Monday, March 5, 2018

The Oscar-nominated animation shorts plus an Oscar wrap-up

Here's something new for the blog: every year, in select theaters around the country, the Academy releases the Oscar nominees in the short film categories — live action, documentary and animation.

I'm not sure, but I think last Friday may have been the first time I went to see some of them theatrically, before the Oscar telecast. It was actually Virginia's idea; we were gonna have a late lunch near the IFC Center in Manhattan and she decided she wanted to go to the movies also. I opted for the nominees for Animated Short. The late lunch turned into an early dinner.

Dear Basketball
I hadn't been to the IFC in some time. They're in the process of trying to expand their Greenwich Village venue, but they've run into some problems that may threaten their future in that location. I remember signing a petition in support of their proposed expansion. I don't need to explain to you how important it is for them to remain viable, in the wake of the demise of the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, so I hope everything works out for them.

The nominated films are the following:

Garden Party
- Dear Basketball. Hoop superstar Kobe Bryant reflects on his lifelong love affair with the game. This may be the sentimental choice. I know little about Bryant, but I'm aware he's a top NBA player, and this seems like a heartfelt tribute. The art is a lot like the video for A-ha's "Take On Me": sketchy and subtle, yet energetic and metamorphic.

- Garden Party. A bunch of frogs and other creatures explore an abandoned mansion — but why is it abandoned in the first place? This one was my favorite. The ridiculously photorealistic art is enough of a treat on its own, but the mystery of the mansion and what happened there before the frogs came may be even more tantalizing, especially since we're only given bits and pieces of the puzzle.

- Lou. A playground bully and thief gets his comeuppance from an unusual creature born of his spoils. The token Pixar entry, "Lou" is also a mystery, but who and what it is ultimately counts for less than how it handles the bully. It's Pixar, so you know it's good.

- Negative Space. How packing luggage unites a father and son. This one's in stop-motion; it's probably the least of the five, but it's visually appealing, and it has a clever ending.

Negative Space
- Revolting Rhymes. Based on a Roald Dahl story, this is a mash-up of classic fairy tales in a modern setting. Dahl's slightly skewed humor is at play here, taking archetypal characters like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf and others and reimagining them while sticking to the original tales. The CGI art was fine; no complaints. There were also some honorable mentions included with the screening.

Virginia liked these shorts but thought a number of them had a dark undercurrent, particularly Rhymes (gunplay, animals devouring other animals), though it didn't really bother her.

I could easily see Basketball winning, though I would give the Oscar to Garden.


Revolting Rhymes
Now it's the day after the Oscars, and it turns out I was right: Dear Basketball did win. Like I said, it struck me as the sentimental choice, although looking further into Bryant's history, I doubt his win will be celebrated in certain circles.

I didn't bother watching; I knew The Shape of Water would take top honors, and it did. Del Toro got Director too. I can't argue with either choice. 

I knew Oldman and McDormand would get the lead acting Oscars, but I'm thrilled to also see Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney take the Supporting ones too; they're both fine actors I've admired for a long time.

Bibi and Eric had shared their predictions with me and other friends by email last weekend. They will be pleased to see Get Out take Original Screenplay; they liked that one a lot; they were less excited about Call Me By Your Name, even though that won Adapted Screenplay. Eh. It's over now, so we can all get on with our lives.

Here's the full list.

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