By Dan Skip Allen
The Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) at long last announced their awards on a one-hour broadcast on TNT & TBS simultaneously. The show was pre-recorded Wednesday and surprisingly there weren't any leaks, with the one exception being Wonder Woman 1984 being leaked as Best Stunt Ensemble, an award its predecessor won two years ago.
The show was littered with actor interviews and commentaries throughout the broadcast. The actors were gushing about the films they had seen and the other actors in the various categories other than themselves. This helped the one-hour broadcast go by very fast, but not as fast as if they had only announced the nominees and winners instead. This goes with the tradition of the SAG's having a few actors doing the "I Am An Actor" bit at the beginning of the broadcast each year. It helps to know a little bit about where these people come from and who they are as people before they were actors. I always like this cold opening on previous broadcasts.
The big winner on the night was Ma Rainey's Black Bottom pulling in the two leading actor awards out of a potential 4 awards it could have gotten. Chadwick Boseman won for the best performance by a leading actor in a movie for his role of Levy and Viola Davis won for best performance by a female in a movie. Boseman won posthumously and his widow accepted on his behalf. Does this bode well for these actors at the Academy Awards? Who knows? It's a good sign, though.
The other big award of the night was given to the huge cast of Trial of the Chicago 7, as it won the award for best ensemble in a movie. The cast made it the obvious choice to win, but the Academy Awards might have something different to say on the matter. They don't nominate because of the cast, they nominate because of the quality of the film as a whole. Aaron Sorkin and Sacha Baron Cohen both still have a chance to win as well at the Oscars.
The Best Supporting Actor and Actress Awards went to Daniel Kaluuya for Judas and the Black Messiah as Fred Hampton and Youn Yuh-jung for Minari as the feisty grandmother in the beautiful family drama. This might put a monkey wrench into an already confusing best-supporting actress race because somebody different has won at every awards ceremony so far: Maria Bakalova at the Critics Choice Awards, Jodie Foster at the Golden Globe Awards, and now Youn at the SAGs. Is this a good sign for Glenn Close? We will see.
If my predictions are to be believed on Gold Derby, the race in some of these categories isn't over yet. I went 2 for 6, and that's not very good. Boseman, Kaluuya, Zhao and Nomadland, and Soul seem like the only certainties going into the Academy Awards in three weeks. Maybe the BAFTAS can shine a little more light on this already confusing awards season so far.
By Sean Boelman
Every year, ShortsTV releases the Oscar-nominated short films in theaters, giving audiences the opportunity to see them before the ceremony and pick their favorites for the big night. As expected, this year’s batch of nominated documentaries spans from highly relevant and political to more personal stories of human interest. Below is our personal ranking of the films.
5. Hunger Ward
It seems that there has to be at least one documentary short nominated that is oppressively bleak to the point of being outright unpleasant to watch, and this year, that is Hunger Ward. Although the topic — starving children in war-torn third-world countries — is one that needs to be discussed, forty minutes of unflinching footage is just too much to bear after a certain point. Granted, this means it did accomplish its goal of horrifying the audience, but shock value alone does not make a powerful documentary.
Anthony Giacchino’s Colette offers an interesting biography of an extraordinary subject, but admittedly, it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the other documentaries we have seen about those fighting in the Resistance during WWII. It’s an interesting watch thanks to the fact that it has such a compelling story, but even at a mere twenty-four minutes, it ultimately feels like it stretches on for a bit too long. It holds its own among the nominees, but lacks that special factor to send it above and beyond.
3. A Concerto is a Conversation
Telling the story of co-director Kris Bowers, who is a successful film composer, A Concerto is a Conversation is a magnificent documentary that feels like it could be a winner if this year’s crop wasn’t so strong. Connecting personal experience with artistic expression, this is an intimate and poetic film that is probably the most beautiful of the five nominees. Additionally, the blend of a film-centric story with issues of racial identity are sure to earn this a lot of fans among viewers and voters.
2. A Love Song for Latasha
A Love Song for Latasha is the most ambitious of the five documentary shorts nominated this year, and also probably the most important. An experimental nonfiction film telling the story of a Black teenager who was murdered in a convenience store, one of the inciting factors of the L.A. riots of 1992, this is a soul-crushing film, but in a way that is thought-provoking. Particularly resonant given the recent surge in racially-motivated violence, it seems as if this has a good chance of winning thanks to its timeliness.
1. Do Not Split
There have been some good documentaries about the protests in Hong Kong and the shocking reaction that the Chinese government had to them, and Do Not Split adds another harrowing entry onto that list. There is some absolutely disgusting footage in this film, making it quite hard to watch, but it is still important to have discussions about this type of global event. Anders Hammer made this film very effectively, telling the story of these protestors in a way that is equal parts compelling and frustrating.
The 2021 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films are now in theaters and virtual cinemas.
By Dan Skip Allen
Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon have taken things back to the day of classic hand-drawn animation with their three films in the last decade: Song of the Sea, The Secret of the Kells, and Wolfwalkers, challenging the dominance of major studios like Disney and DreamWorks.
Disney has cornered the market on hand-drawn animated films for decades. They even had a renaissance in the '90s to secure themselves as the best animation studio ever. Then the age of computer animation started with Pixar. Disney eventually bought them to secure their place at the top of the animation mountain once again.
Over the past two decades, Illumination Media, Blue Sky, Studio Ghibli, Laika, and DreamWorks Animation have leveled the playing field. Cartoon Saloon hopes to take a bite out of that apple (pun intended) with their latest film Wolfwalkers, which is currently available to watch on Apple TV+.
The Secret of the Kells was the first of the Cartoon Saloon Films that came out in 2009. It's a story that takes place in the remote Irish woods, Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) prepares a fortress for an impending attack by a Viking war party. Unbeknown to Cellach, his young nephew Brendan (Evan McGuire) who has no taste for battle works secretly as an apprentice in the scriptorium of the local monastery, learning the ancient art of calligraphy. As the Vikings approach, revered illuminator Aidan (Mick Lally) arrives at the monastery and recruits Brendan to complete a series of dangerous, magical tasks. Tomm Moore and Mora Twomey directed this one from a script by Moore and Fabrice Ziolkowski.
The second film from Cartoon Saloon was Song of the Sea in 2014. An Irish youth, Ben (David Rawle), discovers that his mute sister Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell) is a selkie who must find her voice and free supernatural creatures from the spell of a Celtic goddess (Fionnula Flanagan). Directed by Moore and Written by Moore and Will Collins.
This past year, Wolfwalkers came out, making it the third film from Moore and Cartoon Saloon. In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), comes to Ireland with her father Bill Goodfellow (Sean Bean) to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mesh(Ava Whitaker), their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transform her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy. This one was written and directed by Moore and Ross Stewart.
Moore, the writer, director, and producer of these films is a native of Newry, Ireland. It makes sense that all his films are set in times and locations throughout Irish history. He has a lot of Irish lore to pull from to come up with these fantastic stories of his. They are set in a world of fantasy and imagination. Kids and adults of all ages can get behind these incredible movies.
As a bonus, all three of Moore's films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It's always great when your peers honor you and your work with awards or nominations for awards. Along with Moore's films, Mora Twomey's The Breadwinner from 2017 (another Cartoon Saloon film) was also nominated for an Academy Award in the category.
As a fan of great animated films from decades past, I can say Moore and Cartoon Saloon are doing a great job bringing back this long-forgotten artform. The hand-drawn animated film is something that is an amazing achievement when done right. Cartoon Saloon and Moore should be applauded for the great films they've created and the imagination they have created on screens of all sizes through the last decade.
By Sean Boelman
Every year, ShortsTV releases the Oscar-nominated short films in theaters, giving audiences the opportunity to see them before the ceremony and pick their favorites for the big night. While the animated selections are usually the most agreeable program, this year’s batch offers a good mix of crowd-pleasing and more experimental shorts. Below is our personal ranking of the films.
Every year, there is at least one nominee in one category that leaves viewers asking why and how it even got nominated in the first place. This year, that film is the Icelandic short Yes-People. Without any linguistic content, the film simply feels like watching a bunch of people doing random things in their day. Although this could theoretically be charming, a lackluster animation style and a lack of character development prevent this from being anything special. It’s almost an insult to the other films in the category that this was included.
4. Genius Loci
Genius Loci is one of the more abstract nominees this year, and while it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, at least it seems to have more of a point. There are some really wonderfully-animated scenes in the film, and the level of artistry on display from filmmaker Adrien Mérigeau shows that he has an exciting level of potential. At best, it’s a bit too much, and at worst, it’s altogether overwhelming, but it is consistently entertaining.
Every year, the Animated nominees include an obligatory Disney/Pixar short, but this year, Burrow isn’t the strongest contender. This cute exercise in world-building will win over some fans with its absolutely adorable animal protagonist, but it lacks the emotional impact that sets apart the best of the studio’s work. There were other films in the SparkShorts series this year, and they seem to have been more acclaimed and focus on more important issues, so why they went with this one is questionable. Still, it’s an easy and accessible watch.
Erick Oh’s short Opera is probably the most ambitious animated short nominated this year, but it isn’t a complete home run. There are some really interesting things happening in this intricate and detailed world in a mere nine minutes, so much so that viewers (and voters) may find themselves confused and overwhelmed after seeing it for the first time. That said, this is certainly a memorable film, and it demands repeat viewings and is conducive to discussion, which bodes well for people paying attention to it.
1. If Anything Happens I Love You
The best film in the category by a long shot, even if it isn’t perfect, If Anything Happens I Love You is a beautifully-made film telling a soul-crushing story. Although some will understandably accuse it of tear-jerking for the sake of it, this film will really resonate with audiences in a way that none of the other animated shorts do. And on top of that, it has the support of Netflix behind it, which can go a long way in marketing something in a lower-profile category like this.
The 2021 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films hit theaters and virtual cinemas on April 2.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.