Saturday, February 9, 2013

Oscar Shorts 2012 - Animated (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Oscar Shorts: Animation

With this current crop of Oscar nominated shorts, last year's quirks of Quetzalcoatl have gone the way of nostalgia and cuteness, and I find myself pining for the adumbrated anxieties of 2012. Ah well, fear not.

First, there is a entry from the creators of "The Simpsons", "The Longest Daycare" starring the adorable positively jaundiced Maggie Simpson and  directed by David Silverman. Maggie is starting her first day at the Ayn Rand School for Tots. One wonders why. But anyway, there is all the good natured irreverence you might expect here, combined with Matt Groening's inimitable animation. Baby Maggie yearns for stimulation, while being left in a heap of anonymity known as the "Nothing Specials". Much of the film zeroes in on Maggie's quizzical face as she tries to find meaning in a trivial tottering world that babbles with a brightly colored and nonsensical ennui. A Raggedy Ayn Rand doll is the film's best joke but diehard Simpson fans will be pleased.

Next, director Minkyu Lee spins a tale that makes little Evolutionary sense in mentioning the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless  "Adam and Dog" is a  charming tale that mixes the beauty of Eastern calligraphy with Disney's "The Jungle Book", given that the human characters have melting eyes and round faces. The film is a testament to the bond shared between canines and homo sapiens, and it retains the haunting riddle-like poetry of a zen koan.

Marital discontent has never seemed so sweet in "Head Over Heels, which echoes Pixar's "Up" with its inclusion of the comic curmudgeon, a crowd pleaser for any short. This film is so sweet that even its claymation figures appear to be formed by candied fruits.

In "Fresh Guacamole" the director known  as PES, born Adam Pesapane uses his customary anarchistic style, in using weapons of mass destruction and commerce to create a rather turbulent bowl of guacamole. The short is as surprising as it is festive and thoughtful, owing a great debt to animator Jan Svankmajer and doing the legacy of Surrealism proud.

"The Paperboy" directed by John Kahrs and produced by Disney is a stylish homage to the romantic films of Tom Hanks and Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon" (1956).  The film is a technical dazzle with its black and white cinematography that recalls the glamour and humor of "Desk Set" and while the romance is quite predictable and a bit anemic, there is enough bounce and verve here  to make your eyes pinwheel.

And once again The Gruffalo appears, that beloved self-deprecating woodland creature that is quasi-hippo, rhino and porcupine. This is a sequel to the first Gruffalo outing directed by Johannes Weiland and Uwe Heidschotter. While its cute-factor is hard to deny, little novelty is to be found here. This time The Gruffalo's daughter is up against the big bad mouse who is just a passive anal retentive pipsqueak. There is fondness in familiarity.
More astonishing though is the film "Dripped", an entry from Leo Verrier. This story, an homage to Jackson Pollock, is as musical as one of his Action paintings and it will stimulate as well as delight. Also worthy of note is Richard Mans "ABiogenesis", a metallically poetic study of technological growth that highlights our earthly limitations.

As pleasing as they are, the technical wizardry found in these films are sure to satisfy. After spending this past year  in Mesoamerican Mayhem, the delights of a Disney-inspired handprint with googly-eyes and all, provide a welcome anodyne.
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