One of the programs at Filmex featured all of the live action and animated short films which have been nominated for Academy Awards this year. The animated shorts are not very strong, the live action ones OK but not sensational.
Dr. Desoto is a cartoon based on a children's book. Dr. Desoto is a mouse dentist. He and his wife, who is also his assistant, break their usual policy of not treating any animals which are dangerous to mice by extracting a fox's aching tooth. But how to outsmart the hungry fox? The animation is far from exceptional and the story only mildly amusing. Dr. Desoto is the sort of film which will be boring children at Saturday afternoon film programs at libraries for years to come. (I should know: I used to run the projector for such programs. The same cartoons showed up year after year.)
Paradise is a perfect example of what's wrong with so many films from the National Film Board of Canada: all style, no substance. Paradise has the best animation of the nominated films, but its story is thin enough to be transparent. A blackbird dresses up in false finery to impress a sultan. Spurned, he spends five minutes more being animated doing nothing in particular but being involved in fancy patterns. Paradise is a film difficult for anyone but an animator to love.
Charades isn't a great cartoon, but it's lots of fun, and is the only one of the three I'd willingly see again. Basically, it's a one-joke film about two men alternating turns at charades. Lots of witty little bits backing up the central joke, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who remembers the theme song from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance The animation is sufficient for its purpose, but not interesting in and of itself. Charades is the probable winner based on the weakness of the field this year.
On to the live action films. Tales of Meeting and Parting is largely a set of flashbacks by an elderly Japanese man. He recalls an American prisoner he helped, out of human decency, during WWII, and an Indian prison guard who helped him just after the war. Robert Ito gives a good performance, and the film is generally well made, but I find it hard to get excited about.
The Painted Door is a farm story set during a dreadful blizzard. A man of exceptional determination sets out to reach his father's farm, miles away, despite the storm and his wife's entreaties. He convinces his best friend to stay the night with the wife until he returns, but the storm worsens and the wife and friend begin to remember an attraction they had for each other. Surely the husband won't try to return through such a dreadful snowstorm . . . Told entirely from the wife's point of view, The Painted Door is well made, evocative of its setting, and possessed of a nice little twist at the end. Good, not great.
I am not a big fan of movies about the joys of flying. None the less, Up seemed to me to be the best of the live action shorts. A man who works with bald eagles goes hang gliding off of some really extraordinary scenary. Some of it looks like Monument Valley. He even lands on one of the high red rock spires. The scenary and photography are so outstanding that an unimaginative story and some dime store mysticism can be forgiven. Up contains some of the most amazing flying sequences I've ever seen. Had I a vote in the Academy, Up would get it for best live action short.
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