Monday, November 19, 2007

Oscar Blues

In NYC, we just screened the pre-selections eligible for this years Oscar nomination for best-animated short subject. In a very roundabout way, it’s an inspiring thing for a filmmaker to attend, especially for one who has not yet snagged an Oscar nom or win themselves (there’s still some of us out there, right?). I offer this backhanded compliment because to screen these thirty plus films is to demystify what may be considered as Oscar Worthy. Sure, of this lot, only four or five will secure a nomination, but, many of the cast offs wouldn’t last two minutes in our very own ASIFA-East jury screenings. During a break, Jimmy Picker observed that the bad films are also very loud films. Jimmy’s right. Bad and loud go together in bad animation. Watching films such as My Date From Hell, Christmas Village, The Chubb Chubbs Save Xmas, and Anna And The Moods was very much like being beaten with a bag of oranges, but without that pleasing citrus-y aroma. I was glad to see that most of the 3D monstrosities were not made in America. But, then again, they were made as copies of our box office champs such as the Shrek franchise. Is this the legacy of what we’ve wrought?

Not surprisingly, Disney had an entry this year with their new 2D Goofy short, How to Set Up Your Home Theatre. I’d seen this film open the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival in October, where it played to a packed crowd of kids that didn’t laugh once. Here it seemed like a breath of fresh air. Well, sort of fresh. I don’t know what to make of this film. On one hand, I think, “well done.” But, on the other hand, I wonder, “What’s the point?” Yes, it’s great to see Disney doing 2D again, but, the film is a love letter to the past with nothing to offer for today, besides exploiting the home theatre craze (wasn’t that so 5 years ago, anyway?). The original Goofy shorts sort of followed a Robert Benchley how-to format. Today, Benchley is long gone and his own live action shorts have not aged well. As much as this sounds awful, maybe it would have been better to throw Goofy to a situation relevant to today? A reality format? A home design make over show? Something. Anything but a carbon copy of what Disney did in the 1940s. Why make new 2D animation that is stuck in the past? Can’t we make new work that does honor to the great animation of yesterday without resorting to this?

A few films floored me. There were moments of Peter and the Wolf where I was on the edge of my seat. There’s a moment in that film, when the strings finally kick in with the familiar score for the first time. For me, it was as magical as when Dorothy steps from black and white into Technicolor. The film was a dazzler with incredible shots, pacing and genuine emotions. Michael Sporn recently correctly remarked that smiles were overused in Bee-Movie. A scene in Peter and the Wolf begs to agree. There’s a moment where we first see Peter smile when he’s escaped out the fence that separates him from the adventure of the great outdoors. Peter and his animal friends frolic for a bit on a frozen pond and then there’s this shot of his Peter’s smiling face. The smile had such resonance. A similar moment occurred when the director is bold enough to hold on a very long shot of Peter’s face smoldering with hatred for the wolf.

On a side note, many in the audience were dazzled by a Russian film called My Love, which for my money was a Ralph Bakshi rotoscoped film masquerading as paint on glass.

Before I forget, big kudos and congrats to NYC area filmmakers included in this screening:
Sarah Wickliffe (Art’s Desire) and Bill Plympton (Shut Eye Hotel).


Emmett said...

ART'S DESIRE screened in this?!

I thought that was a student film.

Once again, I am just waiting for the next new wave.

David B. Levy said...

yes it did. It also won the student Academy award... although I don't know enough about the Academy rules to know if that qualified it for consideration in the "grown up" oscar.

Unknown said...


Does your earthlink email still work? Tried to send an e-mail to you and it got kicked back.

David B. Levy said...

yes, it still works.. and belated congrats to you, Zeth on your film's inclusion in the screening. Didn't mean to leave you out! Your film got a nice reception and a good buzz from the crowd.