The Wisconsin Film Festival was April 5-12. Last year was the first year that I went to the festival, and for last year’s festival I pored over the schedule and carefully chose three films to see: The Salesman from Iran, One Week and a Day from Israel, and Infinity Baby from the US. I would recommend the first two. Infinity Baby wasn’t great, but it was cool that Nick Offerman was there in person to do a Q&A afterward.
This year I didn’t feel like applying the same level of scrutiny to the schedule. I leafed through the pages, but nothing particularly caught my eye. Except, occasionally, there were pictures of really cute-looking cartoons — one with a fancy penguin waiter, one with a sad avocado walking a graffitied urban street, one with a mommy and baby streetcar. When I got to the ‘S’ section of the schedule, I discovered that all of these cute cartoons were in one program of short films called “Shorter and Sweeter.” I decided to get a ticket. I went online and snagged the last ticket they had (probably out of the stubby fingers of a small child).
So, about a week and a half ago, I went to the Marquee at Union South and watched a lot of little animations that were indeed very short and very sweet. Here are a few that I really liked:
“Konigiri-Kun: Sportsday”: This one was sooooooo cute. Imagine that all the little emoji of unidentifiable Japanese foods came to life, had expressive little faces, and got together to participate in a day of sports competitions. Then some mischievous seaweed-wrapped sushi ninjas sneak in to try to steal the medals! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a trailer or clip for this film online, but this one’s by the same person and has one of the same rice ball characters: “Konigiri-Kun: Shopping” (trailer). The style is stop-motion animation using what looks like real food.
“Spider Web”: A spider and the old woman whose apartment he inhabits start out as enemies, then bond over broken limbs and knitting. There’s a clip available online. My favorite part is when the old woman tries to vacuum up the spider, but afterward he very pitifully crawls out of the vacuum using his one remaining leg. Okay, maybe you kind of had to be there. It has a whimsical hand-drawn style of animation that doesn’t try to be too perfect, which works well for the story.
“Driven”: The first two films I mentioned didn’t have any talking. This film is from StoryCorps, so voices telling their story is the main draw. It’s about the narrators’ father and grandfather, Wendell Scott, an African American race car driver who raced in the South during the Jim Crow era. The animation is pleasant, but not particularly artsy or inventive — it serves to accompany the audio. This one is available in its entirety for your viewing enjoyment.
The “Shorter and Sweeter” program included several other films I liked and a few films that I probably would have cut if it were up to me. I hope you click on the links and check out the different animation styles!
If you want to see a little more animation, and if the ones linked above were too well-made for your taste, I took an animation class during college and made a little short film as my final project. Here’s the link. It goes by really fast because, as it turns out, animation is difficult, and it takes a ton of work to make each second of a movie. Because it’s hard to tell what’s going on, I’ll outline the plot here: a tree flies into the clouds, the trunk and leaves separate, the leaves turn into a fat man, the trunk turns into a girl, the man eats a hole in the clouds…and then you’ll just have to watch it to see what happens next. Several times, as it will probably go by too fast for you to actually see on the first try.
(Photo of movie theater from here.)