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MOSTLYFILM: Shortly Oscars 2016

A little #OscarsSoWhite puzzle for you, courtesy of The Guardian (search for 'Oscar nominees class photo'): can you spot Sanjay's Super Team director Sanjay Patel in the lineup of this year's Oscar nominees? Click to see the answer.The Oscars are coming! Who's excited? Well, yeah, I see your point. But over the last couple of years, I've been taking an interest in the short film categories: particularly since I discovered the ways in which you can watch them all together, either as a theatrical package or an iTunes downloadable bundle. Indy Datta and I have taken it upon ourselves to watch the nominees for Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short respectively, and we've reviewed them for MostlyFilm in 2013 and 2015.

You probably won't be surprised to hear that we've just done it all over again. So over at MostlyFilm you can read Shortly Oscars 2016, our joint review of this year's nominees, which I think are overall the best we've encountered since we started doing this.

Back in 2013, it was possible to link to YouTube videos of all the shorts in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. Those days are long gone, frankly. If you want to play along before this Sunday's announcement of the winners, you can buy a bundle containing all of the Live Action and a frustrating three of the Animated Shorts on iTunes. As ever, Disney are refusing to let their short into the package: more surprisingly, We Can't Live Without Cosmos isn't in there, despite (or because of?) it being watchable for free on YouTube courtesy of The New Yorker. (Unfortunately, that video is geoblocked outside of the US - feel free to watch it if you live there, or can somehow persuade YouTube that you do.) Anyway, if you're a cheapskate who doesn't want to pay for an incomplete collection of films, you can watch the following bundle of clips 'n' trailers ungeoblocked and for nowt, as the official Red Button Backup Content for the piece.

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MOSTLYFILM: Highs And Lows

Just to clarify: the character of Jun in Anthem Of The Heart has suffered a major emotional trauma and hasn't spoken for a decade. Despite this, the manufacturers of Meiji chocolates thought she'd be a perfect frontwoman for one of their adverts. Click on the picture if you don't believe me.The relationship between the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme and MostlyFilm has been a close one since 2012. Each year, I'm sent a package of DVD screeners from the latest collection of new and classic Japanese cinema being shown around the UK, and I write a review of them for Europe's Best Website. (Here's how that looked in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.) This year, the programme is the biggest one yet - fourteen films in total, with an overall theme indicated by the title IKIRU: The Highs and Lows of Life in Japanese Cinema.

During the week between Christmas and New Year, a large Jiffy bag plopped through the letterbox at Ch√Ęteau Belated-Monkey, containing DVDs of ten of those fourteen films. It took me a month to get through them all, but I did, and the resulting reviews appeared on MostlyFilm last Friday (the opening day of the tour) under the title Highs And Lows.

The tour's been running for nearly a week now, during which time I've managed to see the final four films in the collection during their run at the ICA in London. So, for completeness' sake, the Red Button Bonus Material for my MostlyFilm review will cover those four films, plus some extra bits and pieces too.

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Simian Substitute Site For February 2016: Chinese Zodiac - Year Of The Monkey

Chinese Zodiac - Year Of The MonkeyMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JANUARY 2016

Movies: It's exactly ten years since I first discovered the delights of the British Animation Awards, and more specifically their Public Choice award. As part of their biannual roundup of the best animation being produced in Britain, they'd send a touring programme of new short films around the country, and get general audiences to vote on their favourite. The Belated Birthday Girl and I have had a blast doing just that in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. This year, however, things are a bit more complicated. Various commitments of one sort or another mean we're only able to attend one of the three London screenings this year (which is a shame, because they've moved from BFI Southbank to the newly-restored Regent Street Cinema, which is lovely). But there have been a few other changes to the Public Choice voting that I'm worried about: primarily, that the number of screening venues has been reduced, and they're mostly colleges rather than public cinemas. Also, why isn't there any advertising work on the shortlist any more? Assuming that you can get to one of the screenings, the quality is as high as ever, if Programme 1 of the three is anything to go by. For me, the highlights from that selection are Rory Waudby-Tolley's Mr Madila, a variation on the Creature Comforts interview idea that rapidly shoots off in multiple other directions: and Owen Rixon's Toonocalypse, which is nothing less than a low-budget Edinburgh Cloverfield only not shit.

Music: This month's playlist... well, you know. Meanwhile, in other music news, you'll recall that last December I presented my Pick Of The Year CD for 2015, along with the usual competition to win a copy of the CD for yourselves. The idea this time was that you had to guess what my weight was at the time the compilation was announced. And once again, congratulations to Dave for his usual efforts in scooping the prize, even though I was slightly insulted by his overestimate. (He went for 83kg: the actual figure was 77kg.)

Theatre: It's always interesting when you come back from seeing a bit of theatre, do some research and realise there was something you missed. Here's a good example: Grey Gardens, running at the Southwark Playhouse in London until February 6th. With music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie and book by Doug Wright, it's the story of two of America's most famous cat ladies - Edith Bouvier Beale (Sheila Hancock) and 'Little' Edie Beale (Jenna Russell), the aunt and cousin respectively of Jackie Kennedy. By the early seventies they were living together in Grey Gardens, a derelict estate in the Hamptons. The musical comes in two halves - first looking at their heyday in 1941, then contrasting it with how they lived in 1973. It's an entertaining enough piece of work, but the audience reaction the night I was there seemed disproportionately crazed throughout. I was aware that the Maysles brothers had made a movie on the same subject in the seventies, so I looked it up on YouTube: and then I worked it out. What the audience was raving about, presumably, was that this is a pitch perfect conversion of a documentary film to a stage musical. The look, the performances and most of the dialogue are directly reproduced from the movie, which is one hell of a technical achievement. Scott Frankel's programme notes say that one of their aims in the show was to "connect with an audience of Grey Gardens neophytes," and it's definitely good enough to do that. But if you already know the film, then I suspect you'll have an infinitely better time. 

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