Oscar nominated Animated shorts 2017

This year again Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema programs the collections of Oscar nominated shorts compiled by Shorts international. Every year we can judge for ourselves the qualities of those short masterpieces.

Here are the five nominees:

Dear basketball, Directed by Glen Keane, U.S., 5 min.
Based on a letter Kobe Bryant wrote announcing his retirement from basketball. Bryant reads his letter while we see him as a child full of hope and dreams. It has everything going for it, even a classy John Williams score. Beautiful.

Garden party, Directed by Gabriel Grapperon, Florian Babikian, Victor Caire, Vincent Bayoux, Théophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro, France, 7
Directed by students at an animation school in France. A few amphibians have taken over an abandoned mansion. Extremely well made, funny and disturbing short.

Lou, Directed by Dave Mullins, U.S., 6 min.
A creature made of items from the school’s lost and found box teach a lesson to a toy-stealing bully. From Pixar/Disney, but much less interesting than their earlier shorts.

Negative space, Directed by Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata, France, 5 min.
The sad relationship between a boy and his father, who is a traveling salesman. The father is often away on business, but he has taught his son the best way to pack a suitcase. Good animation.

Revolting rhymes, Directed by Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer, U.K., 28 min.
Adapted from a series illustrated books of poems from Roald Dahl. Fairy tale characters are modernized into a witty and amusing retelling. There is even a possible lesbian romance. Hey, this is 2018!

Additionally on the program there are these three more short films.

Lost property office, Directed by Daniel Agdag, Australia, 10 min.
At the Lost property office (meaning Lost and found) the custodian’s only friend is a toy robot and he spends the long hours listening to old records on his old gramophone. Hand–crafted stop-motion animated films is a bit of a bore. This film was on the Oscar shortlist, but was not retain as a nominee.

Weeds, Directed by Kevin Hudson, U.S., 3 min.
The short life of a flower on a hot sunny day. Clever but too short to have nay impact.
Achoo, Directed by Yuki Hirakawa, Japan, 5 min.
At a flame blowing contest for dragons, the littlest of dragons, blowing only tiny sparkles, doesn’t stand any chance.

And the Oscar went to…  Dear basketball won! Co-producer Kobe Bryant was there to accept the award.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Oscar nominated Animated shorts 2017


Various directors

Approx. 90 min.


A fantastic woman (Una mujer fantástica)

In A fantastic woman transgender actress Daniela Vega gives a stunning performance. Vega plays Marina, a young trans woman who works as a waitress and sometimes sings in a cabaret. She lives in Santiago, Chile with her lover, an older gentleman called Orlando (Francisco Reyes). One night, when Orlando suffers an aneurysm, Marina drives him to the hospital. Right from the start there are problems. Marina is looked at with suspicion and is treated with less respect that other spouses would. After Orlando dies, a female detective (Amparo Noguera), who claims to have worked on the street with other transgender, doesn’t seem to believe Marina’s version of events. Marina is forced to go through a humiliating medical exam. Some exam! Marina is asked to undress, while the doctor takes photos of her naked body. And then there is Orlando’s family. She gets along with Orlando’s brother, who is kind to her. But when she returns Orlando’s car to his ex-wife, Marina is called sick and depraved, and she’s told that she wont be allowed to go to Orlando’s funeral. She has to vacate Orlando’s apartment after his son threatens to throw her out. When against warnings Marina goes to the funeral to pay respect to her lover, she’s met with more threats and violence. It’s quite disturbing. But through it all, Daniela Vega shows us Marina facing society’s prejudice with dignity and defiance. A fantastic woman is quite suspenseful, as this reviewer sat on the edge of his seat for the entire film. When Marina, who has been studying classical singing, goes up on stage and sings Handel’s Ombra mai fu (Vega’s own voice) she is happy. A fantastic woman, indeed!

And the Oscar went to… A fantastic woman won the award for Best foreign language film. On the stage to accept the Oscar Sebastián Lelio introduced the stars of his film, Daniela Vega and Francisco Reyes. Later in the Oscar-cast, Daniela Vega presented the Best song nominee from Call me by my name.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


A fantastic woman (Una mujer fantástica)


Directed by:
Sebastián Lelio

Screenplay by:
Sebastián Lelio
Gonzalo Maza

Daniela Vega
Francisco Reyes
Luis Gnecco
Aline Küppenheim
Amparo Noguera

104 min.

In Spanish with English subtitles.

Happy end

Those who like Austrian director Michael Haneke’s films will be pleased to see this new film, Happy end. But not everyone will. Haneke brings back the father and daughter characters played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert in his last film, Amour. Huppert plays Anne Laurent, head of the dysfunctional Laurent family. The film starts with 12-year-old Eve Laurent (Fantine Harduin) filming her hospitalized mother with a smart phone, in text messages she claims to have poisoned her mother. Eve has to go live with her dad, Anne’s brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), at the family mansion. The whole family lives there: Thomas and his second wife, Anaïs (Laura Verlinden), Anne’s alcoholic son, Pierre (Franz Rogowski), and the senile patriarch, George (Jean-Louis Trintignant). An accident at the family owned construction site, during which a worker was killed, sends Pierre into erratic behaviors and drinking binges. Anne does the best she canto help him, but there seems to be nothing she can do. Eve finds out that her father has an internet sadomasochistic sexual relationship with another woman. As for George, he desperately would like to die. That accident he had with a car he’s not allowed to drive only put him in a wheelchair, and when he asks his barber to buy him a gun or some pills, the barber refuses. Haneke’s characters are not really likable, and he makes it harder to read subtitles. When we see text messages, the subtitles appear in very small letters at the bottom of the computer or the smart phone. This a very cynical, slow-moving film. I would describe it as a black drama, a black comedy without much humour. Not for everyone.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Happy end


Directed by:
Michael Haneke

Screenplay by:
Michael Haneke

Isabelle Huppert
Jean-Louis Trintignant
Mathieu Kassovitz
Toby Jones
Franz Rogowski
Fantine Harduin

115 min.

Rated 14A
In French and English with English subtittles.

Film stars don’t die in Liverpool

In Film stars don’t die in Liverpool, Annette Bening plays Gloria Grahame, a Best supporting actress Oscar winner in 1952 for The bad and the beautiful. The film is based on the memoirs of Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), a young British actor who became Grahame’s lover in the late 70s. There was close to 30 years difference between them. In 1981, soon after their break-up, Turner gets the news that Grahame is ill. She collapsed in her dressing room as she was about to go on stage in The glass menagerie. Turner goes to see her and he learns that she refuses to go to the hospital and does not want chemotherapy. All she wants is to go to Peter Turner’s house in Liverpool where she knows that Peter’s family will take care of her. Peter’s parents, Bella and Joe (Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham) are happy to help their friend Gloria but, along with Peter’s brother, Joe Jr. (Stephen Graham), they think that she should call her children and her doctors in New York. As Peter is making the decision to call them, he remembers the beginning of their love affair. Director Paul McGuigan’s flashbacks are so compelling. It’s like Turner sees his memories. He peeks through a door and peeks, literally, into his remembrance. You don’t often see the “young man in love” as very compelling characters. Those are usually the most boring characters. But there is such an emotional investment, both physical and intellectual, from Jamie Bell that we can’t help cheering for Peter Turner. The film is conceptually quite beautiful. I was surprised to see several scenes with rear projections matte paintings, methods that were in use in movies until the 1960s. It’s as if McGuigan wants to underline that Gloria Grahame was a 40s and 50s movie star. In 1981 her best year are behind her, that’s true. But the way Bening plays her, she’s still a star. Actually, Bening is a star playing a star. Whether she’s dancing disco with Peter or dying of cancer in bed, Gloria Grahame was a star. At some point Matt Greenhalgh’s screenplay switches the flashbacks from Peter’s point of view to Gloria’s. At that moment Annette Bening becomes a tragedienne. A tour-de-force acting from both Bell and Bening.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Film stars don’t die in Liverpool


Directed by:
Paul McGuigan

Screenplay by:
Matt Greenhalgh
Based on the memoir by Peter Turner

Annette Bening
Jamie Bell
Julie Walters
Vanessa Redgrave
Kenneth Cranham
Stephen Graham

105 min.