It’s always hard to say with absolute certainty that someone was “robbed” at the Oscars, because most people— including those who vote on the awards!— never get around to seeing all the nominees in any given category. This was the first year that I’d seen all the Best Picture nominees and all but one of the Acting/Directing/Screenplay categories. (I’m standing by my claim that no one has seen or even heard of 45 Years and it was just made up by the Academy.) I thought the perspective of having seen so many films would give me conviction in my preferences. Really, though, it just left me with an unfulfilled smugness inside me.
Still, the one movie I felt was really, truly robbed was, of course, from a category in which I had only seen one movie. So I can’t speak ill against Bear Story (PROBABLY GREAT), the winner of the Best Animated Short award, but it’s hard to imagine it could be better than the mindblowing masterpiece that is Don Hertzfeld’s World of Tomorrow. Hell, it’s hard to imagine ANY movie— short, feature, animated, live action, ANYTHING— could be better than this.
You may be familiar with Hertzfeldt’s work already. I hope you are. Do the words “My spoon is too big” (or possibly “My anus is bleeding”) mean anything to you weirdos?
He also did hands-down the best Simpsons couch gag in the entire run of the show.
But World of Tomorrow (which he wrote, directed, edited, produced, and basically everything else) is an entirely new level. It’s all of the brilliant, twisted weirdness you know and sickly love in Hertzfeldt, but it also tackles many of the same questions and themes of complex ethical darkness as Ex Machina and decades of the greatest sci-fi movies, and it tackles them just as deeply. But it does so over the course of 16 minutes. With cartoons.
World of Tomorrow centers on a very young girl (voiced by Hertzfeldt’s four-year-old niece, Winona Mae) named Emily, who is transported more than 200 years into the future by an adult-cloned version of her young self. Clone Emily (Julia Pott) explains what has happened between Emily Prime’s time and our current time by way of the clone’s memories. From a museum installation of a brainless clone, on display for the public from “birth” until death, like an ultra-disturbing Truman Show, to Clone Emily’s history of falling in love with rocks and fuel pumps, our understanding of this world unfolds as it did for the clone, as it would for a child— a beautiful, terrifying, confusing mystery. Though that mystery is anchored from becoming too precious or poetic or painful by the fact that the only reactions we get are those of a four-year-old. (Emily Prime’s dialogue was all recorded while the young child actor was drawing and playing, and as such, is upsettingly and carelessly natural.)
We are all very, very lucky that World of Tomorrow is currently streaming on Netflix. If you happen to somehow not have access to a Netflix account, first of all I will assume that you are a clone from the future, and second, it’s also available to rent for cheap on Vimeo. I’m sure Bear Story and the other animated short nominees are completely worthwhile movies. But do yourself a favor and make your life sadder and shinier and better; take 16 minutes of your life, and watch World of Tomorrow. And then feel content in your outrage that it didn’t win the Oscar.