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Best Live Action Short Films

The Confession
Worried about making his first confession, nine year old boy Sam and his best friend decide to play a prank so he will have something to confess.  However, when the prank takes a tragic turn, Sam finds his guilt to be overwhelming.  First things first- the cinematography is breathtaking and certainly noteworthy, but the dark story takes an unexpected turn towards the end which leaves the story in a weird place.

The Crush
An eight year old boy has a crush on his teacher that he takes a little too far when he challenges her fiance to a duel to the death.  This film started off sweet and funny, but quickly went to a dark and angsty place.  The final scene, the duel which finds the eight year old boy with his father’s gun, was uncomfortable to watch and seemed very out of place.  In the end, everything ties up nicely and it’s back to being light hearted again.  All in all, it’s a strange ride, and while it’s as dark as The Confession, it’s not nearly as compelling.

God of Love
Ray, a lounge singer who excels in darts, prays daily for his love to be reciprocated by drum player Kelly, who is inexplicably in love with his best friend.  The gods answer Ray in the form of a mysterious package of love inducing darts.  In a year of very dark nominees, this film is such a breath of fresh air.  It’s fast talking dialogue and artistic visuals make it feel like a modern film noir.  In terms of sheer enjoyment, this was by far the best film of the bunch.

Na Wewe
In the mid 1990’s in Burundi, a van is pulled over by a group of Hutus who separate the group to weed out and kill any rival tribe members, Tutsis.  The film is intense and definitely keeps you engaged, but the violence seemed very watered down from what you’d expect to see.  While the film attempts to make light of the fact that the Hutus really cannot tell who is a Tutsi and who is not, knowing that there was so much genocide during that time makes this film feel like it’s really holding back.

Wish 143
When David, a terminal cancer patient, is offered a wish through the Make a Wish foundation, he asks to lose his virginity.  When the foundation can’t grant him his wish, David attempts to make it happen on his own, with the advice from the hospital priest, before time runs out.  This story is so touching, and accomplishes a great task for a short by making you both laugh and cry.

What Will Win: Subject matter and what the Academy tends to favor would suggest that it’s a toss up between The Confession and Na Wewe, but I think that Wish 143‘s sweet story will win over voter’s hearts and edge out ahead the rest.

What Should Win: God of Love was my favorite by a landslide.  It was original, smart, witty, and gorgeous to look at.  It’s possible it could take the award home on Oscar night (it’s really anyone’s race!), but even if it doesn’t, I think we haven’t seen the last of the immensely talented writer/director/actor Luke Matheny.

Posted on February 25th, 2011 by Jess | Comments Off on 2011 Oscars: Best Live Action Short Films
Filed Under Entertainment

Short Animated Films

Day & Night
Pixar’s entry this year shows what happens when Day and Night meet and argue over who is better, only to realize they each have their own great qualities and traits and can get along.  Insanely unique and well done, the animation is amazing as always and the story is different from Pixar’s usual fare.

The Gruffalo
Based on the children’s book of the same name, this short boasts some high profile UK voice talent with Helena Bonham Carter as the narrator, Robbie Coltrane as The Gruffalo, and Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt rounding out the supporting roles.  It tells the story of a cunning mouse who goes for a stroll, outwitting enemies along the way with the threat that he is meeting a scary, made up predator, the Gruffalo.  Only, the mouse finds out that the Gruffalo may not be so made up after all.  The story is long, predictable, and at 27 minutes, tends to drag a bit.  In the end, it’s a sweet children’s story with average animation.

Let’s Pollute
A satirical take on an educational film, this short instructs you on how to pollute best by never reusing anything and throwing everything away.  Because it’s so short (about 6 minutes), it’s obvious message doesn’t escalate to preachy, but with it’s rudimentary animation, it’s probably here for its relevance and nothing else.

The Lost Thing
In a place not unlike our world today, where many are too busy to stop and notice anything, a boy finds a lost thing on the beach and attempts to find it a home.  The animation is beautiful and it’s message, while not very subtle, is conveyed in a unique way when the boy discovers a whole world of things right in front of us that everyone has seemingly forgotten.

Madagascar, A Journey Diary
A traveler has new experiences, including spiritual enlightenment, on a trip to Madagascar, as presented to us while flipping through his travel diary.  In terms of animation, this is by far the most unique, as it flips through the diary every sketch comes to life and in every shot the animation is different.  However, because it’s told in such a different way, the story can be slightly incohesive.

What Will Win: It’s a toss up whether the Academy will favor the star studded voice cast in The Gruffalo or the unique animation with a spiritual side in Madagascar, A Journey Diary.  It really could be either, but I’m going to give the edge to Madagascar, based on last year’s Logorama win and the year before’s La Maison en Petits Cubes.

What Should Win: It’s hard to believe that Pixar is the underdog in this category, but I think Day and Night is one of it’s strongest shorts yet.

Are you checking movies off of your list? I’ve been working hard to check some off of mine! Over the next two weeks, we’ll be taking a look at every category, as well as spotlighting each film nominated for Best Picture. In the meantime, check out my tips for tracking down hard to find movies.

Waste Land – This was a previously “unattainable” documentary, but has recently popped up in a handful of theaters in major cities (LA, DC, NY). It may be playing near you!

Unstoppable – If you missed this one in theaters, it’s available on DVD and Blu Ray on Tuesday, February 15th. Netflixers, be sure to hit up your local Blockbuster or Red Box- Netflix’s restrictions on new releases means they won’t get it in time for the ceremony.

Gasland – Are you an HBO subscriber? If so, this documentary is currently available On Demand.

Wolfman – Another one for HBO subscribers, you can catch this Best Make Up nominee On Demand now.

Shorts – Keep an eye out for a theater near you playing the animated and live action shorts. In Los Angeles, they began playing at the Nuart Theater on February 11th, and the Documentary shorts will show starting February 18th.

Best Picture Showcase – Missing some of the films nominated for Best Picture? If you think you can handle it, check our AMC’s Best Picture Showcase. They offer 2 days of Best Picture nominees, as well as a 24 hour marathon of all 10 films.

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by Jess | Comments Off on 2 Weeks Til Oscar!
Filed Under Entertainment

I was so glad to see the shorts again this year. It makes the ceremony so much more interesting when I know everything I can about all the nominees. Interesting fact about all the animated selections this year- there’s not a single word of dialogue amongst them.

Presto Pixar Oscar Nominated Short Film

La Maison En Petites Cubes (House of Small Cubes)
An old man lives alone in a house built to survive the ever-rising flood that engulfs his village. He continues to build rooms on top of rooms to escape the water. When he drops his beloved pipe into one of the lower rooms filled with water, he rents scuba gear to retrieve it. As he descends through each floor of his house he recalls all the fond memories experienced in those rooms, right down to the foundation of the house that he and his wife built with their own hands. This film is sweet and the animation is like a colorful painting, but the film seemingly goes nowhere.

Ubornaya istoriya – lyubovnaya istoriya (Lavatory-Lovestory)
An attendant in a men’s lavatory longs for an intimate relationship. When flowers start to appear in her tip jar, she gets frustrated in trying to figure out who put them there. The animation looks like a basic drawing come to life and is very unique. The story is sweet and has a nice little resolution, but I didn’t find it to be all that original.

Oktapodi
Two octopi are in love for a brief moment before one is snatched up and taken away by a restaurant cook to be slaughtered. The remaining octopus escapes from his tank to save his true love as they race through the streets of a small Greek village. This film is all of two minutes and if I hadn’t seen for myself that there was no lamp and bouncing ball at the beginning, I wouldn’t have believed that it wasn’t a Pixar film. The computer animation is beautiful and the story is adorable and original.

Presto
The rabbit of a famous magician takes revenge on his owner when he doesn’t get fed. This is Pixar’s short for the year and if you’ve seen WALL-E, you’ve likely seen this as well. It’s hilarious and quick-witted comedy makes for a great entry in this category.

Oktapodi Oscar Nominated Animated Short

This Way Up
Two undertakers are forced to carry a coffin through the country to make it to the church when their hearse breaks down. This short started out unique and funny, but took a weird turn toward the end that really took the film in a different, unpleasant direction.

Prediction:
Presto. Pixar usually has this category in the bag, but last year they took the year off. This year they came back stronger than ever.

What Should Win:
Presto. Although I’d be just as happy seeing Oktapodi taking it home as well, but it’s super short length will likely diminish its chances.