A Look at Oscar Night

As I am sure you are well aware the 78th Academy Awards will air live on March 5th, starting at 5 PM, Pacific Time. (Five at five, easy to remember.) The major betting seems to be not on whether Brokeback Mountain will win, but how many categories it will sweep. The thing about the Oscars is that the films are nearly always dramas, and dramas that require at least a six-pack of tissues to get through because they’re almost criminally sad. If you're not in the mood for sad, sweeping drama you might not be terribly interested in the Oscars. Luckily there is much more to the Oscars than the Best Actor and Saddest Film, there are also some fun categories. What are fun categories you ask? Animation is the answer, and like the Olympic figure skating events, they come in the short program and the long. We'll be focusing on the short films.

Badgered, up for Best Animated Short Film, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and tells the story of a sleepy badger who wants nothing more than a nap. He's got a couple of things keeping him awake, some crows, nuclear missiles, other annoying little things like that. Done in charming and lively watercolors, Badgered was created by Sharon Colman, who made the film while a student of the National Film and Television School. It's a touching and funny story that should make you say "uh oh" or "oops" about half way through. I was able to track down the entire film online and you can watch it here.

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation is the next film up in the short animated category. The creator has this to say about the film, "I made this film to resolve long-standing emotional issues I have with my late father. I wanted to find answers to our difficult relationship, to understand the reasons he was always a feared figure in my childhood, why he was always angry and defensive, verbally and physically abusive, and often in trouble with the law." So let's see, drama? Check. Fun? No.

Moving on to the next film, we find The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello directed by Anthony Lucas. Inspired by 18th Century fantastical and exploratory works of both fiction and non, this is much more the thing. (It's got steam air ships! Swoon!) The first in a trilogy, this 26-minute film tells the story of Jasper Morello, a man haunted by a tiny mistake that turned out to have huge consequences, who sets out on a mysterious and terrifying journey when his world is stricken by a plague. You can watch the trailer here. Be sure to allot plenty of time to explore the website. It's full of gems like a news item about a fearful event. "Suction Disaster - January 6th, 1277 - The Sneggrauth Gluck Suction 3000 water closet has been recalled owing to the latest indictment under the Wanton and Careless Products Act of 1143."

9 by Shane Acker is a beautifully done film, animated in CGI, and running 11 minutes. 9 took more than four years to make because Shane took time off to work on tiny little projects like Lord of the Rings. He kept coming back to his own project and it paid off with a stunning and frightening story of rag dolls menaced by a mechanical cat creature. He says the story is loosely based on Beowulf and the art was inspired by photographs of WWII devastation to European architecture and the work of the surreal fantasist artist, Zdzislaw Beksinski. (Shane has a double degree in architecture and animation.) The film drew the attention of Tim Burton who is going to executive produce a feature length version. You can watch the trailer of the original version here.

Pixar Entertainment's One Man Band is about a musical battle that ensues when a little girl tries to throw her solitary coin into the piazza fountain to make a wish. Bass and Treble, competing one-man bands, outdo each other in an effort to get her to give them their coin instead. This four-and-a-half-minute film will be in theaters later this year, opening for the upcoming Pixar film Cars. There was a clip up at the official Pixar site but it appears to have been removed. I did manage, after much scrounging, to find a tiny little clip up at the Animation World Network and you can access it here.

Which film will I be rooting for? I don't know; it's a very tough choice for me. With the exception of the imaginary conversation, I really like all of the entries and they are all so different, in both content and style of animation that it's hard to decide which one is the "best." I think I'm going to have to go for Badgered if for no other reason than that I support artists releasing their work online for everyone to enjoy.