Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, October 12, 2007


       I suppose it’s an impetuous statement to make -- some two and a half months before the end of the year -- to say that I’ve already seen the best movie of 2007; but I’m making it, all the same. The film in question has a running time of about seventeen minutes, really only has one main character, no dialogue and oh... -- did I happen to mention? It’s a cartoon. But hasty or not, as of right now, that’s my stand -- I haven’t yet seen; nor do I think I’m likely to see -- a better film this year than Don Hertzfeldt’s Everything Will Be OK.

       The plot -- or as much as I’m willing to reveal of it here -- is simple and straightforward enough. Bill, an average fellow just trying to live his life, begins to find his everyday tasks and responsibilities more than he can handle. Despite ongoing treatment from his doctor, Bill begins to question his own health and well-being . . . and that’s all you really need to know. As I mentioned, Everything Will Be OK is an animated film, done in Hertzfeldt’s familiar stick-figure renderings; but he’s also incorporated some stylistic enhancements -- the use of masks or mattes within the frame (often three or four onscreen simultaneously); the occasional addition of photographic backgrounds as landscapes; the occasional color wash or glow-illumination effect on an object. The most significant enhancement, though, is this time ‘round Hertzfeldt has made a film that’s more than just smart, funny and snappily-paced (although it’s all those things, as well); he’s made a film that’s genuinely moving.

       I think it can be truthfully said that Don Hertzfeldt’s career is unprecedented within the world of independent film -- certainly within the world of independent animation. Self-taught as an animator, Hertzfeldt’s first short (Ah, L’Amour) was released when he was only 19 and still a student at UC Santa Barbara’s Film program -- he’s still located there, in that same city, despite his relatively close proximity to the “film capital” -- Los Angeles. Hertzfeldt’s later films have gone on to win a slew of awards and accolades -- Rejected was actually nominated for an Academy Award in 2001. Most recently, Everything Will Be OK won the 2007 Jury Award for Best Short Film at the Sundance Film Festival -- the first time an animated film has taken that particular honor. What really makes Hertzfeldt’s career unique is that he seems to produce all his films without recourse to commercial ad work -- the traditional; and frequently thought of as the only way for an independent animator to make a living -- even the iconoclastic Bros. Quay resort to making the occasional commercial to fund their other projects. Hertzfeldt has made his position on commercial ad work very clear -- despite some very lucrative offers, he regards all commercials as “lies” -- and absolutely refuses to do them. Instead, he seems to rely upon revenue from the sale and exhibition of his films to fund his projects -- and creates his works through the time-consuming -- but cost-cutting -- process of hand animation; no computers involved, anywhere in the process, In fact, Hertzfeldt still uses one of the last still-functioning Richardson animation cameras (primarily used for TV cartoons of the 60’s and 70’s -- including the old Peanuts specials) to photograph all his work -- people, let me tell you; it’s the cinematic equivalent of making stained glass.

       Everything Will Be OK is the first part of an intended trilogy. Post-production is well underway for the as-of-yet untitled second part, to be released as a segment within the 2008 edition of The Animation Show -- an annual compilation of animated shorts (in all styles) from around the world that Hertzfeldt and fellow filmmaker Mike Judge put together and distribute. The 2007 edition is still playing here and there, and the 2008 version will start its rounds sometime in late winter or early Spring of this upcoming year. Hertzfeldt’s films are all available through his website; You can order all his previous shorts on a single DVD called Bitter Films, vol 1: 1995-2005; and I’m happy to say that, as of today, Friday Oct. 12th, Everything Will Be OK will also be available through that same site. It’s worth every penny of its $12.00 price-tag. Really.

Some links:

Welcome to the Show, a brief opening intro to The Animation Show.

Intermission in the Third Dimension a brief interlude from The Animation Show.

Finally, End of the Show -- also from The Animation Show.

An interview with Guy Maddin -- which has nothing to do with this week’s entry, but regular readers know that we’re all about Maddin here at Beyond the Ranges . . ..

Next post -- 10/19/07


Paula said...

The only thing Hertzfeldt-related that's 'flixable is the Animation Show, but I done 'flixed it.

grigorss said...

The Animation Show is well worth taking a look at -- it features a bunch of fine shorts from Hertzfeldt, Judge and many others (and you have the option of skipping the ones you don't find interesting; not something easily done in a theatrical venue-type situation). I should mention though, that the DVD does not include Everything Will Be OK -- as of right now, that's only available through the Bitter Films website.

Priss said...

The majority of Don's films are only available on DVD direct from his website,

His "Bitter Films: Volume 1" collection was in my book easily the best DVD of 2006. Amazingly package, amazing features, amazing films.

The Animation Show does carry two of his shorts on their DVDs, however it's worth noting they don't have any Hertzfeldt-related special features at all, and the versions of the films on these DVDs pre-date the "Bitter Films" disc, and are therefore unrestored and unremastered!

ANyway, a great article! :)