Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot - World of Tomorrow

In the past few years, the number of blogs dedicated to covering the Oscars has grown quite tremendously. This officially counts as an Oscar blog, I suppose, albeit one that focuses solely on a single category. With so many options I suppose you have many to choose from as to which to follow. For me I usually stick with Sasha Stone's Awards Daily and Nathaniel Rogers's The Film Experience. I suppose the latter is more of a general film blog than a blog dedicated to the Oscar, but I first followed it for its predictions and insights in the Oscar race. This was back when I was hoping that Spirited Away would win an Oscar, so I've been a semi-loyal reader for a good 13 years now.

One thing that the site does well is that in the down months for Oscars, it hosts events where readers can participate, such as the Supporting Actress Smackdown, where readers can rate all of the nominees for Best Supporting Actress in a certain year. Five years ago they offered a contest for a Blu-Ray copy of West Side Story in honor of the 50th anniversary. I went out on a limb and entered (and was actually one of the winners). But for the most part I've only been an observer posting a few comments here and there. And this includes their most enduring series, Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot is pretty much as the title suggests. They bring up a movie and we pick one shot that we feel is the best. Then we post it on our blog and at the end we can see what every viewer picked as the best shot for that one particular movie. Anyways, it's interesting to see, but I never felt the need to participate. It would be kind of weird to do a HMWYBS about a non-animated short film on this site about the Best Animated Short category. Until I saw what would be the topic for this coming week.

That's right: one of the two short films that can be chosen is none other than Don Hertzfeldt's Oscar nominated World of Tomorrow. Now as a blog dedicated to the Best Animated Short category, how could I not enter? Especially for the film that I felt should have won the Oscar (over the good but not quite as good Bear Story?)

But then I came across another reason why I never entered these HMWYBS events? What exactly is the best shot in World of Tomorrow?

So I've seen the film dozens of times and the whole film is full of moments that pull at your emotions. There were scenes that just took my breath away. There were also scenes that dazzled me on a technical level even for a film that had such deceptively simple animation styles. Is it the visuals that make a shot the best? Or could a shot be powerful based on the dialogue? It's a complicated question but in the end I found a couple of shots that could certainly be in the conversation for best shot.

This shot from Emily Prime's introduction to the Outernet is one of the most joyous scenes in the otherwise dreary film. Her unbridled excitement at being able to change the background color showcases her naive innocence and contrasts it wonderfully to the monotonous and world-weary Emily. Neither Emily Prime nor the viewer has any idea what they will go through.

This shot represents what is most likely the peak happiness for the adult Emily, where she is together with her husband, a clone with major motor deterioration. The fact that in spite of her happiness she is as stone faced as ever is telling of the state of the future world. I love the composition with the two "human" characters slightly off center with lines and computer graphic fractals on the sides. The disappearance of each element one by one is quite striking as well.

The collapse of the Outernet at the end of the film stands in stark contrast with its wonderment earlier in the film, not just for the way each individual lines and ovals collapse or disappear. The words of the adult Emily is quite haunting as well in the way that it speaks to each of us living in the current world: "Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail, for all of these things melt away, and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well, and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead."

This shot is just a sucker punch. Earlier in the film Emily warns Emily Prime of the possibility of being sent thousands of years into the past to a desolate, snowy wasteland. And of course that's where young Emily Prime ends up on her return journey. As she stands wandering around the wilderness and the somber strings from Richard Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier Waltz Suite" appears, we are faced with the tragic conclusion that the joyful and optimistic Emily Prime may never get home. It's a horrific gut punch like nothing Don Hertzfeldt fans have seen before...

And after all that here is my pick for the best shot from World of Tomorrow

There's not much to see in this shot. The adult Emily is standing against a white background doing a lot of blinking. Yet the shot speaks volumes when fit in the context of the entire film. The adult Emily was reminiscing about her beloved late husband, showing her past self a memory collected after his death. With the music from Reinhold Gliere's "Romance" swelling up, Emily Prime challenges her with a question: "You missed him." This leads to this particular shot, where adult Emily loses all train of thought and can do nothing but blink uncomfortably for two seconds before finally admitting "I do not have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with his loss."

This shot is the prime example of a theme that is present throughout the film, that while adult Emily and indeed everybody in this world of tomorrow have the advanced technology and analytical look at the world around them, they are missing the very elements that make us human: the ability to feel, the ability to connect with others, and the ability to love. This is captured perfectly in this two seconds shot. And that's why I feel this is the best shot in World of Tomorrow.

Hope to see what others pick when the post goes up on Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. Love this shot ESPECIALLY for how the soundtrack is used with it. Perfection. And, of course, my choice for Best Shot comes right after. Very cool that you participated this week!