Don't go expecting rats or penguins

Times Staff Writer

The nominees for best animated short at this year's Oscars appropriate, borrow and otherwise fold, spindle and mutilate -- to great effect -- inspiration drawn from art and life. Magnolia Pictures' "The 2007 Academy Award-Nominated Short Films -- Animated" brings together the five honorees in an entertaining program that attacks adult themes with wit and invention.

"Meme les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)" is a French CGI film visually perched on the outskirts of the universe inhabited by "Ratatouille." A slightly depraved old man receives a visit from a priest who attempts to sell him a machine guaranteed to gain entry through the Pearly Gates. Directed by Samuel Tourneux and produced by Simon Vanesse, it's a brittle cosmic joke played for existential laughs.

Director Alexander Petrov, an Oscar winner for the 1999 short "The Old Man and the Sea," draws on French Impressionism for the look of the 2-D "My Love (Moya Lyubov)." A romantic tragedy, it's the story of a teenager and his awakening passions for an attractive servant and a mysterious neighbor. The gently roiling colors are well matched to the adolescent yearnings of the protagonist.

A woman boards a train bound for nowhere in the stop-motion allegory "Madame Tutli-Putli." The nightmarish ride is witnessed through Madame's melancholy eyes that encompass all the world's sadness. Montreal-based filmmakers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski's detailed silent work resonates with emotion.

Another wordless film, "Peter and the Wolf," re-imagines the narrative to Sergei Prokofiev's score. A hoodie-wearing outcast ventures into the dark forest outside his home -- accompanied by a duck, a cat and a bird with a broken wing -- where they are confronted by the ravenous wolf. Director Suzie Templeton and producer Hugh Welchman create an eco-savvy tale that weighs the price of compassion.

In 1969, 14-year-old Torontonian Jerry Levitan talked his way into John Lennon's hotel room and recorded an interview with him. For "I Met the Walrus," animator Josh Raskin unites the audio from that interview with drawings and digital illustration to generate a celebration of Lennon's words. The black-and-white images boldly underscore the not-so-funny message of peace, love and understanding.

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kevin.crust@latimes.com

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"The 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films -- Animated." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Landmark, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., Westwood, (310) 281-8233; and Laemmle's Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-6500.

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