SHORTS 3: ANIMATION. All of these films are beautiful, well, except Hertzfeldt's, which is, well, wonderful, but y'know, not exactly built for beauty. They're all worth a look based on design and style, but I feel like "One Square Mile Of Earth" and "Wisdom Teeth" were the two that fired on all cylinders, not compromising anywhere for style over substance or vice versa. I'm gonna ramble on each, probably not a whole lot of critical commentary, but some plot, to remind myself more than anything of what's the what, and some conjecture/explanation/guesswork on how things looked and might've been created.
A wonderful aesthetic of a world of corrugated carboard miniatures. The beginning featured a view of a cardboard city that totally sold me on its materiality. I believed we were looking at stop motion animation shot with x-actoed, glued, and detailed miniatures. However, as the story proceeded, I came to realize that this world was all virtual, painstakingly modelled, textured, and rendered to produce the impression of stop-motion, almost sinister, but totally appreciated. It's kind of magical that that feel, an unavoidable artifact of the analog process, is something worth recapturing and "faking" using digital tools.
An amazing amalgam of SIN CITY-esque style and Kabuki theater environments. I'd guess the story is adapted from a traditional folk tale or ghost story, it's very simple and not all that deep. I wish that it had more layers and meaning (granted, I may be missing that due to my unfamiliarity with the tale or the characters/spirits involved). Video of actors was treated as layers within the multi-layered dimensions of a virtual Kabuki theater stage. Settings and environments are built right before your eyes, but the unrolling of cloth, or the manipulation of props and prop animals by black-clad agents who melt into the scenery, and certain parts of the action are virtually foleyed by comic book style sound effects, lettered noises, the tinkling of a bell in the jungle represented by "JING."
"One Square Mile Of Earth"
This is a wonderfully realized collection of animated vignettes focused on three pairs of interactions at a (gay?) bar or club in the city. I see this as being part of a genre that I first recognized in Aardman Animation's "Creature Comforts," which transforms mundane human conversation, scripted or improvised, into the fantastickal, fairy tale, and/or surreal by assigning the voices to fantastic, non-human, characters. This club's patrons happen to be, well, animal people. Their appearances, and that of the environment, are built from photographic cutouts and manipulated digitally. It works beautifully. A couple of roommates, frog and rabbit, get snippy with one another over drinks and on the dance floor. Frog's attack and rabbit's weak defense of his inability to complete any given task is frickin hilarious. A sassy goat (?) applies her feminine wiles to a frat bear at the bar. She gets a free drink out of it (pear vodka and cola—was it pear or was it peach? =), but will they leave together...? And over in the lounge, a hippo and a squirrel begin discussing jazz, but end up falling into conversational traps of stereotyping one another. Simple everyday/night interactions that are made fantastic in a fantastic world that hopefully has more short film excerpts to offer in the future.
A really clever story, but I wish that there was more to it. Visually rich, but the animation seemed a bit simple and flat. I think that marriage of the technique with this story is pretty ingenious, but, again, I just wanted MORE. The story... A voodoo witch doctor has a collection of dolls with which to inflict pain on his victims. These voodoo dolls themselves are ALIVE as well, so as he pins his human victims to death, he sacrifices a living doll. One of these dolls decides to risk everything to save his burlap brothers.
Frickin gorgeous and epic. These little (BONE-like) varmints live in harmony with untouched nature. Suddenly, black clouds on the horizon appear. It's not a simple storm, tho, it's the arrival of industry, and a city of buildings and factories that sustain it. One varmint saves a piece of untouched nature, a cutting from a tree, but ends up pressed into service by the city along with the rest of his kind. Ultimately his cutting spawns spores which take root throughout the city, hope for a return of and to nature and an escape from the oppression and pollution of industry. Based on a storybook which I really must track down.
Don Hertzfeldt magic wrongness. In this simple and hilariously excruciating short, a friend has just returned from getting his wisdom teeth yanked. As any friend would, his buddy asks him, "Can I pull out the stitches?" Wacky fun ensues. "I see prehistoric animals!" =)
Keep on keepin on~