Category Archives: animation

47 of 366: World of Tomorrow


Watching a 16-minute film may be cheating in this challenge, but it just worked after seeing part of The Act of Killing tonightI will finish watching it, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into a documentary about genocide this evening. It was late so I opted for Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow, a story about a little girl and a look ahead at times more than 200 years into her future.

Hertzfeldt presents a study of time travel, memories, human emotion (much like in It’s Such a Beautiful Day) through the eyes of someone young enough to not know what it all means.

Hertzfeldt’s animation is also somewhat similar to It’s Such a Beautiful Day, but with more abstract  images and color as the girl,  Emily, experiences a small portion of her future.

It’s no surprise that the film, streaming on Netflix, is getting praise from critics and could take home the Oscar for best animated short film.

I may be one of the last people to learn about Hertzfeldt, but I will say he is a filmmaker to watch and it’s worth taking a look at some of his past work if you have the time. Even his website, without watching any of the videos, is a visual masterpiece.

“I am very proud of my sadness, because it means I am more alive. I no longer fall in love with rocks,” Emily in World of Tomorrow.

All for now, I better sign off before I fall asleep at my computer again.




37 of 366: Anomalisa


Anomalisa will draw you in visually and even more so through its sounds in the first minutes of the film as voices, all in the same tone, play over the intro not long before the title character, Michael Stone, is on screen.

I left the theater not being able to stop thinking about the film and the deep human emotion and struggle expressed in 90 minutes. It’s such a sensory experience that when I left the theater everything outside seemed more amplified (a man whistling — not unlike Michael in the film) and the street noise all around me in Uptown.

In the film, Michael is an author and speaker in Cincinnati for a conference. Placing him and the other main characters, primarily Lisa, in a hotel out of their element in some ways served to highlight the uncertain state of where they are in their lives and where they would like to be. They are surrounded by other people who sound (through the voice of Tom Noonan) the same and have similar appearances while Michael and Lisa look different. She has a scar on her face and color in her hair while he’s always smoking and a little unkempt compared to other people at the hotel.

Writer and director Charlie Kaufman, with animator Duke Johnson, (you must listen to their interview with Marc Maron) took the story he originally wrote for the stage to the screen through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Anomalisa had a limited release in theaters (there is only one more day of showtimes at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis unless it goes back to the second run theaters) and is now nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars.

Inside Out will surely still win in that category and does also tell a story of human emotion and struggle — but Anomalisa is on a whole other level.

I still can’t even really wrap my mind around the whole picture of the film and its characters and what it’s all supposed to mean. Michael Stone is clearly searching for something outside of his marriage and life back in Los Angeles before he meets Lisa. She is from Ohio and at the hotel to see Michael’s speech on customer service, a field she works in.

They are drawn together for one night and leave to go back to their lives with a sense of mystery as to what will happen next.

I know I will watch this film again, and then again after that, to take more of it in and even just to study more of the stop motion animation style.

I may not figure out all the subtext in Anomalisa, and certainly there is always supposed to be some unknowns in a film for the viewers, but I know there is more to learn from Kaufman’s work.

For now, all I can say is it really is magical and embodies what cinema is supposed to be.



31 of 366: Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun The Sheep Movie First Look Still

I’m back to making my way through the Oscar nominees this year, which pushes me to try out animated films such as Shaun the Sheep Movie that I normally wouldn’t see.

The film is nominated for best animated feature and, unlike Inside Out, doesn’t translate as well across children and adult audiences, at least on the surface, but I still found it to be imaginative and entertaining overall.

There is no dialogue in the film, also unlike Inside Out, which for younger audiences leaves the meaning of the story and the message open to let their imaginations in as far as what the characters are saying and why.

Shaun is the main sheep of the bunch and becomes sick of the routine at the farm where they live and everything being the same day in and day out.

They come up with an idea to distract the farmer who runs the show for a few hours which, of course, does not go as planned and sends the group and the farmer’s dog on a mission to the big city to rescue him.

That premise seems very tailored to younger audiences’ brains, but the takeaway in the end to make room for trying new things and not following such a regiment every day could be words to live by for adults.

Shaun the Sheep Movie probably won’t top Inside Out at the Oscars, but it is deserving of the recognition and worth watching for imaginative thinkers young and old.

On another, somewhat related, note  John Hodman’s podcast today focused on an argument about a man who travels too much and leaves his friends and family behind in the process.

I didn’t watch Shaun the Sheep Movie before listening to the podcast, but I jotted down this quote from Hodgman and I think it’s fitting for the theme of the film:

“Travel … going out into the world is usually a way of going into yourself.”

John Hodgman

27 of 366: It’s Such a Beautiful Day


It’s Such a Beautiful Day felt like a bit of a cheat to watch since it’s only an hour long, but it’s just as much of a cinematic — and emotional — experience as most feature films present in double that amount of time.

The animated film by Don Hertzfeldt centers on several facets of a character named Bill during various experiences and stages of his life.

It’s a combination of three of Hertzfeldt’s short films, explaining the different presentations of Bill, that explores fear, science, dreams, mortality, life, death, relationships and more. Some of it hit a little close to home for me and I imagine that will be the case for most viewers because of the variety of themes in the film.

The animation, and the transition between Bill’s experiences, reminded me of the cartoon flip books I had when I was a kid. Hertzfeldt mixes his stick figure drawings of Bill with moving images of nature and depictions of his and other character’s dreams that shift between the look of paintings and photography.

It’s all over the place, but in a good way, and Hertzfeldt’s narration of Bill’s life adds to it a dry sense of humor, happiness and sadness all at the same time.

His new short film, World of Tomorrow, is nominated for an Oscar and I can’t wait to see it and other projects from his collection.

Landmark Theatres has screenings of the Oscar nominated live action and animated films, including in Minneapolis if that’s your home base, next week.


In the meantime, watch It’s Such a Beautiful Day (streaming on Netflix.) It’s an animated stream of consciousness or, as Hertzfeldt says in the film, “an infinite landscape of simultaneous events,” that you won’t be able to forget.