I guess I should be talking about the editor noms for next Sunday’s, (Feb 26), Academy award ceremony, but, as usual, all nominated editors deserve the award, and, as I stated previously, I hope Thelma Schoonmaker gets it for Hugo just because she’s will break a three way tie with three male editors and be the first editor to take home four Oscars.
So, on to what caught my eye this week: The five animated shorts nominated by the Academy this year:
Dimanche (Sunday) – France
A Morning Stroll – U.S.A.
Wild Life – Canada
La Luna – U.S.A.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – U.S.A.
A short film, according to AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) rules, must have a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits. The bunch I saw ran from seven to fifteen minutes. While there were female producers and other female crew, the shorts were all directed by men and mostly featured male characters.
As I sat in a local theatre, watching short after short, I was awed by the marvelous ideas and images. I also noticed that animation can play much faster and looser with transitions in time and place, and therefore story as all took leaps unfeasible in live action shorts – or longs for that matter. As I watched short after short, soaking up the clever images accompanying the good stories, I waited for the film that would soar into the stratosphere with a story and theme above the others. It finally came in the form of…
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Since I saw it this 2-D flick in the theatre, I have now watched it three times online – twice with other people who were equally entranced – and I am still seeing things. View it yourself and see what you think and if you agree that it deserves the Oscar.
It’s a 15-minute fable from Shreveport, LA based Moonbot Studios that uses CGI and miniatures to tell the tale of a book lover and writer who lives in the New Orleans. Since it has no dialogue, it qualifies as a silent film, though there’s music and spare sound effects. Throughout the movie the “Pop Goes the Weasel” melody plays – slow, fast, upbeat, forlornly, etc. – always underscoring the mood of the moment. The animation allows for some unexplained moments – or at least I didn’t figure them out – but they are part of the charm and power of the medium. Also, if you spell out the central character’s name syllable by syllable – “morr is less more” it’s a bit nonsensical.
The real genius of Moonbot’s creation is that it’s both a book and a film, evocative of the “live” paintings in the Harry Potter movies and books but much more. Let me explain…
In the first act a Katrina-like storm destroys the city and his book, literally spinning his life in a new direction. In his porkpie hat, body, and actions, Morris is a ringer for Buster Keaton. The film also pays homage to the Wizard of Oz when it reverses the tornado scene, transitioning from colorful New Orleans to a colorless land of destruction where the storm deposits houses drop from the sky, upside down, and Morris emerges from one of them. The act ends with a black out.
The second act then begins with Morris in Bookland (my term) where the color slowly seeps back into the landscape and opened books fly like birds, flutter their “wings” like butterflies, and walk on stilt like legs. The power of the reaction shot is proven once again as books – primarily an old fashioned copy of Humpty Dumpty – react to Morris – laughing, urging, crying, etc. often via flip book motion.
As the act progresses, Morris revives a book in an operating theatre as one books becomes a heart monitor machine, another a heart pump, another provides operating instructions, and a third looks on – Humpty Dumpty again – with encouragement and concern. He also revives the local population, handing books via a takeout window. The people are colorless until they receive their book – in color – which breathes color into them. Morris also takes up writing his own book again inside a 19th century library – his new, post-hurricane home – where books form his family.
The third act shows Morris, now gray-haired, finishing his opus, and completing the hand off of it and his library-home to the next generation.
The animation allows for some unexplained moments – or at least I didn’t figure them out – but they are part of the charm and power of the medium. Also, if you spell out the central character’s name syllable by syllable – “morr is less more” it’s a bit nonsensical.
Lastly, the film is avilable as an interactive e-Book on iPad, completing the translation of book to film and back and placing it firmly in 2012. In the end it’s the force of story that holds the viewer-reader attention as “book” and “film” meld and the words lose their meaning. Long may the force be with us!
But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself in this trailer for the iPad app. Yes! A trailer – another connector between the world of film and books. (FYI: I haven’t accepted a dime from any commercial sources so far on this site and will let you know when I do. I just rave or pan as I see it.)
Awards, Joy goes to the movies