Friday, March 03, 2006

Oscar's shorts

"But," you say, "he lives in a trash can! Why would he even need to wear pants?"

Slow down there, buckaroo. I'm talking about the Academy Awards, not the Grouch.

If you're in the bay area, you can still go to San Francisco's Lumiere Theatre and see all of the live-action and animated shorts nominated for this year's awards. They're presented as two separate shows, but on the same screen, so you can easily make a double feature out of it. D and I went last Sunday and really enjoyed it.

If you're not local, you can download the live-action shorts from iTunes. They cost $2 each, which might seem a bit steep for the amount of content you're getting, but when you consider that it's the only way for some people to ever see these films-- totally worth it, dude. This is the future of media.

I might buy "Our Time is Up", my favorite of the live-action shorts, just to support the initiative. The film may put some people off just because it's so quintessentially American, but it packs an entire feature's worth of emotion and wit into just twelve minutes. No wasted moments. It's a lean, mean, entertainin' machine.

The black comedy "Six Shooter" ran a close second for me, followed by "Ausreisser (The Runaway)". "The Last Farm" was beautifully shot, but left me a bit cold, and not in a good way. "Cashback" had a promising start but quickly degenerated into soft porn-- again, not in a good way.

I found it interesting that so many of the shorts-- four out of five-- had death as a central theme. Are short-subject filmmakers more depressed than others? Or do they just have more freedom, unencumbered by box office pressures, to explore darker ideas in their art?

The animated shorts were, to my surprise, a bit disappointing. They were all technically well done, but I literally fell asleep during the interminable "The Moon and the Son".

And it says something that three of the five animated shorts-- “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello”, "9", and Pixar's "One Man Band"-- were very evocative of computer games in both animation style and narrative drive. The machines in "Jasper Morello" felt like a steampunk twist on Myst; "One Man Band" reminded me of the humor in classic LucasArts adventure games; and the dialogue-free "9", now being developed as a feature by Focus Features and Tim Burton, depicted a rich fantasy world that I'd gladly pay $50 to explore for more than just two hours.
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