It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)


This 62 minute animation from the weirdly artistic and absurd Don Hertzfeldt is funny, philosophical and unsettling. The notions of life and the crippling fear of losing it is dealt with in a comedic yet dark way that worms into you as you watch.

There are 3 chapters to this movie as Hertzfeldt created three separate shorts before combining them all. The first segment titled ‘Everything Will Be OK’ focuses on stick-man Bill and his medical condition. The second chapter, ‘I Am So Proud of You’ sees more of Bill’s past and his Grandma too. Then ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’ wraps up things with Bill in hospital and coming to realise death could be taking him soon.

It’s a great hour-ish feature that involves us with a stick character, more amazingly it manages to get inside our heads about Bill losing his. Bill’s mind is getting frayed and he’s clearly losing it but he’s still engaging and as we see him do things, the film speaks out in a personal way. The grand scare of forgetting everything and moving on is dealt with a blackly comic manner but has droppings of revelations and visionary splendour.

It isn’t just stick creations and black and white, there are real life backgrounds that enhance the story. Trees or skies or cities fill the screen adding a quirky edge to the wobbly drawn lines of Bill and his world. Flashes of colour also speak volumes in actually being alarming and akin to the mental state of Bill. This narrative and the squawks of reds and oranges burst out like the disturbing nature of the ‘Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared’ videos. Bill’s life is animated at such an absurdist level that shows off the affecting thoughts life can throw up.

Hertzfeldt writes and directs and well pretty much does everything for this film. The story is great for the most part. There’s brilliantly tossed in lines about persecuting Jews, train deaths or inconvenient caskets and general quick fire comments that are random but poignant. The dark humour tag couldn’t be more right for this film, it steps into the same shady landscape of ‘Salad Fingers’ and his unsettling tone. From ex-girlfriends, literal fish heads and a tennis shoe filled with leaves, this movie paints a uniquely twisted look on heartbreak, family, life and death.

Musically this film is backed by many classical composers that do magic in making everything seem grander and more profound. The droll humour of the nonchalant narration adds another grit of sound to the collection of used car noises or screeches in the more nightmarish moments. It’s as if the voice leading the story forward is unbothered but charismatic enough to make the words stick.

If you’ve always been interested in films with a difference than this animated spin on memory, melancholia, loss and life in between should be right up your hand-drawn street. If not then check out the weirdest Simpsons couch gag by Hertzfeldt called ‘Clown in the Dumps’ to see what kind of absurd visuals I’m on about.





Still Alice (2015)


Emotional, powerful and wonderful, ‘Still Alice’ doesn’t dumb down or soften the dramatic narrative of a character with a mental illness, it shows all the strengths of Alice with a lot of the low points of suffering with her condition. Adding to this delicate strong story is a stunning performance from Moore that makes the film hit even harder.

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a professor of linguists and a thriving working woman with three children and a busy husband, John (Alec Baldwin). Alice learns that she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease and her world and future is immediately tested as she tries memorising words, keeping on top of lectures and being present with her family.

The story is brave and quite unflinching and for this worrying disease it needs to be. Based on the novel by Lisa Genova you see how character can be tested when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The plot is fantastic in not making the entire thing a sob fest and making you feel pity for Alice, it shows the side of human nature that powers through, the will and reserve to try and stay positive and Alice at times does indeed try and be strong and make quips about her condition.

Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer joined together for the screenplay and directorial duties and they present a brilliant film. Credit too has to go to Glatzer who was suffering with ALS and couldn’t speak during shooting so used technology to talk to crew and cast. He has now passed but I’m sure he’d be proud of the work he and Westmoreland created. The soft look to a lot of the film makes the film more touching and real, their use of flashbacks to younger times as photographs are looked at are short but poignant in making you realise the horror of losing track of your life. The majority of the film does focus on Alice, even when other people are speaking and that’s a great directing decision as it lets you see her reactions, her processes and her progressions.

Alzheimer’s is something I am admittedly terrified of, memory loss and just forgetting yourself and the people around you is a generally scary thought. The film brings up those senses of dark absence spots in your mind a lot, forgetting little things to not knowing the layout of your own home. It’s an emotional film and it does make you more aware of this condition which Alice beautifully states is worse than cancer, maybe hard but fair in the grand scheme of things when she goes on to say why she feels that way. Alice is a character to root for, admire and cry for, her disease is a weakness but the film doesn’t zoom in on that, it tries and succeeds in keeping her heart in tact and the end of the film is near perfect in running with that idea.

Ilan Eshkeri’s score is poetic in the lullaby tones it maintains. A good portion of the movie repeats the similar sounds he composes and that works to benefit the story. The music in fact compliments the theme of the film really well, it’s present but not distracting, you know it’s there aiding in the emotion of what you’re seeing but it’s not too filled with strings or piano making it scream SAD. The score does shift pace briefly at a path that may open up for Alice as she watches a video of her past self instruct her to do something and that entire scene is tense and tough.

Julianne Moore is outstanding. The performance she gives deserved that Oscar, the way her character journeys from intellectual, assured mum and doctor to broken, scared and lost is phenomenal. The little looks on her face as she cannot remember words to the sobbing as she realises what she has all show Moore as the capable and brilliant actress she is. It’s a resounding role she immerses herself in and she doesn’t overplay the disability, she’s subtle and just right. Kristen Stewart proves that Bella was the bland factor and not her acting as she steps forth and acts damn well as the honest, dreamer of the family, trying to be an actor and help her mum at the same time. Alec Baldwin is great as the sometime supportive and sometime distant husband, the reality of the situation hitting later in the film as Baldwin nicely breaks the stern look and displays emotion.

A heart-breaking feature that doesn’t shy away from the subject matter even if little things in the story get lost to spend more time on the condition. Moore is fantastic and ‘Still Alice’ is bold, defiant and a life affirming film.