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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Animated Shorts Program: Sharp as a Brick

Submitted by on February 23, 2010 – 4:31 PM7 Comments

A more entertaining slate overall than the live-action shorts, by far.

Again, I'll cover them in the order screened, along with the "highly commended" shorts that showed.

French Roast. A single joke, not terribly funny to begin with, stretched to eight minutes to justify the use of the animation, which isn't impressive enough to put it over. Cute, barely; shouldn't win, and won't.

F20090065-WALLACE-AND-GROMIT-A-MATTER-OF-LOAF-AND-DEATHsmall-540x360La dama y la muerte. The animation itself isn't all that impressive here; the editing, the pacing, and little throwaway visual jokes make the movie.When Death gets clocked on the head, the birds that circle him are skeletal as well; the ferry to the other side has a beep-boop keyless-entry system, and Cerberus is a blue poodle.

Sergio de la Puente's original score is fantastic and gives the whole movie a Saturday-morning-cartoons feel.Loved it.

I'd be fine with it winning; it probably won't.

Wallace and Gromit in "A Matter of Loaf and Death." I like Wallace and Gromit, but don't usually find them as funny as I feel I'm meant to. This one isn't uproarious, but as an action short, it moves well, with lots of good puns both linguistic and visual.The nod to Ghost had everyone in the theater rolling.

It's by far the longest of the nominees at half an hour, but it didn't feel that long. The question is whether that hurts it or helps it; the fact that it's a recognizable "brand" could also go either way.

Tough call. It's very well done, and probably wins if voters who haven't bothered to watch the slate go with a familiar name.

Granny O' Grimm's Sleeping Beauty. An amusingly sour take on bedtime stories and the "Sleeping Beauty" myth itself, but writing-wise, it doesn't push far enough, and the cutting between the myth's style of animation and the "real world" is chosen oddly.

It's pretty funny — the substitution of the word "die" for almost every lyric in the closing song is hilarious — but it's both too dark and not dark enough.Shouldn't win, and won't.

Partly Cloudy (not nominated). The Pixar short that ran before Up. I'd seen it before, but still found it enjoyable. The part where the stork is screaming through the baby crocodile: hee! What can I say, I'm a cheap date.

Runaway (not nominated). Again, good music drives a good short; I also enjoyed the movie's willingness to hit cows with trains, send cabooses into ravines, strip passengers naked, and make the love interest's purse dog look like one of the soot sprites from Spirited Away.

It's too bad it isn't nominated; I liked it much better than French Roast, but the animation is old-style, kind of like Warhol illustrations, and I don't know how much advanced work these shorts have to show in order to have a real shot.

The Kinematograph (not nominated). Enh. The opening "helicopter" shot is done very well and feels very real, but then the characters don't move right; they clomp, like the humans in Toy Story. And their skin texture is strange, reminiscent of wood grain, which is kind of cool, but also kind of jarring.

The story itself is telegraphed from the opening scene; it's the same subject matter as the tearjerking sequence in Up, and while the aftermath — the man's world blows away and leaves him in a cemetery, then at the front door of his empty house — is spooky and sad, the delivery of the dialogue is stilted. It never quite gets going, and then it's over.

Logorama. The premise is brilliant: a world populated entirely by logos. And I mean entirely, even the trees. It starts out peacefully, with the little AOL/AIM people walking around the streets of Logo L.A. (trailed by their TMs — hee), and then arms dealer Ronald McDonald leads the Michelin Men on a car chase and almost runs over Fido Dido, Mr. Peanut gets his head cracked open during a shoot-out, and an earthquake destroys everything.

The warning about the violence and strong language stayed on the screen for a full 15 seconds, but it's no worse than your average action movie; okay, the guy from the Pringles can gets mushed by an I-beam, but he got grabby with the waitress so he deserved it. Also, hee.

I'd like to watch it again, because I feel like I missed 12 sight gags for every one I caught, but it's hard to predict what the voters will do with it; the animation doesn't seem that advanced, but it's certainly the cleverest in the category.

So, it depends on what bases the voters use, but you can't really compare it to the other entries…and I don't know if it should win just for having a great idea (when you look at it closely, the idea is the plot). But it might, and that's fine.

Sarah 39, Death Race 19; 10 of 24 categories completed

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7 Comments »

  • Natalie says:

    I definitely preferred these to the live action shorts, which were solid, but these were entertaining. And not creepy, which animation sometimes can be (it's the proportions). For sheer cuteness, I loved Partly Cloudy and really want a fuzzy baby ram of my very own. Not sure why most of these had a funny death theme, but I did get a kick out of Granny O'Grimm especially.

  • Kristen says:

    I liked "Runaway" best out of all of them, but liked "The Kinematograph" much better than you did (though I agree the story is a little maudlin and the ending telegraphed.) But what cracked me up is two women with five kids was at my screening, which immediately perked me up, because it makes me crazy when people automatically assume cartoons=child-friendly. But they stayed through the warning about Logorama, then stayed through maybe seven minutes of it–seven minutes of hardcore cursing, and at least three of the violence. THEN they left. Because…seeing more would warp the kids more?

    I just hope they didn't complain to the management.

  • Jaybird says:

    "Partly Cloudy" wasn't really up to "One-Man Band" or "Jack-Jack Attack", both of years past. Out of all of these, I'd pull for "Logorama" (sounds ripsnortin' hilarious) or "A Matter of Loaf and Death", because I love W&G.

  • Adrienne says:

    Yeah, so, totally unrelated, but "Pants, Mr. Peanut. Look into that," has permanently entered my lexicon. And that of my friends. Usually in response to things like "I'd go out, but that would involve putting on pants."

  • Valerie says:

    Oh, but Nick Park had me forever with the nod to Batman – the original, Adam West Batman. The scene where Wallace tries to get rid of the bomb is straight out of that first Batman movie.

  • Isabel says:

    I just google-hunted Logorama because it sounded like something I would love and: yep, it totally was. Thanks for the heads up.

  • RJ says:

    I have never been as charmed by Wallace & Gromit as I'm supposed to be either. I don't dislike them, I just don't love them. I do have a weakness for Pixar, however!

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