Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eat Your Hertzfeldt Out

Found on the pavement outside our building:

Last week's ASIFA screenings ended with Don Hertzfeldt's  I Am So Proud of You.  I won't go into that film here, other than to say it's best quality is the emotional realness of the mom giving the son a daily note in his lunch "I am so proud of you."  That emotional realism is traded for gags, but it touches a beautiful moment.  That's what makes the work especially disappointing -it's not as clever as it thinks it is (further evidenced by its strong need for an editor).  

The best thing I could say about it -and this is too kind -imagine if Joe Frank wrote an episode of "Family Guy".

Moments like these litter the sidewalks.  All too rare in animation.


This one's for Brian:

More nice typography in the Parsons' building:
The design is part Pablo Ferro, part Stefan Sagmeister.  In the entrance of the building at 2 W. 13th Street, this is just the sort of thing that art schools (and animation studios) should have.


Anonymous said...

"Family Guy?!" Seriously? You had my attention until you made this boneheaded comparison.

"I am so Proud of you" was a wonderful, philosophical short. My only complaint was that for a Hertzfeldt movie I was expecting MORE humor. It sounds like you either didn't watch the entire last half of it or just didn't understand what you were looking at.

roconnor said...

Non sequitur humor, dwelling on a simple shot (the bus stop scenes) for too long, self-referential jokes. I'd say "Family Guy" is an apt comparision.

I also likened it to Joe Frank -whose brilliance far outweighs the lameness of anything on "Animation Domination".

I guess I didn't "understand" it then. Or maybe I just disagree with you. It could be that the self-indulgent, overlong, and shallow work have soared over my head.

As for your thoughts on this being "philosophical", well, I'll assume you mean "meditative" and leave it at that.

There is plenty to like in the film -not nearly as strong a Hertzfeldt's pre-"serious" stuff. He seems convinced that long = serious.

This is too bad, because he has great wit and doesn't need 25 minutes to tell a story like this.

roconnor said...

I'll also add -this is the second time I've screened this film.

I tried to like it. I want to like it.

It just doesn't measure up.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we're definitely in disagreement. The short is a masterpiece, maybe even better than "Everything will be Okay." I'm really surprised we're even talking about the same movie.

Your complaints don't quite add up. You say it turns in "beautiful emotional realism" for too many gags but then complain it's too serious and meditative. So which is it?

Too serious, meditative and self-indulgent doesn't sound like "Family Guy" to me. It sounds more like somebody who's criticizing Terrence Malick, quite on the opposite end of the spectrum.

There's nothing "self-referential" in the short. And shots that "go on a little too long" have become something of a Hertzfeldt trademark. You'll find the same thing in his student films like "Billy's Balloon" and "Lily and Jim."

I've seen it twice now too, once on film at the IFC center and again on the ugly DVD they had at ASIFA. I found even more to appreciate the 2nd time. It's not overlong, every scene feels essential to what he's building.

I guess it's obvious I feel strongly about it! Everyone in my group was blown away by his IFC show and I'm not surprised by all the awards it's winning. Hertzfeldt's the most vital independent we have. I can understand somebody not getting this short, but you at least gotta give him props for always trying crazy new things and taking these big risks.

Anonymous said...

I just learned even the notoriously cranky Chris Robinson named it his favorite short of
'08: "A f*cking masterpiece. I can't even begin to articulate my thoughts about the film but it just gave me shivers and I wasn't able to attend the party after the screening. Just had to be alone. It had this effect on a number of other people here too... stunning, beautiful, tragic, absurd work."

Liesje said...

Uriesda - Just popping by to let you know that Asterisk Animation isn't alone. I too wanted to like both "I Am So Proud of You" and "Everything Will Be Okay" but after at least two screenings of each, couldn't bring myself to say I enjoyed either.

In a way, I can see the relation to "Family Guy", a cartoon I watched through the whole first season and liked enough for some friend to buy me it on DVD. Now? I can't stand it. It's completely unfunny and painful at times... to me. I certainly know plenty of people who love it.

Maybe my relationship with Hertzfeldt is heading for a similar end? I enjoyed most of his earlier work but perhaps my tastes have changed.

roconnor said...

Thanks for your response Uriesda, I appreciate it.

I agree that Hertzfeldt and his work deserve the highest respect -I wouldn't write about it if I didn't respect it.

By the same token, respecting something demands that we look at it with gravity.

The starting point, though, comes down whether you "like" something.

I'm glad you like the film. I want you to like it.

I do not.

That doesn't mean it's unlikeable, but that is doesn't resonate with me. I've given some reasons -the primary one being that the length of the film is completely out of proportion with the story, that the good moments are diluted and padded with trivialities (yes, yes, that's "the point" of life, too -but I don't buy it. Life is not boring)

And by admitting that the "going on too long gimmick" is part of Hertzfeldt's "style" you are starting to see what I mean by "self referential". These are the types of tropes that doom artists.

What I say about the film may seem like a mixed message, that I claim one thing and then the opposite. I don't think that's true. In treating a work with dignity, I try to avoid hyperbole. I wouldn't say the film is "bad", because it isn't. Nor would I say that Hertzfeldt is the "greatest independent animator working", because he probably wouldn't crack the top 10. Which, again, isn't disrespect -disrespect is overstatement.

In any event, I appreciate your thoughts, and I will revisit this picture I'm sure.

As for Chris Robinson, ordinarily that would be the "fallacy of appeal to authority", but I don't think he qualifies. (that's a joke)

Anonymous said...

he probably wouldn't crack the top 10

Oh dear, oh dear. Now you're just trying to get a rise out of me ;)

Elliot Cowan said...

I like this film well enough but would like it a whole lot more if it were a whole lot less of it.

Anonymous said...

"notoriously cranky???"

What gives? I hug my sons and snuggle with my dog. I'm a very warm, loving person you stupid cunts.

Sir Chris J Robinson

roconnor said...

Isn't "cranky" some sort of X-rated British slang?

If not, I don't know what that lady is talking about.