March 26, 2008

Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films '07

When you think of the Academy Awards’ greatest annual honors, you immediately think of Best Picture or Best Actor, but you would infrequently remember those films nominated for Best Animated Short Film. This year, five contenders from different countries and with different styles vie for this particularly underappreciated prize.

The first is the CGI-created French short film “Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis,” which features a priest who tries to sell an old man a machine that will transport him to heaven. Featuring a fast-paced story with a clever theme of cheating others, this film has a surefire shot at garnering an Oscar.

Next is the breathtaking Russian beauty, “My Love.” In nineteenth-century Russia, a young man falls in love with a young girl and a mysterious older woman. The gorgeous animation, in the style of a painting, seems to help augment the effect of love on the story. Aleksander Petrov won an Oscar in 1999 in this category for “The Old Man and the Sea,” so his next effort, this film, has a great chance at snagging him another.

The first shot of Canada’s “Madame Tutli-Putli” features a long pan of old collectibles until it rests on the titular character. The film’s stop-motion animation is perfect in stiffening this character who seems so weighed down. Aboard the train, the way Madame moves tells a lot about her timid character. Her train ride, accompanied later by a haunting score, quickly turns into a nightmare complete with sexual innuendo and some terrifying creatures. This particular film’s target audience is not children, but its ingenuity (and incredible filmmaking) could garner it the Oscar.

In Canada’s other entry, “I Am the Walrus,” 14-year-old Beatles fan Jerry Levitan makes his way into John Lennon’s hotel room and records a brief interview with him. In the style of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” music video, Lennon’s words are transformed into art by motion graphic design, both hand-drawn and digitally created. Through the art, this brilliant film is able to explore Lennon’s words and interpret them into meaning. The soundtrack is comprised entirely of the grainy, authentic interview. Having won at the AFIs seems to get the ball rolling in this film’s favor.

Finally, Britain’s “Peter and the Wolf” will receive my most favorable attention. With its model animation, director Suzie Templeton modernizes the age-old story of the young boy who just wants to explore the other side of his Grandfather’s locked fence. While reveling in the wintery wonderland there with the goofy goose and the little bird that cannot fly, he discovers a not so happy wolf, whose leitmotif is recognizably resurrected for most people by memories of Scut Farkus from TV’s perennial “A Christmas Story,” though it comes from Prokofiev’s original composition. What stands out to me in this film is the incredible filmmaking, including such techniques as crosscutting in editing and the dynamic angles in cinematography. Though the longest of the five films, its childlike quality through animal characters and simple plot capture the attention of audiences praying for the safety of Peter.

Each film has distinctly different qualities and utilizes different types of animation to tell the story, and though so completely and distinctly different, each film seems to have a pretty equal shot at nabbing the Oscar. My preference was “Peter and the Wolf,” but Academy voters might see differently.

The Oscars will air live on February 24th at 7 p.m. CST on ABC.

Originally published on

NOTE: "Peter and the Wolf" did win the Oscar.

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