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Tonight's FNatM is by chingchongchinaman.

With the Oscars coming up Sunday night, 'tis time for an Oscar-themed FNatM.  However, since 3CM has actually not seen all of the Best Picture nominees, the only categories where he's actually semi-qualified to discourse on all the nominees are actually the two short films categories, live action and animation.  The nominees are:

Live action:
(1) Kavi
(2) The New Tenants
(3) Miracle Fish
(4) The Door
(5) Instead of Abracadabra

Animated:
(1) French Roast
(2) The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
(3) A Matter of Loaf and Death
(4) Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
(5) Logorama

The local indie chain recently had a limited run of both sets.  Having seen both, random comments below the flip....

I. The live action set:  unlike last year's set, there doesn't seem to be an amazingly obvious choice to me.  What's curious, however, is the emotionally dark tone of the 1st 4:

(1) Kavi: slave labor in India is the setting, with Kavi seeing the rich, prep-school kids nearby able to play cricket.  The "business" owner pushes Kavi to work harder, with maybe the chance to play cricket as a reward.  There's also two guys later in the story who, at first glance, might appear to be sleazebags with designs on the kid.  However, later in the story, you realize that the first impression is deceiving, and it's obvious who the real sleazebag is.
(2) The New Tenants: the one American entry, at least in terms of the actors (including Vincent D'Onofrio) and setting (NYC).  There's a fair bit of violence, verbal and physical, including guns and a crowbar, tied to a bag of white, powdery stuff which the one new tenant thinks initially is flour, which he offers to the pesky neighbor to bake pastry for her daughter.  (It isn't, and the plot devolves from there.)
(3) Miracle Fish: a kid, after being dropped off at school by his mom (Tara Morice, the ugly-duckling turned dance swan from Strictly Ballroom), gets picked on by the other kids at school, being kind of a loner (and a loser - of course, 3CM would note that).  He sort of wishes that he could get away from all that, with the help of a "miracle fish" from his lunch box, sort of a good-luck charm.  Well, after sort of hiding away in what looks like the nurse's bay, he leaves the room and finds the school....deserted.  He plays around for a while, all alone, but then the reason why the school is deserted becomes clear.
(4) The Door: it starts with a guy breaking into a home, with what looks like the authorities on guard for any trespassers.  Your first thought is some sort of post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world atmosphere, which turns out to be the case, but not in any sort of aliens/mutant virus taking over the earth.  Instead, it becomes clear that the "end of the world" is based on the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, and eventually we learn what the guy is looking for at the home and what the title means.  The end titles reveal the true-life persons behind the story.
(5) Instead of Abracadabra: this is the one exception to the set of nominees, in that it's the only comedy.  However, even it has a violent streak here, if of a cartoonish bent.  The story, set in Sweden, deals with Tomas, out-and-out loser (25, still living with his parents) and pretty lousy magician, who falls for the new neighbor next door, a single mom and nurse (and since this is Sweden, she's blond and gorgeous - she might even be blue-eyed too, can't remember).  The violence comes from the fact that some of his magic tricks go wrong, such as when he asks his mom to get into a sword box, and Tomas tries to demonstrate his skills with swords accordingly.  It doesn't go well.  (She survives to the end of the film, but not without a trip to the hospital post-sword.)  There's also the explanation of why Tomas spends much of the film a patch over his left eye.  It involves a trick flower.  The same gag repeats itself at the end.

If I had to guess, based on the same principle as "the Holocaust film always wins" from last year and Toyland, my guess would be that The Door will win.

Second, the animated set of nominees has their share of bleakness and black humor as well, although there almost has to be more humor with the animated features, almost by their nature.  
(1) French Roast: perhaps the "lightest" in spirit, in that no one actually gets offed in this story of a guy who can't pay for his coffee because he's misplaced his wallet.  He keeps ordering more coffee to put off the moment when he has to pay (really dumb, even w/o thinking about it).  You could argue that there's something uncomfortable at one moment about how the guy tries to get the money to pay the bill....
(2) The Lady and the Reaper: death actually haunts the whole story here, as an old woman misses her late husband, and is sort of waiting for the moment when she'll "see" him again.  It's about to occur, with the Grim Reaper even stopping by, until.....she's taken to the hospital and revived.  The short becomes a roller-coaster duel (almost literally so) between the doctor and the Reaper for claiming the old woman.
(3) A Matter of Loaf and Death: the latest Wallace & Gromit film, actually first shown on TV in the UK in late 2008.  Just having "death" in the title might seem a turnoff, especially when the plot deals with a dozen bakers in the town being murdered under mysterious circumstances.  However, it's Wallace & Gromit, and if you're a fan, you know what to expect :) .
(4) Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty: basically a demented take on the old "Sleeping Beauty" fairy tale, where an embittered grandmother uses the story as the occasion to rant about how the ugly fairy in the story is constantly put down by the other, prettier fairies and the castle folk where the child Sleeping Beauty resides.  She isn't projecting about herself, is she? ;)
(5) Logorama: by far the most self-consciously satirical of the shorts, since every image in the film is a corporate logo, including Ronald McDonald as a vicious joy-riding killer and Michelin Men as various law-enforcement types.  Lots of profanity, gunfire, and even a global warming warning tossed towards the end as a mega-natural disaster spins the film towards its conclusion.

The most obvious popular choice would be A Matter of Loaf and Death, because of the fame of Nick Park and Wallace & Gromit:

However, the plethora of US voices in Logorama, even though it's a French production.....

Anyway, just shining some light into a slightly out of the spotlight section of the Oscars, for your Friday night.  Below, have fun talking about movies you've seen recently, or even not so recently.

Originally posted to Friday Night at the Movies on Fri Mar 05, 2010 at 05:46 PM PST.

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