The official Oscar countdown has begun, as the 83rd Annual Academy Awards comes to us in less than a week, next Sunday (2/27). All of this week, I’ll be ramping up my Oscar coverage as we take a look at all of the categories, leading up to my picks and predictions for Best Picture and Best Director on Friday.
To begin, let’s take a look at the 3 categories dedicated to Short Films, or as you may call it, the time during the Oscars where you go to the bathroom, re-fill the popcorn, or otherwise wait patiently for the “more important” part of the show. Although that’s the reality, you are really missing out on some superb, imaginative work done by some of the film industry’s future stars.
Nowadays, many theatres present Oscar Short Film Showcase leading up to the Academy Awards (the DIA in Detroit hosted these screenings the past 2 weekends.) You can also download the films on ITunes, and see all the nominated films in one place at The Short Film Website. So let’s dig in:
Animated Short Film
All 5 nominees in this category were inventive, but only 2 can be considered ground-breaking. Those 2 are “Day & Night” & “Madagascar, a Journey Diary.” “Day & Night” may be the most familiar in the category, as it was the short shown in front of Toy Story 3 last year. It’s mix of traditional 2-D and modern CG animation make it a pretty astounding film from an achievement standpoint, not to mention the love of Pixar going for it.
“The Gruffalo” is an adaptation of Julia Donalson’s children’s book and is the longest entry at 26 minutes. It has very solid animation and the most star-packed cast of voice actors (Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, and John Hurt to name a few), but it is very simple in it’s delivery, offering nothing too special. “Let’s Pollute” is a funny little satirical film that comes across like those informative educational films we all grew up seeing in elementary school, but this time it’s telling us how we can pollute even more.
Lastly in this category, is the touching “The Lost Thing“, about a guy who finds a…something…washed up on the beach, and he tries to find a place in this world for it to fit in.
And The Oscar Goes To…Although “The Lost Thing” had the more emotional connection, and Day & Night could be considered a front-runner, I believe the Oscar should go to Madagascar, a Journey Diary. It is an incredibly inventive and eye-popping film that you can only marvel at…I’ll be honest and say that I don’t even remember what it was about, it is so visually interesting that it didn’t matter. It looks like a mix of nearly every style of animation you can name, as if a water-color painting magically sprung to life, and it’s style puts it in a league of it’s own.
Live Action Short Film
Just like the animated category, all 5 of these films were worthy of consideration, and thus their nomination. In “The Confession“, a young boy’s childish prank turns dark and deadly…a great-looking film that for me, didn’t pull of the change in tone quite as well as it wanted to. “Na Wewe” takes place in 1994 Berundi, as a group of militant Tutsis stops a bus full of passengers to try to vanquish any Hutus on board. It is intense and edge-of-your-seat, and does a great job of creating real drama. It just didn’t know how to wrap itself up, and therefore lost a few points with me.
Beyond those films, the other 3 are the stand-outs. “God of Love” is a hilarious and well-scripted movie about a modern day Cupid…it’s worth finding on YouTube or buying from ITunes as I think it is probably the most relatable entry for a mass audience. In “The Crush“, a young Irish boy has a crush on his school-teacher, and challenges her fiance to a duel to the death. Yes, it’s a comedy. Last but not least you have “Wish 143” a gripping yet light short film about a “Make A Wish” candidate, dying of cancer, who’s last wish in life is…to have sex. It sounds like the premise of a Jack Black comedy, but it is handled beautifully and delicately.
And the Oscar Goes To…“Wish 143”. It is the most complete entry, and I believe tells the best story given the shorter format. I can see “God of Love” getting some votes just for it’s sheer comedy, and I could also see “The Confession” garnering some attention. But “Wish 143” has a bit of all of these other movies in it, and I believe is deserving of Oscar gold.
Documentary Short Film
Some serious stuff is covered in the Documentary Short category, with front-runner “Poster Girl” leading the way. “Poster Girl” chronicles an Iraqi War vet suffering with post-traumatic stress, who channels her issues into inventive displays of art. Sarah Palin may not connect with the plot of some other nominated films in this category, as “Sun Come Up” takes a look at the effects of climate change in a region of New Guinea. “The Warriors of Quigang” is a sad but not too heavy-handed look at a small Chinese Village, destroyed by the arrival of a nearby chemical plant. Then you have “Killing in the Name” and “Strangers No More“, who share the theme of the Middle East.
And the Oscar Goes To…My nod goes to “Poster Girl”. It’s an emotional piece that I believe most viewers can connect with more than troubles in other areas of the world.
So if you skip these categories during the Oscars, shame on you! All of them can be find online and are worth checking out.
Oscar Week continues tomorrow when we take a look at the categories of Best Supporting Actor & Actresses, so subscribe above! You can also follow me on Twitter, @tomsantilli, and check out my blog, FilmSurvivor.com.