Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Best Animated Short - 1975
So in my last review I tried getting rid of the excess topics in my introductions, and I was able to streamline it quite well! Sure, I didn't talk about baseball as much as I would have liked, but at the same time I wasn't spending two to three hours on just the introduction alone. It's worked so well I'll keep limiting my discussions on the Oscar awards of a particular year. Yeah, I won't be getting to talk about the Big Red Machine and the legendary World Series they had with the underdog Boston Red Sox (which included the memorable Game 6 that ended with Carlton Fisk's home run, a moment that was referenced in the Best Picture nominated Good Will Hunting). Nor would I have the chance to talk about my classmate Brian Barkley, who actually pitched for the Red Sox in 1998. But you know what? I'm okay with that.
1975 was also the start of one of the most common phenomenon in film: the summer blockbuster. By now the idea of having your super-high budget action films with dreams of monumental grosses coming out in the summer seems like common sense. Summer is when schools are out and people would have time to see those movies with the broad appeal. Of the twelve films that reached $1 billion in wordwide gross, eight of them came out in the summer months between May and August. (The only exceptions are Avatar, Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.) However, that was not always the case. Back before the 1975 the highest grossing films generally came out either near the beginning of the year or the end of the year. The highest grossing films at that time were The Godfather (March release), The Sound of Music (also a March release), and Gone with the Wind (December/January release, plus numerous re-releases).
And then in June of 1975, Universal unleashed Steven Spielberg's Jaws on unsuspecting moviegoers around the country. Not only did it made people afraid to go in the water, but it also marked the beginning of the summer blockbuster phenomenon. In the past big releases would have really narrow openings before expanding to reach wider audiences (much like Oscar bait films nowadays), but Jaws opened at hundreds of theaters across the country simultaneously. Not surprisingly, it had the highest opening by a film at the time, and didn't take long before it passed The Godfather for the highest grossing film. And two years later came Star Wars to further solidify the blockbuster in our cinematic psyches.
And unlike blockbusters nowadays, which are usually disdained by the Academy, Jaws had a decent level of success at the Oscars. Sure, it got only four nominations, which is the same number as The Man Who Would Be King starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery, The Sunshine Boys starring George Burns and Walter Matthau, and Shampoo with Warren Beatty and Lee Grant. However, Jaws received a nomination for Best Picture. It didn't really stand a chance of winning, as its four nominations were the fewest among the Best Picture nominees, and Spielberg wasn't even nominated for Best Director, losing out to Oscar favorite Federico Fellini (for Amarcord), but it's still a good showing for a summer blockbuster.
And when Oscar night rolled around, Jaws did much better than most people would have predicted. It claimed three of its four nominations: Best Sound, Best Original Dramatic Score, and the key Best Editing award. Unfortunately most of the other Best Picture nominees did pretty well. Barry Lyndon won the Best Adapted Score award, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Cinematography. Nashville won Best Original Song for "I'm Easy," written and performed by David Carradine's brother Keith. Then Dog Day Afternoon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest both claimed the Screenplay Oscars. George Burns claimed Best Supporting Actor for The Sunshine Boys, while Lee Grant won for Actress in Shampoo. Akira Kurosawa finally won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film for Dersu Uzula over 20 years after his contributions to film helped inspire the Foreign Language film category.* Cuckoo's Nest also won for Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher), and Best Director (Milos Forman), so by the end of the night it became clear what would win Best Picture: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
*Then again, the only time Kurosawa was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film after it was official instituted came in 1970 with Dodesukaden, a film that was such a financial failure that it sent Kurosawa into a deep depression where he attempted suicide. Interestingly enough he would not make another film until none other than Dersu Uzula.
But then in between all the excitement there was the Best Animated Short category, with a four-film lineup. Which of the films would come out on top?
Where Can I Watch It?
Evidently it's available on the Bob Godfrey store. Go check it out there.
3D Maze screensaver, or early first person shooters like Wolfenstein 3D. It's a fairly remarkable achievement considering this film came out almost 20 years before those things. The use of sound effects is also effective in building up the cheesy feel, and the use of music like the "William Tell Overture" (including the "Ranz de Vaches," or morning theme) is very useful. Kick Me is a very good film that will really make your day.
Where Can I Watch It?
Kick Me was actually a very tough film to find for a while, but I finally found a copy last year. After that it's really come back into public notice, especially after an article on Cartoon Brew helping an animator identify the film from her childhood.
Manipulation. It's basically animation with real people done using still photographs. It originated in the early days of animation, although the most notable proponent is Canada's Norman McLaren (the same Norman McLaren that I mentioned in the Kick Me review.) His masterpiece, the Oscar winning Neighbors, was filmed completely in pixilation, just as this film from 24 years later. That's how they achieve effects such as having the fiddle fly through the air. Not only that, but directors Bernard Longpre and Andre Leduc also included a lot of trick photography much in the same vein as Georges Meliles (from Hugo fame.) They used stop edit to have Pointu's hat change, and some other effects to have Pointu's head lift off from his head. The effects are nice, and the pixilation was well done, but overall the originality of the film was kind of lacking. The film is 12 and a half minutes long, but I got bored about halfway through. While there were six more minutes of effects to be seen, they just weren't interesting enough for me to anticipate them. Overall Monsieur Pointu is a technologically impressive film that is slight in content, and that's just too bad.
Where Can I Watch It?
Where Can I Watch It?
If you're a fan of football (or heck, if you're even a fan of the Oscars), then it's likely that you've seen Sisyphus, or at least part of it. One of the commercials for Super Bowl XLII (the legendary one where the Giants beat the Patriots for the first time to keep them from getting a perfect season) was a GMC Yukon Hybrid commercial where there was a man pushing a stone up a hill. That's right, GMC was able to take about half of Sisyphus and work it into their $5 million commercial. And considering that Super Bowl was seen by almost 100 million people (it was the most watched Super Bowl at that time), that means 100 million people were able to watch Sisyphus, well half of it. Less than a month later, they replayed it during the Oscars, where I saw it and made note of it on my live blog. Anyways, if you're interested in watching the entire film, here it is:
Well, that's four nominees, three of which I really liked. Monsieur Pointu has the great special effects, but it bored the heck out of me. Sisyphus is visually stimulating, but it seems a bit slight compared to the other two. Kick Me is hilarious and at least I felt that it took humor into a different direction. And Great is, well, a great biography about one of the most important figures in British history. Ultimately, I feel that Great wins out. The animation, the humor, and the music all push it over the top, making it one of the best animated short films out there. And judging by the fact that it won the Oscar, the Academy agrees.
My rankings (by quality and preference)
Great > Kick Me > Sisyphus > Monsieur Pointu