I first experienced the genius of Peter OToole when I was 13. I was in Pittsburgh, visiting family for Thanksgiving and had a horrendous tooth problem. As abscess or something. All I know was, I was in an immense amount of pain and it being a holiday, getting into a dentist was not likely, so my family took me to see My Favorite Year, I guess in the hopes that a comedy would take my mind off the pain. I don’t think it did much good, but I loved the film anyway and my admiration for O’Toole was born.
He was a striking man. After seeing David Lean’s 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia, in which O’Toole gained stardom (and his first of eight Academy Award nominations), Noël Coward famously remarked to O’Toole: “If you’d been any prettier, it would have been Florence of Arabia.” It was those eyes…
For the past several years, Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures have gotten together and distributed the Oscar nominated shorts in theaters around the country so the general public can see the nominated films that previously were only seen by members of the Academy and those of us lucky enough to watch films, long and short, for a living. For the past few years I’ve seen all or most of them and by and large, they are of high quality. I am a huge fan of short films and catch them as often as I can. Starting Friday, February 6th, many of you in the US, UK and Mexico can see these in the theater, a place that shorts are rarely seen.
This year’s 5 nominated animated films are without exception, of high quality. All too often there’s a weak link (See 2006’s mawkish The Little Matchgirl) and all too often, an obvious winner (hint: Pixar). This year, however, the best film is not that obvious, although I suspect that Pixar will win due to name recognition, alone. It’s not that I think they don’t deserve it, just that it’s not as obvious as years past. That’s not to advise those of you filling out Oscar ballots to vote against Doug Sweetland’s Presto (USA, 5 mins). Ignore a Pixar short at your own peril.
Of the four remaining animation nominees, Kunio Kato’s Japanese 12 minute entry La Maison en Petits Cubes (Pieces of Love, Vol. 1) is the strongest, with its tale of a lonely widower, left to continually work to keep his head above water. While comparing animation techniques is like comparing painting styles, content is another thing and Kato’s film is both moving and exquisitely drawn. The 3 minute French entry Oktapodi, directed by Julien Bocabeille, Francois-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi wins the award for most directors per minute and is funny and cute, but I find it hard to believe it was one of the 5 best animated shorts of the year.
Rounding out the five entries are Konstantin Bronzit’s Lavatory-Lovestory (Russia, 10 mins), a quite touching (and punny) look at love found in the unlikeliest of places, and UK directors Smith & Foulkes’ This Way Up, is a darkly comedic and musical 9 minute piece about two undertakers that appears almost equally influenced by Tim Burton and Czech animation. To be honest, I am astonished that there’s no Czech work nominated. They are among the best in the world! That said If you’re a fan of short films and animation, you should do yourself a favor and see these films when they open tomorrow.
For more information on these and the live action shorts, click here. You’ll be glad you did!
Maybe I’m just picking on a small town paper when I post this, but I just have to call attention to a little bit of Oscar-related silliness. Robert Horton, “longtime” film critic for the Everett, Washington Herald, a so-called expert (so-called by his own paper, natch) got 6 out of his 13 predictions correct. Six. Out of 13. For best picture he predicted The Queen. That’s an “expert” prediction? The Queen was the only nominee that I was certain wasn’t going to win!
12:41pm – Did you know that Helen Mirren’s birth name is Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov, according to IMDb? How hot is that? Ok. Drunk now.
12:14pm – The Departed wins. Feh.
12:09pm – The least biggest surprise of the night. Marty wins. I am 18-5. It’s a good year for me, but better for Marty!
11:55pm – Helen Mirren. Again, all class. I’m 16-5. Not too shabby, eh?
11:49pm – R.I.P. My favorite part of the show, really. Touching and it reminds us all of some poeple we’ve forgotten, even in the intervening year. This year seemed like one of particularly heavy losses.
John Travolta looks like a quail.
Nicole’s hair should have been up.
J-Lo’s dress….erm…yeah. No. Her husband looks like a smack addict.