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If you watched the Academy Awards this Sunday it would have been easy to miss the category for Best Animated Short Film.  The presentation for the award was…well…short.

But anyone who saw this year’s nominees would agree that none of them lack for quality.

Logorama

Logorama won the Academy Award for its provocative repackaging of trite Hollywood action fare; the film used only recognizable corporate logos to construct the set, characters, and story.  And Wallace & Gromit delivered their share of time-tested misadventures in A Matter of Loaf and Death.

La Dama y La Muerte

But I was most impressed by a couple of other imports.  Spanish production company Kandor Graphics received a nomination for The Lady and The Reaper.  The film is a commentary on how we die and the ways in which life can be distorted as one is pulled back from the precipice of death.  At the same time, it’s a frenetic cartoon chase, ala Looney Tunes.  Imagine Bugs Bunny examining the medical-industrial complex as he tangles with Elmer Fudd.

Runaway

But for my money, the best entry was one nearly overlooked by the academy: a “commended” Canadian film titled Runaway.  In rough, stylized animation, Runaway delivers a political parable set on an out-of-control train.  The engineer presiding over this ill-fated ride neglects his duties to cavort with a woman from the first-class car.  Soon thereafter, the train accelerates dangerously out of control, inciting a class struggle between the cars in which first-class passengers attempt to buy their safety by bribing, manipulating, and then betraying those in coach.  As the film nears its inescapable conclusion, each new development still delivers a surprise.  We know what’s going to happen, but still groan and laugh as we struggle to keep up.  In nine minutes, that ambiguous combination of ideas manages to surpass anything I’ve seen in a feature film in a long time.

In New York, all of the nominees and select commended films are showing at the IFC Center.

– Michael Guerriero

La Dama y La Muerte
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Does the story of “Avatar” seem eerily familiar to you?  For student Randy Szuch, the answer is a resounding yes.  In this genius mashup, Szuch matches the audio of “Avatar” with scenes from a beloved Oscar-winning Disney film from 1995:

“Avatar” is up for nine Oscars on Sunday, including Best Picture.  James Cameron, the creative mind behind the record-breaking movie, recently talked with Kurt in Studio 360:

And speaking of animated films: for only the second time in the Academy Award’s 82-year history, an animated film — “Up” — got the nod for Best Picture.  (Watch the trailer below.)

– Jess Jiang

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photo credit: Dan in LA/flickr

photo credit: Dan in LA/flickr

Attending the Oscar ceremony last night, I realized why the pre-show red-carpet rigmarole has become more and more a focus of the television coverage over the last decade or so: that’s the juiciest part of the quasi-official event, a reality-show The Day of the Locust without the apocalyptic ending.

First there’s the arrival by car through a half-mile-long cordon sanitaire enforced by scores of LAPD officers and quasi-military LAPD vehicles, crawling at a few miles per hour past roped-back hundreds of noisy citizens. (The printed Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences instructions noted that limousines longer than 39 feet could not be accommodated.)

A few of the citizens were waving vicious you-Hollywood-people-are-damned signs. But most of them were just celebrity-besotted bystanders eager to be in the proximity of the spectacle, and to gawk. (Like me, in other words, but without tickets.) I also spotted an FBI agent among the police, and wondered: why? The slow-mo mob walk up the red carpet was entertaining; I felt as if I’d stepped through the looking glass — or, rather, through the TV screen. No one asked me who I was wearing; I would’ve been obliged to answer, “Armani circa 1993 for the jacket, Men’s Warehouse 2009 for the pants.”

As splendidly and inventively staged as the show inside the theater was, the audience scene there, despite the strictly black-tie costuming, isn’t exactly thrilling. The celebrity ratio is low. A friend, like me a first-time attendee, remarked that it felt to him like “New Jersey prom night.” And by the way? Waltz With Bashir was robbed.

The party thrown afterward by Vanity Fair at an old hotel on Sunset Boulevard, however, was astoundingly glamorous, like a Hollywood party as portrayed in a Hollywood movie. In general I disapprove of name-dropping, but what choice do I have? In a space no larger than my house I walked and stood within a few feet of Amy Adams, Judd Apatow, Jason Bateman, Halle Berry, Danny Boyle, Larry David, Robert Downey Jr., John Hamm, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Debra Messing, Rupert Murdoch, Natalie Portman, Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Uma Thurman and, according to my wife, the young male stars of Twilight and The 300.

Having absolutely gorged on glitz for 10 hours, I am now exhausted, and feel as if I should retreat to a monastery for several weeks. Or at least read Henry James and take a nap.

– Kurt Andersen

Header photo credit: sanjoyg/flickr

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