Wednesday, February 22, 2012

look, Oscars, no Disney or Pixar! (almost)

I have been very lazy this year, waiting to watch most of the nominated animated feature films at the last minute, so to speak. When I started making the images for this post in early February I had only seen two of the feature films and none of the shorts. Even now that I've gotten around to writing this entry I'm not nearly as caught up as previous years, and overall the feeling of apathy hasn't gone away. I think I'm saving my enthusiasm for the movies to come (Pixar's Brave, Laika's ParaNorman, Aardman's The Pirates! Band of Misfits). Oh, but I did actually like Disney's traditionally-animated un-nominated Winnie the Pooh from last July. I thought it was charming and a welcome throwback to my childhood. Not like some of these nostalgic regurgitations we're getting from studios these days (I'm lookin' at you, Chipmunks). Ahem! Here are this year's animation nominations:

Best Animated Feature:

I thought this film would be about a cat who lives two very different lives: lazing about at home with a little girl during the day, then at night sneaking around in the company of a talented cat burglar. I was partly right. However, it is also a crime thriller with baddie thugs and rooftop chases and a showdown at Notre Dame! Très intéressant! Here are some of the things I really liked about this charming traditionally-animated film: the fluid movements of the thief, the cool lights-out scene in which the characters were animated using white lines on a black background, the neighbor's yapping dog that gets (deservedly) smacked about by various objects, and the way the film constantly picks up pace and gets a lot done in a short period of time. It's barely over an hour long, but I wouldn't have minded if it just kept on going. I was really enjoying it. (Folimage - Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli) Watch the trailer.

This is the only feature I haven't seen. To be honest, it doesn't really interest me. I have nothing against rotoscoping, but the style and the subject matter don't draw me in. Sorry, Cuban jazz. It's not you, it's me. (CinemaNX - Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal) Watch the trailer.

Even though it's a sequel, it's actually a pretty good movie. Casting Gary Oldman as the voice of the villain was a good choice, even if it wasn't particularly original. On the other hand, his character is an evil peacock, so that's cool. Plus, the movie had some really fantastic 2D sequences: the hand-drawn intro/dream sequence (watch in awesome quality) and the shadow puppet-style credit sequence (watch on youtube). Oh and then there's that whole first-woman-to-solely-direct-an-animated-feature-from-a-major-studio thing. You go, girl. Or should I say, 'You Po, girl'? Ew, no, that was lame, sorry. (DreamWorks Animation - Jennifer Yuh Nelson) Watch the trailer.

This movie may be a spin-off from Shrek, but it doesn't really feel like it. Yes, there are quite a few fairy tale elements (Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose, Jack and Jill, the beanstalk), but the world isn't nearly as littered with these references like in the original Shrekverse. And thankfully they toned down the annoying pop culture references to a scant few, though I'm not sure that the kiddies are going to understand the Fight Club jokes. Or will they? Kids these days get into the darnedest things! It's an okay movie, about as good as I predicted a Shrek spin-off would be. If you love cats in boots and Latino/western adventures and the purr of Antonio Banderas' voice (or Salma Hayek's if that's your thing), then you may find this is your cup of tea. Or bowl of milk. Whatever. Ehhh... (DreamWorks Animation - Chris Miller) Watch the trailer.

Though the CGI looked remarkable (such realism and detail!), the fact that some of the reptile characters had thick heads of hair kind of weirded me out. Also unfortunately, the story was a little messy and at times a bit too amateurish (ugh, crude fart jokes...). But hey, it looked stunning. And I was very amused that the female lead was named Beans. This movie has been winning most of the awards so far, probably for its sharp western looks, so I'm thinking the Academy will follow suit. (Nickelodeon Movies - Gore Verbinski) Watch the trailer. Winner!

Best Animated Short:

A very simple short from Canada, dialogue-free and light on the plot (and color palette). Aside from the live animal posing as a mounted trophy like a kid with his head stuck in a fishbowl it seems like just another Sunday at Grandma's. And even though there's a huge train barreling through town the mood is actually pretty chill. It's a bit absurd, but I like it. (Patrick Doyon) Watch.

A touching story about how great books are. It's basically The Wizard of Oz. I mean, if Dorothy was a quiet sort of fellow who, after being tossed about in a hurricane, found himself in a land of living books and spent the rest of his days in a state of colorful enrichment taking care of his little book friends with their little book legs and their little page faces. Definitely some good stuff to be seen here. (William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg) Watch. Winner!

Okay, so Pixar is indeed a contender for an award this year, but their nominated short is supposed to play before their upcoming feature Brave when it comes out in June. So yeah, I haven't seen this yet. Here's the synopsis:
La Luna is the timeless fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family’s most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions?
Do you want to watch it now? Too bad. You'll have to wait until June 22. (Enrico Casarosa) Watch two short clips here and here.

I have not been able to find this short online. Synposis:
When a New Yorker walks past a chicken on his morning stroll, we’re left to wonder which one is the real city slicker...
So that doesn't tell you much. But apparently the chicken's stroll around the city occurs three times, in 1959, 2009, and 2059, using various animation styles to tell each of the stories. Sounds good to me. (Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe) Watch the trailer.

And alas, I have not found this short for free online either. Synopsis:
In 1909, a dapper young remittance man is sent from England to Alberta to attempt ranching. However, his affection for badminton, bird watching and liquor leaves him little time for wrangling cattle. It soon becomes clear that nothing in his refined upbringing has prepared him for the harsh conditions of the New World. This animated short is about the beauty of the prairie, the pang of being homesick and the folly of living dangerously out of context.
It's 14 minutes long, it looks like an oil painting... I just can't bring myself to pay money to see it. I'm also feeling really lazy, I think I mentioned that earlier. No offense intended, animated short, I'm sure you're very nice. (Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby) Watch the trailer/download the short for $1.95.

So watch the Academy Awards this Sunday, February 26th to see which of these non-Pixar, non-Disney features will take home a golden statue of a guy named Oscar. Because America cares. And it just couldn't bring itself to give Pixar an award for that sequel thing that was Cars 2.

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