This year's Oscar Nominated Short Films? Boo! And Whoop-doo!
Last year was the first time I ever sat in a room and watched all of the nominated shorts back to back. Most of them have stayed with me; the live action more so than the animated. My personal pick for Best Live Short of 2009 was The Pig, which saw a man waging a tiny personal war in his hospital room after his beloved swine painting was removed by request of the next patient over (A Muslim). The Oscar went to Toyland, which chronicled a German kid who believed his Jewish neighbors were going to a giant land of toys, not the gas chamber. Ah, Auschwitz. It will get you the prize every time. On the animation front, Doug Sweetland's popular Pixar short Presto was bested by Kunio Kato's hardly seen La Maison en Petits Cubes, a hand-drawn ditty about an old man trying to save himself from a flood.
Yes. 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' should get the animation prize. We have to look at this from all angles. It's the most infectious of the bunch. Its thirty solid minutes of non-stop action. It's handcrafted from the ground up. And pain-stakingly pieced together by hand. You can still see the fingerprints pressed into these globs of Plasticine that come to life in vivid color. Director Nick Parks has won five other times in the recent past, so Academy members may feel inclined to give the prize to someone else this time around. Really though, there is nothing as worthy in this category. 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' is Wallace and Gromit's fourth short film together. The story finds Wallace falling head over heels in love with former pin-up bakery model Piella Bakewell, who seems to have a thing for warm bread. Gromit, sensing that this new woman in his master's life my be a threat to their newly opened bakery business, sets out to discover her ugly secret. Of course Wallace is too preoccupied to believe the dog when its revealed that Bakewell is killing off local chef's to collect her own baker's dozen of dead corpses. Which she keeps in her attic, dressed in white. There's one really great chase scene, a hilarious moment that finds Gromit trying to defuse a bomb, and plenty of subtle humor kneaded into this landscape of clay. It stands on its own, and is a pure joy to watch. Not to mention, it's the only non-computer animated film to garner a nomination. Whoop-doo! I seriously hope it wins.
On the live action front, it certainly seems like the award will go to The Door. Because it's poignant. Relevant. And socially aware. It strips away dirty flesh to expose man's inhumanity to man. Voters love that shit. The story follows one family as they try to escape the fallout from Chernobyl. The cinematography on display is quite stunning, and it's set up as a zombie-infestation tale. It uses the usual horror tropes to drag us into a very real world that has been blasted with radiation. Like all of the nominated live action shorts this year, it feels like a push reel. An ad for investors. The Door needs to be two hours longer. Director Juanita Wilson does a lot with her allotted seventeen-minute runtime, but its not enough. Not for a real life tale as important as this. It hits like Armageddon, and for the family on display, that's certainly what it becomes. A father hurries to grab the door from his grandfather's funeral before hurrying his wife and daughter out of town. He knows his family's fate. And it doesn't take long for the radiation sickness to set in. Skin starts to fall off, and lives are lost. It's well made, but there's more to tell. It feels a bit lopsided, constrained by its subtle limits. It gets a Whoop-doo!, and if it wins that Oscar, it certainly deserves it.
The Whoop-Doo! picks for live action and animation shorts are definitely Wallace and Gromit in 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' and Instead of Abracadabra. But that is based on my pure enjoyment of them alone. Will they win? Who knows? We'll have to wait until this Sunday to find out. That's when The 82nd Annual Academy Awards airs live. At 8 pm EST/5 pm PCT, only on ABC! As f you didn't know that already...
Chimay! Gothic, death, and mayhems! A little magic and mysteries! Eat Grandma! Kill food! Whoop-doo!