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.

16 Responses to “Review: Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (2010)”

  1. Exceptional round-up here! I really hadn’t followed this category, but am delighted that you tabbed two of this lot (SLEEPING BEAUTY and LADY AND THE REAPER) as “excellent” and found that Wallace and Gromit item and FRENCH ROAST worthwhile (even if the latter took a second viewing). Hopefully now you will be able to figure where the Oscar will go, not that it matters as much as you saw and enjoyed these.

  2. I managed to catch ALL of these on the internet (thanks Youtube!) and while I respect your opinion Craig, I really don’t think the Sleeping Beauty film will get voters behind it. I thought it was dull, uninspired and almost aimed at a juvenile audience.

    Much to my chagrin, I am uncomfortable with all the “Reaper” sentiment because I thought it was way too corny and cheesy for its own good. I almost actively disliked it and it gave me a sour feeling afterwards.

    French Toast was awful, just as you say. Seemed very poorly put together and the concept at its heart is just silly.

    Logorama was fun too, but it is a little one-note as you mentioend. I think its really just an action thriller in Logoland and the profanity may put off the voters.

    I liked W & G best, even if it is more of the same. It always makes me smile and laugh, and thats what matters most to me. I think the length of it and the appealing relatable characters will get it over the line.

  3. I’ve seen these twice now, first on the internets and today at the theater. To be honest, Craig, I had a difficult time focusing at first on Granny O’Grimm, but it eventually won me over. This seemed to be the #1 audience favorite.

    Another, edgier audience fave was Logorama — complete with a parental guidance warning (this film clearly is not intended for children though many adolescents and older — especially boys — would probably go for it). You may very well be right, though, it seems a bit too edgy for the Academy although I thought it was very well done if not well developed thematically. I kept wondering how the filmmakers were able to produce this vis a vis trademark laws what with all the intellectual property popping at the viewer right and left throughout. Many in the audience seemed to remark immediately afterwards on the film’s irreverence and audacity.

    The Lady and the Reaper I found quite good and quite entertaining, but it may be a little too dark in subject matter — out-of-body experiences and such — for Academy voters despite all the wild and crazy slapstick. The musical score was very well done, I thought — quite invigorating.

    The Wallace and Grommit seems like the safest bet for Oscar. It’s the longest by far of the five, has the best developed story, has broad appeal and elaborate production values (lots of orchestral music). But it just seems old and calculated to me despite its socially current entertainment value.

    I agree that French Roast was the weakest, though the technical expertise involved in using a mirror is worth noting.

    If I had a gun to my head this very moment and had to predict, I’d go with Granny O’Grimm, with W&G as the safe bet, Reaper as the dark horse, and Logorama as the wild card.

  4. As I said in the piece Andy, I won’t be shocked if W&G takes it. I didn’t dislike it, but we’ve seen this kind of thing half a dozen times already and after 15 years it’s worn thin for me.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about Granny though. I thought it was terrific. The little lullaby she sings over the credits was terrific.

    Pierre, the charms of Logorama eluded me, though I think I kind of get why it’s appealing to people. If you’ve never watched Southpark, seeing cartoons swear is kind of funny. For me? Not so much.

    I was also surprised they got away with use of all the logos, though in the case of the mascots perhaps it was enough that they weren’t named.

    I do know McDonalds and other companies are extremely protective of their images. In the other cases with all the logos on the buildings, maybe that’s allowed, or maybe the companies agreed feeling it was better to be seen than not seen.

    Sam, as I said my confidence is zero about which way the Oscar winds will blow, though I see Pierre shares my feelings about Granny.

  5. I just saw the collected shorts in Baltimore (along with three runners up), and I gotta say…there’s a bit of sameness about them, especially with Granny, French Roast, and the Reaper–all 3D shorts with strangely similar character designs (runner up The Kinematograph was 3D as well, but with a much different design and look). Those three also were obviously gag shorts, with only French Roast rising a bit above the form–it actually out-Pixared this year’s Pixar short in terms of style and cleverness. Granny was funny, but the film simply ended–after it didn’t really go anywhere. The Lady and the Reaper started clever, but then devolved into a borderline surreal chase movie and grew dull very quickly.

    Meanwhile, Logorama was a neat idea well-executed, but it doesn’t do anything more than simply parody disaster movies. The Wallace and Gromit short was the only one with any real story, taking 30 minutes to do so.

    Honestly, it’s probably between Matter of Loaf and Death and French Roast. Those two seem right up the Academy’s alley.

    It’s sad that The Cat Piano, one of the 10 films considered for a nomination, didn’t even get distributed with the rest–it far surpasses all of them in story, execution, and tone. Plus, it’s a far different animation style, which would have been refreshing to see. It’s still on Youtube.

  6. Completely agree about The Cat Piano, Tim. When Craig originally linked to it on LiC’s Animated Shorts shortlist post, I was sure it would end up being one of the nominees. Ah, well. What do I know.

    My money’s on Wallace & Gromit. It may be the same old same old, but they’re beloved and the animation’s always excellent and the story is always charming. Plus, I think some Academy members give bonus points to Aardman for the old school claymation and the enormous work it takes to produce 30 minutes of narrative at that level of craftsmanship.

  7. This has been a tough category for me to divine. After vascillating between my faves, what I perceive as audience faves, and the Academy’s voting patterns, I’ll have to go with A Matter of Loaf and Death. It’s the longest, has a surefire pedigree and production values, and none of the others truly stands out as a spoiler.

  8. Logorama has gotten good responses just about everywhere but here at LiC so I wonder if it might not be a dark horse contender.

    I’m leaning toward switching my pick to Loaf though from Granny. Nobody doesn’t like Wallace and Gromit!

    I was also suprised Cat Piano didn’t get a nom because that’s the only one I really heard people buzzing about when the short list was announced.

  9. I loved Logorama. It was by far my favorite of the lot and well worth the price of the ticket. It made such a cynically delicious statement about our shallow corporate culture that our planet can’t survive with. it made me want to stand up and stomp my feet and hoot at the end.

  10. I know I’m on a tiny little melting iceberg all alone with my dislike of Logorama, Ann. I was hoping for some consumer culture commentary, but I missed it.

  11. I’m on the iceberg with you. I found Logorama’s supposed satire to be very clumsy and amateurish. The runner-up short Runaway, mess that it was, was more effective in its attempt at social commentary. Logorama, for me, quickly became obsessed with cheap jokes and its gimmick, and in the end, it fell into the same trap as the disaster movies it was attempting to parody–any depth was drowned by the noise.

    I didn’t hate it, but I found it incredibly hollow and shallow. Ironic, innit?

  12. Yes Tim, if it had turned up on the Cartoon Network late at night I’d watch it and smile and forget about it. That’s about the extent of it.

    Still, though I think it might be a bit too edgy for Oscar, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if it wins.

  13. I don’t know anything about the makers of Logorama other than the fact that (I think) they’re French. Not an excuse for why it stumbles through toward the end, but an explanation as to why it seems a little culturally weird to us Americans. At least that’s how I saw it.

  14. I was hoping that it’s Frenchness would add a little bite to the anti-capitalism, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

    I’ll revisit it after the awards and see if my opinion doesn’t change. In a different (less noble) context It probably would’ve gotten a smile out of me.

    It might also have helped seeing it with an appreciative audience.

  15. I’m with you, Craig, on Logorama, and am very disappointed that it won the Oscar. I just hope it doesn’t start a trend. I don’t look forward to a future spate of profane, violent, vapid animated shorts. Granny was a hoot, and I would have voted for the Pixar short ahead of French Roast.

  16. Maybe Logorama stood out for the Academy because it was so much different than the others.

    I loved this year’s Pixar short too.

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