a theatre, film & pop culture review
Sorry to my friends in the Great White North, but two Canadian shorts bottom out my list. Marcy Page and Bonnie Thompson’s starkly minimalistic-looking Wild Life is a Western of sorts, telling the rather dry story of a proud Englishman attempting to make a life for himself on the Canadian frontier at the turn of the 20th century. This dull — in color and in plot — short is only for the most hipstery of aficionados. Patrick Doyon’s Dimanche boasts an even duller palette of greys and blacks, and simpler animation of circles and sharp lines in its nearly narrative-free telling of one boy’s uneventful Sunday.
Thankfully, there’s A Morning Stroll, which begins with Dimanche‘s color(less) scheme but quickly transforms with energetic neon bursts of color. Based on a “true” story — this is great — in which a chicken is observed nonchalantly strolling down a sidewalk towards its residence, where it pecks on the door and is let inside. Grant Orchard’s 7-minute ‘toon depicts the chicken in the silent, black and white sketch-style of the 1950s, in the technology-obsessed-ADD present day and in a post-apocalyptic zombie-crazed world. It’s the flashiest, funniest and most vibrant of the bunch, and has no real chance of winning. But oh, what fun it is.
The Best Animated Feature nominees prove that having “Pixar” splashed across a tiny ‘toon doesn’t guarantee an Oscar nod. But here we have the frequent Mouse House-collaborator representing with the doe-eyed sentimentality that’s been missing from Walt’s World for quite some time. In Enrico Casarosa’s La Luna, a grandpa and dad instruct a young boy how to clean the moon of its stars. The boy has Precious Moments eyes and a darling sense of humor, the CG stars sparkle and shine and you generally feel warm and fuzzy whilst watching this dedicated trio lovingly perform its daily task. While nominated frequently here, Pixar hasn’t won the shorts category since 2001, so you could say it’s time.
Or you could say that Pixar’s talent has graduated to something better. William Joyce, who was the concept and art designer for Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, has written and directed the most fantastical, if nonsensical, short of the bunch (which you can watch en total here). In the The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a Buster Keaton lookalike is swept away by a Katrina-esque storm to a magical land where piano-playing books have feet and wings and where the world rediscovers the healing joys of the written word. A shaky narrative to be sure, but the combination of 2D and computer animation is stunning and the whimsy of it all is utterly captivating.