Animated short films cover a breadth of topics and styles

by Andrew Kingsley | 11/8/15 7:15pm

Inspired by the Telluride short film showcase last Saturday, I decided to compile my favorite animated short films available online and share them.

“Fresh Guacamole” (2012) by PES

Officially the shortest work nominated for an Academy Award at 101 seconds, “Fresh Guacamole” is the pinnacle of PES’ career as a stop motion animator — “Western Spaghetti” (2008) and “Submarine Sandwich” (2014) are two other favorites. PES transforms household objects into a veritable cooking show — Christmas lights become jalapenos, poker chips are tortilla chips, and grenades represent avocados. Each new ingredient dazzles, like Iron Chef but the secret ingredient is always imagination. The camera often holds on a new food, such as an old baseball (an onion), letting you savor the ingenuity. Like food porn for film buffs, “Fresh Guacamole” takes everyday bric-a-brac and breathes new life into materials once destined for a yard sale.

“Cousin” (1999) by Adam Elliot

Perhaps my favorite short film, “Cousin” is a work of quiet minimalism and tenderness, focused on the fading relationship of two young cousins, one of whom has cerebral palsy. The other does not and describes his cousin’s habits with sympathy and wonder. Elliot is a collector of idiosyncrasies and curates this micro-exhibit with such rich details as his cousin’s “Can’t Stop Dancin’” and “I Yodel for Jesus” shirts, his pet rock collection and how “he smells like licorice.” Besides the blinking and twitching of the figurines, there are seldom any movements on screen, yet Elliot conveys a world of emotion with his black and white, semi-grotesque idiom. I could have chosen Elliot’s “Uncle” (1996) or “Harvey Krumpet” (Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short 2003), yet “Cousin” has been my sanctuary in times of stress. It contains a wisdom and tranquility, a love of detail throughout and a worldly honesty in its final shot, both devastating yet genuinely human. A film about loss and nostalgia, “Cousin” perhaps addresses our college complex, in which friends are constantly matriculating into and graduating from our lives. Yet there is no moroseness or tragedy, merely acceptance of chapters closed. Those acquaintances we’ve made, the ones perhaps who smell of Keystone or sunk like a rock at the Polar Bear Plunge, may fade into memory, yet Elliot reminds us how vital they are to our scrapbook.

“Logorama” (2009) by H5/François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain

Much like “Fresh Guacamole,” “Logorama” creates a world out of objects. Instead of baseballs and poker chips, however, the short is made entirely out of over 2,500 unique logos and mascots. Downtown Los Angeles becomes even more commercialized, introduced by an aerial shot of the hundreds of corporations dominating the cityscape. A kaleidoscopic explosion of innovation, “Logorama” revels in its novelty and shows how much fun the filmmakers had in selecting these brands. The zoo alone is a microcosm of this ingenious universe featuring the Lacoste alligators, the MGM lion and the Republican elephant. Ronald McDonald, of course, is the villain who crashes his truck carrying biological weapons and then goes on a shooting spree across the city. Luckily, Mother Nature prevails over this capitalistic carnage and sends an earthquake to wash out the corporate madness, flooding all life in oil. Foul-mouthed and absurd, “Logorama” is a searing panorama of corporate dominion which lavishes in its vastness and rich detail.

“Rejected” (2000) by Don Hertzfeldt

If David Lynch and the writers of “Cyanide and Happiness” had a child, it would be Don Fertzfeldt, the surreal absurdist who animates stick figures. Created after he graduated film school, “Rejected” is a montage of cartoons deemed unfit for the Family Learning Channel. From kids shouting “I’m a consumer whore” to fluffy clouds bleeding out of their, well, you know, “Rejected” comes from that short-circuiting, corrupted region of the mind Walt Disney vowed never to access. Soon it devolves into an apocalyptic implosion, and Hertzfeldt kills the daylights out of these un-darlings. An entropic romp through the psyche of a madman, “Rejected” are the cartoons I wish Nickelodeon had played.

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