Animated Oscar Nominations 2009

The Oscars will be given out on the 22nd of this month; just a couple of days away. As is my habit, I'll be talking a little about the animated short films that are eligible for this year's award. There are five nominees this year, done in a variety of styles, from several different countries. This year we have a particularly charming batch.

La Maison en Petits Cubes by Kunio Kato is available in three versions, French with no narrative, Japanese, and English. The film runs about twelve minutes and was done with 2D computer animation and drawing on paper. It tells the story of an elderly man who lives in a flooded house in a flooded village. He must constantly build his house a little higher to keep it from becoming submerged. One day he loses his pipe and dives for it, going so deep he must use scuba equipment. As he swims through the abandoned levels of his home he revisits his memories of when he and his family lived in each story. This is Kunio Kato's first Oscar nomination. The film has already won several awards, including the Annecy Cristal and two prizes at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival; the Hiroshima Prize and the Audience Prize. Maison comes to us from Japan. You can watch a clip of La Maison en Petits Cubes here: http://www.awntv.com/playlist/oscar-showcase-2009/la-maison-en-petits-cu....

Lavatory Lovestory by Konstantin Bronzit is a Russian short film about a lonely lavatory attendant who gets a pleasant surprise in her tip jar. She's reading something called Happy Woman, which isn't making her feel happy at all, and longing for a companion like the one she sees in the pages. When a bouquet of flowers appears in her tip jar she does her best to track down her secret admirer. Done in 2D computer animation, using a very simple line style, it's mostly in black and white, with color used for emphasis. The animator does a fantastic job conveying complex emotions with minimal strokes. This is a sweet movie that's funny and touching, so it probably won't win because it's not nearly tragic enough. You can watch the entire film here. http://video.aol.com/video-detail/lavatory-lovestory/2873334156

The Oscar website says that Oktapodi is by Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand but the official Oktapodi website says there are six (!) directors, which is an awful lot for a two and a half minute film. The reason there are so many directors is because the film was made as a graduation project by third year students at GOBELINS, l'école de l'image. The movie tells the story of two octopuses, one of whom is scooped out of her tank and sent off to be cooked. Her companion is determined to save her and immediately leaps to the rescue. I absolutely loved this little movie. It's charming, sweet, cute and lovely. The colors are gorgeous and the various shapes the octopuses take during their adventures made me laugh out loud. Sadly I think this means this movie won't win because it's too lighthearted but I'm very pleased that I got to watch it. Well done, creators. It was made with 2D/3D/Flash and you can watch a short making of film here, http://www.oktapodi.com/makingof/, which is very nice. You can watch the entire film here http://www.oktapodi.com/film.html.

If you saw Pixar's Wall*E you probably also saw their entry into this year's Academy Awards competition. Presto, by Doug Sweetland is a five minute, fifteen second film done in CG about a rabbit at odds with a magician. The rabbit, called Alex, wants his carrot and does whatever he has to to try and force Presto the Magician to give it over. The style of the film may look familiar as it was influenced by a variety of famous wielders of mayhem including Bugs Bunny, Charlie Chaplin, Tom and Jerry and the old Tex Avery characters. You can read more about the film at the official Pixar site. http://www.pixar.com/shorts/presto/index.html

The final choice is This Way Up, a short film about the problems two undertakers encounter as they travel with a body in a coffin. A mad series of tiny events leads to a boulder falling on them and crushing their transport, and that's just the beginning of their troubles. British duo Smith & Foulkes made the short film using 3D animation on painted backgrounds. It took eight months to complete the movie, which clocks in at eight minutes 37 seconds. This Way Up runs the gamut, from absurdity to a grim scene evocative of hell. The undertakers themselves, a father a son duo, are classic representations of the species, tall, thin, somber and macabre. You can watch the entire film at a BBC site. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/filmnetwork/A43425308

I usually expect the most depressing film to win, but most of these are quite charming and fun. I'm going to guess La Maison en Petits Cubes will win, simply because the protagonist appears to be completely alone, with just his memories to keep him company. That sounds like an Oscar worthy plot to me…

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