a theatre, film & pop culture review
Let’s begin with the shorts, shall we? (Not that you saw any of them)
[Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winners will be in orange.]
Are you wondering where Pixar’s adorable and utterly charming
Partly Cloudy is?
Disregarding that huge oversight by the Academy, this alternately whimsical, clever, and politically overt crop o ‘toons is entirely worthy (for trailers for all nominated animated and live-action shorts, go here). My vote goes to the funny and crisply animated The Lady and the Reaper in which an elderly woman desperately pining for her beloved recently deceased husband tries valiantly (and hilariously) to meet the Reaper despite the cocksure and hysterical efforts of a handsomely chiseled doctor (Bonus: Antonio Banderas produces!). But the Academy rarely fails to reward that loveable claymation duo, Wallace and Gromit, and their yeasty adventures in A Matter of Loaf and Death offer that characteristically British-bent humor that has garnered three previous Oscars for creator Nick Park.
Possible spoiler: the profane and ultra-violent Logorama (at times) cleverly and colorfully sends up dozens upon dozens of universally recognizable brands as it simultaneously ticks off action cliché after action cliché (Car chases! SWAT teams! Earthquakes! Hostages!). While not offering much depth beyond the initial visual lampooning of corporations, voters may celebrate the film’s overtly adult content as a breath of fresh air in a category teeming with quirky, cutely-drawn characters and sentimental themes. For my money, though, its in-your-face-anti-corporate politics are lazier than the animation is vibrant and inventive.
In this year’s wildly various category, Kavi is the sentimental favorite, as it follows the heartbreaking defiance of a brightly optimistic Indian boy as he dreams of playing cricket and freedom from his indentured servitude. But both the Academy and myself maintain a history of favoring clever and unpredictable violence, and Joachim Back and Patrik Eklund are the Tarantinos of short live-action with their self-conscious philosophizing film, The New Tenants. A couple preposterously encounters its vicious new neighbors over and over again while attempting to reconnect emotionally with each other in this brutally absurd short.
Meanwhile, Instead of Abracadbra captures the eccentric humor of a Swedish Napoleon Dynamite (“Chimay!”), the Irish-made, Russian-language The Door relays the muted despair of a family following Chernobyl, and the least accomplished Miracle Fish (Australia) begins cutely with a cherubic boy subjected to constant bullying and slowly builds to an emotionally manipulative moment of predictable – yet still shocking – horror.
QUICK UPDATE! Saw the short docs this afternoon (3/7/10) and the Rabbits were super-clever and a wonderfully told story through a unique perspective, The Last Truck is easily the most moving (at least for a girl from Detroit), and China’s Unnatural Disaster is incredibly shrill and unbalanced (I felt for the parents of children killed in the earthquake, but the filmmakers really needed to go deeper). This is my ranking, but we’ll see what happens!