It's about the creation of Facebook. It's about a guy who gets his arm stuck between two rocks. It's about overcoming a stutter. It's a psychological thriller set in the cut-throat world of professional ballet. It's about a girl searching for her father. It's about a girl searching for her father's killer.
Almost all of the films vying for year-end accolades can easily be summed up in a terse sentence (or possibly two in say, Exit Through the Gift Shop's case). Try as I might though, I just cannot adequately explain Teddy Newton's short Day & Night, no matter how long I prattle on. Despite a running time 1/15th as long as even the briefest feature, this animated short from Pixar crammed so much imagination, wit, technique and whimsy into six minutes that it left me exhausted and overwhelmed.
Sure, I could try to sum it up by saying it's about celebrating diversity, or overcoming fear, or creating friendships; but time and again those straightforward descriptions do less justice than the admittedly pithy sentences above. Don't even get me started on the film's technical achievements. That's just asking for trouble. What really boggles my mind is the melding of the two disparate qualities. How Mr. Newton manages to tell the simplest of stories in such a technically complex way. The first time I saw the film it took me utterly by surprise. Initially I had to orient myself, finding footing in the short's unique world. But under Pixar's sure hand and pure vision, before I knew it my perception was sufficiently altered and I was rapt by the characters, their relationship and the message. Thanks to Newton's imagination, the Pixar wizards' visual ingenuity, and Michael Giacchino's fanciful score, Day & Night was the most exhilarating piece of filmmaking I saw this year.
I have bemoaned Pixar's decision to start churning out non-Toy Story sequels (Cars 2 comes out next summer and a follow-up to Monsters, Inc is currently in production), but as long as the studio continues to push the boundaries of animation and storytelling like they do in Day & Night, I will remain a steadfastly loyal acolyte.
And if you're dying to know what I thought of the lengthier films released this year, here is an unimpeachable top 5 list that will weather the impending storms of popular opinion and be the only thing left standing when film scholars of 2060 look back on this antiquated time:
1. The Social Network
2. Exit Through the Gift Shop
3. Toy Story 3
4. 127 Hours
5. True Grit