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Aside from being a handy wild card in any Oscar betting pool (as much as I like recent winners "Logorama" and "The Lost Thing," I value them most for what I gained from their victories), the Best Animated Short Oscar is always fun to keep an eye on at this stage, given that it's almost impossible to handicap this far out, and yet not too difficult to research. So it is with the 45 shorts that were recently revealed to have qualified for the award, any number of which look from afar like potential nominees.
As usual with this category, shorts from major animation outfits like Pixar, Disney and Warner Bros. are jostling for space with minute independent productions from various corners of the globe -- what's lovely about this category is that size is rarely an advantage here. It's interesting to note that only one of Pixar's two 2011 shorts is on the list, and it's not the one ("Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation") that preceded "Cars 2" in theaters; rather, their hopes lie with acclaimed festival player "La Luna," which you may recall Kris flipped for in Telluride. Smart move.
Still, a couple of the titles here have feature-film associations: Disney's "The Ballad of Nessie" played with "Winnie the Pooh" in theaters, while Warner Bros.'s "I Twat I Taw a Puddy Tat" (yes, the return of Sylvester and Tweety Bird) will warm audiences up for "Happy Feet Two." (Sony's "The Smurfs' A Christmas Carol," meanwhile, will be a seasonal extra when the blue brigade's feature hit is released on DVD next month. I doubt they'll be holding their breath for Academy attention.)
Spotting potential standouts among the lower-profile inclusion is a harder task, but one name in particular stands out. Or two, rather. American-born identical twins Timothy and Stephen Quay are legends of the stop-motion medium, whose work you've probably seen even if you don't know their names: they directed a key animated sequence in Julie Taymor's "Frida" and also contributed to Peter Gabriel's game-changing "Sledgehammer" music video. It's on their own films, however, that their critical reputation rests: their astonishing 1986 short "Street of Crocodiles" competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. (Fun fact: UK critic Jonathan Romney named it one of the 10 greatest films of all time in Sight & Sound's most recent poll.)
Their latest, "Maska," is a Polish production based on a story by Stanislaw Lem; I regretted missing it at the Edinburgh Film Festival last year. (That's how long these things sometimes take to come around.) From the clip below, it looks like another off-kilter visual feast; the Academy has never smiled on the Quay Brothers before, but it'd be nice to see that change.
Nathaniel Rogers has done an excellent job rounding up nuggets of information (and occasional clips) on the 45 selections, including which ones have already been nominated for Annie Awards, and which one was written by Yoko Ono. Check it out at The Film Experience. The full list is below.
"A Morning Stroll," Grant Orchard
"A Shadow of Blue," Carlos Lascano
"Birdboy," Alberto Vasquez
"Chopin’s Drawings," Dorota Kobiela
"Correspondence," Zach Hyer
"Daisy Cutter," Enrique Garcia and Rubin Salazar
"Dimanche (Sunday)," Patrick Doyon
"El Salon Mexico," Paul Glickman and Tamarind King
"Enrique Wrecks the World," David Chai
"Ente Tod Und Tulipe (Duck Death and the Tulip)," Matthias Bruhn
"Fat Hamster," Adam Wyrwas
"Grandpa Looked Like William Powell," David Levy
"Hamster Heaven," Paul Bolger
"I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat," Matt O’Callaghan
"I Was the Child of Holocaust Survivors," Anne Marie Fleming
"Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest," Kevin Sean Michaels
"Kahanikar," Nandita Jain
"La Luna," Enrico Casarosa
"Little Postman," Dorota Kobiela
"Luminaris," Juan Pablo Zaramella
"Luna," Donna Brockopp
"Maska," Timothy and Stephen Quay
"Muybridge’s Strings," Koji Yamamura
"My Hometown," Jerry Levitan
"Night Island," Salvador Maldonado
"Nullarbor," Alister Lockhart
"Papa’s Boy," Leevi Lemmetty
"Paths of Hate," Damien Nenow
"Romance," George Schwizgebel
"Specky Four-Eyes," Jean Claude Rozec
"Spirits of the Piano," Magdalena Osinska
"Thank You," Thomas Herpich
"The Ballad of Nessie," Stevie Wermers
"The External World," David O’ Reilly
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
"The Gloaming," Nobrain
"The Lost Town of Switez," Kamil Polak
"The Magic Piano," Martin Clapp
"The Monster of Nix," Rosto
"The Renter," Jason Carpenter
"The Smurf’s A Christmas Carol," Troy Quane
"The Tannery," Iain Gardner
"The Vermeers," Tal S. Shamir
"Vicenta," Samuel Orti Marti
"Wild Life," Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
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