The playlist for tonight's animation show:
- Can You Do It - Quentin Baillieux, France
- Tiny Big - Lia Bertels, Belgium
- Next Door - Pete Docter, U.S.
- The Alan Dimension - Jac Clinch, UK
- Beautiful Like Elsewhere - Elise Simard, Canada
- Hangman - Paul Julian and Les Goldman, U.S.
- The Battle of San Romano - Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland
- Gokurosama - Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, Romain Salvini, France
- Dear Basketball - Glen Keane, U.S.
- Island - Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel, Germany
- Unsatisfying - Parallel Studio, France
- My Burden - Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden
- Les Abeilles Domestiques (Domestic Bees) Alexanne Desrosiers, Canada
- Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon - Tomer Eshed, Germany
- Casino - Steven Woloshen, Canada
- Everything - David OReilly, U.S
An exceptional program that starts off strong and only gets better
as it goes, the 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows overflows with
charm while containing more provocative observations about the
nature of existence than most prestige feature films do. Animators
both obscure and famous show their wares here, in a program paced
beautifully by Ron Diamond, who decided in 2015 to open his annual
best-of DVD collections up to theatrical booking. Anyone who attends
this third event will hope it stays public for years to come.
As usual in this and most other packages of animation, full-on
abstract experimentation is hard to find. Viewers seeking that
should look up the Center for Visual Music, which champions
sound-meets-image abstraction (and sells DVDs) — but here, they'll
enjoy Steven Woloshen's Casino, in which images are drawn directly
onto film and set to some jaunty bebop by Oscar Peterson.
Elsewhere, experimentalism is put in the service of narrative,
however loose and ambiguous the storytelling may be. In Elise
Simard's Beautiful Like Elsewhere, for instance, expressionistic
images accrue to depict dreamscapes or lonesome reveries. In Quentin
Baillieux's figurative but ambiguous music video Can You Do It, a
horse chase down an urban freeway speaks obliquely to race
Some allegories are easily deciphered, as in Next Door, an early
work by Inside Out director Pete Docter. Another entry drawn from
the past, 1964's The Hangman, is a "first they came for the —'s"
parable set in a de Chirico-like small town whose craven citizens
blindfold themselves willingly to others' persecution, wrapped up
like characters in a Magritte painting.
Other shorts offer pure pleasure. Max Mortl and Robert Lobel's
Island looks like a picture-book you'd give to a very hip child; the
faux-educational film Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon,
would have that kid (and his adult guardians) guffawing in the
aisles. Gokurosama, whose gentle physical comedy recalls Tati, takes
place in a Japanese shopping mall where the physical world presents
one obstacle after another — as it does in the crisply illustrated,
tartly comic Unsatisfying.
Other small gems (like Lia Bertels' Tiny Big) are scattered around
one or two films that might not deserve to be in this company.
(Though technically polished and probably moving to Kobe Bryant's
fans, Dear Basketball plays like self-hagiography in the guise of
the star's fond farewell to the sport.)
The cosmic showstoppers fall toward the end. David O'Reilly's
Everything looks like a computer game because it is: The film teases
the experience of a critically acclaimed game of the same name, in
which microbes and mammals and galaxies all share the same
importance. As a movie, it functions a bit like a 21st-century
version of Charles & Ray Eames' iconic Powers of Ten; adding
audio from a 1973 Alan Watts lecture brings a heady philosophical
quality to the action.
While Watts muses about "the illusion that it's utterly important
that we survive," the highlight of Show of Shows turns existential
malaise into something weirdly delightful (and 100% Scandinavian).
In My Burden, Niki Lindroth von Bahr boils the aching loneliness of
an entire planet down into the mundane complaints surrounding a
single highway intersection. Here, cute stop-motion animals stand in
for homely humans: Sardines wonder why they've chosen loneliness
over companionship; monkeys cope with telemarketing careers;
hairless mole rats mop the floors of a fast-food restaurants. And
all do so while singing the oddly entrancing music of Hans
Appelqvist. Whether you see it as a deadpan attempt to reconcile
with angst or a laugh-out-loud suicide note, it is — like several
films here — a reminder of the practically infinite possibilities
represented by short-form animation. — John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter