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If you get a chance, by all means see or rent the DVD of the Oscar-nominated short animation films. It’s circulating as an hour-forty-one-minute compilation; the five nominees bundled with three honorable mention selections. Below is a synopsis in order of quality (in our judgment, of course).
Logorama (France, in English, 16 minutes): This is totally subversive stuff and is unlikely to win, not because of its coarse language, but because of its relentless anti-corporatism and its skewering of American shallowness. It takes place in a dystopian future in which all of Los Angeles has been redone in corporate logos and the company mascots have come to life—Michelin men are cops and Ronald MacDonald is a terrorist. This long-overdue attack on materialism is too bitter to bear Oscar fruit, but it’s the class of the lot.
The Kinematograph (Poland, in English, 12 minutes): What does it profit a man to win the world but lose the soul of his beloved? This moving and gorgeous film is not a nominee, but it should be. It takes us to a small Polish village in the days just before Edison and the Lumiére brothers, and into the mind of an obsessed inventor who sacrifices all to discover the secret of moving images.
A Matter of Loaf and Death (England, 30 minutes): This was the selection that was the most fun--the latest installment of Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit. This time quirky inventor Wallace is running a Rube Goldberg-like bakery that lands him in hot water. And, of course, the lovable Gromit is the brains of the dynamic duo. The plot is pretty similar to previous Wallace and Gromit escapades, but I never tire of Gromit and his cheese-loving, dimwitted sidekick.
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Ireland, 6 minutes): This is wicked fun—Nicky Phelan’s take on the grandmother from hell spinning a horrific bedtime tale for her granddaughter that exorcises more than a few personal demons.
The Lady and the Reaper (Spain, in English, 8 minutes): A sweet old lady ready to pass to the other side confronts an arrogant doctor determined to keep her around. With the reaper on her side, it’s two against one in this madcap romp that’s like a grimmer Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd caper.
Runaway (Canada, 9 minutes): This eccentric cartoon is a spoof on every runaway train film you can think of and has the old-fashioned line-drawing look of a late 40s cartoon, complete with a quirky small jazz combo soundtrack. It’s also a subtle satire of class privilege and affected gallantry. Not a nominee, but superior to…
French Roast (France, eight minutes): This nominee touches some of the same social class bases, but is a one-trick pony. A snobbish bourgeois man brushes aside beggars, until he realizes he’s without cash and can’t pay for his espresso. Rather than admit his mistake, he orders espressos for the rest of the day…and night. Mayhem occurs.
Partly Cloudy (USA, 6 minutes): In many parts of the country this Pixar short ran before the animated feature Up. Who knew that babies of all species were fashioned by personified clouds and handed off to personal storks? This is a sweet film, but a bit too wholesome for our tastes. It’s no Logorama, that’s for sure!