Hertz Reviews: This Side Up

California based director and animator Liron Topaz delivers a modern animated short that has its place firmly grounded into the modern age. In 2009's “This Side Up”, we are introduced to Oshan, an overweight middle-aged bachelor who lives in a small house in a remote village in the Middle East. We join Oshan as he prepares to upgrade his quality of life by introducing his first ever computer into his home. Since he is a technological novice, the setup process does not go smoothly and results in predictable mishaps. After a brief struggle trying to plug in the device, our “hero” promptly engages into the very popular and now traditional act of downloading media or, more specifically, an Elvis Presley music track, as suggested by Oshan's relentless admiration of a poster depicting the King of Rock'n'Roll. Unfortunately, the on-screen status bar indicates that the download won't be complete for at least 17 months. This may seem like an exaggerated gag, but the majority of internet users will testify that the figure is actually a highly accurate representation of real life downloading. After a few days, Oshan tires of waiting and attempts inadequate methods of instigating a faster download which results in comically grotesque repercussions. Convinced that he has finally committed the music to a CD, he attempts to play the disk on an old gramophone with undesired results.

In any modern culture, there a few who wouldn't be able to identify with the cause of events in “This Side Up”. The use of computers is so universal nowadays, it helps make this film very accessible to general audiences. The focal point of the story is the lead character's utter incomprehension of modern technology and the viewer can't help but find his solutions to be the main source of humour. It is also interesting to note that despite Oshan's knowledge of computers, he is still excited at the prospect of this machine providing him with music which is something he is certainly already familiar with. This is his only motivation in persevering in getting the download to work. This reminds us that no matter how literate we may be with computers, the majority of us can assign different associations to them.

Hertz Reviews: Envirometer

Envirometer from makevisual on Vimeo.

Released in 2009, Danny Robashkin's animated short Envirometer involves a theme that remains just as relevant today. The four minute story builds to a crescendo beginning with what appears to be a rather peaceful scene of environmentally conscious people living in perfect harmony with nature. A healthy young lady turns our attention to the titular Envirometer which, as its name suggests, resembles a colossal dual barometer which looms over civilisation in a “godlike” manner as the info web page for the film suggests. One of these two meters indicates the level of environmentally friendly activities taking place in its presence. Much to the lady's satisfaction, this meter rises as she commits acts of mass recycling. However, the whole occurrence aggravates an onlooking industrialist who promptly retaliates by materialising a lemonade stand. The subsequent demand for lemonade cause the carbon footprint side of the meter to outweigh the eco-friendly side. This leads into a growing battle between the ecologists and the industrialists as they attempt to take over each other's lifestyles. As a result, The Envirometer overloads and the following eruption sweeps away all of the players' efforts who now recognise the error of their ways and choose to allow nature and technology to coexist in perfect harmony. The point is further illustrated as the afore mentioned ecologist lady and the industrialist man hold hands and walk towards the horizon.

It would be difficult for anybody living in current times not to recognise any of the issues highlighted in Envirometer. Robashkin delivers a simplified and stylised rendition of the anxieties our society has concerning the condition of our planet's climate. Aaron Quist's character designs and the animation resembles the Flash inspired style made popular by internet sensations such as Happy Tree Friends and Chilly Beach therefore giving it a fittingly current feel. Nevertheless, the discerningly clean and sharp lines in the artwork are almost ironic due to its use in portraying what should appear to be a filthy and dystopian environmental disaster. The real fears generated by our carbon footprint do not seem to materialise in Envirometer despite its very conceivable build up. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the Envirometer going into meltdown seems almost quixotic as the dust settles far too soon to truly justify our fears of global warming.

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