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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Academy salutes its animated shorts

Day and Night: Pixar seems like a shoo in to win the public's choice of best animated short, but will it get the academy's?

Academy salutes its animated shorts

There's something dangerously special about the craft of the short film. Like a short story, the entire film has to be air tight and not a single frame can be wasted or misused. All five of the films in this year's ""Best Animated Short"" category at the Oscars have their own unique and lovable vision.

Why this category hasn't become more popular in the public sphere is beyond me. In the current digital culture where rapid consumption is king, it's a bit mysterious why this category still remains largely ignored by most people outside the film community. This category may be overlooked is because these films don't have the distribution that other Oscar-nominated films have.

Well now, the residents of Madison are in luck. Sundance Cinemas is currently screening all the nominated short films up until Oscar night. So don't go out this weekend and spend your money on Hollywood spring dumping trash. It's a sad reality that during the award show, when this category appears, most viewers will treat it as time for a popcorn refill or bathroom break. Don't let these films go ignored though. Be there to cheer for your favorite one because they all deserve more attention than they are currently receiving.

""Day & Night"" (directed byTeddy Newton; 6 minutes), is the one film on this list I suspect most people have seen. If you don't remember, this was the Pixar film that opened for ""Toy Story 3."" It's certainly the front-runner for winning the award, and has every right to be. Its use of spatial relations and sound mixing, two often-ignored aspects of filmmaking, are placed at the forefront of the narrative. It's the only film I've ever heard of where the negative space on the film is just as essential to the story as the positive space. Even without its technical achievements, ""Day and Night"" has an imaginative and provoking tale about tolerance in a divided world. It's what I will personally be cheering for on Oscar night.

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""Let's Pollute"" (directed by Geefwee Boedoe; 6 minutes), is a satire of those old ""duck and cover"" educational videos from the early Cold War. Its subject is pollution and it does one hell of a job taking it to task. The film is a blitzkrieg on numerous subjects including, but not limited to, capitalism, consumerism, ignorance and just about anything else related to the religion of overindulgence. I consider myself a very patriotic person, but after watching this film I wanted to take a shower and scrub America off of me. At first it seems like an over-extended French director taking pot shots at our country. But by the end of the film, despite possibly hating him for it, you won't be able to deny that he has a very strong argument. It's a smart and enjoyable way to learn that we're all fucked unless we start making some big changes very quickly.

""Madagascar, a Journey Diary"" (directed by Bastien Dubois, 11 minutes), is certainly the outsider of the nominated films. The voyage follows a traveler through Madagascar and is more of a portrait than a standard short film. I've never been to Madagascar and I probably never will, yet after seeing this film through the traveler's eyes, you have a strong sense of what the country is. The film has a distinct soul to it that must be accredited to both the culture being depicted and the techniques used by the animators to share it with us. The film's budget was non-existent. Making time and talent the only real ingredients. The images that creator Dubois gives us seem to slip by almost too fast. It's a moving art gallery and a memorable experience.

""The Gruffalo"" (directed by Jakob Schuh, Max Lange; 30 minutes), is based off a children's book of the same name and follows the adventures of a cunning mouse that has to outwit a succession of predators. The film features some voice talent from actors like Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt. There's always been something enduring about the mouse's story, whether it's Remy in ""Ratatouille"" or Fievel in ""An American Tail,"" the ""lower end of the food chain"" perspective is almost always an intriguing one. In this film, the beauty of nature and the cruelty of its reality constantly surround our main mouse. The film is a tribute to the art of storytelling, and is another telling example of just how touching the ""standard children's narrative"" can be for all ages.

""The Lost Thing"" (direceted by Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan; 15 minutes), is about a boy who finds a strange creature on a dystopian beach and decides to find a home for it. You wouldn't know it by simply watching it, but this is also based on a children's book. It's the only film of the bunch that I wasn't crazy about. I'm a huge fan of science fiction but other than its darkly futuristic tone, the film failed to distinguish itself from the company it's been placed with. The animation is nothing spectacular. The story is progressive, but I wasn't able to connect to the characters or its message like I was with the other nominated films. That said, it's still an interesting watch, and certainly better than anything you're going to find on Nickelodeon.


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