Note From Jon


Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to watch thirteen Oscar nominated shows in one week

Last weekend--once the writer’s strike ended and I realized the Academy Awards would be more than a Golden-Globe press conference—I took a look at the Oscar nominees… and realized I hadn’t seen a single one… in any category (ok, so I saw The Bourne Ultimatum which has some sound and editing nominations). I then set about to catch up (actually it was more coincidental that it appears), and saw Juno, Michael Clayton, and No Country for Old Men during the week. Juno was easily my favorite but I can see why No Country is considered the likely winner.

The real highlight for me though was finally getting to see the Oscar-nominated shorts this year. For several years, The National Archives has screened the shorts (and nominated documentaries) for free and I took full advantage on Saturday. I expected to enjoy the animated shorts more than the live-action shorts, but even though they were nearly all impressive, on the whole I felt the live-action pieces were more enjoyable. All of the shorts were more traditional than I’d expected (for some reason I had anticipated some extremely avant-garde live-action shorts, but they were all easy-to-follow linear pieces). The most unusual (and least enjoyable, at least for me) turned out to be the animated Madame Tutli-Putli.

My favorite short of the day was the Italian live-action short called The Substitute (Spoiler alert–in case you expect to have more success in watching the shorts than I’ve had until this year), about a dynamic substitute teacher who storms into a classroom and captivates the students before going right out the window when the real substitute teacher arrives. Had it ended there, it would have been a cute, clever piece, but it followed the “substitute” returning to his high-powered office job with a lesson he picked up from one of the students. That’s what, for me, gave it the edge over Tanghi Argentini, where a man gets crash-course-Tango-lessons from a co-worker in an attempt to woo an internet date, with humorous results and a twist nearly as good as The Substitute. At Night, the serious piece of the collection, wove a story about three young women in a cancer ward around New Years, and I could see it winning as well.

On the animated side, the most entertaining was “Even Pigeons go to Heaven”, but they all impressed me with either their story or their animation (even the indecipherable Madame Tutli-Putli had some impressive facial expressions). My vote will probably go to “I Met the Walrus” which is an actual archived conversation with John Lennon conducted by a 14-year old who snuck into John’s hotel room and scored an interview, set to mesmerizing animations.

I expect to make a habit of blocking out Oscar weekend in the future to spend watching shorts at The National Archives.

Notes to Jon:
• Tickets are handed out (one per person—so everyone attending must be present) an hour before show-time. I believe everyone in line an hour beforehand got tickets, but they ran out shortly thereafter so to get better seats it’s a good idea to show up 15-30 minutes before tickets are distributed.

• Dress warm. Once you get the ticket an hour before the show, you will probably stay outside to hold your place in line to get good seats when they open the doors a half hour before the show.

• The William G. McGowan theatre has about 250 luxurious seats, all of which appear to provide a good view, so standing in line to get a prime seat is really only necessary if a group is trying to sit together.

• No food or drinks are allowed in the Archives… which means: Don’t hold your group’s place in line while they pick up a Chai for you, because once you enter they won’t be able to bring the drink to you (not that we tried that or anything…)

• My live-action rankings:

5) The Tonto Woman
4) The Mozart of Pickpockets
3) Tanghi Argentini
2) At Night
1) The Substitute

• My animated rankings:

5) Madame Tutli-Putli
4) Peter and the Wolf
3) My Love
2) I Met The Walrus
1) Even Pigeons Go To Heaven

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