Let’s see. How can I weed out the people who might as well not read this review? How about this? A tubby, full-frontally naked dork appears in several scenes along with other matter-of-factly naked characters. Their little things (and they are little) are just there. There are other little things about this animated short film that compel notice and none of the film is about sexuality.
Before continuing, here’s a bit of context. The Nevada City Film Festival, primed for year 13, September 5-8, routinely showcases peculiar, weird, bold, short films. It is this intentional history that shoos away the people who shouldn’t go to this alternatively matured, homegrown, film festival tradition.
The craft, especially the visual elements of “Oh Willy” (alluded to above), possesses a cushy creativity, including a provocative playfulness. This playfulness goes for most of the short films in the Animated program, which not incidentally often means “stop motion” techniques rather than cartooning or computer antics.
In “Oh Willy,” creator Emma de Swaef uses wool and other textiles to construct scenes and characters. Sometimes it’s the detail that’s remarkable -- as with the furniture in the opening scene. Sometimes it’s simplicity -- as with the blandly shaped people or a wispy-haired bald head. It doesn’t seem to be about any story per se.
In Quique Rivera Rivera’s “Lionfish Delusion,” visual evocation also rules. With the jazzy abrasion of the music behind it, the underwater scene bubbles with noir detective styling and glints of gold added to black and white. A boss fish and a lackey crustacean interact, and the viewer can work hard or not trying to figure out if there is any rhyme or reason to this story.
It’s worth warning that with short films, there’s more leeway to run amok with good storytelling.
In “Woody,” Stuart Bowen employs a sort of 3D stick figure to shape the visuals of a character in need of piano playing fingers. As with so many other shorts, how much the storytelling matters seems to matter less than how the story looks.
In “I Am Tom Moody,” Ainslie Henderson grounds the animated visuals in marionette-looking characters with big eyes. An adult Tom Moody needs to work something out with his child self. The film incorporates an overbearing dad, a somewhat random reason to associate mom with a huge shower of ice cream cones, and an aversion to being boring.
Sometimes the storytelling runs a totally familiar path, but even something like “Eyes on the Stars” makes a point of enabling itself with an attention grabbing niche of animation styling.
The programming inclinations of the Nevada City Film Festival do pose a challenge to filmgoers. Attend to looking for different fathomings of filmmaking vision. Attend to finding untypical movie experiences not only because the short form is an untypical opportunity but because if you’ve read this far, maybe you’re ripe for some untypical cinematic creativity.