Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 Hugo Nominees: Dram. Pres., Short Form - “The Lost Thing,” written by Shaun Tan and “F*** Me, Ray Bradbury,” written by Rachel Bloom

Let’s begin with the sexually-charged paean to the ninety-year-old science fiction writer by a young parodist of Britney Spears…….

….it’s cute. And somewhat clever. That’s about all I have to say about it. It’s nothing particularly meaningful and important, and it’s not trying to be. I wouldn’t have nominated it for this award, and it certainly shouldn’t win, but I did chuckle the first time I saw it. I’m tempted to launch into a discussion of third-wave feminism, but that seems silly, and I’m saving my long-winded, over-analyzing tangent for the next nominee.

Shaun Tan’s “The Lost Thing” already won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, but I’m sure Tan would rather have this Hugo. It’s pretty clear that this category was designed for tv, but it is ideal for short films, and I’m surprised they haven’t done better here, especially with the profusion of animated short films in the past decade plus.

This sixteen-minute computer animated feature follows a narrator in a dystopic world. He finds a strange creature on the beach; it’s a ceramic-steampunky-tentacled-crab thingie that can’t really be categorized. He tries to find it a home, but no one really wants anything to do with it. The soulless bureaucratic world just wants to bury it.

The message of this film is a bit amorphous. Over the course of this blog, I’ve decided that there are two main types of dystopia: let’s call them social dystopias and cultural dystopias. Social dystopias look at what could go wrong with the societal issues we face: ecological limits, overpopulation, totalitarianism, economic divides, etc. Cultural dystopias look at worlds destroyed by reality tv or people not reading novels as much as they used to. Every dystopia is a little bit of both, but the origins tend to lie in one or the other. 1984 give us the culture of doublespeak, but it all springs from political trends that Orwell absorbed from his contemporary world. Meanwhile, Fahrenheit 451 (speaking of the oh-so-*bleep*able Mr. Bradbury) shows us a totalitarian world that springs from addiction to daytime soaps. I really prefer the former examination of societal issues than the complaints about cultural trends. I mean, I really hate those Real Housewife shows, but I don’t think they spell the end of civilization as we know it. And, once upon a time, people thought novels were low culture.

What’s my point? I don’t know. I guess I’m trying to say that the film’s condemnation of conformity, bureaucracy, and consumerism felt trite and pointless, as such things usually do to me. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it though. The designs are fantastic; the bland dystopia is wonderfully conveyed in the art direction, and we see all sorts of great, oddball creatures, especially the titular Thing. It is a very cute film, and I’m glad it was nominated. I hope more short films get nominated in the future, and I’m a little worried that this only made the cut because the previous Wondercon was held in its originating nation of Australia.

Grades: “Bleep Me, Ray Bradbury” B-
“The Lost Thing” A-

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