Sunday, June 05, 2005

Been meaning for ages to write up the program I saw in February of 2005 Oscar nominated shorts. Ah, the beauty of blogs. No deadlines!

The eventual award winners were both quite deserving, though my favorite went home empty handed. Ryan, the animated category winner, though in some ways ugly looking, is a fascinating use of computer animation. A portrait of an influential animator, the film treats the effects of drug abuse in a highly expressive way, using animation to suggest the damaged state addicts sometimes live in. Reminded me in that respect of the damaged robots in A.I., but in animation philosophy and technique reminded me a bit more of Waking Life. Birthday Boy, a haunting little short about a Korean boy playing at war during war time, was promising. Personally, I found Gopher Broke more tiresome than amusing, indicative of Hollywood ambitions. It somewhat resembled that awful short the usually excellent Pixar showed before The Incredibles, Boundin'. The student academy award winner for animation, Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher, was like a vulgar version of The Incredibles' island sequence, a retro parody of superhero comics and Flash Gordon-like serials . It's funny, with a great deal of energy and talent, an amazing amount of polish, but also a somewhat depressing tendency toward derision and condescenion.

The live action shorts were much better. Oscar winner Wasp was a powerful, Loachian, slightly gothic-tinged look at a young single mother of four on pub row who, erm, hasn't quite grasped the responsibilities of motherhood. If nothing else, it's a great showcase for actress Nathalie Press who, I notice, is coming to the big screen this summer in My Summer of Love, Pawel Pawlikowski's follow up to Last Resort. Mission accomplished. 7:35 in the Morning was completely original, a b&w short about a woman walking into a cafe for her routine breakfast to find out that the routine has been slightly revised. A strange mix of terror and hilarity. Little Terrorist is a well-intentioned, sweet anecdote-writ-large concerning the Indian/Pakistani border in which we learn that, heck, people everywhere are basically the same, and maybe ethnic wars are wrong. I was gad to learn Oscar declined this piece of catnip.

My favorite of the shorts by far was Two Cars, One Night, a fresh short about three native New Zealander kids waiting in a parking lot of a pub at night while the (unseen) adults carouse within. The dialogue and the way the kids behave and interact is so fresh and enjoyable, it made me long to see this short expanded into an entire feature. I have great expectations for director Taika Waititi, who appears to be well on his way. (And who was delightful in his 2 or 3 seated seconds of screentime at the Oscars.) The dialogue reminded me a bit of Sherman Alexie at his best, which made me wonder if there is a shared sensibility among native artists globally, or whether Alexie might simply be an influence. At any rate, if 2005 remains a weak year for feature length films, Two Cars, One Night could well be in my top ten for the year. I'm excited to see the film will be available soon on video, though I don't yet about region coding.

Song: "Love in a Trashcan" by The Raveonettes Love In a Trashcan



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