Even though the Oscars are so yesterday's news, Seattle Maggie decided it might be fun to prolong the magic and catch a screening of some of the Academy Award-Nominated Animated and Live Action Shorts at the Northwest Film Forum. We cannot help but feel a little bad for these films, which most of the general public will never see; not to mention that they did not even get the usual 5-second snippet that is usually offered on Oscar night, as these awards were presented via the dreaded Aisle Cam. On a bright note, however, the Live Action Short nominees did get to be within drooling distance of the intellectually sexy Jeremy Irons. While we don't want to be baggin' on CC's boy Jakie, the deliciously seasoned Mr. Irons lights our fire in a way that a young whippersnapper never could. He reminds us of the hypothetical English professor with whom we never had a torrid affair, and in whose non-existent ivy-cloaked office, amidst imagined tumbled tomes of Keats and Kerouac, we became both a writer AND a woman...ah, but we digress.
In a completely unrelated story: Seattle Maggie recently went to see the new baby sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium. As we watched the snoozing wee otter clinging to its mother's belly, we felt the tiny bud of maternal instincts hidden deep in our cold, child-fearing heart begin to unfurl its fragile petals. Oscar-winning Live Action Short Wasp managed to wipe out all that like a late April blizzard. A screaming testament to the merits of birth control, the film made us squirm in our seats as the working-class single mum neglects putting pants on her kids, feeds them sugar out of a bag, and then stashes them in a pub parking lot so she can relive her glory days as a fresh young thing. While we can sympathize with the feeling of wanting to escape her sordid existence for just one night, we have to ask: did she have to have four freaking kids? We can imagine having one or two, say, by accident, but four? Overwhelmed by sticky toddler limbs and ear-gouging baby wails, we give writer/director Andrea Arnold credit for bringing the story so vividly to life, but you couldn't pay us enough money to sit through it again. We did, however, heartily enjoy the surreal 7:35 in the Morning from Spain, which managed to be both disturbing and oddly touching at the same time. It was so original and weird, we consider it a true shame that only a handful of people will ever get to see it.
The Animated Shorts included Gopher Broke, in which an industrious gopher uses his digging prowess to steal snacks from passing trucks. While the plot was more than a little silly, we did have a good chuckle as the tubby rodent ecstatically jetÚd through a miraculous rain of gleaming produce. The Oscar-winning Ryan was both visually and conceptually interesting; as a loose biography of Canadian animator-turned-panhandler Ryan Larkin, director Chris Landreth combines real interviews with what he calls "psycho-realism", in which a character's self image is reflected in their actual image. A face might be nibbled away to a twisted remnant by alcoholism, or violently colored bands of light might tighten around the body in strangling loops to represent doubt. Larkin himself made for an intriguing subject, enough for us to want to give him a Google afterwards.
And while we are on the subject of animated shorts, you New Yorkers are lucky enough to be able to catch a screening of The Animation Show 2005, playing now at Cinema Village, no longer playing at the Varsity. This yearly traveling circus of animated shorts, presented by Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt, has an excellent selection as usual, sampling nearly every form of animation possible. Some of our favorites included When The Day Breaks, a sweetly nostalgic look at life and death with anthropomorphized barnyard animals; Guard Dog, an afternoon walk from the perspective of an over-protective pet by animation giant Bill Plympton (also nominated for an Oscar); and Pan With Us, a fascinating multi-media interpretation of Robert Frost by Seattle's own David Russo. Top honors, however, must go to Ward 13, an Australian stop-motion thrill ride in a nightmare hospital. Seattle Maggie has a special fondness for stop-motion magic, and we loved the campy, faux-horror humor. Wheelchair chases, exploding green monster heads, and a friendly dog with two rear ends - we can't understand why the Academy overlooked this little gem. Well, there's always next year.