Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Best Animated Short - 2003

Welcome to my review of the Oscar nominated animated short films from 2003. So we are in 2003. The big news this year was that The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won all 11 nominations, thus tying it with Ben-Hur and Titanic for the films with the most awards. (West Side Story could have been on the list if only it had won Best Adapted Screenplay over Judgment at Nuremberg . :() I remember posting the results on Nintendo NSider after the awards. I'm pretty certain I included the Animated Short award, but I glossed over it as I didn't care about the award back then. How things have changed.

A pompous lamb living out in the American plains is incredibly proud of his luscious wool coat. It gives him so much joy that he'd break out into a tap dancing routine, much to the delight of the neighboring animals. However, one day the local farmer kidnapped the lamb, shaved off the wool that he loved so much, and left him in a sad and pathetic state. The other animals were much amused by the sight, filling the lamb's heart with shame, and the music was no more. Thankfully, the good old Jackalope was around to save the day. This musical short from Pixar is in aurally and visually a charming piece. The animation is fantastic, especially the choreography. The music is terrific, evoking a sense of old Western nostalgia. So why is this one of my least favorite Pixar shorts? First of all, I don't really like the lamb. He was overly pompous before the traumatic event, and rather pathetic afterward. No matter what I found him to be quite an annoying character. However, the worst thing about the short was how blatantly they gave you the message. It's a good message, but I didn't like the way they said it, and then repeated it, as if they were drilling it in your head. Day & Night suffered from this problem, but its inventiveness redeemed it. And to this day I'm not sure why boundin' is greater than tap dancing. 

Normally I start a review by giving the storyline of the short, but I don't think I'm going to do it for Destino. It's not like it doesn't have a story. It has some sort of a love story between a female and a statue and baseball. The history of the short is much more interesting. Production began back in 1945 as a collaboration between Walt Disney and legendary Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. That alone should give you a sense of what you are going to expect. Anyways, Dali and storyboard artist John Henrich got the storyboard and a short segment produced, but the project was shelved for financial reasons and was forgotten for over 50 years. It was unearthed, and now that Disney is one of the corporate giants in the entertainment industry, work on the short resumed, and it was completed in time for competition in the 2003 Oscars. The final results were nothing short of astounding, as long as you can suspend your expectations, sit back, and enjoy the show. It captures the WTF feel of Salvador Dali. Statues come to life. A woman interacts with shadows. And yes, there is baseball as a metaphor. The animation is rather limited, giving the sense of being a series of static images telling a tale, but the art is terrific. The soundtrack consists only of a Spanish song of the same title, which evokes the sense of the 1940s. It's a strong film that's well worth watching if you have even any interest in Salvador Dali. 

Gone Nutty
This is another adventure starring Scrat the hapless saber-toothed and his insatiable addiction of hoarding acorns. Having found another acorn, Scrat takes his new friend and attempts to add it to his massive acorn collection. However, the acorn refuses to fit and his efforts to make it fit leads to the entire collection falling out of place and off a cliff. He realizes that the fall gives him enough time to re-collect all of his lost acorns, but being Scrat you know things won't go his way. What craziness will befall him at the end? This Scrat cartoon is essentially what you'd come to expect from the other cartoons starring this Ice Age mascot: lots of laughs at the expense of the the poor creature. The laughs/torment ratio isn't quite as high as the other Oscar-nominated Scrat cartoon (No Time for Nuts, 2006), but it's still a very funny experience. The animation is crisp, and the sound is great, from Scrat's anguished screams to the use of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty during the fall scene. It's not exactly a deep film (although I suppose you can use it as a psychological study on addiction and hoarding), but it is one of those films that will get plenty of plays. 

Harvie Krumpet
Poor Harvek Krumpetski just can't get a break. He was born in pre-war Poland to a lumberjack and his crazy wife. He suffered from Tourette's syndrome, where one of his motor tics was touching people on the nose. His mother pulled him out of school to teach him fakts of life. Then later his mother burned his house down when he was out contemplating the world, and his parents frozen to death. War broke out shortly after, and Harvek escaped to Australia, where he changed his name to Harvie Krumpet. Yet even though he changed his home, his luck never changed. Over the next several years he will experience love and loss, inspiration and depression, illness and more illness. But no matter what he always tried to follow the same rule: Carpe diem. Yet what will he do when his circumstances cause him to lose sight of this rule? Harvie Krumpet is a darkly comic film from the twisted mind of Australian animator Adam Elliott, who also directed the film Mary & Max, which my friend said she couldn't finish because while it was funny, it was also incredibly depressing. That pretty much sums up his films. They try to make you laugh while constantly reminding you "Life sucks and then you die." It would take too long to describe everything that happens to poor Harvie, but let's just say that it'll make you go "Wow that sucks" and "Man, that's funny" at the same time. The fakts (we assume the ones Harvie learned) that appear throughout the film are an extra source of amusement. The animation is terrific, with a mixture of beautifully executed claymation and 2D drawings. The narration by Academy Award winning actor Geoffrey Rush (Shine, The King's Speech) is also terrific, providing a sense of calm amongst all of the madness appearing on the screen. Harvie Krumpet is an excellent film and my favorite from this year. 

Before I saw the short, I originally thought that Nibbles was about a cute little squirrel named Nibbles, possibly because it was nominated alongside Gone Nutty starring Scrat, another squirrel. And if you list all of the nominees by year, another rodent-centered short, Gopher Broke, would be under it. But nope, Nibbles is actually a reflection about the director's fishing trip with his sons, with a rather unique highlight (that explains the title). After a quiet opening credits sequence, the film moves at a frantic pace. We follow that family car as it travels from restaurant to restaurant to snack stall to snack stall before making it to the lake. At almost each stop the characters find some way to enjoy a meal, and it's not necessarily limited to the people. The animation is simple and garish, almost as if somebody just slapped the images onto the page, which fits in with the hectic nature of the film. The sound is also quite appropriate, with the sound of munching and slurping and biting alongside a Deliverance-like banjo tune that gets faster as the short goes on. Director Chris Hinton also included a fun little nod to his previous nominated film, Blackfly from 1991. It's not anything incredibly deep (although you could say it's a portrait of gluttony in modern society if you so choose), but it's a fun little film.

Well, it's finally done. All an all it's not a bad set of nominees. Harvie Krumpet walked away the winner and I haven't any complaints about that. I wouldn't have minded if Destino won, but in my opinion they made the right choice.

My rankings (in terms of quality)
Harvie Krumpet > Destino > Boundin' > Nibbles > Gone Nutty

My rankings (in terms of preference)
Harvie Krumpet > Gone Nutty > Destino > Nibbles > Boundin'

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty certain I included the Animated Short award, but I glossed over it as I didn't care about the award back then. How things have changed.

    We all grow up!

    "Boundin'" didn't surprise me with it's message, what did it for me was seeing who did most of the film itself (and it's music). The Creator of Boundin', Bud Luckey, use to make a lot of little short films for Sesame Street back in the 70's that often had very obvious messages to them, you might remember seeing some of these yourself!