It's Oscar Time Again

As long time readers of this column know, the Academy Awards make me a little nervous because I believe they are prone to excessive dreariness. All you have to do is look at a few past best picture winners to see what I'm talking about. If someone isn't dying of cancer they're starving in a cave or being beaten to death with a tire iron. As if the normal fare isn't enough, this year we've got a documentary about the end of the world and a feature film based on an actual horrific event where every single person dies at the end. It's enough to make you take to your bed and watch The Littlest Elf over and over again. Luckily there is one category that manages to lift our spirits so it is with great pleasure that I present the nominations for best animated short film.

Lifted comes to us from Pixar Animated Studios, the studio that brought us Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc and a host of other fun films. This is the first film Gary Rydstrom, winner of many previous Academy Awards for sound, has directed and his fourteenth nomination in total. Lifted is the story of a teenaged alien taking his abduction test under the eagle eye of a stern teacher and not doing terribly well. I love the tagline, "Failure is an option." I managed to find a sneak peek for you which you can access here. You can see the poster here, at the official website. My understanding is that Lifted will be released with Ratatouille, the upcoming feature length animated film about the rat that is desperate to become a chef. (If you'd like a sneak peak of Ratatouille you can find it here. It looks charming.) If I'm correct we'll be able to see Lifted in theaters in June of this year.

No Time for Nuts by Blue Sky Studios is also up best animated short film. Starring Scrat from the Ice Age movies, this seven minute story shows what happens when you try to bury a nut but find a time machine instead. (Chaos ensues!) You can find No Time for Nuts on the Ice Age The Meltdown DVD. Haven't gotten that one yet? You can watch a clip here. Two interesting facts about Blue Sky Studios; they worked on Fight Club and they're currently hiring for their version of Horton Hears a Who, one of my favorite stories when I was a tiny tot. This is the first nomination for directors Chris Renaud and Mike Thurmeier.

We start to drift into traditional tragic Oscar territory with Disney's The Little Matchgirl, based on the Hans Christian Anderson story about the little girl who imagines a vibrant, wonderful life as she freezes to death in the snow. The ending is quite a change for Disney, a company notorious for changing the ending of every story that doesn't meet their happy ending recipe. Done with an interesting watercolor technique that switches from monochromatic scenes to represent the match girl's real life to gorgeous color for her fantasy scenes, The Little Matchgirl, was released as part of the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD of The Little Mermaid. This is director Roger Allers' first nomination and producer Don Hahn's second. His first was for best picture for Beauty and the Beast in 1991.

Maestro is a Hungarian short about a musician getting ready. But getting ready for what? One would think it's his performance but the official website says, "the Maestro is getting ready for the execution behind the curtains." What does this mean? Is the Maestro going to be executed? Is he executing someone else? Do they mean exhibition? Another meaning of execution as in performance? I don't know but it worried me enough that I spent some time researching and finally found the entire film online. You can watch it here and decide for yourself if an execution is in store. This is the first Academy nomination for director/producer/editor Géza M. Tóth.

The Danish Poet is the story of a poet who can't find the right words so sets off on a journey to Norway to talk to Sigrid Undset, a famous writer. His trip doesn't quite go as planned and Torill Kove, the creator of the film says the story is meant to recreate the meanders that life takes and how much of what we experience is by chance. Made in association with the National Film Board of Canada, the animation was done on paper then scanned into the computer, with the exception of the skies, which are oil paintings. It's nice to see traditional cell animation nominated when so much of what we see in film today is 3d animation done entirely by computer. You can see a clip here but I found it somewhat confusing. I always thought when a poet was thwarted in love they wrote a lot more poetry. I've never heard of one who had nothing to say about the pain of, well anything really. This is Torill Kove's second nomination, the first was for My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts in 1999.

One-Sentence Review

This week's one-sentence review is from Patty Perkins who says, "LaKisha Jones should win American Idol because it would be a sin for her to waste that talent working at a bank." We're going to be changing the format of our one-sentence reviews and making them one paragraph (or less) reviews. Have you got a one-paragraph review? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at