and the 2016 nominees are...

the coolidge

This is Ian and I's seventh year watching the Oscar-nominated animated shorts (our sixth at the Coolidge Corner Theatre). While this year's nominees didn't feel as compelling overall as in previous years, we still enjoyed our continuing tradition. Our prediction record is now 3 for 5, counting just the years we've seen all the animated shorts. I'm still disappointed The Dam Keeper didn't win last year — Disney seems to be our prediction kryptonite. But especially since there's not a Disney short in the mix this year, here's hoping we're 4 for 6 after tonight!

Sanjay's Super Team — Sanjay, a first-generation Indian boy, loves super heroes. But when his beloved cartoons conflict with his father's Hindu prayers, he is forced to reconcile his western culture with his storied heritage. I can relate to Sanjay's experiences as a first-generation American trying to balance his two identities. Through an entertaining story and beautiful visuals, Pixar reminds us that a fresh perspective is sometimes all we need to bring different worlds together.

World of Tomorrow — A little girl suddenly finds herself transported to the world of the distant future, where humanity has made vast strides in the effort to extend life. The short finds laugh-out-loud humor through the juxtaposition of an innocent toddler with the strange experiences of her glitchy digital future self. This contrast also illustrates technological "progress" is not always what it seems, and the short manages to deeply explore questions of life and what it means to be human. Its minimalist but clever animation is fresh and incredibly fitting. This is our bet to take home the Oscar.

Bear Story (Historia de un Oso) — An old bear spends his days as a street entertainer, telling his life story as a kidnapped circus bear through an intricate and beautiful mechanical diorama. The diorama is a unique and impressive storytelling device, but I felt the story itself was missing an intangible spark.

We Can't Live Without Cosmos — From the director of Lavatory, Love Story, this short follows two lifelong friends as they train to be cosmonauts, following their shared dream of making it to the stars. With delightful bits of humor sprinkled in, Cosmos explores the idea of shared dreams, friendship, and failure.

Prologue — The ancient war between Sparta and Athens is brought into sharp, hand drawn detail as four warriors battle to the death. This was a graphic and intense short, noted as "not suitable for young viewers." The well composed animation with realistic human rendering was astounding, but the story itself wasn't as thought-provoking as I would have hoped, given the dark and deep subject matter.

Highly Commended Shorts
If I Was God — A middle school boy daydreams about ultimate power during a science class frog dissection. The claymation was a perfect medium for this hilariously awkward coming of age story. We've enjoyed all the selections we've seen out of Canada's NFB, which produced Bus Story in 2015 and Wild Life and Sunday/Dimanche in 2012, and this year did not disappoint.

The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse — A mouse, alone and without cover, escapes one danger only to enter a bigger predicament. But an unexpected alliance at the right moment can change everything. The pale winter scenes and bright animals were a beautiful way to tell a sweet if predictable story.

The Loneliest Stoplight — At the intersection of two local roads, an old stoplight tells his life story, from installation to obsolescence to one shining moment thanks to a pileup on the freeway. It's a classic story of small town charm versus the efficiency of progress, retold through an unexpected lens. This was another solid short from Bill Plympton, the animator behind last year's Footprints and one of our all-time favorites, The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger.

Catch It — A meerkat family has been anticipating the day they can finally enjoy the fruitful bounty of a nearby tree. When a vulture swoops in and steals their prize, the meerkats fight back, only to learn sometimes victory isn't so sweet.

As always, we enjoyed all of the shorts, and highly recommend catching them if you have the opportunity. Have fun watching the Oscars, and may the best films win!

*update: we predicted World of Tomorrow, but Bear Story took home the Oscar.

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cranberries on the Cape

cranberries on the cape

In October, my parents headed to New England for a visit. Since we'd already shown them around Boston (twice, in four parts), we thought the new family outpost on the Cape would be perfect for a long weekend visit. And while they arrived a bit early to enjoy peak fall foliage, the cranberry harvest was in full force.

Saturday morning, we headed to the 12th Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration at the A.D. Makepeace Company, a founding member of the Ocean Spray grower-owned cooperative (Ocean Spray commercials are, coincidentally, one of my favorite ad campaigns).

cranberries on the cape

For a small entry fee, visitors could watch the cranberry harvest, shop at a giant cranberry-focused outdoor market (with lots of free samples), and enjoy good food and music. The weather was beautiful, so we slowly meandered our way to the main events: a bridge overlooking the cranberry harvest and tour around the bogs. We hopped on a flatbed trailer with hay bale seating and learned all about cranberry farming.

For most of the year bogs are dry — irregularly shaped depressions in the ground covered in bramble, which look nothing like a quaint New England postcard. In the fall, farmers flood bogs for harvesting, and suddenly they are transformed into those iconic shimmering, ruby red ponds.

Coming from a rural Kansas farming background, we were struck at the similarities between cranberry and wheat harvesting (substituting water for air in the reaping, threshing, and winnowing process). Fun fact: unlike wheat, cranberry vines can live for 100+ years, although the extension agency recommends farmers replace their plants every 15 to 20 years to optimize yields.

cranberries on the cape

cranberries on the cape

We also learned about the sustainability of Massachusetts cranberry farming. "There are approximately 14,000 acres of cranberry bogs in Massachusetts with cranberry growers maintaining another 60,000 acres of open space serving to protect and recharge watersheds (Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association)." The undeveloped land surrounding the bogs is integral to the year-round process of cranberry farming, ensuring it's protection for generations to come.

cranberries on the cape

We left with a much greater appreciation for the humble cranberry (and a craving for more cranberry almond chocolate bark).

The rest of our time on the Cape we enjoyed relaxing at home, strolling on the beach, and eating lots of good food. We had so much fun introducing my parents to a place we've come to love, and we're so grateful to Ian's family for hosting us!

cranberries on the cape

You can see all our photos from the weekend on Flickr.


thankful list | November 2015

We wondered if we'd bump into Katniss Everdeen on our walk. #appalachia #district12 #iannagoestoTN

01. a fun afternoon date with Ian and Shake Shack, driving through the 'burbs.
02. starting Sherlock from the beginning, with Ian.
03. Ian enjoying Sherlock (almost) as much as I do.
04. a Royals win (we're so happy for them, and for Grandma Judy, who popped champagne).
05. finalizing our flights home for Christmas.
06. winning (!!!!) the preorder drawing for a limited-edition Young House Love shiny rhino.
07. after a snafu with my preorder, finally getting my copy of Lobster is the Best Medicine.
08. a REUNION baptism celebration.
09. Super Cluckin' Sunday, which never disappoints.
10. drawing unicorns on the giant chalkboard wall at the offices with O.
11. Skyping with the Vargas family.
12. a long weekend in Tennessee.
13. a coffee shop with coconut hot chocolate and good eats to get some work done.
14. lunch with our good friend Drew, who moved to Nashville to start a cool tech company.
15. catching up with Remily.
16. also meeting our furry nephew and niece, Charlie and Violet.
17. a date at the East Tennessee History Museum, followed by a wander of downtown.
18. a fancy double date at Stock & Barrel.
19. meeting Ren's coworkers.
20. amazing treats at Magpies, courtesy of Emily.
21. Chick-fil-a (I'm realizing comfort food features strongly in my thankful lists...)
22. learning all about moonshining (fascinating, even if it isn't my new beverage of choice).
23. a crazy night of Cards Against Humanity (I can't say the game creators didn't warn us...).
24. lunch at Chandlers, because we were told you can't not go.
25. finding a cool new park, which felt like District 12.
26. watching Spectre with Remily.
27. the annual Sasaki Thanksgiving potluck (lots of fun while supporting a local food bank!).
28. a roaring fire at community group (and great people to share it with).
29. a visit from the Nichols family (which included bubbles and pajamas).
30. time with the Aguilars, who are now serving full time in the DR (so time together is extra special).
31. finding a bunny in the front yard.
32. hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner in our new digs.
33. seeing a large rafter of turkeys at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
34. the entire rafter of turkeys congregating around our car with the "turkey assemble" call Ian found online.
35. shopping for our first ever real Christmas tree (thanks, Russo's!).
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