World of Tomorrow (2015, Don Hertzfeldt)

Emily Prime is contacted by her third-generation clone, discussing memory, robots, love and life in the outernet of the future.

Only 16 minutes long but I watched it seven times.

Choose You (2013, Spike Jonze & Chris Milk)

Written by Lena Dunham and directed by Spike Jonze – and yet it’s terrible? I think that’s because it’s a corporate-sponsored short made for a music video awards show. Anyway, subtitled and censored, club dude’s ex-gf is now dating DJ Michael Shannon, some girl he doesn’t even know freaks out about this, then Jason Schwartzmann hosts a choose-your-own-adventure ending and double suicide is chosen.

The Discontented Canary (1934, Rudolf Ising)

A sad caged canary gets his chance to escape, but nature beats the hell out of him, so he returns home, learning to appreciate his captivity. At least he wasn’t hit by lightning like the feral cat. Moral: life is just horrible.

The Alphabet (1968, David Lynch)

Now in high-def!

Les jeux des anges (1965, Walerian Borowczyk)

Heads roll.
Pipe organ becomes firing squad.
Angel wings.
Infinite scrolling.

Mouseover for decay:

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918, Winsor McCay)

Didn’t realize this was a WWI propaganda film. “Germany, once a great and powerful nation, had done a dastardly deed in a dastardly way.”

Intro explaining how difficult the movie was to create, and plenty of title cards, so the nine minute short has maybe four minutes of animation. But the animation is real good stuff, all water and smoke.

We Give Pink Stamps (1965, Friz Freleng)

Absurd fun in a department store as the Pink Panther torments the night janitor.

Closed Mondays (1974, Will Vinton & Bob Gardiner)

Great claymation. Wino wanders into an art gallery, hallucinates (?) all the paintings and sculptures coming to life.

Night Mail (1936 Wright & Watt)

I’ve heard this is one of the greatest short documentaries. True, it’s admirably put together, showing all the moving parts in a great, manned machine that moves the mail across England and Scotland really damn fast. And it makes you marvel at the heights of human endeavor. And it ends with a post office rap song. So yeah I was gonna say it’s just a doc about a mail train, but I guess I see their point.

Monster (2005 Jennifer Kent)

Beginnings of The Babadook (there’s a pop-up book and everything). Monster-doll grows into full monster and attacks son, mom screams at it, tells it to go to its room.

Fears (2015, Nata Metlukh)

Terrific 2-minute animated short linked by Primal.
A man literally embraces his fears.

Restaurant Dogs (1994, Eli Roth)

Student film in which an evil brigade of fast-food restaurant mascots is bloodily defeated by a young dude who’s given a mission from the Burger King himself to save his daughter the Dairy Queen. Something like that, anyway. I thought the guy only wanted to buy a milkshake, and suspected he was drunk, so I’m surprised he signed up for the murderous mission so quickly.

Given all the trademarked properties being mixed with nazi images via Terry Gilliam-style cut-out animation, I thought I’d better watch this as soon as I heard about it, rather than wait until our corporate overlords remove it from the internet like they did the Soderbergh cut of 2001: A Space Odyssey which I’d been meaning to watch. Besides Reservoir Dogs, there’s some Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now in the grimace/hamburglar flashback scene.

Ritual (1979, Joseph Bernard)

Under three minutes, viewed online as a trailer for the new Bernard blu-ray, which I obviously need. Drawings, figures, people and scenes and stuttering colors cut together into changing rhythms and overlays. My favorite bit has an overlay of two scenes, one of which is cutting, an effect I don’t see often.

Much more interesting visually than it looked from trailers and posters, which were all Joaquin looking into the distance while talking to Siri, sometimes smiling. More interesting emotionally too. Phoenix’s beloved operating system grows and learns at an accelerated rate, like if Short Circuit’s Johnny Five had internet access, finally admits to having simultaneous romantic relationships with hundreds of humans, and soon afterward leaves all the lonely humans alone with each other to further explore her own consciousness. It’s kinda beautiful and terrifying in a Terminator Skynet sense.

The somewhat-happy ending leaves Phoenix with Amy Adams, a longtime friend who bonded with her own OS while divorcing her husband. Also featured: Rooney Mara (Zuckerberg’s ex in Social Network) as the wife divorcing Phoenix, Olivia Wilde as a blind date whom Phoenix is too damaged to pursue, Portia Doubleday as a Siri sex surrogate, Chris Pratt as a coworker, and the very human voice of Scarlett Johansson. Won a million awards, including a screenplay oscar.

Uncle Ali (2000, Cheick Oumar Sissoko)
Cheikh’s uncle is super sick from AIDS, comes to live with his family after the uncle’s neighbors boot him from his apartment. Cheikh learns a bit about STDs, prejudice and love. The kid is Alioune Ndiaye of The Price of Forgiveness and Uncle Ali is Guelwaar himself, Thierno Ndiaye (also of Karmen Gei and Africa Paradis).

The Heart of the Matter (2004, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
It’s all monologue voiceover, and the voice acting isn’t the best. Actually all these “Scenarios from Africa” shorts online have been dubbed into English. I also checked out a Sissako (Good Reasons) and an Idrissa Ouedraogo (The Shop) from this series and none are interesting at all except as educational tools. Anyway, this one stars the mute girl from Haroun’s Abouna. It’s twice as long as the others, so I figured it’d have time to develop into more of an actual movie than a flimsy PSA, but no luck.

I’m Here (2010, Spike Jonze)
Where did this half-hour love story come from? Maybe Spike felt the need to create something personal after working on Where The Wild Things Are for years of his life. Awkward, traditional boy robot falls in love with rule-breaking girl robot. The twist comes when she keep losing limbs and he gives her his own to replace them, until finally she’s in a wheelchair, and he’s nothing but a head. Played at Sundance – somehow supposed to be an ad for a vodka company, but I didn’t see that.

Letter From Hong Kong (2010, Jimmy Lo)
Comes complete with deleted scenes of food, family and kitties. I liked the camera on the spinning table. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where the cameraman sneezes before.

Spike has turned a beloved ten-page kids book into a dark, psychological grown-up divorce drama acted out by a confused kid and large, brown, dangerous puppets. We’re not sure how we feel about this. I’m pretty sure I like the movie. It’s different as hell, seems a ballsy move to have made it at all. Don’t know how much of Spike’s (or co-writer Dave Eggers’) vision made it intact, vaguely recalling rumors of delays and studio-mandated CG puppet-enhancement. Whoever meddled in whose affairs, the monsters came out looking great.

Trouble: handheld camerawork provides no sense of composition most of the time, and fantasy world and characters are all painted in shades of brown. The filmmakers are creating a ten-year-old’s escapist fantasy realm, and all we get is brown? Suppose it’s a natural-environment thing, since he’s fleeing civilization for the wilderness. The music is alright, but the quiet version of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” on the trailer was so beautifully suited to the imagery, I’m tempted to say I liked the preview better than the film.

Young (imaginative, loner, duh) Max and his older sister live with beleagured mom Catherine Keener. Divorced dad isn’t in the movie, except once by phone, but mom is dating a guy, probably third-billed Mark Ruffalo who I didn’t recognize for the 45 seconds he was in the film, when Max goes on a rage, runs away in his monster pajamas and dreams a perfect world where he gets to be king of the monsters and have fun all the time.

Just kidding – Max dreams up monsters who are as moody as himself, always quarrelling and splitting up like his parents or going off to hang out with their cool friends like his sister, building beautiful things then destroying them in temper tantrums, hurting each other accidentally or on purpose, and often threatening to eat Max up. After an hour of this, nothing is resolved and Max goes home… just like real life, but not much like the hollywood spectacle we were all expecting.