Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Off the Beaten Path: IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (2012)

Running time: 62 minutes  

Animated and Narrated by Don Hertzfeldt 

Plot: "Bill struggles to put together his shattered psyche, in this new feature film version of Don Hertzfeldt's animated short film trilogy." - From IMDB.

What the above plot synopsis does not include is that the majority of the film is performed by stick figures.

How I discovered it: I was first introduced to Don Hertzfeldt's animation in college when a couple of friends shared with me his short, entitled Rejected.  It was without a doubt one of the funniest things I had ever seen, but I had no idea the emotional magnitude that this animator was capable of reaching with his work.

While taking an animation class we watched one of his earlier shorts, Billy's Balloon


Seriously, watch this all the way through, it's worth it.  (Unless you have kids.  In which case it might just be unsettling....or even more funny.)

 Finally, I discovered his masterpiece, It's Such a Beautiful Day, on Time out London's list of the 100 Best Animated Movies Ever Made.  Where it appears as number 16 between Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) and Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

 (I should add that this is a fantastic list for searching for animated gems.  I will undoubtedly return to it for more "Off the beaten path" movies.)

Memorable Moment: When Bill's psyche finally goes through the final stages of breaking down and the stick figure world he inhabits begins to waver in and out and flow into a vivid live action universe.   

After nearly an hour of seeing almost nothing but simple, black and white stick figures, the shock we receive from the colors and details makes the scene almost as overwhelming for the audience as it is for Bill.  We finally see why the rest of the story had to be told with such simple animation.   

BackgroundIt's Such a Beautiful Day is the closest thing to a one man show you're going to get in cinema.  With the exception of music and "special thanks" there is only one individual other than Don Hertzfeldt listed in the ending credits.  A Brian Hamblin is listed as editor.

The movie was originally released as three separate short films.  Everything Will Be OK (2006), I Am So Proud of You (2008) and It's Such a Beautiful Day (2011).  Supposedly the three films combined earned ninety awards.

 Apparently the Los Angeles Film Critics Association liked this movie enough to name it their runner-up for Best Animated Feature Film of the year, but they liked Frankenweenie more because it won top prize.

"There is a moment in each installment of Don Hertzfeldt's masterful trilogy of animated shorts where you feel something in your chest. It's an unmistakably cardiac event, the kind that great art can elicit when something profound and undeniably true is conveyed about the human condition. That's when you say to yourself: are stick figures supposed to make me feel this way? -Steven Pate of The Chicagoist

Who Should Embrace it:  This is a movie for anyone who wants to see a surrealistic film that covers heavy philosophical topics involving mortality, memories, and terminal illness and is (for the most part) performed by stick figures.

OK, there aren't many people who fall in that category.

To be honest, there isn't a person I know who I wouldn't recommend this movie too.  It is almost unbearably heavy at times.  Some of the lightest moments are drenched in melancholy.  However, it is a movie you should see because there is nothing else like it out there.  I have seen few movies that are as sincere or as profound as this one.      
It's Such a Beautiful Day is even further proof of my conviction that "high art" can come in any format.

Even if you think you'll hate it, give it a shot.  It's barely longer than an hour.  

Connections:  Along with the shorts I already posted above, Don Hertzfeldt also animated one of The Simpson's most unique couch gags.

His most recent film is World of Tomorrow.  


  Where you can watch it:  Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. 

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