Puce Moment (1949, Directed by Kenneth Anger) 5

(5-Okay Film)

Formless. Baffling. Experimental.

A short and relatively conventional piece from Avante-garde filmmaker, Kenneth Anger, whose devotion to all that is aberrant and taboo made him a leading figure in the underground experimental film movement. Although made in the 1940s, this short was re-released in the sixties with a rock soundtrack, and this is the version I saw. The short is highly fetishistic, but never very provocative, as it focuses on one woman in a puce dress staring into the camera for almost the entirety of its six-minute running time. While not boring, the film is also not very interesting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


John Henry (2000, Directed by Mark Henn) English 8

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Vibrant. Beautiful. Compelling.

Beautifully animated telling of the famous John Henry folktale wherein the newly freed black man attempts to build a better future for his wife and family out west. There, on the verge of their dream, Henry and many other black families face opposition leading to the folklore hero’s legendary battle with a steam-powered hammer. Man versus machine. The story is told in colorful, hand-drawn (with the pencil shadings left in) fashion mixed with excellent music from Sounds of Blackness. This is a wonderful adaptation of the myth and would be a perfect introduction to John Henry for any kid. It also represents, unfortunately, the earliest portrayal of black people in a Disney animated film as far as I can tell.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Superbia (2016, Directed by Luca Tóth) Hungarian 4

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(4-Bad Film)

Vulgar. Crude. Uninteresting.

Described as a short film about, “the native people of the land of Superbia, where men and women form separate societies, (who) face the changes sparked by the first equal couple in their history,” but whatever meaning lays within, lays deep within, buried under grotesque, crude visuals and what I’ll generously call avant-garde storytelling. With no dialogue and no distinct characters, I can only assume that Superbia is meant to be symbolic, but since there’s nothing noticeably interesting about the short, I gave up trying to figure out what it’s symbolic of.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


One Man Band (2006, Directed by Mark Andrews, Andrew Jimenez) English 6

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(6-Good Film)

Simple. Effective. Faded.

Two market place street musicians in medieval times compete for the last coin from a young girl. After the two’s escalating performances cause her to drop the coin and lose it, she demonstrates her own musical ability earning her more gold than the two men could ever imagine. Reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon in a way, because of the intense rivalry and one-upsmanship and pettiness of the characters. Shows once again Pixar’s talent at telling an engaging story without dialogue, which they put on full display soon after with Wall-E. Their artwork and Michael Giacchino’s music tell the story, though the visuals are slightly faded with time.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Sunday in Peking (1956, Directed by Chris Marker) French 5

Narrated by Gilles Queant

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(5-Okay Film)

Simple. Curious. Whimsical.

A cultural snapshot of Peking, now Beijing, in 1956 under Mao Zedong’s rule, though the whimsical tone and especially eloquent narration establish the film as an anthropological study rather than a political one. Many of the shots and images captured by the filmmakers are incredible. Candid shots of children passing, school in session, foggy mist covering the fields. Aided by Eastman color, the film looks stunning at every turn. If you’re interested in foreign cultures and different eras, you’ll find much to enjoy in this piece. Marker makes no statement as far as I can tell. This belongs more to the fly on the wall style of documentary filmmaking, though at times we see the filmmakers converse or engage with the natives on the screen. For those less interested in the subject, such as myself, you’ll find yourself, drifting off.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Geri’s Game (1997, Directed by Jan Pinkava) English 9

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Pixar’s first great short. Where their previous efforts showcased innovation in the 3-d Computer Animation field, Geri’s Game tells a simple yet memorable story to go along with the technology. An elderly man plays a spirited game of chess with himself as an opponent. Perfectly paced and edited, and though Pixar’s animation continues to evolve and becomes more sophisticated with each day, I don’t believe Geri’s Game has been topped. Odd. Funny. Clever.

Lifted (2006, Directed by Gary Rydstrom) English 5

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An alien experiences his first day on the job controlling the spaceship while his boss observes. Pixar short with all the trademark qualities (clever idea and no dialogue), but lacks the trademark appeal. I think it comes down to the character design which is fine but fairly traditional. Every aspect of the animation is well-done, but feels like it’s been done before. Droll. Conventional. Meh.

Luxo Jr. (1986, Directed by John Lasseter) English 6

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The short that started it all for animation juggernaut, Pixar, was merely a tease of what was to come. It’s a very simple story about a lamp and that lamp’s son playing with a ball, but it’s a testament to the studio that out of that premise, they were able to make a relatable film. To make the audience empathize with inanimate objects would prove to be their first claim to fame nearly a decade later with Toy Story.

Paperman (2012, Directed by John Kahrs) English 10

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One of my favorite short films, Paperman tells a romantic story of a listless company man who meets his dream girl through a chance encounter. Separated before he can make a move, he later sees her across the street from his office building, and uses paper airplanes to try and reach her. The black-and-white animation is magnificent and integrated perfectly within the story. The triumphant idea is executed perfectly by Disney.

Feast (2014, Directed by Patrick Osborne) English 7

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Told in snap-shot glimpses, a man’s progression from single dog owner to dog owner in a relationship to married with a kid and a dog is seen through the eyes of that dog, and reflected in the meals he serves his canine companion. Clever and flagrantly cute at times, I found the cel animation less spectacular than much of Disney’s other work. In all other aspects, however, Feast represents a very creatively inspired idea executed perfectly.