Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Nominations for Animation

(UPDATE: Thanks to Alan Cook, here's a link to four of the five animated shorts that are nominated. The only missing film is La Maison en Petits Cubes.)

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are Disney's Bolt, DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda and Pixar's Wall-E. It's a pretty good bet that Wall-E will take the prize. The only film of the three that could materially benefit from an Oscar would be Bolt, as the DVD is not yet out. Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda are done in theatres (barring a re-issue) and their DVDs were on sale for the Christmas season, so the bulk of their DVD sales are over.

Wall-E also got a Best Original Screenplay nomination, though I would say that the odds are against winning in that category. All of the Wall-E writers are animation artists, so it's a good bet that the writers in the Academy won't be voting for it. They would prefer to keep the category in the family, so to speak.

Wall-E did not get a nomination for Best Picture, though it did get nominations for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It also got nominated for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. That's six nominations, which is pretty good. None of the other animated features got nominations in any other category, which is why I think that Wall-E will win Best Animated Feature.

Waltz with Bashir was nominated for Best Foreign Language film. I think that it stands a reasonable chance in this category, although The Class has gotten strong reviews.

Nominees for Best Animated Short are:

La Maison en Petits Cubes - A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato
Lavatory - Lovestory - A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production, Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi - (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
Presto - (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up - A Nexus Production, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

I've only seen two of the above, Presto and Oktapodi. The latter is a student film from Gobelins, a major animation school in France. While I admire Presto, I hope that it doesn't win. I have nothing against the film or Pixar, but Pixar winning an Oscar for a short will make no difference to the future of animation. Should any of the other films win, the filmmakers will undoubtedly find it easier to finance their next projects. Perhaps the makers of one of these shorts will become major players artistically or commercially, and an Oscar win will do far more for them than it will for Pixar.

Visual Effects nominees are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight and Iron Man.


Michael Sporn said...

There are two 2D films nominated:
The House of Small Cubes (my favorite of the five) and
Lavatory-Lovestory (an excellent film from a star in Russia).
Presto is drek, Oktapodi is a student film and feels like it, and This Way Up is excellent cgi.

Of course, this is all just my opinion. Many people like the attempt to rip off Tex Avery in Presto, but it looks like a cgi imitation of a Flash product. There is no character animation in the film.

Mark Mayerson said...

I have a higher opinion of Presto than you do, Michael.

While Oktapodi had some nice action sequences, I didn't feel that they added up to anything in the end. The film was a pleasant diversion, but not something that inspires repeated viewing.

Michael Sporn said...

I don't see why Presto is any better than Oktapodi. Perhaps it's something technical that they're doing that makes it better than I'd understand. Imagine it as a 2D film - would it be better than 100 other films just like it done in the recent past? I even feel that the scenes don't smoothly cut together for the sake of coherency.
You're right, I'm probably being unfair.

Mark Mayerson said...

I don't want to overstate my feelings for Presto. It's a pastiche of Avery/Jones style gag cartoons and from a content standpoint, doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before. However, I think the film is very well executed.

There are many people who have attempted to do a "classic" style cartoon and most fail because they fall short on the craft level. Presto's story construction is excellent (though admittedly not ambitious). I also think that the posing and timing work very well. I'm not a fan of films like Roger Rabbit, where the animation moves so quickly you can't read it. Presto is timed fast enough to make the comedy work but no so fast that the acting details get lost.

I think that there is character animation in the film, but it's based on a limited conception of character. That limited conception was common in old theatrical shorts, so I don't hold it against Presto.

I think that the film holds its own against the Avery gag cartoons of the late '40s and early '50s (like Magical Maestro) and against Jones one-shot cartoons like The Eager Beaver or Much Ado About Nutting. It reminds me a lot of Michael Maltese's style of gags when he wrote cartoons that weren't for established personalities like Bugs or Daffy.

My preference for Presto over Oktapodi is that Presto has a resolution. The character conflict ends because the characters see the wisdom of helping each other instead of focusing exclusively on their own needs. Oktapodi is just an endless chase with even less character development than Presto.

Thad said...

Going to see Wall-E and Presto was one of the worst theater experiences of my life. I already read all the rave reviews of both, and I knew I'd be a pariah after coming out of the theater feeling severely let down. (Which was not the case with Ratatouille or The Incredibles,)

The first time I saw it was with my dad, who said of Presto, "Well, they avoided a lot of cliches in that." I'm not too sure. It's OK, but I felt underwhelmed.

Of course, Wall-E is 'drek'. "Best Screenplay"? Seriously? The Academy has honored worse films before (like the disgusting sweep the one Lord of the Rings film made) so nothing really surprises me. Just repulses.

Hans Flagon said...

I would un-nominate Presto for rushed timing.

It would have been much better had it allowed some of the gags and takes to breathe.

And I agree with the pastiche of past gags, I think that was part of the point of the film, to return to some of that. But it doesn't break new ground. And it is NOT that well executed.

I think the rushed timing actually could have worked better on the big screen, in a theater full of people, for what that is worth.

David B. Levy said...

Craft is there to NOT be noticed. It should be in support of the film, not the reason for it.

I'm always amused when people respond to craft alone as a sign of quality. Presto is a very well meaning love letter to golden age shorts, but it has nothing to say and nothing to offer. It left me cold every single time I've seen it. And, I've seen it on the big screen maybe five times in lots of kids film festivals.

Pete Emslie said...

I also thank Alan Cook for the link to seeing the nominated shorts. I've just now watched the 4 out of 5 shorts available for viewing and, though I like "Presto" for its cartoony appeal, my vote goes to "Lavatory-Love Story". It's a complete story well told and it's also the only hand drawn entry in the group of those 4. I wish that "the House of Small Cubes" was also available for viewing.

Steve Segal said...

Mark, I really enjoyed reading your comments, and found them very insightful. But the Oscar should be based on merit not on who will benefit the most. However, I confess to using that criteria myself, when I have to choose between several excellent films. I actually liked all the nominated films this year, including Presto (your analysis was excellent). The House on Small Cubes will probably come out ahead, as it's the most moving.

Nancy said...

PRESTO is just a remake of CASE OF THE MISSING HARE. It rips off Jones, not Avery.

I'd like to know how the Gobelins has their student films screen in L.A. to qualify for the Oscars. Some of the Sheridan films from last year were far superior. (Note: Yes, I work at Sheridan, but I didn't work on the last year's senior films.)

WALTZ WITH BASHIR is an overrated, very poorly made project. I won't even dignify it by the name of 'movie'.

Nancy said...

Here's the link to THE HOUSE OF SMALL CUBES.

Matthew Otto said...

Hi Mark,

I thought you might be interested to know that Mark Davies animated on This Way Up. I'm still in touch with him and he was pretty chuffed about the nomination.

Really enjoy your site!