In the last few years, AMPAS has accorded spots in this category to quite a number of films fixated on death. More times than not, the contenders have been glib, as in this year’sThe Lady and the Reaper, about an old lady caught in a tug of war between the Grim Reaper and the hot-shot doctor who tries to save her life. The film, directed by Javier Recio Garcia and produced by Antonio Banderas, is a headscatcher (how is the woman found and taken to the hospital anyway?), laying on the sentiment thick in its early moments before devolving into a familiarly anarchic spectacle of opening and closing doors that poorly tips its hat to the infinitely more inspired work of Warner’s Dadaist impresario Chuck Jones.
Infinitely worse, though, is Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell’s meaningless trifle Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, in which a bizarrely voiced granny inexplicably terrorizes her sexually ambiguous granddaughter with the banal bedtime story of a mean old fairy who damns a curvy lot of younger ones to death should they ever lay themselves to sleep. Another granny figures into Fabrice O. Joubert’s French Roast, the wily little story of a bourgie man who becomes paralyzed with fear when he realizes he’s lost his wallet and can’t pay for the cups of espresso he continues to down so as to keep his waiter at bay. If the computer animation feels familiar, at least Joubert’s use of movement and reflection, like his representation of a particular class struggle, feels inspired.
Bound to get more attention is Nicolas Scherkin’s apocalyptic Logorama, in which everything and everyone in Hollywood is rendered as a corporate logo, with the yellow AIM icon walking the streets and Michelin cops trying to hunt down a vigilante Ronald McDonald who hides inside a Pizza Hut. Impressive insofar that the filmmakers incorporated over 2,000 logos into their story, Logoroma is still crudely drawn, with its message—that we live in a world so saturated by media and advertising that it’s only a matter of time before it gets the better of us, Rolan Emmerich-style—feeling easily and predictably delivered.
And the winner is A Matter of Loaf and Death, not that there was much of a contest. Nick Park has lost exactly one Oscar, for A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit in 1991, when the award went to…Nick Park for Creature Comforts. Since then, every Wallace and Gromit production, short or long, has been dutifully awarded, and so will this cheeky little mystery that, like The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, further attests to the love between a dog and his master. In this latest adventure for the dynamic duo, Gromit is pit against a murderer with eyes set on his typically oblivious owner. Even if you think these Wallace and Gromit shorts have become stale, you must admit that there’s more humor in one of the killer’s toothy smiles and more longing in Gromit’s eyes than you will find in the entirety of any of the competing films.
Will Win: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Should Win: A Matter of Loaf and Death