Sunday, March 27, 2011


This is a ramble on the films included in BUFF's ILLUSTRATED ODDITIES, which I caught this afternoon. It's the fest's animated shorts package with as many student films as professional ones, it seems. I can't remember the exact order that the shorts played in, so I'm gonna hit them in the order they appear in the listing at the BUFF 2011 site.

"Misadventures of a Symbiote"
Some pretty cool stop-motion animation of a creature composed of bits of machinery and broken items evolving in stages as it takes apart and assimilates elements of objects it encounters. The design and animation of the early stages are cool enough, but the final one or two lose me, and the thin "plot" defined by the title cards that introduce each stage doesn't help it any.

The film starts with a man ignoring and then noticing an abundance of apparently coincidental signs that point to his imminent death. The first two or three minutes of the film that deal with this are excellent, and I think I would've been really happy if it found an ending about then and stopped. Reminded me a lot of how Griffin Dunne sees clues to his possible fate over and over in AFTER HOURS. However, the film goes on to have the man leave home and inexplicably fall into a series of newspaper photos on a nearby newsstand. By "fall into" I mean he appears to walk into a news photo and interact with the depicted scene. For instance, a he walks into the frame of a photo of a hotel hallway. The camera then pulls back to reveal a headline about a hotel toppling due to an earthquake, just as the hallway environment in the photo begins to tip one way and the other, throwing the man around. As the hallway walls begin to crack, he finds his way out of the photo and tumbles into another one, falling down some basement stairs and landing in the chalk outline of a murder victim, and so on. The effects used to have this man inhabit these environments are pretty cool but for me don't logically fit the story. These segments seem to be about how all the news we see is Bad news, and y'know what, I can't remember now how the story resolves itself. Blerg. I'm pretty sure he makes it out of the news photo world, but can't recall how. Nuts.

"Win Big"
Kind of loved this. In a post-apocalyptic city environment, two massive insect monsters sit down for a game of poker. Billboards are their cards and traffic signs are their chips. When centipede dude pretty much takes megafly for all he's got, megafly has to offer up something in trade to pay off the pot. This leads to megafly offering up his own body parts as payment. When centipede dude asks for an ultimate payment, he realizes that he will lose his playmate and opponent. Sad, lonely centipede...

"Ralph's Not Normal"
A cute story on the legacy of weird little Ralph, remembered fondly by a childhood friend, but needs a little rewrite and editing. Also would've preferred a more analog animated style for the scale/scope of this.

"Deep Water Horizon"
In 3-D! Wish this had been less about counting and more about message/illustration.

"Something Left, Something Taken"
This started the program off with some cool, if distracting, style. The story—a couple of tourists in SF who get the idea that they've solved the Zodiac Killer mystery, but only just in time to become his newest victims—could've used some editing, but it wasn't bad, just not as funny to me as I suspect it thinks it is. The style, and I think I've seen this in quite a few animated shorts in the last decade or so, involves using CG 3-d animation of models and characters made to appear as if they're build from materials that are traditionally used in analog stop-motion. So, you see cars and buildings made out of cardboard, and characters with parts of sewn fabric, but they're actually computer rendered textures/materials. Which is fine, and probably doesn't bother most audiences, but causes my brain to itch a bit as I look and wonder how or why at times.

"If Not Now, When"
The stop-motion in this was fun, but the live action was a little too performance artsy for me. I took it to be a cycle of life/evolution sequence, set on an alternate earth, or perhaps a past or future era of ours. I really like dish antenna crab guy and the clockwork, tho.

"Ad Infinitum"
Cool and simple visual "powers of ten"-type premise and execution. Actually wanted more, and hoped for a clever revelation of a finish that didn't come.

"Hansel And Gretel"
A simple re-imagining of the traditional tale. I dig the character design, but don't love the animation. The very last image (bonesy stuff) is pretty fun, tho.

"House Bunny"
I really dig this for its hyper-kinetic and raw animation style set to some boppin' tunes. Like ZOOM or ELECTRIC COMPANY scratch-on-film stuff. Close to the essence of animation.

"Bookkeeper Of The Universe"
The cosmos is being audited by the IRS. While the cosmic bookkeeper goes to get the proper forms, the auditor gets an ominous glimpse behind the paperwork curtain, triggering an existential crisis. Lotta potential in this premise, but a weak execution. I feel like it needs a more controlled visual style. Loose is fine, but a controlled loose, a la Plympton, is what I'd like to see. Messy-loose, well, it's gotta be made visually pleasing, or, choose its dramatic moment, y'know? And this doesn't quite get there or do that. I'm pretty sure this was one of the student films, tho, so please consider that and set your bar accordingly.

Then again, please consider "Marvelous Keen Looney Bin", a student film that I caught as part of the warm-up to THE ANIMATION SHOW a couple years ago.

"The Drawer And The Crow"
I honestly don't remember a film connected to this title in the program I saw.

"Don't Text And Drive"
The best marriage of concept and execution in the program. A minute or so of beautiful style and animation of careening cars set to ballet (or was it opera?) music is a clever set up for a good punchline reward.

"The Black Pines"
Some very nice traditional ink on paper and cel animation that follows a kid into and out of his dream, or is it a nightmare? Is the notebook paper rule necessary?

"Hot Velcro Action"
The first 15 seconds or so does too good a job of raising your hopes for coolness, the rest of it fails for me. My hopes were raised by the revelation of velcro as a key part of the animation process in this film. A pretty cool riff on a simple "dot"-y system of animation. Unfortunately, what's done with this velcro disappoints.

Marshmallow Fluff... animated! Just some Fluffy whimsy, really. Nice to see some traditional cutout (magazines, colored xeroxes, patterns) animation. Pleasing to my eye.

"Wisdom Teeth"
"I see prehistoric animals!" =) Yeah, this is the Don Hertzfeldt short, delivering Hertsfeldtian laughing Wrongness, and a wise choice to finish the program, ending it on a hilarious and ghastly note.

Keep on peepin on~


Jessica said...

I LOVE Wisdom Teeth...

cabinboy said...

Sure, but only cuz it's frickin hilarious, right? =)