Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Frederic Back (1924 - 2013)

Christmas is usually a time of joy and cheer. After all, we are celebrating the birth of Christ, who came down for our sins. Unfortunately, sometimes those are times of sadness, as those are the days of passing for some people. Men like Charlie Chaplin and former Rangers manager Billy Martin died on Christmas Day, while Kurosawa regular Toshio Mifune and former Rangers manager Johnny Oates died on Christmas Eve. Well now we can add another figure to those that died around this time: the great French Canadian animator Frederic Back.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1932/1933

And then there were two. After almost two years of writing reviews nobody reads, I've almost completed my quest of reviewing the Oscar nominated short films. (Of course, I would already be done if I didn't go onto a three month hiatus last year or switch the reviews to every two weeks, which has eroded whatever support I was getting for this blog.)

But anyways, we are near the finish. If you're paying attention that you might have noticed that the review's title included two years instead of just one. That's not a mistake. In the early years the Academy considered films from an August to July schedule, just like what the Emmys do now, and the ceremony would be held in November. Then somewhere around this time the Academy decided that was stupid and decided to extend the eligibility period from July of 1932 to the end of 1933 and then going to a January to December eligibility for 1934, and that's the way it's been since.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1934

Well, now we're really getting somewhere. It's been almost a month since the finalists were announced, and it's about a month before the Oscar nominees will be announced. According to some insider info the committee won't even be watching the finalists and voting on them until later this week. So for now it's just waiting and more reviews. Of course I've noted that since I've slowed these reviews down to just once every two weeks that my traffic had dried up. I was afraid that would happen, but I just haven't had much time to work on these reviews, what with work and also my desire to play some more Tokimeki Memorial. Oh well.

We're now in 1934. It is the year of the Gashouse Gang, when the St. Louis Cardinals so thoroughly trounced the Detroit Tigers in Game 7 that Joe Medwick had to be told to leave the game because the fans in Detroit were throwing food at him. There has to be a lot of hate when people were willing to part with food in the middle of the Great Depression.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Non-Nominated Highlight - The Band Concert (1935)

Well, today is the day Disney's latest film Frozen opens wide, which is all fair and good, but more importantly it also means that Oscar contender Get a Horse! will finally move from the film festivals to the general public. Yes, I've already gone to see it, and I've updated my thoughts on the film in my entry on the Shortlist (which you all must read because I'm getting desperate). And you can stay for Frozen, which is, you know, pretty good.

But today is also the week after the 1935 review went up, and while Three Orphan Kittens, Who Killed Cock Robin? and The Calico Dragon were good films, those were far from being the film animated film from 1935. No, there is one film that came out that year that topped them out and may as well be the best Disney film of all time. (At least the animation professionals polled by Jerry Beck sure think so.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1935

We are coming ever so close to the end of the line. Thankfully there's still the 2013 Oscar race to start preparing for, but the question now is what to do with this blog once I get through these last four reviews. Do I just sit around for a year and then spring into action every November when the next year's Oscar race comes into being? Do I make random posts about some other animation topics once in a while? Do I go ahead and review the Best Animated Feature nominees? That actually doesn't sound like a bad idea, but it'll take much longer than these reviews of short films whose films are short, but it still takes me hours to write them. I was toying around with posting these reviews on tumblr, but it hasn't amounted to much. We shall see.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Best Animated Short - 2013 - The Shortlist

So last year the list of qualifying animated short films were leaked to the public and I was able to make a post about it, which turned out to be one of my most popular posts. Well, it's been a year since then and I've been waiting for the list of qualifying films, but one never appeared. I went snooping around but the most I found was that the showing of the qualifying films had already happened back in October 22-23 or sometime around then. Well, a few days it came out that the Academy had come out with the shortlist of the films, which are the ten films that the Academy will meet again to decide on the nomination. So like last year, I will be writing on each of the films. The problem is unlike last year when a few of the films were readily available, only one of them fit the bill so far. So most of these will be just previous based on the trailers.

And of course just to show how useless this blog is / how hard it is to blog regularly, the list of finalists has been out for a week, but thanks to a combination of a hectic work schedule and an awesomely awesome pony convention (Nightmare Nights Dallas), this post only just now going up now when you were able to find the films practically everywhere else online.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1936

Hooray! My COMLEX 3 is over and I can finally relax and enjoy myself at Nightmare Nights Dallas this weekend! How did it go, you ask? Well how should I know? I'm writing this three weeks early so I won't have to waste much more time studying. Oh the joys of getting a nice long queue.

Anyways, now that we're in the 1930s it's kind of weird to go back and see just how different things were, especially in the game of baseball. In 1936 there were only 11 300-game winners. 30-win seasons and .400 seasons were uncommon but not impossible. The first Hall of Fame voting was held as the BBWAA elected Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth (just one year removed from his last game), the late Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. And a 17-year-old high school kid named Bob Feller is able to make it to the big leagues and strike out his age, even if it was against the hapless Philadelphia Athletics. Yes, things sure were different back in 1936. And yet the animated short films remain as timeless now as they were back in 1936. Some of them were, at least.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1937

Well, in another week and a half I will be taking my COMLEX Step 3 exam. You'd think I'd be so busy studying that I won't have time to write these reviews, but well, I am studying, but you do have to have study breaks. The good thing about going to q 2 week reviews is that I won't have to take as many of these study breaks or something to waste my day on reviews. I mean, it's fun to do these reviews and all, but I hate how I spend an hour reviewing each film because I have to look up some interesting facts that often times don't have anything to do with the film.

Meh. I've got nothing to say about 1937. Let's just go on to the Oscars from that year.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Non-Nominated Highlight - Porky in Wackyland (1938)

So in my last review I mentioned how Leon Schlesinger allegedly boycotted the Oscars sometime in his career as the head of the Termite Terrace animation department. This is mostly speculative as I've never actually read anything that confirmed if or when he did it*. However, it seems pretty likely for me considering the fact that Warner Bros. received a nomination in the very first Best Animated Short category in 1932/33, and then didn't get another one until Detouring America in 1939.

*but then again I've never read an official biography of Schlesinger or any of his animators recently.

Of course that doesn't mean that Warner Bros. hadn't come out with any good films in that time period. Far from it, that period was full of great films: I Haven't Got a Hat in 1935, I Love to Singa in 1936, and Porky's Duck Hunt in 1937. Yet of the Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1930s, none was better than the Porky Pig masterpiece Porky in Wackyland.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1938

To me, 1938 is one of those years like 1952 that really doesn't stand out. It really felt more of the same in baseball, as the Yankees won their third straight World Series title. Meanwhile Walt Disney won his seventh straight Oscar in the Best Animated Short category. And the films of 1938 were overshadowed by the Hollywood masterpieces that debuted in 1939. Still, if you look closer there are some things about 1938 that stands out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1939

Ah, 1939, the last year of the Depressing '30s. It is the year that Germany invaded Poland, thereby turning what had previously been a messy conflict going on in China into a true World War. It was the year a young kid named Ted Williams burst onto the scene fresh from the beaches of San Diego and led the league in RBIs while blasting 31 home runs, but not even he can help the Red Sox topple the Yankees, who went on to win their fourth straight pennant en route to their fourth straight World Series title over Willard Hershberger's Reds.

But for most people, 1939 is the pinnacle of Hollywood moviemaking. Oh, there have been several other great years. 1994 was a particularly good year (Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption), and so were 1951 (A Streetcar Named Desire, The African Queen), 1959 (Ben-Hur, North By Northwest, Some Like It Hot), 1969 (Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), 1974 (Chinatown, The Godfather Part II), 1976 (Rocky, Network, Taxi Driver), but for most film fanatics 1939 was tops.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Non-Nominated Highlight: You Ought to Be in Pictures (1940)

So last week we talked about the 1940 Oscar race which was between two MGM films and a Warner Bros. film, with MGM's The Milky Way coming out on top. Previously, I had covered that year's Oscar race as part of the History of Animation class whose responses I used during the prior hiatus from November through February. The question asked about why Disney was not nominated, and one of the reasons was that because the other studios were putting out films that eclipsed that of Disney after Disney ended the Silly Symphonies. In it I specifically cited four films from the other two major animation studios, MGM and Warner Bros. Three of those four films were the ones nominated for the Oscar and that I wrote about in my review last week. And yet the best of all four films may very well the one that was left off the final ballot: Warner Bros.'s self-referential classic You Ought to Be in Pictures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1940

Well, we're in the year of 1940. It's not quite as memorable as 1941, but it's got its moments. One significant moment was the suicide of Willard Hershberger. Hershberger was a catcher with the Cincinnati Reds. You'd think that somebody that's played baseball at the major leagues would be set for life, but you'd be dead wrong. There is nothing more mentally stressful than a career in professional sports. Think about it, you spend essentially your whole life dedicating yourself to a sport, where you dominated at virtually every level. Then you get thrust into a work environment where all of a sudden your best may not be good enough, and even if it is and you do get to the majors, you'd have to maintain your level of performance lest somebody else takes your job. And you don't have anything to fall back on. Those that are not on solid ground mentally usually do something drastic once their careers end.

History is littered with players that decided to end their lives: Catcher Marty Bergen killed himself and his family in 1900. Popular young star Win Mercer drank gas to end his life. A pitcher named Pea Ridge Day slit his throat after an unsuccessful operation on his pitching arm. And Christy Mathewson's brother Nicholas shot himself in the head from the stresses of trying to maintain his studies while playing professional ball. It's a brutal track record.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

300 Win Club - 125th anniversary

Are you enjoying my switch to two weeks between reviews? No? Tough, because I like it. It's giving me time to focus on my work and to work on some other projects, like this 30,000-word post about the 300-win pitchers on the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the 300-win club. It's kind of like the post I made back in June for the 4th anniversary of Randy Johnson's 300th win, only without graves. Maybe I should have ranked the 300-win games this time, but I suppose I can save that for next year on the 5th anniversary of the milestone. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy.

300-Win Club: the 125th anniversary

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1941

1941, what a memorable year. It was the year Ted Williams hit a walk-off home run in the All Star game, and went on to hit .406 to become the last hitter to bat .400 in a year they qualified for the batting title. Yet his accomplishment went mostly unnoticed as fellow outfielder Joe DiMaggio stole most of the thunder with his legendary 56-game hitting streak. He later played a role in the Yankees' Game 4 comeback in the World Series that started after Mickey Owen couldn't get his hands on Hugh Casey's spitball. It was the year that Lou Gehrig lost his battle against what may or may not be the disease that bears hi name today. And of course the "date which will live in infamy" happened in 1941.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ranking the Oscar Nominated Shorts: 1942-1951

Well, it's that time again: Time to hunker down, look at the films from the past ten reviews and rank them subjectively by how much I liked them. It's the seventh time that I'll do one of these, and it's also the second to the last, as there are only ten reviews left to go. Unfortunately, there's no telling how long it'll take me to get those ten reviews out. I've made my list two weeks ago when I still had a sizable queue, but I've just gotten so busy and tired that I just haven't felt like writing. So now I've got like no queue. I'm hoping that I can get back on track after this week but considering the next review is the epic 1941 where ten films were nominated, I can't make any guarantees.

But enough talk, let's get to the rankings. There are 51 films from these past ten years, thanks to all the years with six or seven nominations.

NULL: Rippling Romance (1945)
This Columbia cartoon is now considered lost. That may not be the case based on what Thad (Komorowski?) has said, but he's also the one that says the film isn't worth getting declared not-lost.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Best Documentary Highlights Double Feature (1942)

Documentaries fulfill an important niche in filmmaking, combining the art of moviemaking with the task of showing the world as it is. I once attended a talk by Oscar winning producer Paul Wagner who won an Oscar for his documentary The Stone Cutters and was enthralled by his filmmaking experiences about having to frame shots in addition to conducting the interviews. While there have been some documentaries that really made a splash on the scene like Bowling for Columbine, the 2005 Best Documentary Feature race, The Times of Harvey Milk, any all of the animated Documentary shorts, the documentary has kind of gotten the shaft with the Oscars. Few people care about the Best Documentary Feature, and nobody cares about the Documentary Short. Why, awards for documentaries weren't awarded until 1941 when the Academy decided to honor some films that did well with war coverage. This was nine years after categories for short films were instituted, including Best Animated Short.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1942

1942. For all intents and purposes, many Americans probably believe that World War II began around this time. Never mind that there has been fighting in Europe for three years and in Asia for over a decade, but 1942 is significant for being the first full year of involvement by the United States of America, and that's when stuff got real. Because America!

Yeah...I'm sure that's how the Europeans and Asians view Americans. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1943

It's August 7. On this day nine years ago Greg Maddux of the Chicago Cubs worked through a gritty start just long enough to go five innings and have his team take the lead against the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs would score a few more insurance runs and the Cubs ended up with an 8-4 win, the 300th victory of his career. Of course Maddux wasn't the only pitcher to record his 300th win in the week between August 4-11. On August 11, 1961, Warren Spahn wound up on top in a gritty 2-1 battle against the Cubs thanks to an 8th-inning home run by Gino Cimoli. On August 4, 1985, Tom Seaver won his 300th game in New York, but wearing the uniform of the Chicago White Sox when he defeated the Yankees 4-1 on Phil Rizzuto Day. And on August 5, 2007, Tom Glavine became the second Tom to win 300 when he topped the Cubs 8-3. A grand total of four pitchers can celebrate the anniversaries of their milestone win on the week of August 4-11. No other week-long period can boast that many.

And what does that have to do with the Academy Awards? Nothing whatsoever!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1944

Aah! It's July 31, which means that not only is it the 23rd anniversary of Nolan Ryan's 300th win, but it's also the first anniversary of my epic drive from Texas to Virginia, my first of six marathon drives of at least 12 hours with no more than one hour break in the middle at one time. I've never come close to driving that long before so my memories of that night and day is pretty well implanted in my mind. It's hard to believe that a year has passed since then. You can enjoy my live blog of the drive.

Anyways, back to where we were. It was 1944 and war was raging in the east and in the west. So many young men in the prime of their lives were being sent to Europe and Africa and Asia to die in the name of freedom. On June 6, 1944, the Allied nations landed on the beaches of Normandy to begin the reclamation of western Europe from Germany. Despite the loss of over 12,000 troops - that's 12,000 young men who would forever lose conscious even as time stretches on for a googleplex years - it was still a successful landing that eventually lead to the end of the war.

Meanwhile, while young men were out their losing their lives while fighting for the Allied way, citizens in the United States were still able to enjoy forms of entertainment, including baseball and film.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1945

Well, we're into 1945, and that means we're into the years that I've been dreading. Now there are rules in place limiting the maximum number of nominees in the Best Animated Short category to five. There were no such rules in place in the early 1940s, so there were more than five nominees every year from 1941-1945, with as many as ten in one year. Considering it's been taking me upwards of eight hours to write a review for a five-nominee year (although most of the time is spent distracting myself on sites like Facebook and Equestria Daily), I can't fathom how long it'll take me to write these reviews. Especially since I have the equivalent of a full time job now. But we'll try to power our way through.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Non-Nominated Highlight - Rhapsody Rabbit (1946)

So I'm sure you've noticed in my last review that I kept alluding to a great controversy, the greatest in the history of the Best Animated Short category and one of the greatest in animation history. As you know, The Cat Concerto took home the Oscar. Unfortunately, it was not the only film that year from a major studio that featured a popular mascot character playing Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" only to be bothered by an uninvited guest. For at the very same time Friz Freleng and his crew at Warner Bros. was making their own film of a similar nature: Rhapsody Rabbit.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1946

We're at 1946, and what it year it was! It was the year after World War II ended, and emotions were running high throughout the entire year. It was the year the Boston Red Sox finally made it into the World Series for the first time since 1918, but saw it all fall apart around them in the final game thanks to the hustle of Enos Slaughter. It was the year that the newly formed United Nations finally came together for their first meeting. And it was the year of the greatest controversy in the Best Animated Short category, but we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1947

Sometimes I've been thinking, why do I even bother? I've been putting hours upon hours into this blog, and the posts with the most views have had nothing to do with Oscar nominated shorts. Granted I've done more advertising with those posts, but that may be because I don't feel like the actual reviews are good enough to warrant advertising. If I post it on reddit like I did with the Rainbow Dash film I'm sure it'll get a negative score so fast it'll make my head spin. So yeah, with my work ramping up exponentially I'm thinking I may have to go into another hiatus. But if a blog that nobody reads go into hiatus, does it matter?


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Best Original Song Highlights - Wet Blanket Policy & The Woody Woodpecker Song (1948)

There have been plenty of great songs that have appeared in animated short films: "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" from Three Little Pigs*, "I Haven't Got a Hat" from I Haven't Got a Hat, "Sinbad's Song" in Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor, "Der Fuehrer's Face" in Der Fuehrer's Face, "A Cowboy Needs a Horse" from the film of the same title, "Return My Love" in What's Opera, Doc?, "Hey, Paul" in Paul Bunyan, "Miss Hippo's Lament" in Noah's Ark, pretty much all the songs in A Symposium on Popular Songs, "Heffalumps and Woozles" and "The Most Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, "Get a Big Top Hat" and "It Can't Be Done" in Great.

Yet amidst all of the incredibly legacy of songs in animated shorts, only once has a song from a short film been nominated for an Oscars, and it happened in 1948. The song was "the Woody Woodpecker Song" from Walter Lantz's Wet Blanket Policy.

*I suppose it was Disney's misfortune that Three Little Pigs came out in 1933, a year before the Best Original Song category was instituted. I don't know if it would have gotten nominated if the category was present a year earlier, but it never even had a chance.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1948

Aah! Residency has begun! I'm now experiencing the joys of working a full time job for the first time in my life! Now I'm not sure if I'll ever have time to finish up these last 17 reviews! And whatever you do don't go to a teaching hospital for the next few months. In reality I'm writing this a week before orientation starts, so I've got a little bit more time to churn out some more  reviews, but I'm not looking forward to losing all my free time...for the rest of my life. But hey, that's what I was getting myself into when I chose this profession so might as well suck it up and go in there with drive and ambition! It's what Rainbow Dash would do!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Best Documentary Short Highlight - So Much for So Little (1949)

So the 1949 Oscars was a good night for Chuck Jones's reputation and Edward Selzer's ego. The duo won the Best Animated Short Oscar for For Scent-imental Reasons with Jones doing most of the work and Selzer getting most of the glory. However, that wasn't the only stake that two Warner Bros. titans had that night. For they had another film in the running in another category. Their animated documentary So Much for So Little, a film commissioned by the Federal Security Agency Public Health Service, was up for the Best Documentary Short Oscar.

Non-Nominated Highlight - Canary Row (1949)

So I started the Non-Nominated Highlight to introduce films that are great but did not get an Oscar nomination. I haven't done very many of these because I've been too lazy to write extra about films, and many of the really great ones have been dissected to death by people that actually know what they're talking about. So so far I've only written about The Cat Piano, Oink, and What's Opera Doc. However, in this particular year there's a film that I have to write about, because it's closely tied with the history of the Best Animated Short category.

So if you've read the 1949 review, you might have noticed that there were four official nominees. However, what you may not have known as that when the nominees were announced in early 1950 there were five nominations! What happened to the fifth nominee? Well, this was the controversy I was talking about. Apparently shortly after the nominations were announced the producer actively withdrew the nomination. This was a highly unusual move. There's been plenty of times that the Academy rescinded a nomination because of eligibility issues*, but having the nominated party actually withdraw their own nomination was a highly unusual move. It happened only four times, twice times in the Best Art Direction category in 1941 and 1944, and once in the Best Motion Picture Story category in 1956. And once was of course in the Best Animated Short category. The film that got its heart ripped out? The Tweety and Sylvester film Canary Row.

*The most notorious case of a rescinded nomination was with Young Americans, the documentary that was nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 1969 only to have it declared ineligible AFTER it had WON the Oscar. It was one of a few time that somebody had to return an Oscar they thought they had won.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1949

I love my grandma. At 91 she has been through so much, from the Sino-Japanese War to the Chinese Civil War and eventual exile to Taiwan, but she is still sharp and optimistic. I enjoy listening to her stories about growing up in China in the 1920s and 1930s, about her mischievous adventures with her older brother*, and the embarrassing story involving my dad and aunts. Of course, she also had some difficult stories, such as stories involving Japanese brutality or the difficult times in the post-war Shanghai. One of the most haunting stories was how she was at the bedside of my great-grandmother when she passed away. In my sheltered existence it's hard to imagine how difficult it must have been. My grandma was only 27. She had just fled to Taiwan, and now she was watching her mother-in-law-to-be die in front of her eyes. The moment is still sharp in her memory, especially since she recently observed that two of her children had lived to be 60, which was how old my great-grandmother was at her passing.

*Most of her tales were involved middle brother, four years her senior. She also had an eldest brother that was nine years older. She usually held him in higher regard because he was so much older and more mature than her. I am nine years older than my youngest sister. I wonder what sort of stories she will tell her grandchildren when she is 91. How I am obsessed with a cartoon pony? How much of a baseball fan I was? Gosh, what would people think about animation like My Little Pony in 2085? And how many 300 game winners would there be by then? Sometimes I wish to have a time machine like in Doraemon to figure out the answers to these questions.

Gee...that's some heavy stuff. Why am I telling you all this? Because that happened in 1949. Yeah...let's move on to the Oscars.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1950

And we are now ready to bid good-bye to the 1950s. It was a good decade, with tons of classic films and several years with only three Best Animated Short nominees and the golden age of baseball when the Yankees ruled the sport. But most of all it was the decade where almost but one of my aunts and uncle was born*. My oldest aunt was born in the year 1950, and so she is now closing in on her 63rd birthday in August, which makes her approximately the same age my grandma when I was born. Which means I'm now the same age that my grandmother was when she had my oldest aunt. My reaction to that is the same as Ludwig von Drake after his horrible pun in A Symposium on Popular Songs. But such is the effects of time. We're all getting older, and some day in the distant future we'll be as relevant as the people from the 1860s that went about their daily life.

*My mom's youngest brother was born in 1961.

Well, that's enough depressing stuff. Let's move onto the Oscars.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1951

So sad that my post earlier this week about Rainbow Dash being awesome got more than four times the views than any of my other posts. That's what I get for posting it on Reddit. Maybe I should do it for my reviews. Hmm...

Anyways, here we are now at the year 1951. That year is significant because it featured the debuts of two of baseball's biggest and brightest stars: Willie Mays, and my favorite player growing up Mickey Mantle. Both of them were highly touted rookies, although they both struggled a little bit out of the gate. Mays famously went hitless in his first three games before blasting a home run off of Warren Spahn. He recovered to hit .274/.356/.472 and won the Rookie of the Year award. Mantle's story is even more famous. He was completely lost at the plate (although still hitting .260/.341/.423 but with 52 strikeouts in an era where strikeouts were shameful) so he was sent down to AAA Kansas City, where he continued to stink it up and threatened to quit. Then his father, dying of cancer, drove up from Oklahoma to bring his disgraceful son back home where he can hide in shame in the mines for the rest of his life. The incident was a slap in the face for Mantle, and he strove to continue on. He made it back to the majors and put up respectable numbers, although the Rookie of the Year award went to his teammate Gil McDougald. Then the two spent the next 15 years terrorizing pitchers, putting up legendary feats that would solidify their places in baseball history.

This sort of dual debuts of players that would become superstars are quite rare. There's been a couple of cases where both winners of the Rookie of the Year ended up in the Hall of Fame*, but except for Tom Seaver none of those Hall of Famers really feel like they're in the upper echelons of baseball history. It wasn't until 50 years later that baseball finally had two big stars burst onto the scene at the same time. Albert Pujols overcame his status as a 13th-round draft pick to blast 37 home runs and 130 RBIs, while Ichiro Suzuki came over from Japan to lead the American League in hits and stolen bases while helping his team win a record-tying 116 games. Those two continued to become the biggest stars in baseball until they started breaking down around two years ago. And last year had two very intriguing Rookie of the Year winners: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. We'll see how they'll be remembered 62 years from now. But for now Mantle and Mays are the standard bearers.

*1956: Luis Aparicio and Frank Robinson
1967: Tom Seaver and Rod Carew
1977: Eddie Murray and Andre Dawson

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rainbow Dash is Awesome

No matter how it turns out, at least we'll know that Rainbow Dash will still be awesome in Equestria Girls, alien-like skin color and all.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ranking the Oscar Nominated Shorts: 1952-1961

Well, here we go...the sixth edition of the Ranking the Nominated Short post. I've always enjoyed these posts because I love making lists, and there's nothing better than going back over the films I've reviewed and making a list of how much I like the film. Of course it's always going to be about my opinion because it's much easier to gauge preference than quality when I don't even have an actual set of guidelines to define quality. And because it's based on my own preference there will be cases where a masterpiece gets ranked low while a rather mundane film gets ranked high. And there would be more cases because we're now in the golden era of studio animation, many of which I've watched while growing up. And nostalgia plays a big role in how much I like a certain film.

Oh well. Let's get started.

NULL: O misto na slunci (A Place in the Sun) (1960)
This was the first animated film made outside North America that got love from the Academy. Unfortunately, nobody else loved it enough to save a copy of it so now the only way I have of watching it is to learn Czech and travel to Prague to get a copy somehow. I've never even been to Europe!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Randy Johnson's 300th win - 4th Anniversary Special

Well, today is the fourth anniversary of the day Randy Johnson became the 24th pitcher to win 300 games in his major league career. I was at that game, and that experience was the apex of my time as a baseball fan. Now that four years have passed since that fateful day, am I going to do something to do something to commemorate the occasion? You betcha! I've been visiting the graves of the dead 300-game winners and trying to meet with the living 300-game winners for the past two years now, and I've compiled them in a post on my other blog along with mini biographies of the players and my commentary on the action. So go read, please?

Here is a link. Now I am going to watch his 300th win again.

Meanwhile, you can read my other posts about Randy Johnson's 300th win
Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Rainout
Part V: The Game
Part VI: The Aftermath

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Best Documentary Short Highlights - Neighbours (1952)

Canada has been the home of numerous great animators over the years, but none is more celebrated or more influential than the great Norman McLaren (with apologies to Frederic Back, Richard Condie, Cordell Barker, Ryan Larkin, and others.) We've seen McLaren in several posts since coming back from our hiatus, such as the 1964 review (that included his Christmas Cracker), and Saturday highlight posts on A Chairy Tale and Pas de Deux. These films are certainly great, but they aren't considered his masterpiece. Yes, Norman McLaren has one film that stands out as his defining work, one film in his lengthy career that combines art, innovation, and an important message.

I'm talking about none other than Neighbours.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1952

Ah, we have arrived at 1952. Apologies to everybody that was born in 1952 (including my aunt who would probably never read this blog entry), but 1952 just feels like an undistinguished year to me. Other than the birth year of my aunt I really can't think of anything significant from this year. Yeah, 1951 has the dual debuts of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, the Shot Heard Around the World, and an epic lineup of Best Picture nominees. 1953 saw the birth of George Brett, Mickey Mantle's legendary 565-foot home run (that probably didn't go 565 feet), and the fifth consecutive World Series win by the Yankees. And what did 1952 have? The birth of my aunt, which is much more of a personal thing.

Perhaps it's due to the fact that the films of 1952 were rather undistinguished. There is only one film that really stands out today, and that was the delightful Gene Kelly musical Singin' in the Rain. But Singin' in the Rain was only a modest hit at the box office, and scored only two Oscar nominations. The Gary Cooper Western melodrama High Noon is also highly regarded today, but it did even worse at the box office and was highly criticized for its supposed allegory on the Hollywood blacklisting.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Best Short Subjects Highlight: Ben and Me (1953)

So as you might have figured out by now, there are three short categories. Best Animated Short is the one we've been focusing on for the past year, and it's been the most stable since the introduction of the short categories in 1932. The only changes is in the name, which was Best Short Subjects (Cartoons) for almost 40 years before changing to Best Short Subjects (Animated) to the current Best Short Films (Animated). The second is Best Documentary Short, which has also been stable since the introduction of the documentary categories in 1941, although there have been some confusion between this and the third category: Best Live Action Short.

The Best Live Action Short has undergone the most changes over the year. In fact, it's only been known as Best Live Action Short since 1957. It debuted in 1932 as two separate categories: Best Short Subjects (Comedy) and Best Short Subjects (Novelty.) In 1936 they decided to change the category into One-Reel and Two-Reel, meaning they will be competing with films of about the same length. I don't have the rules for the categories back then, but I don't presume that they actually have anything ruling out having animated films compete in these Short Subjects categories like they do nowadays. How else can we explain the presence of Ben and Me, a film animated in the traditional style, in the category that would become Best Live Action Short in four years time?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1953

Well, I've officially graduated from medical school this past weekend, so that would make me officially a doctor. I suppose it's weird thinking of myself that way, along with taking on the responsibilities of such a title, but it's something I've been working towards for almost ten years so it's something that I'm quite pleased about. Now I still have about a month before I have to start orientation for residency, but I have over 20 reviews to go, so I'll still have to work on reviews while I'm in residency. Hopefully I get enough of a queue that I won't have to take any more hiatuses.

Anyways, onto 1953, a full 60 years ago and the year of George Brett's birth. It must be a bit disconcerting for Kansas City Royals fan to think that their best player, the one that led them to seven playoff berths and one World Series title, is now 60 years old. That's the same age that legendary manager John McGraw was when he died shortly after retiring from managing in 1934, and nobody was saying he's a spring chicken (especially not after a 33-year managerial career that includes 2,763 wins - second of all time.) But hey, he still displays quite a bit of vitality for a guy his age.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Best Live Action Short Highlight: Pas de Deux (1968)

Pas de Deux was a film that was nominated in the Best Live Action Short category, and I decided to skip writing about it back in October because for one reason I was struggling to keep my queue up, and for another reason I didn't really think it was animated. Why, the question even came up in the Canadian module of my History of Animation course, and I argued that it was live action. However, while doing some research about A Chairy Tale I found that Norman McLaren won a BAFTA award for Pas de Deux in the Best Animated Film category! Then it hit me. Who gives a buck about what I feel? My opinions are more worthless than the garbage you threw away a few days ago (which makes it kind of dubious as to why you're reading this in the first place.) I may not be as much of a fan of the BAFTA awards as the Oscars, but if they say Pas de Deux is an animated film then by golly we're going to review it like it's an animated film, which means it's going to be another highlight post. Yes, after going what seems like ages without a Saturday post, we're having our fourth Saturday post in a row, and we're not closed to finished yet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1954

So today is George Brett's 60th birthday, and it is also one of the saddest days of my trip. Yes, as this post is going up I will be returning from Taiwan to prepare to return to my normal life, which includes graduating from med school, either moving or getting my unexpected roommate to move out after seven long months, and onto residency and beyond. Considering I'm only in my first week at Taiwan, it's a bit sad to think that in a few short days I'll be leaving, but that's just a consequence of the inevitability of the passage of time. That's something that has been bothering me for ages and is now still haunting me.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Best Documentary Short Highlight - The Colours of My Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein (1992)

In my last Saturday post about A Chairy Tale, I mentioned that there was an animated documentary that was nominated for the Best Documentary Short in 1992. My review of the nominated films of 1992 went up almost a year ago, but the film was nowhere to be found on the National Film Board of Canada website. I went back and checked periodically to see if it was posted, but it never was. By August I was desperate and decided to buy a copy from the NFB website. However, it never came and I decided to give up looking for it. If it ever gets posted then great, but I wasn't going to sit around waiting for it.

Well, when I was writing my thing on A Chairy Tale, I mentioned it when I talked about how I didn't always post these highlights in the year where it was made. After I made the reference I went and looked and lo and behold, there it was. Apparently the National Film Board posted it when I was wasting my time, money, and energy on futile interviews for programs that hated me the moment they saw my worthless obese self. Well, now that it's posted I might as well review it.

So here it is: The Colours of My Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1955

We have now gotten to the year 1955, which is the year that my dad was born. When I was young I idolized my dad and thought everything in the world about him.* I even thought that he was really old, and that anything or anybody that was older than him would be really, really old. Of course he was only in his 30s back then, but it's been over 20 years since those days and my dad is closing in on his 60th birthday. So I guess the films from this year and the ones I'll be reviewing later would be really, really old.

*I still think everything of my dad. He is the mot selfless and hard working person I've ever known. I know that we have clashed from my laid back nature and his more serious nature, but I understand that he wants me to be the best that I can be because he is always demanding his best. I don't think I've ever told him that I appreciate everything he's done for me and that I love him, but I might as well do it here. 爸爸,我愛你.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Best Live Action Short Highlights - A Chairy Tale (1957)

So I was so eager in getting the Non-Nominated Highlight up for What's Opera, Doc? after the 1957 review that I plum forgot that 1957 also had one of the strangest nominations in the history of the shorts category: an animated film getting nominated for the Live Action Short category. Of course, there's no rule that absolutely says I have to post one of these highlights in the year where the film was made. I just chose to do so*.

*However, there was an animated documentary that was nominated for the Best Documentary Short category back in 1991, but I never posted about it because it wasn't online. Of course it's online now so I'll have some catching up to do after this.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand. How is it possible that an animated film gets nominated in the Live Action Short category? The answer lies in one of the most interesting of animation techniques: Pixilation

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1956

The year 1956 is pretty significant even if neither of my parents were born that year. I did have an aunt born that year, on Christmas Eve no less. It was also the year that Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown and his first MVP award. It remained so significant to him that he even dedicated a whole book about that season. I was reading through the book as a ten year old boy when I heard the devastating news that Mantle had died from metastatic liver cancer. It was very tragic to me. I never did get to meet my childhood baseball hero, but I did get to visit his grave over 15 years later.

And finally, 1956 was the earliest year where I saw every Best Picture nominee.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Non-nominated Highlight: What's Opera, Doc? (1957)

So we are now hitting the end of the Golden Age of Studio Animation in our reviews, and we will be progressing through it thanks to our retrospective progression. Needless to say the rest of the films will have been produced by one of the major film studios, such as Disney, MGM, Warner Bros., UPA etc. This is a good time to bring up one of the problems that I (and possibly other animation historians) have with this category. The contenders are decided in part by what the studios submit for contention. Unfortunately I don't have access to a list of what films qualified, but I do remember reading in Chuck Jones's autobiography that many of the great Warner Bros. films did not get submitted for some reason. As a result, while most of the greatest films by Disney and many of the greatest films by MGM* were nominated in this category, few of the greatest films by Warner Bros. were nominated.

*For some reason, almost all of the greatest Tom and Jerry cartoons were nominated, but none of the greatest Tex Avery films were nominated. It could be that the Academy did not enjoy Avery's strange sense of humor, or it could be MGM executives did not like it and did not submit those, which essentially gets to the same issue.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1957

We're now at 1957, which happens to be the year of my mother's birth. It's a bit mind-blowing to think that my mom is now closer to her 60th birthday than her 50th birthday, but I'm sure it's not much better for her to think that her oldest child is closer to 30. And he still watches cartoons like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the film that we'll be reviewing here shortly. I guess it's just the effects of the passage of time. Why, the old Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons that I grew up watching are close to 70 years old by now. And yet they are still as timeless as they were back in the 1940s. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1958

Greetings from tropical Taiwan! (Well, I'm actually still in sunny Texas as I'm writing this, but let's just play pretend.) It's great to be back here for the first time since 2007. It doesn't feel that long ago but a lot have happened in the six intervening years. I applied for, got accepted into, and now completed my medical school education. I saw probably 75% of the Best Animated Short nominees, and started this blog. And I became a massive unabashed brony. Yessir, it's been an interesting six years.

And now that I'm here in Taiwan I've been envisioning a whole host of interesting activities: to go and actually do some sightseeing which I've never really done before. I've never even been to the Taroko National Park! To go and watch the lovely Rachel Liang Wen Yin perform more than once. To see a baseball game and hopefully get an autograph from the enigmatic Manny Ramirez. And to attend a Taiwan brony meetup. It's all very ambitious, but I'll probably end up wasting my days away surfing the internet or spending all my time making these blasted blog posts. (Which is why I'm trying to extend my queue now while I'm still in Texas.) We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Best Documentary Short Highlights: Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959)

Well, I've probably mentioned before and will undoubtedly mention again, but Walt Disney is the most honored individual by the Academy, with his 22 competitive wins and 59 nominations. Much of it was from the Academy's old strategy of honoring the producers in those short categories that he dominated. And yes, we all know that much of the domination came in the category that we care so deeply: that of what is now known as Best Animated Short. 39 of his 59 nominations and 11 of his 22 wins were in this category. However, he had some success in other categories as well. He received six awards in 12 nominations in the Best Live Action Short category (along with its predecessor, Best Short Subject One Reel/Two Reel. This would lead to one of the most interesting nominations that we'll get to in a couple weeks.)  He had two wins in four nominations in the Best Documentary Feature category (including two when there was one massive Best Documentary category in 1942.) And he had two wins in three nominations in the Best Documentary Short category. And he was nominated as producer for Best Picture for Mary Poppins.

Of those three nominations in the Best Documentary Short category, two were for live action films about Eskimos. And one was an animated documentary. Most people probably haven't even heard of The Alaskan Eskimo or Men Against the Arctic. However, the name of the animated documentary is probably one that is familiar to many students: Donald in Mathmagic Land.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Best Animated Short - 1959

Well, we have made it into the 1950s, the decade of my parents' birth. Of course, we still have two more decades to get through before we'll finally be caught up (and I'll be sitting around twiddling my thumbs thinking of stuff to post.) More importantly, however, is that the weekend after this post goes up I'll be going back to Taiwan for the first time since 2007. That was so long ago that I was still new to all of this Best Animated Short stuff. It's pretty exciting, but that doesn't mean I'll have to start on another hiatus. For one thing I'm writing this in March so there will be time to build up some queue. Anyways I can always work on more entries while I'm there, but I'll be more tempted to soak up the atmosphere, try to visit with Taiwan bronies, and hopefully see Rachel Liang Wen Yin perform. Yeah, it should be good times. That is unless I fail the PE again and then everything will go to heck.