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 There's been plenty of times that the Academy rescinded a nomination because of eligibility issues*, but having the nominated party actually withdraw their own nomination was a highly unusual move.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*The most notorious case of a rescinded nomination was with Young Americans, the documentary that was nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 1969 only to have it declared ineligible AFTER it had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.