Movies: Life Itself, The Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts
This is the 2014 documentary about the life and times of the late film critic Roger Ebert.
I really don't have much to say about it. I already knew most of the facts about Ebert's life, being an avid reader of his blog for some time. And while the man was a wonderful writer, the story of his life didn't feel powerfully affecting to me -- which is a shame, because Steve James (of Hoop Dreams fame) directs the hell out of the piece, mixing the usual documentarian's bag of tricks with clever bits of kinetic type to tell Ebert's story.
That said, the depiction of Ebert's final years, in and out of hospitals, with rapidly declining mobility and catastrophically-failing health, was really rough to watch. As I've said before, there are no good deaths in my family, and this footage dredged up a lot of difficult memories, and a lot of persistent anxieties for the future. Though I was relatively detached from much of the film, I just had to cry at the end. Dying is tough.
The Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts
For yet another year, the Alamo Drafthouse has done right by its patrons by showing a program of the year's Oscar-nominated animated shorts, along with a number of honorable mentions. As usual, it's hard for me to say much about the program in aggregate, other than that there was a pleasing variety, and a sense that animators are using the proliferating array of tools available to them to do absolutely *anything they want*.
I was so happy to see the National Film Board of Canada represented with "A Bus Story", which is every bit as NFB-y as old delights like "The Cat Came Back" and "Bob's Birthday". Lindsey tells me they have a wildly-popular children's show now, which I think is just awesome.
Meanwhile, some other entries were a bit ho-hum. Disney's Feast was visually stunning and technically innovative, straddling the line between cel animation and CGI à la "Paperman", but I never really connected with the story. "Sweet Cocoon" was a cute, A Bug's Life sort of CGI short -- while it was delightfully French (watching a stinkbug offer an unimpressed Gallic shrug is a real joy), it didn't really add up to much.
There were two real standouts in the collection. "The Bigger Picture" is a shattering story of two brothers caring for their dying mum (I just can't get away from this topic, can I?), done in a style of animation I have literally never seen before, with stop-motion objects blending seamlessly into animated wall-paintings. And the absolute winner for the night was "The Dam Keeper" an animated painting about a young pig having a tough time at elementary school. Yes, it's full of anthropomorphic animals, but it is so keenly observant, and so true to what it's like to be that age, that I was fighting back tears through the whole thing. Seek it out if you possibly can.
P.S. Another blogger has covered the program in considerable detail (spoilers ahoy)!
For next week: I'm watching season one of the overlooked animated gem Bob and Margaret while exercising. I'm between books at the moment, both on my Kindle and on audio, while I deal with a whirlwind of job-hunting. Lindsey and I are still listening to Welcome to Night Vale. We've started watching season two of Community (which is amazing) as well as Galavant (which is very, very silly).
Mood: contemplative · Music: none