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In anticipation of the 2011 Oscars this coming Sunday, February 27th, the Charles is currently playing the five 2011 Oscar animated short nominees, plus two shorts that received special notice by the Academy. All seven movies are enjoyable and ranged from three minutes (The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger, USA) to 27 minutes (The Gruffalo, UK/ Germany).
Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage is an adorable French short that takes you on a 11 minute whirlwind tour of the lovely island country off the east coast of Africa. The vague plot follows a European visitor as he travels to a traditional Famadihana burying party, but the real gem of the film is the animated landscape. The filmmakers used many types of animation to illustrate urban, rural and ocean settings as the European attempts to find his way. With little dialogue and much of the culture portrayed through music, the audience is given a glimpse of Malagasy culture, and the film ends with the man returning to France, and with me wanting to see more of the beautiful land and culture.
Let’s Pollute, the cleverest film of the bunch, is a modern satire that I could have imagined as a six minute video on Youtube. Complete with musical interludes, including one about the beauty of gasoline and one titled “Want It, Waste It,” Let’s Pollute instructs the viewers, with the authority and tone of a 1960s educational film, how to be good polluters. My favorite part included Environmental Regulations as a dragon, squeezing the life out of the American economy.
The Gruffalo is charming, but by far the longest film, and is based on the children’s book of the same title. A squirrel telling a story to her two children relates the tale of a sweet mouse walking through the woods to find acorns. The mouse is almost eaten by a fox, an owl and a snake, and tricks each of them, in turn, by describing a terrifying gruffalo he is about to meet, and tells them each that the gruffalo’s favorite food happens to be a fox, an owl and a snake. When the mouse then meets a gruffalo, he is forced to retrace his steps and convince both the gruffalo and the now-angry other animals not to eat him. I won’t give away the story too much except to say that I was pretty impressed by the mouse’s cunning.
The Lost Thing, a 15-minute film from Australia, was a heartbreaking short about a lost, strange-looking thing that a young boy finds on a walk on the beach one day. When he realizes the thing is lost, he attempts to help it find its home, but no one seems to notice or care about the lonely thing. He brings the thing home with him. On a visit to the Federal Department of Odds and Ends (which was creepily evocative of the Department of Mysteries, from the Harry Potter series), a custodian tells him that if he cares about the thing, he should follow a route demarcated by a squiggly arrow. The route finally leads the boy to a world of bizarre lost things, where the thing finally finds a home. As an adult, the boy reminisces about the lost thing and wonders whether he sees fewer strange creatures in his adulthood because there are fewer or because he is too busy to notice them. The film is beautifully rendered in drab, jolting animation that gives way to colorful, smooth depictions when dealing with the lost thing- obvious childhood wonder and imagination.
Day and Night is probably the most recognizable of the shorts, as the six minute Disney and Pixar film played before Toy Story 3 this past year. Day, a chipper creature, and Night, a dark and depressed figure, first fight and compete, but when they realize that they actually complement one another, and can reverse roles, are happy sharing their worlds as friends and not foes. Though I enjoyed the movie and especially the unique animation, the movie lost a little from its shallow metaphor for xenophobia with the obvious, spoon-fed narration.
Should Win: Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage
Will Win: The Lost Thing
Urs, a 10-minute German short, was moving but slightly confusing. A man living with and caring for his elderly mother, needing something different, decides to climb nearby majestic-looking mountains. He straps his frail mother onto his back for the trek, but her only two possessions, her pillow and a piece of the roof from their home, become lost on the final leg up, and without her slices of home with her, she dies at the top of the mountains. While the animation is quite good and the lack of dialogue, I think, adds a lot to the film, I was slightly unclear about the son’s emotions, especially upon realizing that his mother had died.
The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger was enjoyable if only for its bright colors and quirky plot. A cow dreams of becoming a hamburger, but after bulking up for the job and finally realizing what becoming a hamburger truly means, his mother must save him from his fate. A very cute film, clearly made for children and parents to enjoy alike, this movie was a great one with which to end off the evening.
Animated Oscar Shorts 2011
The Charles Theater
1711 North Charles Street
Friday Feb 25th, 2011: 07:30 PM, 09:30 PM
Saturday Feb 26th, 2011: 07:30 PM, 09:30 PM
Sunday Feb 27th, 2011: 02:10 PM
Monday Feb 28th, 2011: 07:30 PM
Tuesday Mar 1st, 2011: 07:30 PM 09:30 PM
Wednesday Mar 2nd, 2011: 07:30 PM 09:30 PM
Thursday Mar 3rd, 2011: 07:30 PM 09:30 PM