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World of Tomorrow
by Jordan Canahai
With the annual Academy Awards ceremony happening in about a month, this time of year is devoted to the usual discourse and disappointment over the predictability of the nominees and the overall lack of diversity reflected in them (Caucasian overload seems a very appropriate term.) However, if there’s one good thing to be said for the Oscars, it’s that they consistently provide a mainstream platform to some worthy lesser known films and filmmakers in the non-major categories that would likely remain obscure otherwise. Most recently, the increased exposure of the Oscar nominated shorts in the past few years have provided film lovers with the opportunity to see a handful of shorts, which at their best prove just as rewarding as any feature length film one could see in theaters the past year. This is certainly true for director Don Hertzfeldt’s absolutely wonderful 15-minute animated short World of Tomorrow, which has been soaking up accolades on the festival circuit for the past year and is one of the 10 Oscar-nominated shorts being screened at the Dipson Eastern Hills theater this weekend.
World of Tomorrow is a very funny, very unique, and very poignant science-fiction story whose premise is somehow both very simple and difficult to summarize. The film begins with a toddler, Emily Prime (voiced by Hetzfeldt’s four-year-old niece) answering a phone from her cloned self, Emily 3G (voiced by the film’s illustrator Julia Pott) calling from the distant future to tell the little girl about what she has to look forward to in life in the next couple centuries, a future obsessed with preserving the individual memories of humanity, even at the cost of what makes us human in the first place. According to Emily 3G, cloning is very popular in the future, as people insert their consciousness into new cloned bodies whenever their existing ones become too old, in an attempt to live forever. It all matters little however, since Emily 3G soons explains in her future that the end of the world is nigh, and so she has reached out to her toddler self in an attempt to give her long life the much needed closure she seeks.
In light of not wanting to diminish it’s power for new viewers, and in light of how a lot of the humor, insights, and imaginative touches which make World of Tomorrow so special cannot adequately be conveyed through explanation, I won’t attempt to expand further on plot summary. The film’s brief runtime of 15-minutes is not a drawback, but rather one of its greatest strengths, as few films this great and packed with so much to ponder are also so concise and lend themselves to multiple viewings (I’ve probably watched it five or six times now in the last couple days alone). Similarly, illustrator Pott’s simple animation style, which might strike one as crude in the film’s first few moments, lends the short a wonderful storybook quality while providing one visual delight after another. World of Tomorrow certainly lends itself to being seen on the big-screen, where Hertzfeldt’s and Pott’s compositions can be.
Hertzfeldt’s vision of a human future obsessed with clinging to the past rather than accepting mortality and the heartbreaking turns that Emily 3G’s personal life story takes as she describes the pain, loss, and sadness she endures in her efforts to live forever certainly weigh heavily on viewers, but World of Tomorrow manages to be very funny while not seeming to ask for laughs and very cute without coming off ingratiating or condescending. In the final, perfectly pitched moments of bittersweet melancholy, World of Tomorrow resonates with a carefree contentment for life’s little pleasures. This would definitely rank among my (ever-growing) list of the best films of 2015. Unfortunately, I was unable to see all of of the live-action and animated shorts nominated alongside World of Tomorrow, and don’t feel comfortable commenting on all the titles individually as a result. Thankfully, all of the live action and animated nominated shorts, including World of Tomorrow, are being screened this week at the Dipson Eastern Hills in their respective categories, the individual titles being listed in this issue’s Now Playing section.
Watch the trailer for World of Tomorrow
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