I went to various film festivals in LA and San Diego, showed my film at DreamWorks Animation, and got to see all the nominated short films, thanks to Shorts International, the distributor of all nominated shorts and my own film. My review and filmmaker interviews below for my 5 favorite.
5. Wild Life (Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby, National Film Board of Canada)
Wild Life is about a mild-mannered and refined Englishman who travels to Alberta, Canada to be a cowboy and rancher. But, the people that live there don’t take kindly to Englishmen, since they are not suited for a rough life on the prairies of the Wild West. The Englishman is indeed that way, preferring to engage in hobbies like badminton, drinking, bird watching, horse racing, and writing letters. This leaves him little time for tending to the cattle and the ranch.
I didn’t really enjoy this film. Although the 2D animation is pretty good with an interesting style, and reminds me of oil paintings, the storyline was boring and dragged on too long. The “short” film lasted 13 minutes and was mostly talking heads. Wild Life didn’t really engage me and most of the time I just felt bored of the conversations. Finally, this story didn’t have a strong moral or any emotional message. I give Wild Life 3 starfish.
4. Dimanche (Sunday) (Patrick Doyan, National Film Board of Canada)
In the film Sunday, a young Canadian boy’s family tradition is to go to his grandparents’ house and talk with relatives after church in their drab, rural town on Sunday. The kid is bored by his relatives’ incessant conversations, which remind him of the squawking of crows. The boy decides to try something more interesting: He flattens a coin on a railroad track, but a curious, hungry bear gets in the way.
Although this film didn’t have a strong moral or message, the animation was pretty entertaining. There were some funny parts in the film, like when the boy notices that his relatives talk like crows. But the lack of emotional depth made me favor other films more. I think Sunday deserves 3.5 starfish.
3. A Morning Stroll (Grant Orchard, Studio AKA)
Throughout the time periods of 1959, 2009, and 2059, a chicken has a morning routine of walking through the bustling streets of New York and pecking on a door to be let in. Only one man sees this strange occurrence. Although things, habits, and styles change over the century, the chicken’s early morning stroll remains a steadfast routine.
I really enjoyed this short film that shows how times have changed, but some things remain the same. I really like the style of the 1959 segment because it uses few, simple yet expressive lines to tell the story. In contrast, the 2009 segment uses various different lines and vibrant colors to illustrate the scenes. Finally, the 2059 segment uses truly realistic animation to get all the texture and shades to make it more life-like. I am impressed with the director’s creativity in storytelling, and how he constructed the story in three time periods. I noticed the film showed the decline of civilization and manners. In 1959, people were well-mannered and polite to each other in New York. But, in 2009 a man didn’t even apologize when he spilled coffee all over another person’s shirt. I give this funny and interesting film 4 starfish.
2. La Luna (Enrico Casarosa, Pixar)
A young Italian boy learns about his family’s unusual job on the moon. He discovers a magical world of shiny, golden stars on the surface of the moon, and at the same time feels stuck between his arguing father and grandfather, who quarrel over things like how to wear a hat and how to hold a broom. He is not sure if he should follow the example of his father or his grandfather, or to find a way of his own.
This 4 starfish film ranks second on my list because it really shows the magic of childhood wonder. The film shows that other people’s ideas are not always right, and that you can find your own way to do things in the midst of an argument.
1. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg, Moonbot Studios)
After a devastating hurricane, a young author and book-lover named Morris Lessmore loses all the pleasure in life. But, after seeing a miraculous vision of magical flying books, he discovers a sanctuary of knowledge and joy with flying books in a library. There, he has many exciting adventures, including fixing old books and discovering the joys in life again through stories. He opens the library and shares his joy with others.
I first saw this film at the Burbank International Film Festival in Sep 2011, and knew instantly that it was a “Perrific!” film. The beautiful animation is absolutely magical, and the music is brilliant. The deep message behind the rather whimsical story shows the healing power of stories and books after a devastating hurricane. Something I noticed in the film (at 10 min 10 sec) was that Morris misspelled the word “weasel” as “weasle” as he was writing in his book. A dictionary confirmed that there is no such word, although this is a trivial flaw. I wondered why Morris misspelled this word even though he is such a literary man. I would have given the film 5 instead of 4.5 starfish without this flaw.
Perry S. Chen is an 12-year-old award-winning film critic, artist, entertainment personality, filmmaker and animator. He has written movie reviews for San Diego Union Tribune, Animation World Network, Amazing Kids!, and his own website Perry’s Previews (http://perryspreviews.com). His first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” about a young Holocaust survivor won “Best Animation Award” for age 8-13 group at the 17th International Family Film Festival in Hollywood, and has been acquired for worldwide distribution by Shorts International, distributor of Oscar-nominated shorts. Connect with him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/perryspreviewsfan