Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Animated Thoughts: Annies and Oscars, pt. 2

I stopped watching the Academy Awards many years ago, pretty much when an anonymous studio exec admitted publicly that he (or perhaps she) never watched the animated films in competition. Since then, we've heard stories from other members of the Academy about how they just ask their kids what animated feature they like and then they vote for that film. Personally, I'm of the opinion that if you're not invested in that particular category, then don't vote in that category at all.

At that point, the awards lost all meaning for me. If I was a voting member, I'd only vote for the animated feature, animated short, and SFX categories because those are the only areas where I have an interest to watch all the films in competition--and where my both my knowledgebase and experiences in filmmaking lie. 

Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew maintains a pretty good series of articles that discusses this problem in depth--including 'should read' links to previous articles (Cartoon Brew). If you're interested in reading more about this problem within the Academy, I'd start my research there.

Now I have several friends who are members of the Academy and are very diligent to watch the films that they're voting for, meaning: it's kind of a delicate topic. Add to that, I have one of those Academy-related memories that is near and dear to my heart: seeing Nick Park's Wrong Trousers winning the Oscar in the Spring of 1994 and wishing I could watch that film--then, seeing the whole film at my first-ever Ottawa animation festival that Fall. So, while I've given up on the Oscar show itself, I still make it a point to watch as many of the Academy-nominated animated features and shorts as I can--which is made very easy by the Detroit Institute of Arts/Detroit Film Theater having a shorts screening program every year. It's a good use of your time: you take the better part of the day to walk around the DIA looking at artwork, have a nice lunch, then watch an hour-and-a-half's worth of animated shorts. And if I have time, I go back into the DIA to be further inspired by art. It's really tough to find a better way to spend a day.

This year was only slightly different. The DIA had hooked up with Eventive.org to stream the yearly Academy Awards shorts program to our homes (for a nominal fee, of course). So while it wasn't the full theater experience, I still got to see the nominated shorts along with a couple that were in the running but didn't make the cut.

The ones that really struck a chord with me were:

Burrow. Created by Madeline Sharafian and Michael Capbarat as part of Pixar's SparkShorts program, Burrow was as delightful now as it was the first time I saw it. And having interviewed Madeline back when she was a student at CalArts, it's been a very fun experience to watch her career progress and how she continues to grow and mature both as an animator and as a storyteller.

Genius Loci, by Adrien Mérigeau and Amaury Ovise. Y'know, this film was visually engaging, especially with their willingness to use the 'white of the paper' or the open spaces in their backgrounds. But I found the story convoluted and difficult to follow, so it really detracted from my enjoyment of the film. Visually, it reminded me a lot of the beautiful Brazilian feature Boy and the World. Might be worth a watch on it's own, not as a part of a larger program.

The Snail and the Whale was a nice story--good for the kids market. But it went on for way too long. I think it would've made a much better ten to fifteen minute film.

And finally, DreamWorks' To Gerard, which was a very heartwarming and enjoyable film. Not really impressive from a technical perspective, I don't think I saw anything visually that they hadn't done in their features, but it was a wholly enjoyable story. I'd easily watch this short before a feature film on family movie night.

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