Our journey in reviewing the Oscar nominated animated shorts has taken me to 1993 Oscars. This was the first time I remember watching any parts of the Oscar ceremony. Before I get into that story, let me first clarify something. The Oscars are an annual thing, so there will have to be a way to designate which ceremony you are talking about. There are generally three ways to do so. The first way is to do the official title, which counts the ceremonies using the 1927-28 one as the first one. So for example one we are reviewing is the 66th annual Academy Awards while the one that just passed is the 85th annual Academy Awards. I don't like this method because it is annoying and requires a lot of math. An alternative method is to do it by year, but even then there are two ways to do so. One is to do it by the year of the ceremony, so in this case would be the ceremony from 1994. The other is to do it by the year the movies they were celebrating came out. So this would be the 1993 Oscars, since the films that were nominated had their release in 1993. This is the way I do it.
With that out of the way, I can now continue my trip down memory lane. (Don't be worried. Pretty soon we'll get to the years before I was born so there will be no more memories.) My memory of it is pretty fuzzy, which isn't surprising since it was 18 years ago. However, I remember my coming downstairs and seeing my mom watching something on TV. I can't remember if she told me it was the Oscars or if I even knew it was the Oscars, but I sat and watched it with her. I don't remember seeing any of the awards, which is just as well since I didn't know what films were in contention. (I did know about The Fugitive, The Piano, and Schindler's List, but had no idea they were nominated for Best Picture until I became an Oscar fan four years later.) The only thing I remember from that night was that they were giving an honorary Oscar to an elderly redhaired lady. I remember my mom telling me that she was Deborah Kerr and she was in The King and I, but then I'm not sure if that was a real memory or just something that was placed inside because I later found out Kerr received an Honorary Oscar that year. Oh, the tricks memory play on you.
I don't remember what happened after that. My guess is that it cut to commercial and I got bored and left. It was just as well. I don't think I even know what the categories were. Maybe Best Picture and the acting awards, but I didn't know. I was just a nine year old kid. And yes, I did not know there was a Best Animated Short category. I think it would be another two years before I became aware that there was one. And to think 18 years later this would be my favorite category over Best Picture, even though as we all know the Academy is not the best judge for animated short films. So be it. Let's get this show on the road.
Out of Sight was making its rounds on YouTube. This Taiwanime film* is similar to Blindscape in that it presents a girl in a formless world after she loses her guide dog, and she must form her world based on sight and sound. However, their portrayal of blindness is one of magic and wonder. Of course that is not to say that Blindscape is bad. Perhaps the feeling of distress is what Palmer wanted to portray. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. The animation is very good. It is very detailed, and the effect where things appear as he feels or hears them works well. The sound effects and music are also quite effective in setting the mood. Blindscape is a good film about blindnes. I just find the mood to be quite puzzling.
Where Can I Watch It?
Blindscape is one that is harder to find. I couldn't find it anywhere online, and I still can't. The only place where I was able to find it was on the Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation Vol. 3 VHS tape. Of course, I can't find one of those online anymore.
*So Out of Sight was made in Taiwan. However, it's appearing on anime sites like Anime-Planet. That got me thinking. Is anime only for animation from Japan? Or can it also encompass animation from Asia? People already use the term "Japanime." Can we also use terms like Taiwanime or Chinanime or Koreanime for animation from those countries?
The Mighty River
Sunrise Over Tiananment Square.) There are so many birds, fishes, and walruses onscreen that it makes your head spin. And then you get to see those same birds, fishes, and walruses getting killed and stripped of their flesh in the same animation style. The English version features narration by Donald Sutherland, which is adequate but also somewhat boring. In fact, while the film is beautiful I found myself getting bored over the 24-minute running time. Perhaps the environmental focus is too dry for me. It is a gorgeous film, but not one of my favorites.
Where Can I Watch It?
Where Can I Watch It?
As it stands, Small Talk remains one of the harder Oscar nominated shorts to find. Control over Bob Godfrey's animated shorts remains with his family, and they have a pretty tight hold on them. A few of his shorts have leaked on YouTube occasionally, but they've generally been removed. Small Talk was never one of them, at least that I know of. They made it available briefly some time ago, but the issue caused a lot of controversy online and it was quickly removed. Right now the only place I know that has it is the Wichita Public Library, who owns a videocassette of the short as part of their rather impressive collection of Oscar nominated short films.
Winter Days. (Warning: scene is NSFW). His first film, the Oscar-nominated The Hill Farm (1989) was a series of simple vignettes involving a central cast of characters. The Village is more of a narrative, and what a story it is. It is easily the most haunting of Baker's three nominated films (the third being Jolly Roger, reviewed here). The story itself is quite complex. There is a diverse group of characters, each with their own secrets and desires. Other than the ones listed above there is the priest with a weakness for alcohol, and the prisoner in the dungeon who is held for an unknown reason but is trying to dig his way out. And then there are the ants. Baker manages to make each character distinct thanks in part to his simple but effective character design and use of expressions. And the rest of the story falls into place once you have the characters down. Beyond the story and the character, The Village also deals with a myriad of themes. One that sticks out the most to me is hypocrisy. You have a group of churchgoing people whose only spends time together at church, even with a courtyard on which they can congregate. Yet they spend all of their time locked up in their houses staring suspiciously at each other. The only thing that brings them together is in the condemnation of an outcast following the death of one of their own. The music by Wallace and Gromit composer Julian Nott also adds to the doom and gloom atmosphere. And there are bits of humor to break up the melancholy, but make no mistake, The Village is a serious film, and what I feel is Baker's best.
Where Can I Watch It?
The Wrong Trousers
theme song, the soundtrack also includes many other musical pieces that add to the mood. The Wrong Trousers is a modern classic and one of the finest animated films.
Where Can I Watch It?
Like its Oscar winning successor A Close Shave, Aardman has had a pretty harsh leash on letting people watch this film for free. The only site with the full version is Romanian. However, it is readily available. You can find it on iTunes along with A Close Shave and A Grand Day Out. It is also available on Amazon instant video and on DVD with the Wallace and Gromit: Three Amazing Adventures and Wallace and Gromit: The Complete Collection DVD sets.
Well, these are my thoughts from the nominated shorts of 1993. It was a decent group of nominees, although for me it two films stand out above the rest: The Village and The Wrong Trousers. The Village is a deep and excellent film that would be a front-runner in any other year. However, it just has to come out in the same year as a masterpiece from one of the top animators. I'm hard pressed to think of any film that could top The Wrong Trousers in terms of the storytelling and entertainment factors. I'm sure my review is far from doing it justice. Naturally, The Wrong Trousers came out on top, a well deserved win.
My rankings (by quality)
The Wrong Trousers > The Village > The Mighty River > Blindscape > Small Talk
My rankings (by preference)
The Wrong Trousers > The Village > Blindscape > The Mighty River > Small Talk