A ‘There’s Hope for the Future!’ entry: Florida Film Festival, Animated Shorts #5

14 Apr

Last night I actually managed to get across Orlando in record time in order to see my first film in this year’s Florida Film Festival, a collection of short animated films.

They were amazing.

Nathan pointed out while we were there that previously, we had been to see the MIDNIGHT shorts, which were a whole other thing–those were usually full of childish scatalogical humor, and left me wondering why the hell any of these people thought they had a future in filmmaking. And wanting my time back.

Not so last night!

Last night, not only was animator Bill Plympton (of Hair High, I Married a Strange Person, and other well-known cult animations fame) in the audience, but not one entry left me dissatisfied. Even the weird, more esoteric one, the Wonder Hospital, I think it was called, was a treat, because it was so weird and otu there it forced me to dust off my enjoyment of the abstract. Eventually I understood it, but anything that’s not facile is always a treat. 

It wasn’t just that the shorts were so creative, but I was impressed by how polished they were. One of them (the one about flying books) looked like an early Pixar piece, and the emcee actually pointed that out, remarking that he’d thought they had submitted an entry to the festival. There was also a common thread of existentialism running through them, but rather than the dreary postwar type, it was a more positive existentialism, that kind that totally aligns with my own personal philosophy of ‘Make the most of what you have.’

I wish I had time to track down the websites for each entry; maybe I’ll do that later today. But if you have a chance to catch any of them at other festivals, here are a few of the names I can remember.

Annie and Danny – A short about an elderly couple’s relationship. Reminded me of the first 10 minutes of ‘UP!’ And I totally cried.

The Birds Upstairs – Stop motion done in the style of a Regency-style anti-romance, about two people (puppets with birdskull heads) and their attempt to conceive and raise a child. Amazing.

Bottle – Long-distance romance between sand and snow, who come to know each other by communicating through a bottle.

Fred – Another stop motion in which a performer (who looks kind of like a muppet) tries to talk himself into quitting his performance. I had the feeling he was going to be a ventriloquist’s dummy, since his boss seemed to be a shouting hand, but it was never confirmed. I wasn’t as keen on this one, although the execution was amazing. I just wasn’t sure why I should care about this seemingly bitter, worn out character.

Tales of Mere Existence – Untraditional 2D animation containing very witty observations on relationships and masculinity. Writing reminded me of David Sedaris.

Guard Dog Global Jam –  Plympton’s entry, which was a sort of redux of his other short, Guard Dog, but all the segments had been done by amateur animators from around the world. He mentioned there were entries from an Iranian woman and a young Chinese boy. 

The Deep – Stop motion animation of keys, gears, and other mechanical devices arranged to resemble abyssal plain creatures. Very creative.

Always, Only, and Ever – A monster deals with a breakup, drunkenly. MUCH better than the summation makes it sound!

Forensic Science  – A young couple visiting San Francisco with too much interest in forensic science are convinced their driver may be the Zodiac Killer. The animation reminded me of the PS3 game Little Big Planet, in that everything had a handmade feel and rich textures.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (here’s a link for this one!) – Amazing, amazing story about a man who discovers a sort of library where the books are all alive, and in caring for them comes to understand the importance of a good story. Totally made me cry, in its beauty and simplicity.

Maybe I’ve been out of the independent cinema world a little bit, but seeing these amazing films made me really, really hopeful for the future of cinema. That there are such imaginative, talented filmmakers waiting in the wings, to take over the studio system, makes me think that the next 10-15 years in cinema  are going to be really, really amazing.

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