Three Shorts About Cats - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Three Shorts About Cats

For those of you tuning in to either read my review of The Sitter, life has other plans.  There will be other days to see "David Gordon Green finds surprising ways of blending his indie sensibility into this broad comedy" or "David Gordon Green's long slide into mainstream obscurity continues after the devastatingly bad Your Highness."  Because, let's be honest, flick looks like a coin toss.

However, the idea existence had in mind today was to take the life of my kitty Mystery.  I rescued him as a stray and kept him long past the expiration date the veterinarians placed on him.  Let this be a lesson, never listen to medical professionals of any human or animal stripes, they are only trying to kill you faster.

In an effort to promote the legacy of my cat Mystery, here are three short films about cats.  I'll be disposing of the any plot synopsis since the longest of the three is barely ten minutes, and I can jump straight into the discussion.

The Cat Piano

It was a stroke of genius to get the maddeningly sexy voice of Nick Cave to narrate over this lush piece of animation from directors Eddie White and Ari Gibson.  The way you can visualize Cave's tongue bouncing from each syllable of White's screenplay is decadent.  This matches the animation style amazingly well, filtering the low jazz blues through the dialogue.

The drawings aren't the kind of anthropomorphicization you see in Ralph Baskhi's urban films or as brightly colored as, say, Goof Troop.  It keeps things on the hair side of unpredictable, not knowing when you're going to see a cat's head turn into a balloon or descend into the ocean.

I love the way the orderly debauchery of the city eventually devolves into the expressionist horror of the tower which closes the film.  The color palette is simple but effectively used, with a major focus on the shades of our American flag.  It's easily the "coolest" of the three shorts today, much like in the way Drive is cooler than The Italian Job.  I love it, but it doesn't really have much to say about cats, just a great exercise in style.

Valse Triste, from Allegro non Troppo

Allegro non Troppo is a hilarious Italian parody of Fantasia supposedly done before a live studio audience.  It's obviously not, but there's a lot of fun to be had at the animator's expense because of the conceit.  This segment comes after comedic pieces involving a satyr attempting to get laid and finds he's crawling all over one, and other funnily bizarre sequences set to classical music.  So the host bets the animator he cannot stir the crowd and that is the result.

One thing not to watch after bidding your cat goodbye?  That.  All of that.  Situational positioning aside, the first time Danny brought this movie home we were in stitches the entire time when even he, who hates cats more than anyone I know, was the first one to go "Jesus Christ" at how sad it is.

Part of the reason is the innocent evocation.  I love the way the cat emerges from the darkness to try and reform his memories.  The short is absolutely dead-on in the way the smallest thing triggers a memory so overpowering it takes over the present reality.  Unlike The Cat Piano, which feels like a club I'll never belong to, the "Valse Triste" short makes me think of wandering around my old school and getting lost in my 13-year old self.

The cat is wonderfully animated, curling his back and extending his fur and whiskers to evoke himself splendidly.  Live actors blend in with the cat's memories in a great way, showing how our reality blends into the cat's animated existence in a way which feels more false than his wistful longing to be back in the past.  This is a great short, but take with it the awareness that showing this to new folks may make them relive the saddest moments of their past, especially when the poor little guy fades.

Fatal Eektraction, from Eek! the Cat

This isn't from a film or a short movie on it's own, but that's why this article is called "Three Shorts About Cats" instead of elaborating further.  If The Cat Piano is Drive, and "Valse Triste" is akin to The Pianist, then "Fatal Eektraction" is Looney Tunes.

Eek! the Cat is the lightest of the bunch but also the one I have the most fond memories of.  That short is emblematic of the many strengths of the show, blending a dizzying array of pop-culture references into a character so obliviously nice he doesn't care if he smacked with a mallet or two.  Cartoons have taken a turn for the weirder lately with stuff like the great Adventure Time leading the pack, but I wish there was more of a market for this kind of sweet lunacy.

If you ascribe to the idea that cats really are dumber than dogs then Eek may be the most accurate portrayal of cats so far.  Yeah, I've met some wicked smart cats, but also plenty of dumb sweet ones like Eek.  His nice character leads the audience through a series of pop-culture references that also recall the glory days of Rocky and Bullwinkle (we will not discuss the unfortunate Thunder Lizards).

There are a ton of quick gags that I love.  The broadest is the fake ending which makes fun of thrillers that feel the need to pull the rug out "just because".  The most subtle are in the ways Eek is so innocent he can't buy into the femme fatale stalking him.  Even when she pulls off her disguise he greets her with a jolly "Pleasure to meet you, sir!"  I'm a fan of innocent humor (as my review of 21 Jump Street and comments on Bill and Ted show) and this is one of the best places to get them.

I may need to revisit Eek for that Clockwork Orange parody on Friday, but for now do you have any great shorts about cats you'd like to share?

Posted by Andrew

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