As focused on visuals as I typically am, it’s no surprise that I am a complete mess for experimental animation. If a film toys with stop-motion, or time-lapse, or imaginative cel animation, or cut-outs and silhouettes, I tend to be automatically entranced and very forgiving of narrative/thematic faults. Terence Nance’s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty uses several animation techniques, to gorgeous effect, blended with live action sequences. The project started as a short film inspired by Nance’s real-life relationship with Namik Minter, who plays a version of herself. They are close friends whose dynamic borders on romance, but she remains committed to her relationship with another man, who is never named.
On New Year’s Eve my plans were unexpectedly canceled, and I ended up staying in by myself and it was actually really nice since honestly I’ve always found it to be kind of an annoying holiday. The only bad thing was all the technology in my house decided to stop working that night so my plan to watch some expiring Netflix instant movies didn’t pan out, and I couldn’t use our projector. In the end I decided to watch one of the many dvd’s I own but have never seen. The Adventures of Mark Twain promised to be a bit of claymation weirdness, which seemed a good way to end the year. The film is inspired by a remark from Twain that since he was born under Halley’s Comet, he’d go out with it too (and he did indeed pass away the day after the comet returned in 1910).
Growing up I was a bit of a fairy tale nerd, and Hans Christian Andersen was one of my favorite storytellers. Mostly because of how much I adored his story “The Snow Queen,” an exciting adventure wherein a brave girl journeys across the land to rescue her male best friend, who’s been captured and brainwashed by the titular evil queen. I’d followed the ups and downs of Disney’s adaptation of the story, which radically changes the central plot and only includes white people, and of course is titled Frozen, something ambiguous and un-girly. The marketing was terrible but Idina Menzel and positive reviews had me curious.
In The Painting, groups of paintings come to life and their figures search for their painter so he can finish working on them. The whole story is animated in colorful, playful styles with references to great Modernist painters. The protagonist is a plucky young woman looking for adventure. So. Someone finally made a movie exactly for me, I thought. The story throws together three distinctive figures living within a single painting: a privileged “Alldun”, a completed figure; a “Halfie”, incomplete and relegated to living outside of the central castle; and a “Sketchie”, a line doodle who isn’t accepted anywhere.
One of Pixar’s finest, WALL-E looks towards Earth’s bleak future, with humans escaping the environmental destruction and trash build-up by taking a space pleasure cruise, sponsored by globally dominant super-store Buy N Large. The corporation leaves behind a legion of robots programmed to clean up the planet so it will be habitable again, but after centuries have passed only one is still functioning. This “WALL-E” is adorable and idiosyncratic, developing a sweet, romantic personality with hoarder tendencies during his many years alone. When a robot scout called EVE lands near him, he falls in little robot love.