They say April is the cruelest month. February is . . . the shortest? Maybe that's why it feels so packed. This month, I've seen a few plays, a few movies, and some live comedy—a standard, busy month. However, this month has two special events: the Oscars and the 500th episode of THE SIMPSONS.
Fantastic books belong in a fantastic library
Both of these special events will be celebrated at my house with popcorn and a champagne cocktail.
I would love to be able to run down the Oscar columns and give you my picks. Unfortunately, I don't feel comfortable doing that when I haven't seen everything that's nominated. I mean, I know who I want to win in various categories. I'd like THE ARTIST to be best picture, but since I haven't seen WAR HORSE (I have to see the play first), it's not safe to predict.
Luckily, though, our local theatre is showing the Oscar-nominated shorts. What separated the okay from the good was whether the film used a short form because it was really just telling a short joke or whether you got a larger point in a short form.
Best Animated Short Film
DIMANCHE/SUNDAY. The animation style is so typically Québécois—simple lines and shading. Unfortunately, the story has to be really engaging for me to deal with this style. This story was not.
THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR.
MORRIS LESSMORE. The animation is beautiful. It's also hard not to like a film that celebrates one of the great passions of my life (reading). However, this short was a minute or two too long.
A Morning Stroll
LA LUNA. This year's PIXAR entry. Gorgeous, as expected. Dreamy, in fact. However, I wasn't really pulled in by the narrative.
A MORNING STROLL. In this short, you get three different animation styles, in three different times. The story is simple, but not obvious at first. The animation is amazing in the later styles, & music is used to great effect.
WILD LIFE. Another Canadian entry. The art resembles painted canvases being done in front of you (I'm sure there's a word for it), but I didn't care for the story or the art overall. (The "commended" Canadian entry was better than both of the nominees.)
My pick: A MORNING STROLL.
Best Live Action Short Film
PENTECOST. A sweet little film from Ireland about an altar boy who screwed up.
RAJU. A German/Indian entry about a boy being adopted by a foreign couple and a very difficult decision.
THE SHORE. A Northern Ireland story about a man who returns to Ireland after a quarter of a century making peace with his old friends, at the behest of his daughter. Touching, surprising, funny. A lovely film I'd watch again.
TIME FREAK. The American entry about what happens when you combine a socially awkward man with a time machine. (Would any other type of man invent a time machine?) Well-made & funny, but not a stand-out.
TUBA ATLANTIC. The quirkiest of the entries & the one that engaged the audience the most. This Scandinavian entry is one that I actually want to own. The characters are real and affecting. The humor is dark but funny. Each little piece (props, radio, etc) contributes to make a wonderful whole.
My pick: TUBA ATLANTIC.
Two things occurred to me while I was watching the shorts this year. First, there was a preponderance of bad things happening to birds for comic effect. I'm not sure what that says about the zeitgeist.
The second was about the preponderance of magical realism. Magical realism is a special genre in which magical things happen in an otherwise realistic world. Those magical events are treated as if they're normal.
Thus, HARRY POTTER and THE MATRIX are not magical realism. The protagonists have to have the magic explained because they see it as outside their realistic understanding. Few movies have actually embraced magical realism.
Magical realism is usually associated with print literature. While there are some book-length
examples, most of what comes to mind for me are short stories.
I hate it when this happens
I'm not quite sure what it is about magical realism that seems to lend itself towards short stories and short films. Perhaps we're more willing to embrace letting go of all our expectations, of more fully suspending disbelief for brief periods of time. All I do know is that six of the above ten films (and several of the "commended" ones) had elements of this form.
I'd like to leave you with these thoughts on magic, but I have to address the other excitement of the month.
THE SIMPSONS will air their 500th episode on Sunday the 19th. My friend Kevin suggested that we celebrate this momentous milestone by not just watching it, but by me airing my five favorites too.
Asking a SIMPSONS freak like me to pick only five favorite episodes makes my life hard, but I've decided to try. My son, though, insisted on the first two of the following (I don't disagree with him, but some equally wonderful episodes might have taken their place if not for the insisting).
The five episodes I'll be showing this week:
You Only Move Twice
Deep Space Homer
Lemon of Troy
Tune in on the 19th. It is going to be better than ten Super Bowls! I don't want to oversell it, judge for yourself.
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Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.
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