Movies

Oscar Nominated Short Films

For the Oscar-betting pool on Animated Short Subjects: note that the big nominations went to retro films (Hugo, The Artist and so on). Thus Moonbat Studios, creators of "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," should be clearing some mantelpiece space.
SPEAKING VOLUMES: 'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore' is a leading contender for best animated short at the Oscars.

FOR THE Oscar-betting pool on Animated Short Subjects: Note that the big nomina-tions went to retro films (Hugo, The Artist and so on). Thus Moonbat Studios, creators of "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," should be clearing some mantelpiece space. This computer-animated nonesuch opens with nods to the storm scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr., in which the straw-hatted hero is transported to an Oz-like land of living books.

Pixar's fatally cute "La Luna" notwithstanding, the competition is first rate. Two Canadian cartoons remind us that the National Film Board used to make some of the finest animation in the world. "Dimanche" observes a little boy of the early 1960s being bored half-way to death on a provincial Sunday. Even better, the remarkable "Wild Life" features Atom Egoyan–worthy indirect storytelling. Set in 1910, it tells of what they used to call "a remittance man"—a British expatriate with inherited money and little sense. He is bewitched by the Alberta prairie, where the foolish don't survive. If the Oscar was mine to give, it would go straight to "A Morning Stroll": Warner Bros. rowdyism meets New Yorker cartoon drollness in a glimpse of 200 years in the life of a phenomenal urban chicken. Plus it has zombies.

The live-action short subjects program has only one outstanding nominee: Norseman Hallvar Witzo's absurdist comedy "Tuba Atlantic," which stirs up reminders of The Song of Roland. A profane old geezer on the freezing coast is given six days to live by his doctor. The government assigns him an "Angel of Death" (i.e., a dim blonde student with braces on her teeth) to ease him through the Kubler-Ross stages. He has a last wish to fulfill, involving a mammoth tuba, which he has pointed at North America.

Yet "Raju" seems to be the most likely choice for an Academy that wept over Slumdog Millionaire. In "Raju," a well-off German couple goes to Calcutta to close the deal on an adopted child, before finding out the adoption agency has a secret. The other nominees include a nouveau-Brooklyn chrononaut comedy, "Time Freaks," which doesn't add up to anything more than the idea "It's hard to talk to girls." Likewise, a pair of bland Irish contenders—one, "The Shore" by the noted director Terry George—are just reassuring anecdotes.


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