“The Gruffalo” concerns a mouse saving his skin by outwitting a fox, an owl and a snake via a tale about the titular fabled monster in order to save his own skin. Crisp-looking and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, it's one joke too long at 27 minutes.
France’s “Madagascar, A Journey Diary” plays like a colorful travelogue of the island nation and utilizes a range of animation styles and a boisterous score, while “Let’s Pollute” takes a tongue-in-cheek look at our endangered environment by spoofing the educational films of yesteryear.
Australia’s “The Lost Thing” is a charming fantasy of much imagination, about a young man who finds and befriends a tentacled beast on the beach to which no one else pays attention. The playful “Day & Night,” seen in front of “Toy Story 3” last summer, finds personifications of just that struggling to co-exist.
Britain’s “The Confession” follows two boys nervously awaiting their first confession to the priest. What essentially begins lighthearted turns tragic, as mischief begets more than enough misery. Ireland’s “The Crush” concerns another grade-schooler, this one in love with his fetching teacher; the youth challenges her boyfriend to a duel to the death.
In “Wish 143,” a teenage virgin dying of cancer tells the Make-A-Wishesque Dreamscape Foundation that all he wants to do is have sex. It’s touching, not raunchy. Despite having the best soundtrack, “God of Love” is the only limp offering of the bunch, a blackand-white comedy about a mop-headed hipster being a modern-day Cupid, but stumbling in landing love for himself.
Finally, “Na Wewe” depicts bus passengers’ tense, roadside brush with South African rebels ready to commit an act of ethnic cleansing.
WIN THE POOL!
Whether played in the office or at a party, the Oscar pool usually comes down to who wins at predicting the victors in the shorts categories. Because even the most ardent moviegoers more than likely have seen none of them — excepting whatever’s shown in front of Pixar’s latest feature — they cast their vote by title. Not this year, you don’t!
In live-action, go for “Na Wewe.”
It doesn’t matter how you pronounce it. Just know that its theme of the disenfranchised standing up to oppressive forces often translates to Oscar gold.
In animated, people always assume Pixar has it in the bag. Not so: It’s actually lost the category twice as many times than it’s won (6-3). However, look to “Day & Night” to put another notch in Pixar’s plus column. It’s simple, partly hand-drawn and, at six minutes, has the virtue of brevity on its side. Plus, it imparts an Very Special Message.
Should these picks pay off, you can send my 15-percent cut to me here at the Gazette. I even take checks.