January 25 - WORLD OF TOMORROW (2015)
"Now is the envy of all of the dead."
WORLD OF TOMORROW is a 16-minute animated film by Don Hertzfeldt, a filmmaker who by now has built up a small library of existentially-minded work. He's the writer, director, and animator behind IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (2012), which is a feature-length impressionistic portrait of a mental break. IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY is one of my favorite animated pieces of all time, and so I was looking forward to watching more from Hertzfeldt, especially since WORLD OF TOMORROW has been nominated for an Oscar in the Short Film (Animated) category for 2015. I'll say right off the bat that it's definitely worth its runtime, and if you're at all interested in a personal rumination on humanity's place in the cosmic timeline, you should just go watch it and think about it for yourself.
I have several thoughts about WORLD OF TOMORROW. For one, it didn't strike me quite as powerfully as IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY did, but that's as much to do with Hertzfeldt's legacy as it does with the subject matter. It's his first digitally-animated film, which makes sense. It's a futuristic / sci-fi film, or at least it has elements of such films (time travel, cloning, etc.), but it's primarily a kind of existential meditation that uses those touchstones as tools to explore its themes. The aesthetic of WORLD OF TOMORROW is beautiful, although I can't help but lament Hertzfeldt's transition to digital animation. IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY was animated entirely by hand, and it had such a gorgeous feel to it. WORLD OF TOMORROW looks pretty, but it wasn't as striking as his past work, in my opinion. Additionally, I found the subject matter to be somewhat well-worn, which was a bit disappointing. It felt like a better, more poetic (and animated, obviously) episode of BLACK MIRROR, which could be a compliment from some but to me means the most intriguing part of the piece will be its execution.
I'm being more critical towards WORLD OF TOMORROW than I am of many of the other films I've seen this year, but not because I didn't like it. I definitely appreciate it, and I'm trying to engage with it at the level it deserves.