Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 2018: duel of the cousins!

Last night, Cousin Ben and I saw the Oscar nominated animated shorts. He emailed me and a few others a quick review. Following are his reviews, followed by my reviews in italics.

Negative Space – short and sweet. Best per-minute. Good for anyone who has had a dad, and who has ever packed a suitcase. Sad and funny ending, I do that kind of thing in some of my stories.

Dear Basketball – also deserving goodness per few minutes. A real thank you note/good bye, look forward. As Ben was driving us back to his place, we were trying to remember the exact order of the shorts. Or rather, he did and wanted me to do that too. He is 6 foot 6 so his wants are persuasive. I googled the show on my handy-dandy Android phone, and unfortunately found a whiny critic who complained about how Dead Basketball was just a commercial for Kobe Bryant. I said that I do not want to buy parts of Kobe Bryant. I am not a sports fan, but I liked this. A quick review of his career, and how it ends, and how he loved it, and I felt for him.

Lou – hey! Pixar is here being very Pixar which is always good. Ditto.

Revolting Rhymes – not very short. in-between a movie and a short. Reminds me of Into The Woods. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Woods_(film). Thoroughly enjoyable. Half an hour, which is long for a short, but it held my interest the entire time. If a show lasts long but feels short, it has done its job. British humor, creepy British ending. Storyteller Roald Dahl wrote this short that twists fairy tales and obeys the Elements of Style advice of “Omit Needless Words,” for it has no wasted moments.

Garden Party – dark, disgusting, beautiful, humorous. Unique and deserving of consideration. I knew what the big reveal at the end would be, of course. The visuals and the humor at a gristly locale shows the great divide between frog and human.

Lost Property Office – decent classic contrived animation. Not on the Oscar list, maybe it was a runner-up. It was okay, it had a happy ending, the stop-motions animation was grayscale and moody, but I do not care for lingering shots on lost and found shelves. Okay, that last thing was just one scene, but still. I remembered a short film from years ago about a guy who was probably the filmmaker’s uncle: interesting to his nephew, but to me, not so much. That short had the probable uncle stand on a hill and stare at the horizon for a long time. In a short film. Short means you don’t have a lot of time. That grated on my writer nerves. A lot. When the script says, “Annoying guy stares at horizon for a long time,” the script needs rewriting. But this sort of thing can work in the right hands: even more years ago, I saw another short film called A Garage Door. It was just that. A shot of garage door for about a minute. A minute that felt like a week. The crowd started yelling. I think the filmmaker knew exactly what he was doing.


Oldie Cartoon: Roger Ramjet and Dr. What’s evil comic books!

In this 1965 episode, Dr. What plans to corrupt children with a plan for evil comic books that is so fiendish, so diabolical, so horrible, that I cannot blog about it! To find out what is so evil, watch Roger Ramjet vs. Dr. What! Watch what? Yes, What! What? Yes, Dr. What. Who? No, What! What?!?!

This crude and frenetic animation shows that it is all in the face! And wonderful voice acting! Roger Ramjet was voiced by the great Gary Owens. The Proton Energy Pill gives Roger the strength of 20 atom bombs for 20 seconds! I googled, and TV censors kept Roger off the air for several years because of this pill, a pill that led to crudely animated slapstick that rivals Adam West Batman! I can think of a use for a Proton Energy Pill right now. And maybe a censoring supervillain, maybe with a Lionel Barrymore voice. I can learn so much from these oldie cartoon voice actors.

An Oscar Animated Shorts shows that bigger is better.


Go see the 2017 Oscar Animated Shorts, I just did. They were fun, no clunkers. Here is a link to the nominees (this link does not grade them: links that did weren’t to my taste).

I braced myself at the start of the 35 minutes of Pear Cider and Cigarettes. But this documentary of a self-destructive guy, animated Aeon Flux style, held my interest for every one of those minutes.

Also included are three “Highly Commended” shorts. The Head Vanishes (Frank Dion/9 minutes/Canada/France) — Losing one’s head with age. I figured it out early. Asteria (Josh Crute/5 minutes/USA) — Two races (human and goofy) fight over a small planet. A third race has a use for it. Once Upon a Line (Alicja Jasina/8 minutes/Cyprus) — Line animation of a boring life getting interesting.

The Lone Ranger: A fifty year old steampunk cartoon!

Wikipedia says that the term “steampunk” was coined in the 1980s and is “a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.”

So I guess I watched steampunk cartoons in the 1960s: The Lone Ranger! Yeah, you young whippersnappers, I did steampunk before it was even called steampunk! Here’s a couple of goodies: The Iron Giant and The Human Dynamo. The music and the clomping feet of that giant still sound cool.

The 2016 Oscar Animated Shorts Laugh Track

world of tomorrowWho’s old enough to remember the laugh track? The laughter added to the audio of old sitcoms in lieu of a live audience? Watch Gilligan’s Island. The laugh track tells you when to laugh.

I just saw the 2016 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts at the San Jose Camera Three theater. One of those shorts before, World of Tomorrow, I saw on Netflix a few days ago. In the privacy of my apartment. Alone. And quietly. No laughing. But watching it again at the Camera Three? People laughed at the funny parts. So did I.

Earlier today, when I bought my weekly comic books, the store manager told some friends about a TV show. “See it with friends,” he said.

A live audience makes a difference. Or maybe it was my good twin sitting next to me (I am the evil one). Or maybe I would make a lousy movie critic. But I liked World of Tomorrow a lot more the second time around. And the rest of the shorts were good. Check out the 2015 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts at a movie theater if you get the chance. Seeing it with an audience, and with friends, makes a difference.

P.S. The last short in the show, Prologue, had male nudity and violence. The shorts program gave two warnings in easy to read, screen-filling text. Just before Prologue started, a lady did the right thing and took her little boy out of the theater. On the way out, he cooed, “Why?” The audience laughed.

SJSFF: Katherine Park is Up in the Clouds

up-in-the-cloudsAt the San Jose Short Film Festival, in the animation block, was the short film Up In the Clouds. It was delightful, a feisty and happy teenage girl scaring her daddy during driving lessons. I believe this teenage girl later becomes a pilot.

After that show, I told Katherine Park she did a wonderful voiceover job for the teenage girl. I mentioned my Kittygirl story. Katherine asked me to email it to her, and I did. She replied with “Hello! I read your cool story tonight, thank you for sharing it with me!!!” And in my reply to her reply (not in my story), I used the term “oriental” explaining how Kittygirl became Japanese American. Katherine’s writing advice in her reply to my reply to her reply was so good that I asked permission to put it on my blog. She said yes. Here it is.

katherine-park-sjsff-2015I think my only gentle cultural counsel/suggestion as an Asian American myself would be never to refer to a person as “oriental”! Now, the general rule is it is only considered acceptable if used for objects and “things” like rugs, and it’s outdated to describe Kat that way. In your position, you are in an important place to speak and write about your character Kat, and that’s why I want to make sure to point it out! 🙂 The best way to refer for Kitty is “Japanese American” as you said (good job!) or American, or American with Japanese heritage. I love that your friend suggested Kat to be Japanese American. There are exercises you may have heard of with children who choose the “beautiful/good” doll from a white doll and a black doll. I bet you can guess which doll was chosen over and over again for “good” traits, and which for “bad” traits. That is why representation is so important. I loved how Kat was a main character, and only felt a little twinge of discomfort when she was admiring the blond hair as if it was better than hers. I would feel more comfortable in that scene if Holly were blond and Asian American, too. As a biracial person I am more outspoken than most, I feel strongly about representation and even used to dye my hair black for my first TV and film roles. Food for thought because as artists the integrity of our art is most important, but we also have a voice and can use it for good! Have a great day & please let me know how it develops!! 🙂

Katherine makes a great point about the hair. I want it obvious that Kittygirl likes her own long black hair, she should not seem envious of Holly’s blonde hair. But Kittygirl is impressed by how Holly’s hair shines in the sunlight, part of Kittygirl looking up to her hero Holly. I’ll work on it, the blonde envy issue with girls deserves scrutiny. And little girls not finding or liking a doll that looks like them? So sad!

P.S. Katherine has a lovely singing voice. Check it out!

P.P.S. As for me being important, I still need to get Kittygirl out on Kindle. I’ll need a cover, and maybe another story starring another super kid (make it two-stories-in-one?). Kid supers are fun, and are needed to replenish the comic book geek herd before old farts like me die off.

P.P.P.S. Thanks again, Katherine. You really helped.