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Review: “The 17th Animation Show of Shows”

Review: "The 17th Animation Show of Shows"

Editor’s Note: Ron Diamond and I go back 30 years and I’ve always admired his passion for bringing public attention to the work of the world’s greatest independent animators. His efforts to promote their work on an regular basis with his Animation Show of Shows program has been vital – and I’m so pleased that beginning this year Ron is able to expand the showings of his annual compilation to cities outside of New York and LA. If you get the chance, grab it – run to the theater – don’t think twice. You won’t regret the experience. Below is Fred Patten’s overview of Ron’s screening last night – Check out the list of playdates on the Animation Show Of Shows website for the screenings in your area.  Don’t miss it. – Jerry Beck

This year, Ron Diamond’s annual
Animation Show of Shows has “gone public”. 
Instead of only screening at animation studios and colleges, a
successful Kickstarter campaign has allowed Diamond to release the film nationwide.  The campaign has also allowed the
creation of The Animation Show of Shows, Inc., an IRS registered 501c3
non-profit organization with the goal of public screenings, expanding the
screenings to cities around the world, making short documentaries about each of
the featured animators, and restoring classic short animation of the past.  The ASSI has already started distributing
this year’s program in public theaters, first at Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinema on
September 24, with screenings scheduled in 20 more cities across the U.S. and
Canada including San Francisco, Berkley, San Jose, Seattle, Denver, Chicago,
Pittsburgh, Columbus, Vancouver, Albany, New York, and Portland and Eugene,
Oregon.

The 95-minute program
consists of 11 short films by American, Australian, French, Iranian, Irish, Russian,
Swiss, and Turkish animators, in a wide variety of art styles and techniques
from traditional 2D cartoon animation to computer imagery, clay painting on
glass, stop-motion, and folded paper. 
The 11 films have all been selected by Ron Diamond, the founder and head
of Los Angeles’ Acme Filmworks studio, from international film festivals around
the world.  All have won at least one
award; most have won several.  Two, “We
Can’t Live Without Cosmos
” by Russia’s Konstantin Bronzit and “World of
Tomorrow
” by the U.S.’s Don Hertzfeldt, have won over forty awards each.

“The Story of Percival
Pilts”
, by Australian John Lewis & New Zealand’s Janette Goodey (9
minutes), is a humorous stop-motion tale, told in rhyme by his brother, of a
boy who is so impressed by stilts that he vows to always wear them and never
touch the ground for the rest of his life. 
As he grows older, his stilts grow taller and taller …

“Tant de Forêts” (“So Many
Forests”
), by Geoffrey Godet of France & Burcu Sankur of Turkey (3’17”), is
stylized abstract 3D animation to a poem by Jacques Prévert about the savage
deforestation of the planet to make more and more paper goods – including
notices warning about deforestation.

“Snowfall”, by Conor Whelan
of Ireland (4’48”), is the Show of Shows’ first film to feature LGBT themes, in
2D cartoon animation.  A nervous young
man goes to a big house party, but the more crowded it gets, the lonelier he
feels as the heterosexual men and women pair off, leaving him alone.

“The Ballad of Holland
Island House”
, by the U.S.’s Lynn Tomlinson (5 minutes), is the true story of
the last house on a once-large clay and silt island in Chesapeake Bay eroded
away by the sea.  In 1910 Holland Island
had a fishing and farming community of 70 homes and businesses, including a
post office and baseball team.  Serious
erosion began in the 1910s, and by 1922 the last inhabitants had moved to the
Maryland mainland.  The 1888 two-story
house, which became a famous landmark maintained by a preservation foundation,
remained alone on the shrinking island until it collapsed into the sea in
2010.  Tomlinson has told its story in a poetic
bittersweet style through clay paintings on glass.

“Behind the Trees”, by the
U.S.’s Amanda Palmer & Avi Ofer (3 minutes), is a lively, sketchy
surrealistic picturization by Palmer of her nighttime recording of mutterings
by her husband (Neil Gaiman) while he’s asleep.

“We Can’t Live Without
Cosmos”
, by Russia’s Konstantin Bronzit (15’19”), is a Show of Shows repeat,
from last year; but it is so outstandingly amusing yet poignant that it is
impossible to fault Diamond for including it again in this first program for
the public.  Two lively best friends enter
Russia’s cosmonaut training program together. 
They both pass, with one selected as the cosmonaut and the other as the
backup cosmonaut.  When the first is
killed in a space disaster, his friend is heartbroken.

“Messages Dans l’Air”, by Isabel
Favez of Switzerland (6 minutes), is a cute love story animated through folded
paper.  A shy young woman’s pet cat
brings her and a handsome boxer together by poaching his goldfish which she
rescues.

“Stripy”, by Babak &
Behnoud Nekooei of Iran (4 minutes), is an amusing traditional 2D celebration
of nonconformity.  All the workers in a
regimented box-making factory are instructed to paint stripes on the
boxes.  One worker decides to interpret
the instructions imaginatively.  Soon all
the workers do the same, and he is reduced to conformity again.

“Ascension” is a 2013
graduation film by five students at SUPINFOCOM Arles in France; Colin Laubry,
Thomas Bourdis, Martin de Coutenhove, Caroline Domergue, and Florian Vecchione
(7’10”).  SUPINFOCOM’s
synopsis is: “In the early years of the 20th century, two climbers make the
traditional ascent, carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary to the top of the
mountain.” The background: Rochemelon or Rocciamelone, one of the highest peaks
of the Alps along the French-Italian border, has a small statue of the Virgin
Mary atop its peak. Wikipedia says; “The teutonic knight Bonifacius Rotarius
(of Asti) made the first ascent of Rochemelon on 1 September 1358, to bring a
small metal image of the Holy Virgin as a gesture of gratitude for having
survived captivity in the Holy land during a war against the Muslims. The
summit of Rocciamelone is the destination of a traditional pilgrimage, every
year, on August 5. A three metre high statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was
erected there in 1899.”  “Ascension’s”
CGI is so realistic that it starts out looking like a live-action film –
but the action, depicting increasingly ridiculous mountaineering mishaps, is
anything but realistic.  This is another
repeat, from the 2013 Show of Shows, where it got the whole audience laughing
and applauding.

“Love in Times of March
Madness”
, by Melissa Johnson (U.S.) & Robertino Zambrano (Australia) (10
minutes), is a wryly humorous reminisce by Johnson, who grew to 6’4” in the 8th
grade.  This made her a basketball star
in junior high and high school, but complicated her awkward adolescent romantic
encounters.  Johnson tells her story
through crude black-&-white drawings with an exaggerated perspective that
emphasizes the humor in retrospect.

“World of
Tomorrow”
by Don Hertzfeldt of the U.S. (16 minutes) is wonderfully moving surrealistic
science-fiction.  Hertzfeldt’s signature childish
stick figures are particularly effective because the protagonist is a happy
four-year-old girl, Emily Prime.  She is
visited by a despondent adult Emily from 227 years in the future, a
fourth-generation clone, who tells her of the marvels of the future but the
spiritual bleakness that they bring.  Yet
to the four-year-old child, they all seem fantastically enticing.

Snowfall, Stripy, and Love in the Time of March Madness are followed by short (2 to 3
minutes) documentaries showing the directors discussing their films.

This year’s
program was reviewed from a crowded ASIFA-Hollywood industry screening at the
DreamWorks Animation campanile theater on October 15.  The two repeats, “We Can’t Live Without
Cosmos
” and “Ascension”, were omitted since this audience had seen them
before.  Instead, three new films were
shown (the first two for adults), and filmmakers John & Janette Lewis (The
Story of Percival Pilts
), Nina Gantz (Edmond), and Isabelle Favez (Messages
Dans l’Air
) appeared with Ron Diamond for a Q&A session after the
screening:

“Edmond” by the
U.S.’s Nina Gantz (10 minutes) is a psychological visualization in stop-motion
animation of felt figures.  Edmond, an
emotionally-disturbed young man, stands by a lake about to commit suicide.  He fantasizes about his past in which his bizarre
erotic impulses have ruined his life.

“Yul and the
Snake”
by Gabriel Harel of France (13 minutes) is a dramatic incident in
angular cartoon imagery.  Dino and his
13-year-old brother Yul go on a scooter into the countryside to meet Mike, a
brutal criminal.  Dino and Yul boast of
having knocked down an old woman and stealing her purse.  Mike sneers at them, urinates into a puddle
and forces Yul to lie face down into it, and sets his vicious mastiff Tyson on
him.  Yul, who has seen a mysterious
snake in the area (the snake is colored; everything else is in
black-&-white), watches it kill Tyson and drive Mike off.   

The final new
film shown last night, Sanjay’s Super Team by Sanjay Patel of the U.S. (7 minutes), is a preview
of Pixar’s next public short film, to be released with Pixar’s next feature,
“The Good Dinosaur” on Thanksgiving. 
“Sanjay’s Suprt Team” is a hilarious CGI reminisce/visualization by the
animator who has worked on such Pixar features as “Monsters, Inc.”, “The
Incredibles”, and “Ratatouille”.  Patel,
an Indian immigrant, grew up as a child in Riverside, California, reading
American comic books and watching TV cartoons while forced to participate in
Hindu prayers by his father.  He quickly
imagines such Hindu gods as Vishnu, Hanuman, and Durga as American-style
superheroes saving him from a supernatural monster. 

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