Thursday, March 8, 2012

Non-nominated Highlight - The Cat Piano (2009)


Well, there's only so many films that's been nominated for Best Animated Short, and I'll probably finish reviewing them all at some point in the future. So I'll have to find something to pass the time while waiting for future nominations. Well, I already said that I was planning some lists, since I like making those so much. Besides that, I figure I might as well post some of the incredible animated shorts that don't get nominated. After all, one of the criticism about this category is that through the opaque eligibility, submission, and voting process, several excellent shorts fall through the cracks. For example, What's Opera Doc, the film that most animation historians agree is the greatest of all time, was not nominated for the Oscar. Legend states that the higher ups at Warner Bros. was not pleased with the short and decided not to submit it for Academy consideration. A couple of different Warner Bros. shorts were submitted instead. Two of them were nominated, with one of them taking home the prize. However, most people would agree that neither short lives up to the greatness that is What's Opera Doc.

But we'll save What's Opera Doc for a different day. Today I want to share a film that didn't quite make it through the voting process. It's none other than The Cat Piano, the one film that I cited was the "most unforgivable snub" from the shortlist back in the 2009 reviews. I suspected it was bound to happen, but I still can't see how the Branch Nomination Committee thought that five of those nominees from 2009 were better than this one. Why is that? Well, let's get down to it.

A male cat narrates as he writes about an important event in the history of the city of the cats, a city which has always been defined by their musical scene. There are enough singers and crooners and listeners to make the metropolis a lively place. The narrator is especially smitten by one songstress in particular, a white cat that was stunning in both appearance and voice. Yet he could do no more than sit and admire from afar. One day singers began disappearing from thin air, leaving behind only footprints that are not feline in origin. While researching the crime, the narrator uncovers evidence of a most heinous musical instrument, one that is made solely of cats, whose cries are elicited by a nail driven into the cat's tail with every push of the key: the cat piano. He runs to warn his beloved, but finds that he was too late. This throws him into a frenzied state. But with the city of the cats becoming a desolate place, and the life of his beloved at stake, the narrator knew he must take things into his own hands.

This atmospheric animated short from Australia captured my attention the first time I saw it. The narration of the film is done completely in free verse and read by Australian singer Nick Cave. The poetry flows through most of the entire film, and even places bogged down by alliteration was handled by Cave's sublime narration. And the story that is told is one that skirts the border between noir and horror. The film never actually gets scary, but it has moments that can be quite unnerving. The tale is complemented by some of the greatest design I've seen. The animation is stylish with character design and motion that draws you into the story. The use of color is also terrific and feels similar to the use of shadows in most film noir. Most of the film is done in blue which starts out smooth but becomes quite ominous along with the story. Other colors are used well to add to the mood, from the pure white of the narrator's beloved and the sharp red for the piano and the man behind it. The film is also full of exhilarating sequences that will leave you fascinated throughout. It's a great film that is one of my favorites from the past ten years.

Anyways, enough from me. Why don't I just show you and let you judge for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. It's certainly a shame this was left on the wayside in the end. I often wonder if it's somewhat dark tone and seriousness failed to connect with the voters themselves when whittling down the list of shorts that year? Too often they would go for the more funny "ha ha" type films to pick over the serious types, though that's not to say that it hasn't always been the case in the past.