OSCAR-NOMINATED ANIMATED SHORTS My rating: A- (Opens February 1 at the Tivoli)
No MPAA rating
Maybe it’s fallout from the silent film “The Artist” cleaning up last year.
In any case, all of the nominees in the Oscar’s current animated shorts competition are wordless. No dialogue at all.
This makes for rather intense (but highly enjoyable) viewing. These stories are told almost entirely through their visuals, which actually requires more dedication on the part of the viewer. With most movies you can close your eyes and figure out what’s going on through the dialogue. Not here.
MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “THE LONGEST DAYCARE”’ (David Silverman/ USA/ 5 minutes)
Maggie, the pacifier-sucking youngest member of the cartoon Simpson clan, stars in her own short film.
The film follows Maggie’s day at the Ayn Rand School for Tots, where right off the bat infants have to endure a TSA-style frisking (a sign advises that “Your freedom is assured by our probing”).
Maggie is then led past the area for gifted kids (they have their own art studio and orchestra) and left in the “Nothing Special” area where the fingerpaint comes in two colors: “gray” and “bleakest black.”
Mostly the film is about Maggie’s efforts to protect from a violence-crazed kid a caterpillar who during the course of the day forms a cocoon and finally emerges as a gorgeous butterfly.
As you’d expect from a Simpson-inspired effort, “The Longest Daycare” packs a good deal of biting social commentary into its five minutes. What you might not anticipate is the uncharacteristic sweetness of its central message.
“ADAM & DOG” (Minkyu Lee,/USA/16 minutes)
A playful dog and a naked man explore an environment of lush green forests and sweeping savannas of golden grass. They play fetch. They curl up together to sleep.
Then a naked woman appears and the dog finds he is no longer man’s best friend.
Minkyu Lee’s take on the Biblical Book of Genesis is visually gorgeous and a bit sad.
“HEAD OVER HEELS” (Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly/ UK/ 11 minutes)
Here’s a nifty allegorical fantasy rendered in first-rate Claymation-type animation.
A married couple live in a house floating in the sky. But the emotional distance in their relationship now manifests itself in a strange way.
The laws of gravity have been suspended. One walks on the floor, one on the ceiling.
The two don’t speak to each other. They live their lives just feet apart (key appliances like the refridgerator are rigged to a system of pulleys that allow them to be lifted/dropped from above to below) but for all intents and purposes, they reside in different worlds.
“Head Over Heels” depicts these two slowly rekindling the affection they once shared. Their reconciliation is quietly
“PAPERMAN” (John Kahrs / USA/ 7 minutes)
This Disney offering, rendered in gorgeous black and white, is both a romantic comedy and a Kafkaesque look at the American workplace.
A young man waiting for the el notices a gorgeous girl. He’s so stunned by her beauty that he forgets to board his train.
Once behind his desk in a high rise office filled with fellow clerical drones (all living in fear of a looming supervisor), our hero notices the girl in a building across the street. Desperate to contact her, he turns the papers on his desk into airplanes, which he sends soaring between their buildings.
But he’s a lousy shot and eventually it’s up to the hundreds of paper airplanes to develop a life of their own and bring this long-distance romance to fruition.
Though a cartoon, “Paperman” has some spectacularly cinematic camera angles…it could easily have been shot as live action. Indeed, its vision of a big city (I’m thinking Chicago) is astonishingly detailed.
This stop-motion effort shows how to prepare guacamole from various household items.
Human hands (that’s all we see of the cook…hands) slice and dice hand grenades (in lieu of avocados). A baseball is chopped like an onion. A red pincushion is diced like a tomato. A green golf ball is squeezed like a lime. Green lightbulbs are opened and the filaments removed as if they were peppers.
Finally the ingredients are all mashed together and served with poker chips (standing in for nachos).
Palyful and inventive. Yum.
| Robert W. Butler