ANIMATED SHORTS

Along with watching the live action shorts, our screening included all of the Oscar-nominated animated short films.

MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “THE LONGEST DAYCARE” – 2012

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Animated Short Film

Christopher

This was energetic and funny. Certainly not the best but it was nice to see some solid Simpson fun.

Elizabeth

I admittedly haven’t watched a ton of The Simpsons, and I was afraid that would work against me in watching Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare,” but luckily it really didn’t. Maggie Simpson finds herself in the Ayn Rand School for Tots, which includes doll versions of the chain-smoking monstrosity that the school is named for, and I found that to be endlessly funny. They don’t just use Ayn Rand’s name for the name of the daycare, but they use the theme throughout the short, as Maggie gets put into the “nothing special” category of children that are essentially left to their own devices while the “gifted” students are nurtured. It’s a pretty funny and interesting concept. One thing that the short benefits from but I think ultimately hurts it against the other nominees, is that it has to take no time establishing character or place, something the other shorts usually have to deal with.

ADAM AND DOG – 2011

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Animated Short Film

WATCH IT HERE ON YOUTUBE

Christopher

My favorite of the animated shorts. It was beautiful and the story was interesting. This was recently put online so make sure you watch it before the Oscars.

Elizabeth

I have a rule about movies with dogs or cats or cute animals in general: despite hating spoilers, I must know if the animal dies in the movie. If it does, I won’t see it. I didn’t think about that before watching Adam and Dog, and I immediately got scared that I would really regret that. Luckily, I didn’t.

Adam and Dog is very beautiful. As most of it takes place in the pre-Eve Garden of Eden, it looks like a moving watercolor. But I think what I liked the most was its play on the Adam and Eve story. I always really love a story that successfully tells an old story with a new approach, and that’s exactly what Adam and Dog did. There’s no dialogue, but from the title and from the general action, you know that this is about the original Adam meeting and befriending a dog for the first time. Eve subtlety comes into the picture and distracts Adam enough for him to abandon the dog, something the dog doesn’t understand and is pretty sad about (which was suuuuper sad to watch).  Then the atmosphere changes; thunderstorms and wind come, and everything gets much darker, presumably because of what is happening off camera with Adam and Eve getting cast out of Eden. In the end, the dog spots Adam and Eve, no longer naked, holding each other as they walk out of Eden. The dog, looking between paradise and his human companions, quickly chooses the humans, who hug and kiss him. It’s a completely sweet story.

FRESH GUACAMOLE – 2012

Fresh_Guacamole 

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Animated Short Film

WATCH IT HERE ON YOUTUBE

Christopher

Clever and short. My second favorite of the animated shorts.

Elizabeth

While I really love Fresh Guacamole, it kind of presents the number one problem I have in the whole Animated Short Film category: are these shorts being judged solely on animation? Or does story play a big role also? Fresh Guacamole essentially has no story; it’s a less than 2 minute short of stop motion showing guacamole being made by common objects. But the animation is really amazing. The animation is more impressive to me than Adam and Dog, but the animation there is so beautiful, and the story is great. So I don’t know how to judge what’s best here.

HEAD OVER HEELS – 2012

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Animated Short Film

Christopher

I loved the animation in this. It was claymation and though the story was pretty bizarre and maybe a little hard to follow, I really enjoyed watching this.

Elizabeth

For me personally, Head Over Heels had several things going against it. For one, the type of claymation/stop motion they used has the look of the kind that would completely scare me as a child, and so I’m not really into any of that. Secondly, I didn’t get the story. Maybe it’s a story that’s only meant to be watched and not understood, but that alone bothers me. While I was still impressed by the level of detail Head Over Heels has, especially with small things like shoes and glasses, I just wasn’t that into it.

PAPERMAN – 2012

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Animated Short Film

Christopher

This is pretty good but I think it’s far too cutesy for me. Nowhere near as good as Adam and Dog or Fresh Guacamole. It is a good example, though, of how paper planes can be interesting in a story, unlike Simply Irresistible.

Elizabeth

I really liked Paperman. There’s just something about the animation that I really enjoyed. While it looks very smooth in its movement, there’s still pencil-like edges around the figures, which sort of reminded me of what 101 Dalmatians might look like if it was made in an age of computers. The story is sweet, though while it may be too sweet for some (Chris), at least is was easy to follow. It was also made by Disney, so a little saccarine sweetness is to be expected, I think.

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LIVE ACTION SHORTS

We went to a screening of the Oscar-nominated live action short films and animated short films. We expected the theater to be packed, but we were the only ones there, which was awesome but a bit sad. Here’s what we have to say about the live action shorts. Also, be prepared; you know things are bleak when the most uplifting movie involves Somalian pirates murdering tourists.

DOOD VAN EEN SCHADUW (DEATH OF A SHADOW) – 2012

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION

  • Best Live Action Short Film

Elizabeth

As you might have guessed, like most movie-watchers, I’m a 1000 times more familiar with feature films than shorts. You just watch short film differently than features, and for me it’s not always an easy adjustment. At 20 minutes, Death of a Shadow was a little hard for me to take in. It’s very high-concept for a short film. I’m not sure if the filmmakers are even after such a thing, but I think it would really benefit from being made into a feature film. By the end of Death of a Shadow, I pretty much knew what had happened, but I still had a lot of questions, which bothered me.

The amount of effects, costumes, props, and locations were really impressive for a short film, though. And the effectiveness of the filmmakers’ storytelling comes through for me when I thought the film was still very sad but sweet, despite not knowing what exactly was happening.

Christopher

This film was definitely interesting. I thought the film was good but I can definitely see it getting the green light for a feature which I think would help the story. Certainly a good watch.

HENRY – 2011

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Live Action Short Film

Elizabeth

Here’s how I sort of imagine Henry coming into play: writer/director Yan England saw The Notebook and Amour and thought, “What if I took the most devastating elements of both of these films and compressed and expanded them into a 21-minute short film?” Because that’s pretty much what happened.

I don’t know if I liked Henry. Yes, I was practically weeping by the end. But when you have a film, even if it’s a short, about dementia and death, it’s kind of hard not to get emotional. But I’m generally not good at predicting what’s going to happen in a movie, and a few minutes in I had Henry figured out. For some that might not take away from the story, but for me it did. The acting was great and some of the visuals were very effective, but as a story it’s just kind of played-out and almost cheap, in terms of getting emotions.

Christopher

This movie was really sad and that’s all it really had going for it. It was easy to predict and felt very student filmy.

CURFEW – 2012

TheCurfew

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Live Action Short Film

Elizabeth

Curfew is a good example of a film having a lot of things going for it and a lot of things holding it back. It opens up with Richie, the main character, trying to commit suicide via wrist slashing before a phone call from his estranged sister stops him. She asks him to look after his niece, Sophia, whom he apparently hasn’t seen since she was a baby. So he stops the suicide and agrees. Opening a movie with a guy slitting his wrists in a bathroom seems borderline cliche (though I can’t think of another movie that does this).

Sophia is, of course, very mature and fast-talking, much more so than her suicidal drug addict uncle. I tend to get very turned off by precocious children in movies, but sometimes it works and I think it does work here. A small dance sequence in a cool bowling alley definitely helped. It seemed like the quick bond formed between the uncle and the niece was genuine, and I really liked that. The film suffered, though, any time Richie (played by writer/director Shawn Christensen – not entirely surprising) had any kind of monologue-esque lines. He spoke only in the way people do in movies, not in real life, and it was pretty obvious.

Christopher

Definitely the worst of the bunch. It was trying way too hard and all the dialogue felt so forced. It had bowling in it, too, which made me want to love it but that didn’t really save it.

BUZKASHI BOYS – 2012

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Live Action Short Film

Elizabeth

Sometimes I think I might be biased against children in film. Now, there are plenty of cases where I enjoy or at least don’t mind children as the main characters, but then there are times where I just don’t care about what dumb kids do. Buzkashi Boys kind of walks the border of that for me.

Buzkashi Boys isn’t just about your average kids, though; the kids are Afghani and one is a beggar orphan and the other is worked to the bone by his blacksmith father. So life might not be all that great for these two. The boys are able to sneak away and catch some buzkashi riding, a sport I had never heard of and don’t particularly want to know a lot about. It involves a goat getting dragged along by horses, and while I couldn’t quite tell if the goat is dead or not by the time this happens, it was still really uncomfortable for me to watch and actually made me less sympathetic for the characters. Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but still.

Despite that, Buzkashi Boys is beautifully filmed. It does away with the desolate desert imagery most Americans probably have of Afghanistan and replaces it with a naturally beautiful, cold mountain landscape with snow and the destruction that comes with being populated by the poverty-stricken.

I was also happy to see the end of the movie not be predictable in the movie sense, but predictable in real life, if that makes sense. Instead of going in the direction of a grand film ending, it just ends quietly in a way that would probably actually happen, which I liked.

Christopher

This was shot beautifully. The story was a little sad and I need to look into the sport of Buzkashi but when I saw this I thought it was going to be my favorite but I think it was my second favorite.

ASAD – 2012

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Live Action Short Film

Elizabeth

When Asad started, I didn’t think I would like it. I didn’t think I could be sympathetic toward characters who are Somali pirates, and again it’s about goddamn children. But in the end, Asad was probably my favorite of the live action shorts.

Yes, it’s about Somali pirates, some of which are children. But it’s mostly about a young boy trying to fit in, even if that means longing to be a pirate because he can’t seem to catch a break as a fisherman, which seems to be his first choice as a career. Despite the bleak surroundings and almost watching his friend get murdered, Asad is also surrounded by an impressive amount of support and caring, whether it be from the elderly town fisherman who believes Asad will be the greatest fisherman the village has ever seen, or from his sister trying to keep the family together, but is clearly proud when Asad tells her he’s going to go read.

For me, Asad did kind of an amazing thing. Modern-day pirates totally terrify me. They pretty much single-handedly made The Life Aquatic my least favorite Wes Anderson movie. But Asad took a scene that should have scared me (Asad boarding a bobbing yacht only to find all the passengers – the tourist owners as well as his Somali friends – murdered) into a scene that I loved. Asad hears a living creature on board the yacht, and after shooting blindly at it discovers it’s not a person, but a gigantic white fluffy cat dressed as a sailor. He takes it with him and brings it back on shore, telling everyone he has caught a white lion. It just ends very sweetly, as he holds onto this annoyed-looking fluffy cat, and I loved that.

Christopher

This was easily the best of the bunch. It was fast, funny but was also serious and scary at the same time. If you are trying to watch any of these definitely make sure you see this cause it would be a huge shame if it doesn’t win.