Monday, June 26, 2006

A Handy Guide to Blog Postings

Here are individual links to all the films discussed within this blog, arranged here alphabetically:

Week One: Narrative Shorts
Week Two: Experimental Shorts
Week Three: Selections from Omnibus Films
Week Four: Non-American Shorts
Week Five: Documentary or Animated Shorts

This Way Out

Director Jill Burnett, Toronto, Canada, 32 minutes 2004
VHS 7736

Before the opening credits or titles screens are even presented, the audience is bombarded with a montage of shocking stock footage and disturbing newspaper clippings. The first sequence features men yelling in a foreign language, "Come on, you people! Kill kill kill kill the faggot." In another sequence, men are handcuffed together and led toward a certain doom as they try desperately to cover their faces. Another shot shows a young man beaten to the ground by a mob as cops casually tell the mob "that's enough." At the end of this montage is a soundless black and white image of a young woman with short hair and a sign that reads "CAN'T LIVE IN THE CLOSET."

The filmmaker then cuts to a black screen with the words "this way out" written in a simple white font. The title then appears to grow on the screen foreshadowing the expansion of this topic within the next 32 minutes and symbolizing the movement of these people out of these harsh situations.

"People say that Brazil is an open country, but I have a different idea," states the first subject of this documentary, a lesbian and former reporter from Brazil who recounts her story directly to the camera in segments throughout the documentary. She reveals her rise to fame and success as a closeted reporter in her native country, her rape by a chauvinist news director, her disownment by her family, and her move and acceptance in the United States. Her story ultimately ends with her riding off with her roommate on a motorcycle to city hall to receive her citizenship papers.

This documentary also features the stories of a gay man from Pakistan and a gay man from Kenya. Like the Brazilian woman, they explain how they came out and then escaped out of homophobic societies and found comfort in America. In their countries, they explain how gay men are prosecuted and disowned. The Kenyan man's story is further complicated by his father's profession as a minister.

During all of their stories, the filmmaker intermixes shots of them sitting and talking to the camera with sequences of them walking around San Francisco (separately). These shots feature the subjects (no names were used) avoiding eye contact with the camera, interacting with friends, and looking introspective. Their voiceovers plague the sequences with dialogue that often has nothing to do with the visual we are getting. It appears that these scenes were inserted to keep the documentary from being too stale or seeming like a mere interview. However, this is not effective. These sequences were obviously shot for this purpose alone, adds very little to the short film, and simply seems heavy-handed. Further, there are no recreation of events, so sometimes we are given shots of similar scenes. For example, as the Brazilian speaks of her motorcycle ride to city hall with her roommate we get the image of a person driving away from the camera on a motorcycle alone. Though this initially appears to be appropriate, the image we see is actually only one person on a bike and I am not even certain it is a woman. Thus the image is not truly "documenting" the actual event. It would have been better to actually witness a gay refugee going to city hall to get citizenship. However, this was probably not possible as it appears the filming of the interviews happened first and then the filmmaker found matching images.

This Way Out is important because it features many hot button issues that our society is currently addressing such as issues of identity, illegal aliens in the U.S., and "don't ask, don't tell" policies. This film not only brings up class issues of the documentary as a genre but also our class discussion of film as national identity. This film is a documentary in that it educates and captures real people's true life stories. It utilizes talking heads and stock footage to get at its core concerns. It affirms America as an open and gay-friendly nation as a whole, one that ironically has - at least in three instances - granted asylum to those in desperate need. This film appears to contradict what many people would feel America's policies are concerning gay rights and immigration. However, it is interesting that this film was funded through Toronto, therefore making it a Canadian film which ironically praises America. It also portrays the subject's native countries in a negative light. It is interesting that throughout the film we do get shots of these other countries, however they are always general and probably obtained indirectly.

The best part of this documentary are the stories themselves, they are gripping and eye-opening. However, as a short film, there is a lot left to be desired.


Name of film: “DAS RAD” (“Rocks”)
Director/Writer: Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel, Heidi Wittlinger
Country: Germany
Year of production: 2003
Length: 8 minutes
Source: DVD 878 (75th Annual Academy Awards: Short Films)

The primitive beats of a bongo and the Spanish thrum of a guitar bridges a black screen and its opening credits with an establishing shot that dollies right to reveal a mountain peak and the valley it overlooks. This non-diegetic music stops with the first words of dialogue, which come from a pile of rocks named Yule. He addresses the pile of rocks to his right. “Look at this, Kew. I think there’s another one back there,” he says, pointing at some new growth on his back. Kew, absent-minded, swings his pile over to Yule and begins to peel lichen from the dorsal side of Yule’s shoulder when his attention shifts to growing activity in the valley.

The pair sits next to a dead tree that has cast its branches like tentacles or the spines of an umbrella over the two of them. The tree remains static while everything else seems involved in a frenzy of change: clouds rush across the sky with an insistence that turns the ubiquitous color of sky from blue to mottled gray; pine trees make split-second progress from seedling to full-grown specimen; lichen and moss scuttle across the landscape and Yule’s broad abdominal section as if working against a deadline to carpet the whole mountain before the end of the world.

It becomes apparent, however, that the film takes place closer to the beginning of the world or, rather, of human history. By the time Kew notices activity in the valley and asks, “What are they up to down there?” it is clear that he refers to a village in its infant and primitive stages. A much closer shot of the valley depicts simple A-frame wooden houses that jump like the pine trees into immediate existence, confirming the sensation that all this activity is frenetic because time itself is in fast-forward. How fast one is not sure, but fast enough to reveal a world in which anything that does not have the longevity of a tree or a rock or a wooden A-frame, or the patience to stand very still for a long time, will make no appearance.

Just as, in fact, rock people move too slowly to exist on a human plane, humans move much too quickly to register with the rocks. But the film makes clear the fact that despite appearances both these worlds very much exist, and at that not independently one of another. After Kew makes his discovery of the valley’s activity, the timing of the world slows to normal and reveals a blue sky and a Neanderthal man in the background taking whacks with a primitive axe at a pine tree. The thump of stone against trunk provides the soundtrack for another man’s discovery, in the foreground, of Kew, now a static pile of rocks, and the enigma of a free-standing stone that, in fast-forward, Kew was busy spinning for fun.

This stone—this plaything that helps Kew pass a few minutes—becomes a source of epiphany for Kew and a segue into the main conflict: the threat to the earth of rapid and rabid human development. As time regains its initial velocity, and Kew continues to spin his round, flat stone, the valley’s activity increases and expands. A church or castle appears on a neighboring hill, more houses sprout, and a dirt road rips across the mountain pass just next to the dead tree and our two protagonists. Kew notices the road after a bit, but not the movement that flashes along it, and moves to its edge to roll his stone back and forth without comprehending the purpose of the trail. That comprehension comes only after time slows and the frame catches the broad-brimmed hat of a man struggling with his handcart to attain the peak of the pass, just before which one of the wooden wheels catches a rock at a fatal angle and breaks. The man exchanges the damaged wheel for a spare, with a requisite string of colloquial complaints that contemporizes the film for today’s tire-changing audience, and moves on. Kew exchanges his stone for the comparably shaped castaway cartwheel just after time speeds back up and begins his back-and-forth play with it. Call this play research, because it precedes Kew’s epiphany: “This is brilliant! They’re building the paths for these things!” says Kew as he displays the broken wheel. Yule looks confused. Kew attempts to explain: “That is . . . that is locomotion, . . . that is transport. Here the path, the town, invention, . . . development!”

Kew has put into abstract terms and a celebratory tone the philosophy of modern progress and the achievements of industrial society, which we now celebrate. But development as an end in itself soon, in terms of rock-time, proves disastrous for the earth. As the rate of development increases the spread of human lichen becomes almost tangible, like fog. Once pavement replaces the dirt path vehicular traffic becomes so persistent that it hovers in blurred view to the left of Yule and Kew. The messages on a billboard flash like a high-speed music-video montage, and the once-wooden village mutates into a metropolis of rising skyscrapers that rush across the valley and up toward Yule and Kew, now shocked and unprotected near the spot where the ancient tree was uprooted to make way for an elevated highway. The rush of high-rise construction, set to the accompaniment of those same opening primitive bongo beats, all allegro, rolls toward the mountain under a darkening sky—a visual trope for the threat that development poses the earth.

The medium of this film is key to the success of its message: to depict the end of the world in a fantastical and humorous form like animation, in addition to making the depiction more feasible, is to sweeten the polarizing subject matter just enough to make it palatable to a wide audience. This film presents a magical world for those of us who come and go so quickly (the impermanent human), but not a fictional one. It is our world in high speed, and this Claymation depiction of it reveals at once our own meaningless temporality and the hefty impact of human life in aggregate upon the earth, that big, round, living rock. Even the anthropomorphized rock piles, as fantastical as they of course are, represent a perspective consistent with a world familiar and real: Kew and Yule represent the earth’s perspective. And humans, they’re like lichen, that annoying and unsympathetic growth that spreads across the broad abdomen of the earth as if working against a deadline to carpet the whole landscape before the end of the world.

It is not clear how this world ends, but that it ends is clear. Most striking, however, is that for our two protagonists the end of the world is instantaneous and incidental. When every looming skyscraper, which, to the rocks, only just made a rapid and threatening appearance, disappears in a bold and fleeting rumble (of earthquake? of A-bomb?) awe-faced Kew looks at awe-faced Yule, ponders for a moment what might have just happened and its possible significance (Yule says, “That was lucky”), and says as green reclaims the valley and the mountain pass, “I hate to say it but your head is covered in moss again.”

This exchange between Yule (“That was lucky”) and Kew (“your head is covered in moss”) contains the paradox of the film. Yule’s statement expresses the earth’s vulnerability, while Kew’s expresses its relative indifference in the grand scheme of its life cycle to human presence. These views are not mutually exclusive, but they are conflicting, and they seem to represent a political conflict extant in human society today. Some believe that the world is too big for humans to have any lasting effect, and others believe the earth to be a living organism as sensitive to human exponential growth and industrial action as any one of its constitutive parts. Some see the earth as impervious rock; others as a softer constituent, like clay.

The literal translation of the title of this student film, “Das Rad,” is “The Wheel.” The official U.S. title, “Rocks,” is appropriate for several reasons. It cooperates with the medium of the film and also invokes the protagonists and the perspective they represent. It misses, however, a major theme that “The Wheel” captures, namely the consequences of an industrial and technological trajectory that justifies development for its own sake alone. The wheel, that symbolic celebrity (along with fire) of human advancement, expresses that theme and the spin of the earth that enacts a cycle so nascent to life and sometimes so anesthetized, at least in modern society, as to fade into obscurity behind the blurry ribbon of cars on a road.

The Rest is Silence

The Rest is Silence, Andrew Henderson, 2005, Scotland, 10 minutes

This film traces an unclaimed body from a police station to the grave. In the opening scene, the camera moves across a dark room lit by a suspended light bulb above a metal table. An extreme close-up reveals a police form for the “sudden death” of a male. A police officer and two men in lab coats move a covered corpse from stretcher to morgue refrigerator (I actually googled this because the term “refrigerator” didn’t seem appropriate, but appears legitimate on a few websites). The only sounds are those of the metal stretcher moving into the fridge. The camera then cuts to a close-up of metal instruments. We see an empty scale before the camera moves down to the corpse’s feet. A pathologist examines a hand, while speaking (indiscernible) into a tape recorder. He appears almost cheery, digging away at the body and speaking with others over a disconcerting drilling noise. He removes an organ and weighs it. After the autopsy, a woman hoses down the body’s feet and later, the head before they move the body into a body bag and placed in the back of black hearse.

In the next frame, we see a dark, empty church. Lights suspended from the ceiling flicker on one by one, somewhat reminiscent of the opening shot of the dark room. A priest leads the funeral procession; men in black suits rest the wooden coffin at the altar, while a woman places white flowers next to it. The camera quickly cuts to the priest’s eulogy. His words are the only discernable words in the entire film. He mentions that though we don’t know the particulars of the death, “we trust that God knows all there is to know.” As the camera backs away slowly, it reveals the completely vacant pews and also literally distances the viewer from the coffin. This emptiness adds a feeling of loneliness and the anonymity almost makes you feel as though you are watching your own funeral.

The coffin is then wheeled to a crematorium. Two people shove the coffin into a red-hot oven and monitor the cremation on computers. Later, a woman shakes the metal container of bones into a sort of grinder and we hear the (again, disconcerting) sound of the machine grinding away. She collects the ashes and places them in a plain metal box, then a paper bag and finally, they are placed in a cardboard box.

The body’s travels through the red-hot oven are juxtaposed with its arrival at a snow-covered cemetery. A cross stands on a small hill near the lone visible tomb. A cemetery worker slides the tomb lid off and places the box of ashes inside the vacant hole. The only sounds are the crunching of snow and the alignment of the stone cover. After the worker secures the lid and completes the burial, the white snow fades into a white screen with 1:45 seconds left. The text “The Rest is Silence” appears and then disappears. The credits then play in silence.

I picked this film because it is an unusual documentary in many ways, especially since there is no real dialogue. It answers a question (what happens to an unclaimed corpse?) through observation, rather than explanation. A typical documentary might involve interviews with the police officers involved or a step-by-step explanation of the autopsy from the pathologist. Through the silence and few sounds we hear, one almost has the feeling of “hearing” the last earthly sounds associated with death. This approach gives the film a more artistic than scientific feel throughout and fits in with Paul Giametti's assertion that, “Documentarists believe that they're not creating a world so much as reporting on the one that already exists…Many documentaries deliberately keep the structure of their films simple and unobtrusive. They want their version of the facts to suggest the same apparent randomness of life itself”(356). We see how the anonymous body passes through the hands of equally anonymous people, without a sense that the camera's presence is interfering with the people and their work. Regardless of whether one dies alone like this man, or surrounded by family, the fact is that a body will usually pass through many or all of these environments. While this has universal appeal, we also get a glimpse into the unique lives of the people who work in this world, one that most people find mysterious or morbid. There seems to be a mix of reverence (the woman gently washing the man’s head, the priest’s words) and a feeling of “just doing my job”( the shoving of the coffin, the pathologist’s smile) in this environment.

This film could be comforting in the sense that no one really dies alone, and that everyone deserves a respectful burial, the detachment from both the body (and the other people in this film), as well as the cold, bare, quiet resting place also creates
a palpable sense of loneliness.

Awards: Winner of Frank Copplestone Award for Best First Time Director
at the Celtic Film & Television Festival 2006


D: Bill Plympton, 1990, 6:45 minutes
Source: VHS tape called “The Complete Works of Bill Plympton

After considerable searching, I used a tape the Professor brought to class and used a selection as an example. The selection from the tape that I have used is called “Plymptoons.” The look of these shorts that are line drawings filled in with color pencils are avant garde in that they are a departure from the animation of such standards as Disney. Of the twenty or so different works in the complete set I choose Plymptoons, which gives the impression that there are funny like cartoons from which their name has evolved. Some are funny, some are bizarre but they are all thought provoking.

For instance, there is a short called evolution. In the first frame there is a crouching ape leaning over his knuckles. He slowly rises into an erect man. But he is only as such for an instant. Immediately, he slowly morphs into a football player bending down to a crouching positiowhich is the exact image of the initial frame that we saw. The irony of a wild ape changing into an athlete is effective, and one that is very funny to women. If one is criticized with humor and can recognize themselves, any criticism will not be hurtful

The early mob sketch is just bizarre. A lone cowboy is sitting on a horse in the middle of the range. We assume that he could be casing the joint, namely sizing up a herd of someone else’s cattle or hiding from other bad guys. In a scene that has been seen in every gangster films, such as The Godfather or Casino,the getaway car is blown up. In the twisted mind of Plympton, the lone cowboy and his faithful horse explode. The sheer visceral aspect of the act is gruesome if in reality, but a Plymptoon would be acceptably hilarious.

In 1968, when Bill Plympton started his career as a cartoonist, his visions were avant garde. They are very effective because they could show impossible situations like someone raising their eye glasses with the cartoon eye imbedded in the lenses in order to scratch their nose. Anyone who has ever tried to scratch their nose with their glasses on, sees the advantage of raising their glasses to scratch their nose. Impossible scenario? I do believe that people love to do just that.

Submitted by Debbie Zukas

Shynola's Pyramid Song (Animated Music Video)

PYRAMID SONG (Animated Music Video to a Radiohead Song)
Directed by Shynola, U.S.A., 2001, 5 minutes

Source: (Gateway site is in Spanish; click "Aqui" at the bottom of page)

We open to a moving, aqua-green canvas speckled in white. Light piano chords play on the soundtrack, followed by a wailing human voice in song. As the canvas continues its fluid movements, the frame shifts upward and we gain perspective: it is the surface of an ocean that we are tracking across. As we continue our journey across the ocean, an elongated structure – what looks to be a large ship – becomes visible in the distance. Nearing the shape, and tracking over it, we see that it is a square structure – a building top, protruding from the ocean. In the next shot, a figure on the building top enters the frame – he is a light gray silhouette, with no specific features. He walks to the edge of the building top and places his hands on the ledge. He looks behind him, and sees an oxygen tank on the ground. In the next shot, framed from beneath the ocean’s surface, we see the figure penetrate the water, swimming downward; an oxygen line is attached to his back, and a beam of light, a searchlight, shines from the area of his face. He descends the structure of the skyscraper and reaches the ocean floor, which is comprised of a modern city’s ruins. We track forward, viewing the figure from behind, as he swims past street lights and other urban structures, as well as strange glowing configurations of light, his white oxygen line bending and zigzagging with his movements as bubbles ascend from his (implied) breathing apparatus. Tracking past the figure, but with his searchlight still visible, we pass submerged plants and see cars below. In a series of moving shots, with the figure’s searchlight guiding what we see, we track past an abandoned car; a two-laned street below; a wooden fence; a book and various scattered papers; and, most intriguingly, a cluster of human skeletons floating in front of a brick structure. We then see the figure’s flashlight beam shine across a row of suburban houses, as he swims alongside of them. His beam shines on the doorway of a house. From the perspective of the house’s front yard, we see the figure standing outside of the perimeter’s wooden fence. In the next shot, we see him enter the front door of the house from the perspective of the house’s interior; the door swings open and he flashes his light to and fro. He shines his searchlight across a table, then enters another room of the house, where a chair is floating upside down. We see him place the chair into place in its slot under a dining table, which is set with plates. In an ensuing shot, the figure, shown in side profile, slowly takes a seat in a recliner, his oxygen line still visible, his searchlight still shining from his facial apparatus; we track backward, away from him, as he settles into the chair. Next, we see the house’s exterior from above, the figure’s oxygen line visible from outside; as we track upward and away from the house, we see the figure’s oxygen line ascend, apparently cut free. In the final shot, a long take, we tilt upward from the surface of the water, where the top of the skycraper is still visible, to a view of the sky, which is now a dark orange-ish hue. A yellow dot of light circles the sky, followed by a red dot; the two dots circle one other, illuminating the clouds, before three other luminous dots join them. The dots form a diagonal line, and then extinguish, one by one, as the music dies down and we gradually fade out.

The animation here, namely, 3-D computer animation, is striking. The animators, a creative collective named Shynola, managed to capture the look and texture of ocean water – how it appears on, and beneath, the surface. The water is very much alive here, from the movement of the waves above the surface, to the bubbling of water below. Also remarkable is the play of light and shadows within the water, as in the shot before the protagonist dives in. In this shot, our perspective is from beneath the ocean’s surface, looking up; in a composition similar to the final image of “A Movie,” the animators manage to capture the appearance of sunlight penetrating the water, with its exquisite sparkling effect. Similarly, the rendering of the protagonist’s searchlight casting its water-drenched halo upon the dimly-lit submerged world has a remarkably authentic feel. While the latter elements are rendered in as photo-realistic a fashion as possible, the protagonist remains a somewhat “blocky” silhouette, with unconnected spaces between his head, torso, arms, and legs. Something about his design, I found appealing – there is something ethereal about him, as if his covering is just a shell (i.e., for a soul, etc., if you will, which will ultimately find its escape). The figure’s feature-less design also lends itself to a certain universality of human form. In all, there is a certain quality to the protagonist and his epic, otherworldly surroundings which I feel a live action rendition would struggle, both budget-wise and execution-wise, to capture equally well. The use of animation here is thus a conscious, rather than gratuitous, choice. The form has an element of exaggeration, a way of conveying the wondrous and the abstract, that is well-tailored to the depiction of this entirely different world.

Beyond the quality of the animation itself, the “shots” in the video are framed and designed in highly cinematic ways. We are constantly tracking along with the figure, following him from behind, or following his point of view in tracking shots across various objects when he is not in the frame, making for an active and adventurous, highly cinematic visual voyage. Even when the protagonist is out of the frame, we see his searchlight shining across the objects in our view, which is an extremely clever motif. The overall sense is one of mystery and wonder, as we shine a light along side of him upon the dark corners of a submerged world as if uncovering its ancient mysteries and memories. I also liked the transitions in the video between “shots,” primarily through the use of dissolves. The dissolves themselves suggest a “passing,” almost, a ghostly transition, if you will, from one shot to another, much in the same vein as the protagonist’s “passing” from life into another state, perhaps from his silhouette form into the form of one of those glowing dots swirling the sky (if you choose to interpret the end of the video in such a way).

Of course, beyond its classification as animation, the short is a music video in form, and succeeds extremely well as such. The lyrics of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” (which you can find at narrate a surreal journey into the afterlife, whereby the speaker jumps into a river (perhaps the River Styx, according to some interpretations), where he sees “all the things [he] used to see” and is accompanied by those he used to know on a journey to “heaven in a little row boat.” Instead of fear, the speaker experiences a sense of comfort in death: “There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt.” The narrative motif of the video conveys the essence of the song extremely well, while straying from a literal enactment of the lyrics (and, thankfully, straying from any depiction, animated or otherwise, of the band, which would prove intrusive to the narrative). In the video’s narrative, the figure is seemingly the last remaining person after a great catastrophe (i.e. a Flood), and dives into the submerged world to survey the wreckage while seeking out his home, which he straightens up a bit (i.e. the chair) before settling into a chair and letting go of his oxygen cord, thereby making his own peaceful end. While there is not a one-on-one correlation between the visuals of the video and the imagery of the lyrics, there are well-timed matches in many places. For instance, the motif of the lyric “Jumped in the river, what did I see?” is well-conveyed and well-timed with the figure’s entry into the ocean. Similarly, the lyric “All the things I used to see” is well-conveyed and well-timed with the figure’s exploration of all the things in the submerged world (i.e. streetlights, cars, etc.) he would have presumably seen before the catastrophe. Particularly well-timed and -conveyed is the final lyric, “There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt,” which appears on the soundtrack a final time as the figure settles into the chair and releases the oxygen cord at the end; the sense of acceptance and peace in death is conveyed brilliantly through the figure’s gesture, resulting in a particularly poignant climax. The song’s swelling, instrumental finale kicks in after this point, and is matched particularly well to the image of the glowing, swirling dots in the sky, perhaps representative of spirits of the living that have been released. All in all, there is a wonderful catering of the visual to the rhythms and spirit of the song, resulting in a sublime and moving fusion of animation and music.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Super Squatter (from the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force)

SUPER SQUATTER (episode 208)
Created and Written by Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, USA, 2003, 11 minutes
Source: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 2, Disc 1
(for viewing pleasure, Myspace and YouTube)

This animated short film is so hilarious and difficult to analyze that I decided to embed the short, so below is the short minus the Dr. Weird piece and theme song. Also I added another Dr. Weird piece to show how much comedy can be placed in such a small area.

It is quite difficult to say what this short film is about, but here are the basics. There are three food products, a giant milkshake, box of fries, and wad of meat named Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad who live in New Jersey next to their neighbor Carl. In this short film you first see a dark castle and a mad doctor named Dr. Weird who apparently has invented something, the thermostat (his assistant however says, that has been there). Dr. Weird begins to push the temp. to 300 degrees. There is a pause as the assistant asks if it is on, then the doctor bursts into flames, right there the film cuts to the intro to the short film. In the intro, with a rap theme song, there is an introduction to the three food products seen as crime fighters who save the world. As the short film goes on we find out that this is definitely not true, just like how important the Dr. Weird piece is throughout the film.

We see that Shake forgot to pay the bills for the cable, the phone, and the electricity. So Shake, being the shake that is does what needs to be done.....go over to Carl's house and watch TV there. The subplot is that Meatwad is trying to make do without power in the house, by trying to make himself a weenie smoothie. While Shake keeps watching TV, Carl accidentally shoots himself in the foot, and only until Frylock comes in does Carl get the help he needs....but due to a bad HMO Carl's foot goes in the wrong place. In the meantime, Shake siphoned Carl's electricity to power his own house, while Carl's house burns down. Carl doesn't mind however because he took some horse pills. As Shake lets Carl sleep near a pile of ants that begin to cover him, in come the credits.

I selected this film for an animated short because a) Looney Tunes cartoons are too easy to select, and b) this sort of animation is done by a computer program (I think Macromedia Flash). Lots of moving around is done by guided paths. Why I chose this certain episode over all the other episodes in the series, is because instead of fighting crime and saving the world, the only thing important in this world is paying the bills. With all the things that animated shorts can do that normal films can't do, the only things that seem impossible are the three food products. This constitutes the short film as an experimental film as well. All of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episodes seem to reject a story, or more to the point, reject any real direction, even the title has nothing to do with what they do. There is actually proof of this because in the credits, there is no "directed by". We just seem to watch these characters as they go about their lives, and when there is something interesting like alien invasion, even the aliens seem to have no direction. It is much like the a reality TV show in the realm of animation, with all the explosions and destruction that is found in the animation world (and even if there is a little direction spooned in, it is destroyed near the end.)

The characters themselves seems to show this sense of no direction. (Master) Shake is cocky and cares about nothing around except himself, he certainly wants to be the main character. His sense of "my way or the highway" is even invoked in the way he speaks, where nobody gets what he is saying but himself.

An example is in episode 240, "THE", Shake is asked by Frylock why the house stinks, he says
"Well you know how the flies have been a problem?"
Frylock, knowing there hasn't been a fly problem, says, "No I don't"
"And remember when I left all the meat out because I saw Mr. David Lynch 'I'm on TV' do it and he got on TV doing it and I did it and I didn't get on TV for doing it?"
"No I don't remember that!"
"Well I did, and because of this of course, you get rats."

Frylock is the intelligent one and the only character in this animated TV show that has the most, but not much, human in him. He even tries to give this show some direction. But of course Shake doesn't listen. Meatwad is like a retarded child, who doesn't know everything and tries to understand but can't, an easy target for Shake to beat up and do bad things to.

Overall this short may not be funny to some because of its absence of directed humor, but it still makes a mark in animation films and short films.

ATHF-Super Squatter

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Luxo, Jr

Directed by John Lasseter, US, 1986, 2:23 minutes
for a sneak peak:
to see the entire short, download from itunes (there's a link on the pixar site)

Luxo Jr., who, as Jeff mentioned in class, later became the icon for Pixar, is a young lamp who just wants to have a little fun with a ball. The short starts out with an adult lamp, who is presumably Luxo Sr., watching a ball that bounces off of him and rolls back off of the frame. Then the ball rolls right passed him. Out hops Luxo Jr. With his cord waving behind him, Luxo Jr. chases the ball, he plays with the ball, he jumps on the ball, he breaks the ball. Sad and chastised for his carelessness, Luxo Jr whimpers off only to return with a much bigger ball!

Though extremely short in length, Luxo Jr. is rich in detail--both visual and audio. The pixar website notes that John Lassester was playing around with movement and picked the first thing he saw on his desk--a lamp. Luxo jr. though made of metal and screws, is incredibly fluid in motion while never betraying his lamp-ness. He manages to achieve animalistic attributes in a playful puppy sort of way. He hops and bounces and "runs" around, he even wiggles his "butt" with joy and anticipation, his cord ripples after him, following the flow of his motion.

Luxo Jr. has no paucity of emotion. When the first ball deflates, he quickly goes from gleeful to regretful, his lamp shade hung in remorse and shame, his back "hunched." Luxo Sr. reprimands his son with a nod of his own lamp shade and Luxo Jr. heartbreakingly hops out of the frame. It's incredible how much feeling is conveyed through two lamps and no dialogue. In this respect, I think it's incredibly indicative of why this short was made as an animation instead of live-action. Thought I'm sure that there are many things you can do with a real lamp using computers, I don't think they could come close to what is achieved in Luxo Jr.

As I mentioned above, there is also an incredible attention paid to sound. While there is music in the background, the real "dialogue" of the short are the squeaks of the lamps when they bend over or shake their "heads." The sounds take on a conversational tone; just as a puppy would whine or whimper if it were bad, Luxo Jr. gives out a shy squeal of rusty joints as he hunches over in despair.