Pity the short films that follow stick-figure-collage artist Don Hertzfeldt’s animated masterpiece World of Tomorrow, both the centerpiece and the first movie presented in the feature-length omnibus 2015 Sundance Film Festival Award-Winning Shorts. World of Tomorrow, an ingenious science fiction parable about a happy-go-lucky little girl (Winona Mae) given a vision of the future by an emotionally distant descendant/clone (Julia Pott), is such a vividly detailed trip through Hertzfeldt’s imagination that you have to grade the other featured shorts on a steep curve.
Slight French cartoon Storm Hits Jacket, a nonsensical fantasy about time travel, ass-groping, and evil witches, looks comparatively amateurish. And charming anti-romantic comedy Smilf, an endearing sketch about a single mother (writer-director Frances Shaw) who arranges for an abortive booty call with an old flame (Silicon Valley‘s Thomas Middleditch), is too low-key to stand out.
Even affable Japanese tragicomedy Oh Lucy!, an uneven melodrama about a depressed office drone (Kaori Momoi) who comes out of her shell after learning English, doesn’t look good compared to Hertzfeldt’s contribution, just because Oh Lucy! is not uniformly dazzling. Momoi’s anguished performance is engaging, as are one or two one-liners: Momoi’s protagonist uncharacteristically tells off a co-worker by asking, “Why are your tits so wastefully huge?”
But Oh Lucy! not only takes too long to become emotionally involving, it’s also ultimately too trite to be better than a decent also-ran. If you watch Oh Lucy!, or any other Sundance-feted shorts, after seeing World of Tomorrow, there’s a fair chance that you’ll become unreasonably agitated at the thought that you could be watching Hertzfeldt’s film on repeat instead.