Review: 2008 Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films

Once again, Magnolia Pictures has done film buffs the favor of releasing programs with the live action and animated Oscar-nominated short films (one program for each category). I caught them both at the Landmark’s Century Centre Cinemas in Chicago over the past weekend; you can read my reviews of the live action short films here.

The animated program is comprised of all five nominated shorts and runs 90 minutes total.

Meme les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)

Directed by Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse.
9 minutes. CGI.

Essentially a 9 minute long joke that nearly botches its punchline by drawing it out several seconds too long, this French short centers around a charlatan selling a device that promises guaranteed entry into Heaven to a poor miserly gentleman. The blobby character designs just look like a low-budget CGI attempt to simulate claymation, when real claymation (or a bigger budget) would have looked better — and while the well-rendered textures and backgrounds look considerably better, they do not manage to save the film’s overally aesthetic, particularly when blown up to a large screen. This one may actually play better in a smaller format.

Even Pigeons Go to Heaven is available for purchase from iTunes for $1.99.

Moya lyubov (My Love)

Directed by Alexander Petrov.
27 minutes. Paint on glass.

If My Love’s story were rendered as an effects-free live action film (which it very easily could have been), the melodrama would have probably been obnoxious, but the visuals in this short are absolutely stunning: each frame looks like an oil painting, like the kind you’d see on the cover of a Russian romance novel. A sequence where the protagonist ____ has a fever shows him alternating between literally burning up and being covered by a bed of snow, for instance, and the films many similar flights of visual fancy elevate its otherwise tedious story greatly. Romance lovers may care more than I did, but this tale of a young man torn between his lust for two women — one a bit of a whore, the other a bit of a saint — just didn’t grab me on an emotional level.

My Love is available for purchase from iTunes for $1.99.

Madame Tutli-Putli

Directed by Crhis Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski.
17 minutes. Claymation/CGI.

Madame Tutli-Putli is a beautifully rendered short about a woman who boards a train, and then weird shit happens… and that’s it. When the credits came after an overlong (and uninteresting) shot of fog over trees, I simply winced and said, "What?" Fans of weird for weird’s sake films most of David Lynch’s oeuvre or Donnie Darko may love it for its atmospherics, which are certainly impressive, but the complete lack of any coherent point or resolution makes it a disappointment for me. It simply felt like the first 17 minutes of a longer film that doesn’t yet exist. Visually, it’s one of the best shorts in the program, though, which redeems it somewhat; the blend of claymation with CGI is particularly clever. The eyes on the humans are real eyes, digitally superimposed onto the claymation, which makes them creepy as hell.

Madame Tutli-Putli is available for purchase from iTunes for $1.99.

I Met the Walrus

Directed by Josh Raskin.
5 minutes. 2D animation.

Here’s Magnolia’s description: "In 1969, fourteen-year-old Jerry Levitan snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room with his tape recorder and persuaded him to do an interview." What Josh Raskin did is take this tape and create an ingenious 2D animated film around it, created from a clever blend of photography, hand-drawn and digital illustration. Not a frame of the film can be considered representational: each phrase from Lennon or Levitan’s mouth is translated into some sort of symbolic imagery, sometimes humorously, sometimes less so, but the result is a beautiful illustration of and expansion on the content of the interview itself. In short, it’s a terrific concept, impeccably well executed; even though it is very short, I had a grin on my face the whole time. I’ll be rooting for this one on Oscar night. (The only thing that doesn’t work is the title: because as any Beatles fan knows, the Walrus was Paul — not John. [EDIT: Oops; this is apparently not the case, despite the lyric from "Glass Onion."])

UPDATE (2/19 8:50 AM): An interview with Jerry Levitan has been posted at Newsarama. Among its revelations is that the 5 1/2 minute film was actually composed of excerpts from Levitan’s full 40 minute long interview, and that Mr. Levitan is now known as "Sir Jerry," a Canadian children’s entertainer. His website is pretty kickin’.

I Met the Walrus is available for purchase from iTunes for $1.99.

Peter and the Wolf

Directed by Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman.
27 minutes. Stop motion. 

This short is set to Prokofiev’s "Peter and the Wolf," and is mostly a fairly straight-forward (if dialogue-free) rendering of the famous story — but it takes a few clever liberties with the tale, mainly in the lead-in to the musical piece and a coda at the end, and with the addition of a second bird to the cast of characters, a flightless crow whom Peter ties a helium balloon to (in hopes of giving it back its lost gift). The characters are impressively defined for not having any dialogue; the stop motion animation is incredibly well designed and fluid; it’s simply a beauty to behold. It’s a tough call between this and "I Met the Walrus," and I would hardly be disappointed if "Peter" wins instead, but "Walrus" gets a slight edge from me just for originality.

Peter and the Wolf is available for purchase from iTunes for $1.99.

Magnolia Pictures’ 2008 Oscar-nominated Short Films programs hit limited release on February 15, 2008. Check the Magnolia site for release dates/theaters in your area.

Posted on February 18, 2008 at 21:00 by Gordon@MovieMakeout · Permalink
In: Reviews · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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  1. Written by polly
    on 2008-06-20 at 01:25

    i luv watching movies

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