Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Best Animated Short - 1981
The year began on a rather high note, as 52 American hostages were freed after being held for well over a year in Iran. This happened just as Ronald Reagan was being sworn in as President in the US. However, only two months later Reagan is shot by an insane murderous psycho who was hopelessly in lust with Jodie Foster. Thankfully, emergency medical care was much improved since the James Garfield assassination 100 years earlier and Reagan survived. The Space Shuttle program launched in April when Columbia lifted off, but only after three workers died from asphyxiation during a test run. The first reports of a strange form of pneumonia immunocompromised homosexual men came out. The disease would later be classified as Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. 114 people were killed when a walkway collapsed in the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated in October. He wasn't as lucky as Reagen. And two months later 900 civilians were killed by the El Salvadore army during the Salvadorian Civil War. And MTV is unleashed upon unsuspecting viewers of cable television. On the brighter side of things, Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the first female justice of the Supreme Court. And Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer for the largest royal wedding until 30 years later.
Even baseball wasn't immune from the tumult. Only a month and a half after the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings played the longest game in professional baseball history (a game that featured future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs), the major leagues went on strike over the issue of the free agent compensation draft. It was an acerbic issue that left major league stadiums unfilled for two whole months. After extended negotiations, the players lifted the strike on July 31. Since the number of games remaining after the strike was about the same as the number of games before, the owners decided to be creative and split the season into two halves. The leaders at the time of the strike has automatic entry into a Division Series against the leaders in the second half of the season. And if a team won both it has to face the team that finished second in the second half. Thankfully all eight of the division leaders were different, so no team had the chance to lose a series to a team it beat in both the first and second half. However, the Reds, led by future 311-game winner Tom Seaver, had the best record in all of baseball, but missed the playoffs as they finished second in both the first and the second halves. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals were only 20-30 when the strike hit. They went on a tear in the second half and finished first, but their overall record was still below .500.
In the first ever Division Series (13 years before the idea would be reintroduced by Bud Selig only to be delayed thanks to another strike), the first half leaders rolled to easy victories in three of the four series. The only second half winner to win were the Montreal Expos, making their first and only post-season appearance in their 40+ year history. The team rode an all-star lineup of Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and Tim Raines to the second half title, then knocked off the defending champion Phillies in the full five games, with Steve "Not Captain America" Rogers beating future-329 game winner Steve Carlton in games 1 and 5. The Expos went on to face the Dodgers in the NLCS. They took the series to the full five games, but a Rick Monday home run, a dominant performance by rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela, and a one-out save by Bob Welch sent the Expos packing. The Dodgers went on to knock off the hated Yankees in the World Series for their first title since 1965. Meanwhile, the Expos went on to 13 years of futility before the 1994 strike ended their best hopes at a title. Eighteen years and one city change later the franchise is still waiting for another postseason opportunity.
Meanwhile, in the world of cinema, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the king of the box office. Harrison Ford took his Han Solo charm into the swash-buckling, snake-fearing archeologist Indiana Jones. It even did well at the Oscars, picking up eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Steven Spielberg. However, it was behind On Golden Pond, which received 11, and the Soviet epic Reds, which received 12. When Oscar night rolled around, Raiders came out swinging, capturing Oscars for Art Direction, Editing, Visual Effects, and Sound Mixing, plus a Special Achievement Oscar for its Sound Effects Editing. However, it lost the Oscar for Cinematography to Reds, and John Williams's now-legendary score lost to Vangelis's equally-legendary score for the period piece Chariots of Fire.
In some of the other awards of the night, Rick Baker won the inaugural Makeup Oscar for An American Werewolf in Paris, his first of seven Oscars, second only to Alan Menken for Oscars by a living person. Burt Bacharach won his third Oscar for contributing to the theme to Arthur (the original, with Dudley Moore). Chariots of Fire and On Golden Pond took home the Screenplay awards, with the former also winning for Costume Design. Sir John Gielgud and Maureen Stapleton won the Supporting role Oscars for Arthur and Reds respectively. On Golden Pond swept the Lead role Oscars, with Katherine Hepburn winning her record fourth acting Oscar, and Henry Fonda winning his first, 41 years after his first nomination (for The Grapes of Wrath). He was too ill to attend the ceremony, and would pass away less than five months later. Warren Beatty also won his first Oscar, this time as Best Director for Reds.
So by the time the Best Picture Oscar came around it was a pretty strong deadlock. Raiders had won the most awards at the point with four, but most of them were technical Oscars. Its lack of a Screenplay Oscars pretty much doomed its chances. Chariots of Fire, On Golden Pond, and Reds were tied with three. Chariots of Fire won a few scattered awards: Screenplay, Score, and Costume Design, but with only seven nominations it didn't seem like much of a front-runner. On Golden Pond won a Screenplay Oscar and two acting Oscars, but it too lost Best Director. Reds won Best Director, but with the most nominations it also lost the most awards, including the crucial Screenplay Oscars. Still, Reds was the front-runner going in, and even with all of its losses it still seems like the front-runner. However, the tumult of 1981 continued when Loretta Young, herself an unexpected Oscar winner (in 1947 for The Farmer's Daughter) announced that Chariots of Fire was the Best Picture of 1981. It still remains one of the more shocking wins in Oscar history.
So with all of the chaos surrounding 1981, could the Best Animated Short Oscar be a source of stability?
Where Can I Watch It?
Where Can I Watch It?
Yeah, good luck finding it online. I was never able to do so. However, around two years ago I did find out it was part of the VHS tape Will Vinton's Best of the Festival of Claymation, a collection of Vinton shorts that also includes The Great Cognito and the not-nominated but still good Mountain Music and A Christmas Gift. And it has a claymation parody of Siskel and Ebert as dinosaurs. It's highly recommended.
The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin
Where Can I Watch It?
Well, these are your nominees from 1981. Of the three, Tender Tale probably doesn't match up to the others. The animation is not as vivid as the other two, nor is it as deep. It is harder trying to decide between Crac and The Creation. Both films are well animated and tell a good story. The Creation is more interesting to me, but then again I found Tender Tale even more interesting so that doesn't mean much. Crac is a much deeper film, so while it may not finish on top for personal preference, it is better in quality. And of course Crac ends up winning the Oscar, so at least there is some stability from 1981.
My rankings (by quality)
Crac > The Creation > The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin
My rankings (by preference)
The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin > The Creation > Crac