This seems like a reasonable inaguaral post. We are, after all, a blog about arts and entertainment…and probably books.
We here at MojoFiction enjoy the art of animation, with the except of some Manga, which generally weirds us out. With that in mind, we took a special trip over the weekend to see the Oscar® nominated animation shorts. We could have seen them on the internet, but why not blow ten bucks on the big screen experience? Oh, that’s right, gas money. Oh well, too late. Incredibly, across the span of five short films, we experienced everything from been-there-done-that to risky, beautiful storytelling. How is that possible? One theory: after the thirtieth sequel to whichever bloodletting movie is a hot commodity right now you start to think that your home movie of your grandmother yelling at you to stop filming her is a work of pure genius. Theory number two: these filmmakers are good.
Let’s go with theory number 2.
For your enjoyment, here’s what we thought of the evening’s entertainment.
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” – This is our been-there-done-that film, but only because of the long-running success of the Simpsons. Maybe that’s the price of repeated success – no one thinks you’re breaking new ground, even if you are. It’s a sweet, sharply animated film that produces genuine tension and an uplifting ending. What we really liked was the focus on the story at hand, without going into the bizarre territory that the Simpsons sometimes does. After some seriously in-depth research via Wikipedia we came across a quote attributed Tom Russo from The Bost Globe that calls the film, “…a welcome throwback to the days when The Simpsons had more sentiment at its core…” Agreed. Bonus points for getting Hans Zimmer to knock out the musical score.
Fresh Guacamole – This one is just plain clever. The shortest film at just under two minutes, writer-director PES uses stop-motion animation to demonstrate how to make guacamole using things you might have around the house (including grenades). To the best of our knowledge, no actual food was used to make this dip.
Adam and Dog – Explores the age-old connection between man and man’s best friend as they meet for the first time in the Garden of Eden. 2D animation at its finest, with lush, if muted, hand-painted backgrounds that fully realize an idyllic land of plenty before the fall. The personality imbued into the dog alone is worth the view. The animation is expressive and immediately draws you in to the story of lonely pup looking for that special relationship with the only creature on earth that knows how fun it is to throw a stick.
Head Over Heels – Pure storytelling. We think this is the best of the bunch. Stop-motion animation that tells the story of a late-life husband and wife who have drifted apart, though they still live under the same roof. Every moment is used in service of the story and it’s heartfelt and moving (maybe those are the same thing).
Did you ever see Raiders of the Lost Ark? The first scene with Marion Ravenwood shows her in her bar trying on a new pair of glasses she won in drinking contest. The door opens and you see the shadow of Indiana Jones on the wall behind her. She pauses, apparently looking at him, then suddenly throws her new glasses to the ground, breaking them. And that’s all you need to know to understand their relationship. In Head Over Heels, when you see the husband lives on the floor and wife lives on the ceiling, that’s all you need to know to understand their relationship.
Paperman – With art that looks like moving charcoal drawings, only cleaner, this is probably the odds-on favorite to win the award. The meet-cute storyline is timeless, and by setting it in a seemingly more innocent age it’s easy to set aside our worldly problems and fall into the brief romance on the screen. There’s a thread of whimsical fantasy running through the film that holds it all nicely together.
If you haven’t seen these you should check them out. Most of them are available on the internet, though the big screen does indeed make a difference (especially for Adam and Dog). After you’re done, ask yourself how a five minute cartoon can tell such a compelling story that’s genuinely moving, or a least really entertaining, while the majority of the mainstream fare out there can’t get it right with a full two hours.