Overall I liked the animated shorts better than their live-action cousins (reviewed here). As far as Oscar predictions go however, my confidence level is about zero. With my top two picks I fear I’m bending Academy taste to fit my own. Nevertheless, here they are in the order I think they’re most likely to win with my own star ratings included. Don’t forget that these opened in theaters today (alongside the live-action shorts in a separate program) and they will also be available through iTunes and VOD. Once again, for more information about the films themselves and where you can see them, check out the Shorts International website.
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty. (Ireland, 6 mins) ****
When Granny goes off book during a reading of Sleeping Beauty, it becomes all too clear why her timid little grandchild was so reluctant to hear a bedtime story in the first place. This darkly funny lament on the bitter consequences of aging was a little shrill, but it was my favorite of the bunch. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the Academy will find it funny enough with just the right amount of gravity to win over their collective vote, but don’t take that prediction to the bank. The smart money is probably on the Wallace and Gromit flick, but nothing ventured nothing gained.
The Lady and the Reaper. (Spain, 8 mins) ****
Opening with the melancholy strains of Vera Lynn singing We’ll Meet Again, The Lady and the Reaper at first promises the poignancy of the beginning of Up. However, as a well-meaning surgeon duels with a determined grim reaper over the fate of an old woman, things turn as absurdly comic as a classic Looney Tunes cartoon. Lively and funny, Lady also takes a stark stand on the right to die issue if you’re looking for a message. I’m giving Granny a tiny edge, but you could easily flip these in Oscar priority.
A Matter of Loaf and Death. (UK, 30 mins) ***
Once again, it’s up to Gromit to pull Wallace’s cheese out of the fire when he falls victim to a woman who seems bent on knocking off the town’s bakers. Oscarwise, it’s foolish to argue against Nick Park who has four Oscars from five nominations (his only loss came when A Grand Day Out lost to his own Creature Comforts in 1990), but I’m going to gamble the academy will see A Matter of Loaf and Death as more of the same. Park even lifts a joke from 1966’s Batman: The Movie. It’s amusing enough, but the routine has grown stale. No pun intended. Well, maybe a little. If you’re a big W&G fan, I’m sure you’ll have a great time with this, but it wasn’t for me.
French Roast. (France, 8 mins) ***
This simple tale of a man who keeps ordering because he can’t find his wallet to pay his café tab strains way too hard to be quirky and clever. It looks great, it’s elegantly composed and it’s almost perfectly polished, but on first viewing it never quite came to life. Though it played better a second time through as I more fully appreciated how carefully everything fit together, I ended up admiring it more than enjoying it.
Logorama. (France, 16 mins) **
In a world composed of corporate logos and populated entirely by corporate mascots, two foul-mouthed Michelin Man cops pursue an armed and psychotic Ronald McDonald. It’s a single-note, one joke set up that promises some kind of material culture satire, but is really about as deep as a commercial jingle. Sure, seeing the Michelin Man swear and Ronald McDonald take hostages is smile-worthy one time through, but a flamboyantly gay Mr. Clean is less hilarious. I don’t know though. Reading around the internet it sounds like this one was a favorite in some quarters. Could be just another example of my broken funny bone.