You don’t have to be a kid to love animation. That’s what Studio Ghibli, Ari Folman and other modern day pioneers of the form are proving time and again. Earlier this week, AFI Fest screened “Waltz with Bashir” director Folman’s upcoming “The Congress,“ in which Robin Wright plays herself in a half live-action, half animated Faustian sci-fi of genius, mystery and ragged beauty. Ignore the critical pans and see “The Congress” when Drafthouse Films releases it on VOD in January. Until then, catch up on your experimental animated films with these five essentials you can stream now. Clips after the jump.
1. Harry Nilsson: The Point (SnagFilms)
Under the direction of Fred Wolf, untouchable singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was inspired to develop this 1971 film companion to his album after an eye-opening acid trip. And it certainly shows in this delirious bedtime fable and creepy cartoon about a kingdom of pointy-headed creatures. Fun for the kiddies but adults will appreciate this hallucinatory LSD-tinged flashback. Pass the peace pipe!
2. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Fandor)
Another animation-live-action hybrid, “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” (2012) is a very sincere and personal film from hipster auteur Terence Nance who unspools the myriad possible outcomes of a fleeting romantic encounter across a dazzling tapestry of graffiti and pop-art inspired images. Anyone who’s attempted to cobble up a longterm relationship even when the pieces don’t quite fit will be entranced by Nance’s hypnotic sophomore feature.
3. Paprika (Amazon Prime)
Writer/director Satoshi Kon takes you down the Freudian rabbit hole of illusions in this new cult classic of anime about a machine that enables therapists to enter their patients’ dreams, opening up an unforeseen pandora’s box of consequences. While some of the trippy, dystopic images veer toward traditional anime style, the blend of CGI in the impressionistic dream sequences in this 2006 film is seamless and seductive.
4. Waltz with Bashir (Amazon Prime)
Ari Folman‘s “Waltz with Bashir” is not only an animated documentary but a stirring, exquisitely rendered leap forward for the medium. Scintillating shadows lend a noirish palette, and blooms of color decorate an otherwise ghastly pall of darkness in this take on an adrift soldier and his broken memories of the 1982 Lebanon War with Israel. Featuring both classic and Flash styles, “Waltz” deservedly snagged a 2009 Foreign Language Oscar nomination. A gut-punch final sequence culled from archival footage caps off this harrowing experience, among the best animated films to come around in awhile.
5. Alice (iTunes)
Forget Tim Burton. This is the mother of all “Alice” adaptations. Jan Svankmajer‘s 1988 take on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” extrapolates all the psychoanalytic motifs of the original story with creepy, dank set pieces. The Czech surrealist filmmaker brilliantly employs stop-motion to anthropomorphize found, inanimate objects as our heroine falls under the spell of a murderous stuffed rabbit.
Also worth checking out are French stop-motion feature “A Town Called Panic” (Fandor), quaint 2009 cartoon “My Dog Tulip” (SnagFilms) and the dreamy Brothers Quay hybrid “Piano Tuner of Earthquakes” (Fandor).