Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Best Animated Short - 1985
And we have now arrived at 1985, the year of my birth. Now I'm sure anybody would be biased towards their year of birth, but I do think 1985 was something special. For example, it was the year of "We are the World" and the Live Aid concerts, which raised millions of aid for the famine in Ethiopia. The NES launched in October, lifting console gaming from the Atari Crash and making it the profitable industry it is today. Calvin and Hobbes debuts in newspapers, beginning a 10-year run where they become an integral part of pop culture. And that was the year the Kansas City Royals, the team I grew up watching, ended years of playoff futility by winning the World Series.
Yeah, there were a few dark sides of 1985. There was the New Coke fiasco. There was the hijacking of TWA flight 847, which resulted in only one death, and the crash of Japan Airlines flight 123, which resulted in 520. And the Royals have gone on an even longer 27-year streak where they never even made the post-season. Nevertheless, 1985 was a pretty good year.
Sadly, the same can't be said about the Oscar-nominated films from 1985. Out of Africa was the big winner at the Oscars, taking home seven trophies including Best Picture and Best Director (for the late Sydney Pollack). It was a touching biographical film about the African experiences of British author Karen "Isak Dinesen" Blixen, but to me it was one of the most mind-numbingly boring films I've ever seen. The natural beauty of the African landscape is offset by a plot that never seemed to get off the ground.
Then again none of the other Best Picture nominees really wowed me. Kiss of the Spider Woman featured terrific performances from William Hurt and Raul Julia, but the plot was too meandering. At least it was better than Prizzi's Honor, the film that promised an epic showdown of two assassins that fall in love but were sent to kill each other, but ended up with two hours of mush and ten minutes of the most anti-climactic ending. Witness was interesting for its depiction of Amish culture and being the film debut of Viggo Mortensen, but the suspenseful and romantic elements were sorely lacking.
In the end the most interesting film nominated for Best Picture was The Color Purple, Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's novel. It was brilliantly shot, full of life and vigor, and featured dynamic performances from Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey (who was much better than Anjelica Huston in Prizzi's Honor, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar). And yet despite being tied with Out of Africa with 11 nominations, it was the only one of the five Best Picture nominees to go home without a trophy, tying the ballet film The Turning Point (1977) for most nominations without a win.
So yes, the Best Picture race was a wash. Can the Best Animated Short category redeem the Oscars? Let's find out.
Anna & Bella
Where Can I Watch It?
The Big Snit
the Kwyjibo scene. You know you've made something special when you've inspired The Simpsons.
Where Can I Watch It?
Second Class Mail
*Many of the other famous alumni from the National Film and Television School can be seen in the credits for the film. Snowden's husband and frequent collaborator David Fine was credited as "assistant animation and sound", while three time Oscar-nominee Mark Baker and three time Oscar-winner Nick Park received special thanks for help and colouring. Now that's an all-star lineup.
Where Can I Watch It?
So, three nominees and all of them are great. All of them deal with difficult topics in wistful humor, and all of them feature bittersweet endings that make them even more special. Second Class Mail is a charming little film but it pales in comparison to the other two films, which are probably among the great animated short films of all time. Most people seem to take a liking to The Big Snit, and I can see why, as turns a film commenting on the human condition into a blisteringly funny piece of work. Yet I still personally prefer Anna & Bella. Not only does it deal with serious themes, it does so in a visually dynamic way. Still, the strong lineup for Best Animated Short more than makes up for the relatively weak cast of Best Picture nominees.
My ranking (quality and preference)
Anna & Bella > The Big Snit > Second Class Mail