Despite showing slightly less films than last year, 8 films this year compared to 11 last year, all of the films shown for this year’s Shorts: Let’s Get Amimated were of consistently high quality. I can’t think of a single film this year that I disliked even a little bit, unlike last year which gave me quite a few films I didn’t like (as you can see here and here). While some films were better than others, this year still gave us a huge helping of beautiful, animated films.
Automatic Fitness – Directed by Alberto Couceiro & Alejandra Tomei
Imagine if Aardman Animations set out to create a darker version of Jacques Tati’s Playtime. You just imagined Automatic Fitness.
Automatic Fitness is a surreal, cautionary tale of a world becoming more automatic by the minute. Like Tati’s work, it presents a playful examination of a world dependent more and more on technology. Everything from sleep schedules to money and even the Presidential race are regulated by a conveyor belt, with humans as expendable and robotic as the machines they’re running and working for. It’s cute, cartoony stop-motion amination contrasts with the cold grays and chaos of the world. And it gets both funnier and more surreal until its eventual climax and catharsis.
You might not be able to understand all of the symbolism present, but you still get a sense of what the film is trying to tell us both about its world and ours. While hilarious in its delivery, Automatic Fitness is visceral in its message.
Edmond – Nina Gantz
Edmond goes back in time through the life of the titular character from before he commits suicide to when he was in the womb. The staggeringly beautiful stop-motion animation using felt puppets with superimposed, expressive 2D animated eyes is contrasted by Edmond’s increasingly shocking and bizarre acts of violence throughout his life.
With a unique premise and lovely art, this film has all the makings of a great short film. However, it falls a bit flat in the narrative department. I’m sure the film has some reason for portraying the violence and the ultimate fate of the character like it does, but it’s lost in the abstract imagery. Why does Edmond bite off his friend’s ear? While it does a great deal of showing like any good film, it fails to tell us anything. It almost feels like the scenes were shocking just for the sake of it.
Also, is it just me, or does Edmond look a lot like Nicolas Cage?
Storm Hits Jacket (Tempê Sur Anorak) – Paul E. Cabon
I don’t know what’s going on, do you? An old woman is summoning a stampede of mad cows, a spy imagines squeezing someone’s ass and then everyone dances in front of a masked villain. It’s like if Trey Parker and Matt Stone were yelling gibberish at you, and I loved every minute of it.
There’s something so lovable about Storm Hits Jacket’s unapologetic zaniness. Was it an effective storyteller? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. For better or for worse, it’s one of those experimental shorts best enjoyed by peeling back your scalp and letting the crazy wash over you like a cold shower.
Queen Bum (Königin Po) – Maja Gehrig
After demanding that her dad reads her a new story, a little girl decides to make up her own. Queen Bum employs abstract, painterly animation to tell its story. No matter how silly the girl’s story gets, the animation always makes things clear and understandable. Or at least as clear and understandable you can get with a story about a huge, royal rump falling onto an island in the sky.
There’s also some minor conflict between the girl and the father, changing the story accordingly. While I’m glad the conflict wasn’t overplayed, I still feel like they could’ve done a bit more with it. While this film may not be a classic, but it’s still a bedtime story worth telling.
Light Motif – Frédéric Bonpapa
Light Motif is not so much a story but a tech demo. It’s a very impressive tech demo; however, featuring lighting and rubber ball physics that look like it could exist in the real world. There’s also an unusually introspective chimpanzee, but his animation isn’t nearly as impressive and it breaks the immersion.
While it is stunning, it doesn’t have any story of some sort to go with it. It’s just a series of abstract images and animations. I don’t know about you, but I need more than just a background for my Playstation 4.
Beach Flag (Vosta) – Sarah Saidan
A young, promising competitor in an Iranian Beach Flags competition finds trouble when a new girl joins the team. Beach Flag falls into the usual sports genre story about a skilled competitor encountering an equally skilled rival, but it’s saved from mundanity by incorporating Iranian politics and a feminist edge as the film goes on. And its minimalistic animation delivers all the suspense and abstract imagery at just the right moments, creating a film that’s engrossing without confusing the viewer.
The Five Minute Museum – Paul Bush
The Five Minute Museum is a virtual museum with a twist. Photos of artifacts throughout history are rapidly sequenced to produce one continuously moving image. The film depicts scenes of battle on ancient Greek pottery, clocks from around the world ticking and the evolution of the gun. The images are also projected in a way that produces narrative peaks and values, growing more or less intense to keep us invested. Though it doesn’t provide a story in the traditional sense, the film creates its own little narratives by painting an engrossing picture of the whole world throughout the ages.
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – Konstantin Bronzit
In We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, two astronauts in training dream of the day that they go to space together. I was initially frustrated by the film’s lack of conflict. Both protagonists pass each of their astronaut tests with flying colors time and time again. But when the conflict did came, it came with a vengeance. It builds up continuously throughout the film and is only unleashed until just the right moment, turning the buddy comedy into a tragedy. And its visual storytelling communicates everything clearly and effectively. Despite the early frustration and some slow pacing towards the end, this film is a short that’s as beautiful as the cosmos.
You can catch Shorts: Let’s Get Animated at the Oriental Theater on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 5 p.m.