Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar Nominated Short Film (Part 2)


I Met the Walrus
This 5 minute piece is set to a recording a kid took of himself interviewing John Lennon in the late 60’s. He snuck into his hotel room in Toronto with a reel to reel recorder and captured this audio with Lennon talking about peace and war. The animation takes queues from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine as it cascades over images as they blend into one another like a Bill Plypton short.

Even Pigeons Go to Heaven
This is a CG short about a crooked priest who attempts to sell a old man a contraption that will take him to heaven since his list of sins wouldn’t let him get there on his own. The old man hands over all his cash when “Death” enters the house and we find that he’s not such a hapless old bat after all. This one is about 8.5 minutes long but the story is fun coherent and engaging so I think it is one of the two that could take the Oscar.

Madame Tutli Putli
This is a dialogue free, 18 minute short about a woman by herself on a train ride. The plot is almost irrelevant to the striking visuals which are stop-motion puppeteering I think, but the atmosphere that is created in the film is creepy.

My Love
A 26 minute Russian film about a 16 year old boy and his multitude of pubescent infatuations that conspire to ruin his young love life, this is the 4th animated short nomination for director Aleksandr Petrov (previously winning for The Old Man and the Sea). The style is like animated water colours and is beautiful yet tends to confuse some similar looking characters. The convoluted plot that jumps between reality and fantasy is also a draw back.

Peter and the Wolf
Probably the best of the nominees as well as the longest at 32 minutes this BBC production is a retelling of the classic story with the score but no narration. Instead the stop motion animation creates simple yet engaging visuals that tell the story. I found myself reacting to this one more than any other nominee. And the ending of the story is change to a nice and PETA friendly conclusion that will garner votes among the Hollywood crowd.

Oscar Nominated Short Films

The theater I saw this at was showing it on DVD input to he projection – this may be the reason all the films had a decidedly greyed out look to them.

Short (Live)

Om natten (At Night)
The story of 3 girls in an end of the line cancer ward on New Years Eve, their stories and how they try to cope with their situation. The film is antiseptic in its look as one would expect from the location with its florescence, metal surfaces and white accoutrement. We know from the start that the one girl with the jet black hair will cause the problems. The whole thing is packed with emotion and the acting from the three girls is superb but the pacing keeps you in their way too long for my tastes (not a hospital person). This is the longest of the shorts at 39 min, from denmark and produced by Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa.

Il Supplente (The Substitute)
An Italian comedy with a twist. The film opens on a montage of images in a high school and brings us into a class where we are introduced to the new substitute teacher who proceeds to play with the students turning their stereotypical roles against them (kiss up, arty poet, dumb jock, ect). In the middle of this the principal comes in asking who this man is… he apologizes and jumps out the window. Then we follow him to see he is a business man working in a building overlooking the school while a voice over talks about the need to break out of adult thinking. Once in a meeting with his boss a new situation presents itself… will he use this new found mischievous streak or cave to the corporate pressure? This is a fun little film that floats by quickly. (17 min)

Les Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)
A charming little film (how can it not be with that title) about a couple of affable tramps who find themselves with a deaf-mute (or maybe he just doesn’t know French) tag along after a pick pocketing attempt goes wrong. They realize they can use him to make some cash… but that turns out badly. Then the kid makes an unexpected haul in a theater due to his ability to crawl under the seats (checked my coat at this point). They celebrate and expand their operation until a stupid mistake on the part of one of the tramps lands them all in the slammer. This is a well shot and edited short that gets its story across in 31 minutes and I think will be the winner tonight.

Tanghi Argentini
This feels more like a super bowl commercial than a short film (though that is often a blurred line). This is the shortest of the films at 14 minutes and tells the tale of a Belgian office worker who makes a date online for Tango! In two weeks… you guessed it he doesn’t know how to tango. So he begs a fellow office worker to teach him… the office worker is a 6’ 3” bald guy – but a former tango master. Cue montage. We get to the big night and the dance is going great till she leans in to kiss him and he drops her. Feeling sad he heads off to the bar with the teacher. We see the woman sad at their table and he says that the teacher should make her happy by asking her to dance, which goes quite well. The next day the teacher comes to the office thanking the man and after walking away we find hi break out a sheet of paper with the names of all their coworkers and he crosses the teachers name off! It’s an office cupid! This is the best looking of the shorts with the camera and edits replicating the motion of the dancers on screen. But as I said it kind of feels like a long commercial instead of a short film.

The Tonto Woman
A short from the UK, filmed in Spain, replicating the American Old West, this is easily the worst of the offerings. The plot is of a cattle thief who stumbles upon a naked woman in out in the desert range. She is white but her jaw is covered in the Native American tattoos of a skwa. He finds that she was kidnapped shortly after marriage by Indians and held for 11 years before her husband was able to get her back. She is now kept in this shack on his ranch away from polite society and he cannot even look at her. The cattle thief gets her a dress and takes her out for dinner enamored with her beauty and strength. Of course it all ends in a gunfight (off screen) between the husband’s men and the thief. The acting in the film is BAD, very, very bad. The characters are badly lit and the whole 35 minutes is just painful… have no idea how this got a nomination. Should have nominated Spider instead.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Charlie Bartlett (Review)

Charlie Bartlett is amusing high school comedy teeming with pop psychology and self aware teens just waiting for the spark that breaks them from their clicks and inspires everyone to come together to have fun and fight the man. The spark is the titular character played by Anton Yelchin and the man is hard drinking Robert Downey Jr. Yelchin brings a kind of goofy charm to the roll much like he did as the unwitting victim in Alpha Dog and the character is given to flourishes of zany teenage wackiness, a refreshing break from the genre where most writers feel the need to bury these character building parts of their adolescent memory in favor of plot. Bartlett is the perfect aspiration character for a film like this, the mischievous outcast who uses his wits and to become king-o-the-school. Most of the characters in the film are archetypes with obvious psych 101 issues but since that is the plot of the film is don’t see it as a problem, the same with some of the more predictable and cheese ball moments that both flow from this and are pretty much par for the course in the genre.

What I liked the most was that the film isn’t about sex and parties – which are just treated as banal parts of the HS experience – or about the clique-y nature of HS politics but instead focuses on the identity quandaries and psych issues of the students. The film owes much more to John Hughes’s Breakfast Club than American Pie or Clueless but the black and white nature of authority that was present in that classic is also investigated in this film. The filmmaker’s paid more attention to the “moment” between Vernon & Carl and drew that out into a full character who is in the end also a victim of the system. I can’t say whether this will become a classic like those films – I guess TBS will be the judge of that when they get broadcast rights – but it was an enjoyable film none the less.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jumper (Review)

So I can just barely recommend this. Wanted to get that out of the way just incase there was any question. This is not a good film. Hayden Christensen is once again terrible. Sam Jackson phones it in and Diane Lane's 5 minutes are a waste. Jamie Bell is good but he's done better. Characters are crap & their reactions dumbfounding at times. Christensen has 1 mode... follow people around and wine. He did it with Ewan McGregor, Peter Saarsgard and Kevin Kline and now he does it with Bell - always to mixed results. He's best when he doesn't talk. He's very much like Keanu but, like, earnest. I fear for Neuromancer now that he's cast as the lead.

Still, when that is all sifted thru the actual action in the film - something Liman usually aces - is thrilling. The jump fights are some of the coolest crap committed to film - like bampfing times 10 and at great distances... and with cars. The film doesn't really come alive until more than 1/2 way through when Bell's character is established and the training and fighting begins. But the scene drive/jumping a Mercedes CL Class through Tokyo at 100mph is a blast and the final 30 minutes of the film (save the ending) is solid popcorn delight.

However, you have to get past a whole hell of a lot of crap to get there and I know some people just can't stomach that. If you go bring your stupid hat and a teenage girl - she'll be the only one enjoying the first 30 of Christensen eye-candy and junior high angst set up.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

EZ1Productions - Start of the Spring Game

The new Spring Box Office Challenge game starts today and runs thru April. Head over and sign up to test you skills at creating the best spring movie line-up possible and maybe win a prize!