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
And then there are the Oscars. The Christian epic Quo Vadis was by far the most popular film of the year at the box office, and was awarded with a spot in the Best Picture lineup, although its 8 nominations trailed that of A Streetcar Named Desire (12 nominations, including one in every acting category) and A Place in the Sun (9 nominations) and tied with the musical An American in Paris. Meanwhile, way in the distance with only two nominations was Decision Before Dawn, the last Best Picture nominated film with two nominations until Four Weddings and a Funeral 43 years later. Neither Quo Vadis nor Decision Before Dawn received Best Director nominations, with the spots going instead to William Wyler for Detective Story and John Huston for The African Queen.
Things continued to go downhill for Quo Vadis. It lost the Best Score (Dramatic/Comedy) award to A Place in the Sun, while An American in Paris captured it for Best Score (Musical). The utterly random "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" won Best Original Song for Here Comes the Groom while the biographical film The Great Caruso won Best Sound. An American in Paris swept the Color technical awards, while A Place in the Sun almost did the same in the Black and White side, losing only Art Direction to A Streetcar Named Desire. It did win Best Editing, defeating Decision Before Dawn in its only other nomination. The sci-fi film When Worlds Collide won Best Special Effects unopposed. An American in Paris and A Place in the Sun won the Best Writing (Story and Screenplay) and Best Writing (Screenplay) awards respectively, while the Best Story award went to the atomic bomb thriller Seven Days to Noon.
So far Quo Vadis was 0 for 5, but it had two nominations in the Best Supporting Actor category, so there was some hope that it wouldn't go home empty handed. Alas, the Oscar went to the late Karl Malden for A Streetcar Named Desire. In fact it went on to win Best Supporting Actress for Kim Hunter and Best Actress for Vivien Leigh. It seemed poised to win an Oscar for the dynamic young star Marlon Brando to become the first film to win all four acting categories. Alas, the Academy saw fit to award the single greatest movie star of all time (according to the AFI), Humphrey Bogart, with his role in The African Queen.
So while the box office hit Quo Vadis was well out of it, this was a real race with three of the films that the AFI would name as among the 100 best. A Streetcar Named Desire had four wins after doing some major damage in the acting categories, while A Place in the Sun and An American in Paris had five each. It all came down to the Best Director category. And when George Steven won for A Place in the Sun it seemed like the race was all but over. The American tragedy had won Best Director and Best Editing, and it featured a young and handsome Montgomery Clift alongside the fiery hot Elizabeth Taylor. Then to the surprise of all An American in Paris was announced as Best Picture. I suppose it may not have been that much of a surprise. An American in Paris was as uplifting and visual as A Place in the Sun was down and depressing. Sure I found it the most boring Best Picture winner ever, but it's got its legions of fans, just like the three films that were nominated for Best Animated Short.
Lambert the Sheepish Lion
Where Can I Watch It?
Rooty Toot Toot
Where Can I Watch It?
The Two Mouseketeers
Touche, Pussy Cat three years later.
Where Can I Watch It?
It's been harder to find good copies of Tom and Jerry films since Warner Bros. acquired the license, since they're pretty active in removing copies from YouTube. Here's the film on DailyMotion, but in case it gets removed you can find it on several DVD collections, including the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection.
Well, those were the three nominees. I'm sure it's pretty clear which of the three I didn't care for, but I'm sure you can also tell from the title screen at the beginning which film went on to win the Oscar. Yes, French-speaking Nibbles charmed even the Oscar voters and they showered him with Tom and Jerry's sixth Oscar win. Almost 60 years later it was named as one of the Unforgivable Animation Oscar Moments by Amid Amidi. While I disagreed with his choice for including the 1952 Oscars two weeks ago, I'm inclined to agree with him this time. Why award an unfunny, mostly unoriginal film when Rooty Toot Toot was superior in its story and storytelling? Heck, even Lambert the Sheepish Lion had a better story that was presented better. But nope, French-speaking Nibbles tops all. If he had appeared the year before against Gerald McBoingBoing, one of the most influential films of all time, I'm sure he would have won.
My rankings (by quality and preference)
Rooty Toot Toot > Lambert the Sheepish Lion > The Two Mouseketeers