July 1st, 2005

Whale fluke

”Warning: Overdose may cause brain to explode”

Maybe it caused my cool dreams last night – which included flying on a futuristic version of the Spruce Goose and watching a motorcycle chase through, um, a bookstore – and I definitely know I was simultaneously amused and impressed by The Animation Show. Art by people good at thinking around corners and coming up with visuals I’d never come up with on my own. I saw it on its last night in town (it played for a week at Cinema 21; it wrapped up last night at the Hollywood), as one more treat for a treat-needy me yesterday.

Probably the most pure fun short was “Ward 13,” a stop-motion piece about a man trying to escape a hospital that must have been run by Dr. Moreau; highlights are a “sword” fight using canes, a chase on powered wheelchairs, and the thundering orchestral score by Christopher Gordon, one of Australia’s major film composers. (Oh, and my title? It’s from that short.) Bill Plympton’s “Guard Dog” goes into the head of a dog on a walk, seeing great threats to its master at every turn that it must avert by barking its yapping bark. There was a surprisingly emotional computer-generated piece called “Rockfish,” science fiction about a man and his pet alien drilling into a planet’s crust to fish for giant creatures that swim in the mantle. On the “sick and twisted” end was “Fallen Art,” a funny and painful CG work (very Terry Gilliam in its feel) about soldiers who are dropped to their deaths from a great height, where the resulting carnage gets photographed for a special purpose. I’ll say no more. It ended with Don Herztfeldt’s audacious “The Meaning of Life,” showing the past, present and even future of evolution, including a cacophonous section about humanity (voiced by dozens of performers, including Animation Show co-founder Mike Judge) and a stunning bit about future large animals – all drawn in Hertzfeldt’s deceptively simple pencil style. (Usually he animates sick, sick jokes, like his short about a boy viciously attacked by his own balloon, but he successfully gets grander here; the music by Tchaikovsky helps.) Good sign: I was giggling as I left. To quote a fellow Gilliam fan, “I giggled in awe!”