Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Shorts Films & The Academy -- Last Year for Example

In my last post, I mentioned how I thought that the short film race should be excluded from the Academy Awards. Not that I think the medium of short films is bad, but because it lacks relevancy.

The comments in the post below already are illuminating. Sure some people want to champion the genre and even want to broaden it's scope but as far as the Motion Pictures Academy is concerned, I don't know how they can continue to present this award.

I was able to watch a DVD Magnolia Home Entertainment put out of 2007's nominated and winning short films (all five live action films, and two in the animated category.) Attempting to watch these film my two frustrations became clear.

Quality Concern:
I have posted the clip of "West Bank Story" below. This West Bank Story tells a 15-or-so minute retelling of West Side Story (a retelling of Romeo & Juliet) in Israel with two competing falafel restaurants, the Jewish "Kosher King" and the Arab "Hummus Hut." Through music and dance, this ridiculous story is funny...but only for about thirty seconds, to which point the gag is no longer funny.

How did West Bank Story ever get nominated and win in this category? In attempting to sit through the other 4 nominated films you realize that there really isn't that much competition, and because there is no commercial motivation for the short film format, there really is no drive to create quality work. I believe the standard in this category is two low if a unimpressive short film like "West Bank Story" wins the award.

Accessibility Concern:
The animation winner "The Danish Poet" was such a magical little short film. The film playfully ponders the ideas of fate and possibility in a very magical and enjoyable film. The Norwegian film is directed by Torill Kove's and narrated by two time Oscar nominee Liv Ullmann.

The clip below of the Danish Poet doesn't do the film justice. It's tone and story telling is perfect for the short film format. The Danish Poet would lose all it's magic as a feature length film. Yet it saddens me that relatively no one has seen it. And even fewer people would have seen it if it hadn't been recognized by the Academy. I wish there were a way to make films like this more accessible. I wish movie theaters would show this in the theater while I'm waiting for the film to start, or something.

But in the absence of a large audience base, the Academy Awards does not seem like the place to award unseen films. Maybe this is a consumeristic attitude rather than an artful attitude, but I believe the award show is cheapened when winners in short film (animated, live action, and documentary) are drawn from a small pool of films that no one has seen.


West Bank Story

Posted Feb 13, 2007

A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands on the West Bank.

The Danish Poet

Posted Feb 13, 2007

Kasper, a young poet in search of inspiration, travels to Norway to meet the celebrated writer, Sigrid Undset.


Ed Howard said...

Thanks for continuing this discussion, I like that you're starting a conversation here. I've added your link to the Short Film blog-a-thon for this post as well.

Anyway, I still say the short film hasn't lost any artistic relevance, and there are still doubtless great shorts made every year that the Academy either doesn't consider or rejects as too experimental. In 2006, the Austrian video artist Billy Roisz put out a DVD with Japanese experimental musician Toshimaru Nakamura. The short avant-garde pieces on this DVD didn't get nominated (of course), but they were incredibly inventive and great.

I do agree that short films should be more widely seen, and I think a new method of Internet distribution for shorts would be ideal, allowing people to check out a lot of great and otherwise unseen stuff. The major studios and theaters, Pixar excepted, have all pretty much made it clear that they have no interest in screening shorts before features, the way they used to be. I guess that would cut into commercial time.

Anonymous said...

"But in the absence of a large audience base, the Academy Awards does not seem like the place to award unseen films."

The logical extension of this thinking would be to exclude any movie from Oscar nomination that was not seen by at least X million people.

So shouldn't we eliminate the documentary categories, too? And perhaps cut out No Country for Old Men, because "nobody" saw it, relatively speaking?

I'm being facetious, but your approach would bring the Academy Awards even closer to the People's Choice Awards. While there's certainly a place for recognition of the popular, why ensure the eternal obscurity of the obscure by eliminating it from the most visible movie-awards show in the world? And doesn't Oscar recognition (in the form of a nomination or a win) mean that The Danish Poet gets seen more widely?