February 25, 2007

Cinematic bon-bons

Once again this year, I had the pleasure of taking in the Oscar-nominated short films playing at the National Archives. A good time was had by all (Stef, Onyah, Joyous and ScottE)! This year's crop was heavy on the comedy and light on the terminal geriatric Scandanvian drama. Here are some highlights.

Live Action Short Films

All five pieces turned out to be funny this year, which was a nice surprise. The Saviour was clever but wasn't my favorite. Both the Spanish All We Needed and the Norwegian Helmer & Son provided witty twists on parents' aging. But the two best films were at the beginning and end.

West Bank Story was an uproarious send-up of the musical classic, but set in Israel, with the Muslim-owned Hummus Hut facing off against the Jewish-owned Kosher Shack. It's hard to describe, but it's incredibly zany and well worth downloading if you can find it!

That being said, my favorite (and my Oscar vote) is Binta and the Great Idea. It's a funny and poignant story set in Senegal, as told through the voice of a precocious young girl. The film fires the imagination and shares an important message about the march of progress for women in Africa. Sponsored by UNICEF, this one is a winner. Bank on it!

Animated Short Films

This year there was a little (heh) something for everyone. Enjoy funny computer animation? Then you'll have fun with either Pixar's Lifted (about a trainee in alien abduction), or Ice Age's Scrat making a return appearance in No Room For Nuts (a new twist on time travel).

Or perhaps you prefer classic 2D animation based on a children's tale. Then you might like The Little Matchgirl (although this one bored me).

For a real short charmer that you'll find yourself trying to puzzle out, don't miss Maestro - very clever with some complex animation.

But my favorite has to be The Danish Poet. Simple Schoolhouse Rock!-style animation accompanies a convoluted but witty story about how the narrator's parents met. Delightfully narrated by famed Ingmar Bergman actress Liv Ullmann, this one is a real charmer. It faces some stiff competition, but this is the one I'll be voting for tomorrow night. (Surprising trivia - the story referenced in the film - Kristin Lavransdatter - was turned into a screenplay written by...Liv Ullmann herself.)

One other note - you can download and watch 9 of these on iTunes. (The only one you can't is Pixar's Lifted, for some reason.) You can also check out some past nominees, including the excellent Badgered, the creepy Ausreisser and the affore-mentioned depressing Icelandic The Last Farm.

1 comment:

Stef said...

After much debate, I have ended up going with the same 2 picks myself.

I *love* Binta. It had some of the most gorgeous cinematography I've seen in any film in a long time, and the story was just so warm and uplifting. Like UNICEF, it makes you feel hopeful about the future for the world. But I do still want some hummus served by some finger-snappin' hotties!

The animation was an even tougher choice. My personal taste leans more towards Scrat for cleverness and animation style, but The Danish Poet was really original and charming, and it feels more like an Oscar winner. And I love a hugging dog!

I'm glad you had fun!