japanese films, I’m still trying to see if I fully get it, or if there’s even anything to get. I’m fairly certain this is just a very pretty short film about taking care of your things, but who can say for certain?
- Room on the Broom (2012) – Easily the most broadly appealing of the shorts, this is the one you should take your kids to see. Unless you don’t like your children, then I guess you should go with Mr. Hublot or Feral.
Other shorts shown, not nominated:
- À la française (2012) – Good for a light chuckle. Chickens being fancy.
- The Missing Scarf (2013) – That this was not nominated is one of the greatest shames of Academy history. Maybe it didn’t do whatever shorts need to do to qualify. If that’s the case, I expect to see this nominated next year. The Missing Scarf provides the only sincere, full-on laughter I had during the entire program of animated shorts.
- The Blue Umbrella (2013) – Pixar phoned it in this year.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films, Animated
- Dimanche / Sunday – Oh, French Canadians, don’t ever change.
- A Morning Stroll – Chickens and zombies. All it needs is a ninja-pirate… no, that’s not fair. Despite the zombies, it was cute. Maybe it started to beat a dead horse by the end, but a cute dead horse.
- Wild Life – Holy shit, you guys. I want a pet Canadian. Someone get me one, please? This was beautiful, and I pick it to win. To keep with my traditional wrongness, watch for the Academy to declare a four-way tie among all the other entries.
- The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – Hey, guess what? Having a long title doesn’t make your film clever. Cleverness does, not that you’d know anything about that, Morris Lessmore creators.
- La Luna – Pixar. Adorable. That about sums it up.
- Skylight – I take it back about A Morning Stroll. This is what we call beating a dead horse. Needed to be about half as long.
- The Hybrid Union – No major objections. Carry on.
- Nullarbor – I don’t care about Australia or cars, so it’s hard to give even half a shit about this one.
- Amazonia – Really? What kind of asshole actually includes an audience cheering and applauding for their shitty cartoon? Really?
Oscar-Nominated Short Films, Live-Action
- Pentecost – This year’s Irish Children Have a Hard Life entry. It at least has the decency to be brief. Also, Ireland? I make the liturgical jokes around here, back off.
- Raju – If you’ve ever watched a season (any season) of The Amazing Race, you’ve seen the episode where they go somewhere exceptionally poverty-stricken–usually India–and some privileged twit wanders around in a taxi crying about the plight of these poor people, swearing that they’ll do something for poor people as soon as they get home. Germany made a short film out of that episode.
- The Shore – Although Pentecost was Irish, and some poor kid was very put-upon, it wasn’t depressing, so Northern Ireland gave us an uneven comedy that invoked The Troubles and a man with one arm. The lesson: don’t worry about people you’ve offended; they probably don’t remember the situation accurately anyway, and your daughter is being overbearing and whiny.
- Time Freak – Cute, I guess, but I feel like I’ve seen this before. At a porn festival. The porn version was better.
- Tuba Atlantic – This year’s Scandinavians With Daddy Issues. I didn’t think they were going to make it about daddy issues this year, seeing as it’s about a very old man with no children, but then he talked about his father! For all the shit I give Scandinavians for their Freudian issues, this one is my pick to win. As usual, I expect to be wrong.
- Madagascar, a Journey Diary – Gorgeous, visually innovative, the kind of thing that should be rewarded, say, with an award. Maybe it’s just the pessimist in me talking, but something tells me the Academy will ignore this. (Watch it here.)
- Let’s Pollute – Ugh. You know what’s depressing? Bill Plympton’s cartoon was not my least favorite short. We’ll get to that later. (watch a clip here, if you must.)
- Day & Night – It almost gets boring when Pixar so consistently rocks. Almost. Pixar, as usual, stands a very good chance of taking this award from honest, hard-working filmmakers. They’re like the Wal-Mart of animated shorts, except I don’t hate them. (watch it here.)
- The Gruffalo – Okay, so there are three shorts in this category that I would not be upset to see win. I don’t think this especially deserves to win, considering what else is nominated, but it was charming all over. (watch a trailer here. The full version is half an hour, and if the BBC will let you see it, it’s well worth it.)
- The Lost Thing – Borrowing too heavily from Tim Burton and Willy Wonka and not enough from The Land of Fully Developed Ideas, this falls kinda flat, which is a shame. (Watch a trailer here. Trust me, you’re not missing much by not seeing the full thing.)
- Urs – You’ve come a long way, Germany, but considering your starting point was things like The Blue Angel, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and some of the most brilliant, innovative cinema in history, that’s not necessarily a good thing. (Here‘s a trailer, I guess.)
- The Cow That Wanted to Be a Hamburger – You’ve put me in a very awkward position, Bill Plympton. I maintain that I must hate you. Your dog series is utter garbage that pushes my every button, but this… this I don’t hate. Visually it’s a bit unnerving, but I… I don’t hate this. (watch a clip here.)
- The Confession – It’s hard being a child who can’t stop murdering. It’s also hard being an armchair film critic who can’t stop choking on his own bile. (There are too many short films called “The Confession,” and I really don’t care if you see it, so I’m linking you to this instead.)
- Na Wewe – Making jokes about war and genocide is tricky, and I’m pretty sure that’s what this was trying to do. So… yeah. (Here‘s a clip.)
- The Crush – Quite cute, doesn’t try too hard. A-. (A clip is here.)
- Wish 143 – This year’s Cancer Ward entry. Best Cancer Ward Short Film ever. (Watch a clip here.)
- God of Love – From the description, I was sure I’d hate this. I didn’t. I actually quite liked it. (Watch a trailer here.)
Lent is coming.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films – Live-Action (2009)
- Kavi – Go see this. You can feel better about yourself because you’re aware that bad things happen to people out there. That’s all you need to do: everything you did for poor people after you saw Slumdog Millionaire.
- The New Tenants – The quintessential short film/one-act play: an observer or observers look on as a story is told to them or acted out in front of their bewildered eyes. There is some death, heroin, ballroom dance, and the audience is given a recipe for cinnamon buns.
- Miracle Fish – Bleh. I hate short films about children having a hard time.
- The Door – Holocaust Film will not be appearing tonight. Tonight, the role of Depressed Historical Drama will be played by Chernobyl Memoir.
- Instead of Abracadabra (Istället för abrakadabra) – Scandinavians With Daddy Issues will be making its usual appearance, however. And as always, it will be pretty damn funny.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films – Animated (2009)
- French Roast – Hey, be nice to poor people, y’all, ’cause they might be secretly rich or something.
- The Lady and the Reaper (La dama y la muerte) – Sad old ladies who want to die are so hilarious.
- Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death’ – It’s always good to see Wallace and Gromit. This may be their best yet.
- Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty – This is my pick to win, though I’m sad and afraid that it might not win. Is there some way I could just hug all of Ireland? Someone set that up for me, please.
- Partly Cloudy* – Another perfectly charming Pixar contribution. This isn’t nominated, but it’s okay, since Pixar is going to win Best Animated Feature.
- Runaway* – Canadians are second only to Russians when it comes to disorienting, vaguely sad animation.
- The Kinematograph* – Pretty, but insubstantial. I rather resent blatant manipulation like this, especially when it isn’t actually backed up with a story.
- Logorama – This is either a poignant critique of western culture, or a one-note joke. Either way, it made its point in the first couple of seconds and went on and on from there. 16 minutes, but it feels like a lifetime.
None of you were there, but that’s okay. I’m growing used to the abandonment. It helps to watch a lot of indie film when dealing with tough feelings, like abandonment.
Oscar-nominated short films – Animated (2008)
- Ubornaya istoriya – lyubovnaya istoriya (Lavatory – Lovestory) – Independent animation plot 14c: A dumpy woman whom you can totally identify with passes her days in an unfulfilling job and falls in love somehow. There are some
laughslight chuckles along the way.
- Oktapodi – I tried and tried to come up with a line for this, but it’s hard to develop an opinion in three minutes. Sorry, guys, there’s nothing to say. This might win, maybe?
- La maison en petits cubes – Indie film plot 31a: It sure sucks getting old, but there are a lot of memories of the past to keep you company as you die a slow, lonely death.
- This Way Up – It ended kinda… twice? I like the second ending, really, but all these years of watching short film, I expected credits to roll when they had the opportunity to take the easy way out of writing an ending. But they didn’t, and the real ending may have been the only time I laughed out loud at any of the nominees.
- Presto – I do love Pixar, and this was a good short film, but I’m just glad to see that Pixar doesn’t just automatically take this category every year. That’s what Best Animated Feature is for.
Other “Commended Films”
- Varmints – Cities ruin everything, trees are completely and thoroughly bitchin’, pollution is bad, and soon the giant space jellyfish will save us all and poop dandelion fluff everywhere.
- John and Karen – Nothing this year has made me happier than John and Karen. It’s incredibly British in its humor, but that’s okay. I wanted it to keep going, but part of its charm was that it was exactly as long as it needed to be.
- Gopher Broke – This was nominated for an Oscar four years ago? Really? And we dug it back up to show now? Were we that desperate for filler? I would learn later that, yes, we were.
- Skhizein – I wish there were such a thing as animated tattoos. I would have this playing on my back for the rest of my life. I’d have to get a couple of mirrors, but it’s worth it.
- Hot Dog – I don’t know who at Magnolia Pictures has a boner for Bill Plympton, but I wish they’d stop packaging that fucking dog of his with the animated shorts every year. It’s not funny, the animation is terrible and hideous, and the sound is some of the most nerve-grinding noise I’ve ever heard. Memo to Bill Plympton: Please die.
Oscar-nominated short films – Live-Action
- Auf der Strecke (On the Line) – It’s very long. It’s very German/Swiss. Hey, did I mention the self-congratulatory interstitials? Before each short film, they displayed a quote about short film and indie filmmakers. The first one–played during the animated set–was a quote from someone in the Academy about what a fucking honor it is for an animator to win that Oscar.
- New Boy – Indie tip: try setting your story in a classroom. Grade school is such a novel and clever microcosm of society. Also, teachers are useless, and you might as well not have them.
- Spielzeugland (Toyland) – I’m issuing a moratorium on Holocaust movies. This one did a fine job, but the genre is tired, and I’ve seen way too many movies that seem to rely too heavily on gut reactions to the subject matter.
- Grisen (The Pig) – I don’t know all the Academy rules, but I’m beginning to suspect there’s a rule that there must be at least one short film on the ticket about an old man in a hospital. This one, however, may have also been this year’s film with an actual point.
- Manon sur le bitume (Manon on the Asphalt) – Not sure why I liked this one. It was described–accurately–as “visual poetry,” and I hate poetry. Can’t read the stuff. But then, my favorite poetry, if I can be said to have a favorite, is of similar material. Maybe I think about death too much.
Lent is coming.
Oscar-Nominated Films, Live-Action (2007)
- Tanghi Argentini – This film does what a short film must do: end. It made its point–quite nicely–and ended. It was cute, funny, and short.
- Om Natten (In the Night) – Everyone deserves to have a big fuss made about them, I suppose. Everyone ought to make friends with an emotional wealthy person who will ensure that a grand monument is erected upon their death.
- Il Supplente (The Substitute) – I thought I made it pretty clear last year that Italians aren’t funny, and neither is flailing around like a jackass. A repeated line is only funny if it’s written and delivered in a humorous manner at humorous times. And everyone learns something goddamn important at the end.
- The Tonto Woman – I recognized the name Elmore Leonord in the opening credits, and was sure to receive some mercy after what the previous overlong pieces had done to me. Yes, the characters spoke in a stilted writery kind of way that only exists in short stories, but it was a pretty film with a tangible plot. I want to thank the filmmakers for that.
- Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) – Oh, it’s this years Film about Unready Adults Who Find Themselves Suddenly and Hopelessly in Charge of a Child. Fuck you, France. I might expect this sort of thing from Americans, but you, France? Oh, who am I kidding. All the worst sit-com movies are adapted from French shit.
I need a nap.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films, Animated (2007)
- Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven) – It’s like something Pixar might have made, if Pixar had given up on clarity of plot and characters. It’s a fine concept with lots of potential, and plenty of cute, but there was a major failure here. In retrospect, however, it could have been much, much worse.
- Моя любовь (My Love) – That this was painted in oil on glass painstakingly over the course of five years (so says the internet anyway) may be this short film’s greatest feat. The images are beautiful, if a bit disorienting. If nothing else, at least the ending was clear.
- Madame Tutli-Putli – Stop-motion animation on a set dug up from a trunk in your grandmother’s attic. Many of the shorts, especially the animated ones, ended with a severe what-the-hell moment. This one, though stunningly beautiful–my favorite stop-motion animation ever–left me feeling bad for not being Artistic enough to understand it.
- I Met the Walrus – Someday, the people who remember the Beatles will die, and things will change. Either we will forget the Beatles except as a page in a book on the history of music, or they will be canonized. I’m really hoping for the former. I’m waiting for the day when the people who caught John Lennon’s farts in a mayonnaise jar in 1969 will just die without heirs. Failing that, I hope the people who were discussing this film on the way out come to realize that the animation was not “like Monty Python” so much as “a tribute to the Beatles”. I don’t care about the Beatles, but I hate the people in that theater.
- Peter & the Wolf – “Is that a bird?” “The cat’s going to come outside.” “Hunters are coming.” “Those are the guys who threw him in the dumpster.” Thank God the man sitting next to me provided a constant commentary to his wife on all the cartoons, or I might have heard the music. God forbid that should happen. Anyway, there was something creepy about this one. I really think I’d rather just get a recording of the original score and listen to that. No one looks at you with dead glass eyes from a record.
After West Bank Story won last year, I refuse to make any Oscar predictions. I’ll just content myself to fume and grumble about all of them and be displeased with the result no matter what.