Çarşamba, Şubat 20, 2008
2007 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films
This year the Oscar category for Best Animated Feature Film is unusually strong, with two extraordinary animated films, one CG and aimed at families (Pixar/Disney's Ratatouille), the other 2-D, and a personal film intended for adults (Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis). I'd be pleased to see either win. But let's not forget the animated short films, and it's worth noting that if you live near a major city, there's a good chance that you can catch Shorts International's program of the 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films. In Madison, both of the Shorts International programs (for live action and animation) are playing at the Sundance 608 Theater through tomorrow night. Unfortunately, the animated films I watched this evening were screened via DVD instead of film (and it was a bit contrasty and blurry), but you take what you can get. The selection of nominees this year is definitely a step up from last year's, since the 2006 crop featured only one excellent film ("The Danish Poet," which thankfully won), and this year's features two. "Only two?" Well, I'm also consoled by the fact that only one of the five shorts is generic 3-D CG, the others using digital animation only to augment more traditional techniques. Canada's "Madame Tutli-Putli," by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, is a semi-parodic tale of pulpy horror, as the title character--a puppet with what appears to be live-action eyes, overlarge and filled with terror--boards a train and witnesses bizarre, otherworldy events. The technique is interesting, but apart from a few, scattered clever ideas, the piece is aimless and disappointing. "I Met the Walrus" (Canada) is better, if slight; it's a 1970's audio interview conducted with John Lennon by a 14-year-old boy, with Lennon's twisting language (about peaceful protests and the Beatles) artfully illustrated in black-and-white collage. The clunker of the program is "Even Pigeons Go to Heaven" (France), with dreadful CG animation and a story (a huckster pitches a machine that can transport you to Heaven) that is under-developed, with a cheap, unfunny punchline. Nevertheless, your attendance will be rewarded by the two longest films in the program, which are mini-masterpieces. Russia's "My Love," directed by Alexander Petrov, utilizes gorgeous animation which looks like living, swirling oil paintings. A rarity for animation, the story lives up to the technique, telling an unexpectedly mature tale of a 15-year-old Russian poet wrestling with his first loves--for an earthy, impetuous servant girl, and a mysterious, bespectacled older woman--and struggling to maintain a "pure" love despite all that might compromise it. It's the first animated film I've ever seen that aspires to something akin to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and it mines emotionally and intellectually rich material. It's deserving of the Academy's recognition, yet I would be also pleased to see Suzie Templeton's "Peter & the Wolf" win. This UK/Polish production uses charmingly simple stop-motion animation, but with a wit and humanity that elevates the approach, even while poking fun at the familiarity of the Prokofiev source material. I guarantee that when the familiar theme music finally, belatedly kicks in, the film will hold you captive. Too often animated films look like resume-builders; talented or proficient artists with nothing to say and workmanlike results. "My Love" and "Peter & the Wolf," like "The Danish Poet," are the work of artists expressing themselves by any means necessary. They're beautiful works of animation, but they're also vital pieces of art.