There are more than enough articles predicting the Oscar winners and snubs and who should win, but won’t and all that jazz. We’re continuing our tradition of focusing on the lesser-seen animated and live action shorts, after seeing a double feature of all 10 nominees at the Drafthouse a few weeks ago. Last year we had both winners (“Curfew” and “Paper Man”) in our top two for each category* and we feel pretty confident about our winners this year. We agree on the best live action short and had an easier time narrowing down the animated shorts since it was kind of a weak year for the category. It was a great year for movies, though, so once we get through the shorts, we have a quick list of awards for you**.
*It still makes me deliriously happy that “Curfew” one, given my relationship with the band stellastarr* and their lead singer’s having written/directed/starred in the thing.
**Not necessarily Academy-approved, but Wittbloom-backed at least.
Best Live Action Short: “Just Before Losing Everything” This gripping French short is our clear favorite to take the prize. A mother of two fears for her and her children’s safety as she tries to escape a physically abusive husband. She plans to take the kids out of school and make a run for it with the office above the grocery store where she works as their exit point. The tension is sky high the entire film as her husband shows up in the store below. Completely riveting and expertly paced. Seriously, this is such an amazing representation of domestic abuse and what families (and women, in particular) must go through and sacrifice for their own safety. Incredible piece.
Honorable Mention: “Helium” Caitlin was balling* by the end of this film in which a young boy with a terminal illness befriends a janitor at the hospital he’s staying in. The sweet man describes a heaven-like destination where the boy will go that he calls “Helium” and their friendship and the urgency he feels to put the boy at ease is deeply touching.
*I was actually bawling, but I like that Zack thinks I’m so cool when tears are streaming down my face. Allow me to re-introduce myself! My name is uuuhhhhhwaaahhaaaaahaaahaaaa *indecipherable sniffles*.
Funniest: “Do I Have to do Everything?” Hilarious short in which a couple oversleeps on the morning of a friend’s wedding and scrambles to get the kids ready and dressed and out the door. It’s a comedy of errors that is a riot all the way through. Absolutely, this was 100% delightful, and completely necessary after the violence and intensity that came before it with “That Wasn’t Me.”
- “The Voorman Problem” is an interesting concept of a prisoner who believes he is God and just may be, but the execution of the idea was shaky. Agreed, this had so much potential and just not enough time to really blossom at all. Even Martin Freeman couldn’t save it.
- I found “That Wasn’t Me” to be extremely well done, but the violence in the story of two Spanish aid workers trying to navigate through the wildly unsafe African village they’re trying to help was too much for Caitlin. It was really, really, really intense. There’s brutal murder, rape…just not a good scene. It’s hard for me to discern how realistic the representation is – I’ve been listening to NPR about these militias taking over but I am also hesitant to take something like this at face-value. In any event, it was really, really sad.
Best Animated Short: “Room on the Broom” I was really, really concerned about this one. I have HATED the previous two nominated efforts by the fellows who did this one (The Gruffalo Pt. 1 and 2). However, this little rhyming piece of wonderment was sweet, funny, charming – I’d even say moving. It is the story of a witch and her cat, sharing space in their entourage with other woodland creatures who end up offering their help in the witch’s time of need. The rhyming grated on me at first, but by the end it totally melted my cold, cold heart. As much as we didn’t enjoy The Gruffalos, this hit us in all the right places.
Best Animated Short in Caitlin’s Opinion: “Possessions” Zack HATED this one, but I really loved this offering from Japan. It was about a “Mr.-Fix-It” guy lost in the rainforest during a storm. He comes upon a little old shack, takes shelter there — and then the ghosts of abandoned possessions come to life, and it’s all magic from there. It had a sort of environmentalist undertone to it, eschewing the importance of using what we have instead of tossing it aside after we’re bored of it. I thought it was visually beautiful as well. I didn’t get it. I felt dumb when Caitlin explained it so easily to me.
Short That’s Sweet: “Mr. Hublot” Maybe because I personally know someone who deals with OCD tendencies, but this futuristic film about a robotic dude with very severe OCD who takes in a stray robot-dog got me a little bit teary-eyed. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that this dog does NOT respect Mr. Hublot’s need to have things neat and tidy and in the right places. In part, it’s not the dog’s fault – the more he eats, the more gigantic he gets. I don’t love this people-as-robot styles of movies that much, but the storyline got me in the end.
- “Get a Horse” This Disney throwback is a cute one, but ultimately it just didn’t bring anything that novel to the table. A nice blend of old and new cinema, but I hope it doesn’t win by sucking up to old Disney.
- “Feral” Avoid. Avoid avoid avoid. OK animation, terrible, terrible storyline. The worst ever.
- “A La Francaise” The last three shorts we’ll mention, including this one, were all “Honorable Mentions” on the actual lineup of animated shorts, but pretty much all of these were better than most of anything that actual won a nomination. This one is a hilarious take on French Versailles during the Napolean era…as represented by chickens. The chickens were all doled out in their French finest, but the mere sight of a worm would cause them to peck away like animals. An interesting historical criticism that led to a lot of laughter. Big laughs from this one. Way better than half the nominated shorts.
- “Missing Scarf” This might be the true “winner” among all of the films. It starts off kind of stereotypically child-like – a squirrel is looking for his scarf – but it gets REAL. By the end, the squirrel is advising a bear who is afraid of death and nothingness that we’re all part of a universal cycle so we will never really die and then THEY ALL GET KILLED BY SOME ATOMIC EXPLOSION. This is amazing and left me saying, out loud, to the amusement of my fellow movie goers, “What in the HELL?!” Masterfully narrated by George Takei as well. Very much enjoyed this.
- “Blue Umbrella” This was another Disney offering that was meh. Anthropomorphized umbrellas, a blue for the boy and a red with fancy lashes for the girl (did we really have to give genders to the umbrellas?! This would have been so much better if the genders were left up in the air…) fall in love and try to “follow” each other through a crowd during a storm as other anthropomorphized street paraphernalia (a letterbox, a drainpipe) watch/cheer on. It was OK.
Feature Film Notes:
- Best Tom Hanks performance: “Captain Phillips” Two to choose from this year, and though he was enjoyable and believable as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks”, the final scene from “Captain Phillips” was the best acted five minutes of the year by anyone. Absolutely. There is so, so much emotion there, and I basically lost it when Hanks’ Phillips did, just sobbing and sobbing.
- Best Sequel: “Before Midnight” The most difficult of the trilogy to watch, but also probably the most honest. Falling in love is easy, staying in love is the challenge. We still love Jesse and Celine, even as they struggle to love each other. Definitely difficult to watch, but still somehow so beautiful. There’s something comforting about watching the struggles of others who are clearly so meant for each other – it makes your own personal struggles feel less unusual or dooming.
- Most under-rated: “The Way Way Back” Endlessly charming and consistently funny and honest, we found this to be the best movie no one talks about this year. Even upon its second viewing, it was just so fabulous! This is going to be a go-to comfort movie for years.
- Most over-rated: “The Spectacular Now” This movie was in love with its lead. We thought he was a vile human being and, despite a brilliant supporting cast, we found this to be entirely unspectacular. TERRIBLE film. May I never be subjected to its self-congratulatory smarminess ever, ever again.
- Movie we don’t understand the backlash for: “American Hustle” We loved the entire ride of this expertly acted movie. A lot of people are calling it light weight or that the stakes weren’t high, but we were all in. Space oven forever! Had us on the edge of our seats and cheering for some pretty, preeeeetty flawed people. That’s quite an achievement with me, anyway!
- Favorite Movie: “Her” So captivating and beautifully made, it felt like the most relevant movie in ages. Hopefully we can cheer our favorite movie to a best screenplay win Sunday night. Oh Spike Jonze, what can’t you do?