Film Review: Nine Nation Animation

A compilation of nine animated short films from around the world contains hits and misses.

The World According to Shorts presents a new lineup of films in an omnibus package titled Nine Nation Animation. While this isn’t the best collection of short films, some of them are noteworthy. Adult audiences will appreciate these set-pieces more than children or anyone expecting funny-cute or benign cartoons.

First up: Kajsa Naess’s “Deconstruction Workers,” a cleverly named (maybe too cleverly named) Norwegian vaudeville routine between two construction workers debating their outlooks on life as the world (literally) crumbles around them. The animation is of the Beavis and Butt-head school, but the idea is a good one.

Second: the Turkish “Average 40 Matches” by Burkay Doğan & M. Şakir Arslan, a most skillful use of stop-motion animation that delivers an anti-smoking message in an unexpected and ironic way.

Third: Patrick Pleutin’s “Bâmiyân,” an overlong, overly serious attempt to honor the artifacts destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. The French-born Pleutin uses Asian-inspired artwork to retrace the history of the Buddha statues, but his style (and the segment) overstays its welcome.

Fourth: David O’Reilly’s “Please Say Something,” a spare view of the future, with a cat and mouse negotiating a hostile landscape. The “Spy vs. Spy” style works particularly well for this bleak Irish/German entry.

Fifth: “Flatlife” by Jonas Geirnaert, the closest thing to a traditional-looking cartoon, with four quadrants representing a house and the four separate inhabitants who drive each other crazy. The Belgian piece is mildly amusing.

Sixth: Veljko Popoviç’s “She Who Measures,” the smartest segment—a critique of modern consumerism from Croatia—using drawings seemingly inspired by Bosch, De Chirico and Mardi Gras.

Seventh: Robert Bradbrook’s “Home Road Movies,” a British short in similar terrain as “She Who Measures,” yet this affectionate “nostalgia” for what was once breakthrough technology is less effective than Popovic’s, despite more dimensional animation techniques and some fun ’60s-style Muzak.

Eighth: “The Tale of How” by the South African Blackheart Gang, an ambitious combination of a Gilbert and Sullivan-type score with creepy Tim Burton-esque (or is it Edward Gorey-an?) drawings to tell the history of the dodo bird. This one is a matter of taste.

Ninth: Jonas Odell’s “Never Like the First Time!,” which doesn’t quite fit with the others as it deals with frank sexual matters. But this Swedish finale has an intriguing premise, contrasting male and female views of first-time sexual encounters by using different animation styles.

Nine Nation Animation represents a potpourri of sociological statements, some more meaningful than others, in animated forms, some better than others. A DVD would make it easier to skip around, but the entirety might be worth catching in a theatre anyway.