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Don Hewitt died on August 19, 2009 at the age of 87.
August 19, 2017
Yesterday, filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt announced — or seemed to announce — a sequel to his Oscar-nominated short film “World of Tomorrow,” called “The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts.” If you don’t know Hertzfeldt, he’s an Austin-based animator who early on in his career worked with Mike Judge but has peeled off to become a one-man studio, subsequently making three of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
The first is called “The Meaning of Life,” is a 12-minute short, entirely hand-animated by Hertzfeldt, that’s roughly about how human beings will always be caught up in the same vain, petty, pedestrian squabbles for centuries to come, even as we evolve into all sorts of wild, fascinating creatures. You can watch it here.
The second was his first big hit, the feature film It’s Such a Beautiful Day, about a man with a mysterious disease that causes him frightening, painful visions but also keeps him, right with us, hanging on to sanity and life as long as he can. Compiled from three short films Hertzfeldt made about the same man, Bill, it is one of the most profound and sad and funny and heartbreaking movies I’ve ever seen.
But “World of Tomorrow,” which came out two years ago, is even better than both of them.
The story of “World of Tomorrow” packs a lot into 15 minutes. A little girl named Emily is visited by a future version of herself, 227 years in the future. This version of Emily is a third generation clone from a future in which people — particularly wealthy people — can upload their memories into their clones for generations and generations, essentially living forever. This sort of immortality, however, brings mostly sadness, loneliness and, more than anything, an overpowering nostalgia for lost memories of the past. As the four-year-old Emily — or “Emily Prime,” as she is called — blinks and only faintly comprehends everything she’s hearing, Future Emily tells us of this technologically advanced future that has made being human feel that much more distant and elusive; she notes that at her current point of time, almost all recent historical records are simply of people staring at their screens, trying to relive their own pasts. She finds love, she loses love, she grows, she regresses, and more than anything, she just wants to go back to being the child she once was, able to live in the moment, not paralyzed in fear for the future.
I find the film overwhelming, and I watch it once a month, at least, just to keep myself centered. The world constantly seems spiraling out of control. There is evil, out there, always around but more prevalent than ever. There is danger everywhere you look. If I am not careful, I will be paralyzed by it. I find myself both romanticizing the past and growing more and more mortified by the future. But I am probably wrong on both counts, and even if I’m not, there is little to nothing I can do about either. The best I can do is exist in the now, to try to be alive and alert and present, to appreciate the life I have and the people I love, to try to make their world better so that mine can be as well. The world we have has all sorts of problems, cascading more and more every day, and it is on us to work to make it better, however we can. But it is still our world. We exist, and that’s a miracle that “World of Tomorrow” reminds us of how truly precious it is.
When older Emily leaves Emily Prime at the end of the film, she tells her:
Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.
“Live well and live broadly.” I can’t have a better hope for myself, my
loved ones and the flawed, stupid, angry world we screw up on a regular
basis. I can’t believe Don Hertzfeldt is making another one. I need it
here, right now, this second.
If you have Netflix, you can watch “World of Tomorrow” any time you desire. I have it always bookmarked on my computer, for whenever I need it. I find myself needing it often. I suspect you might too.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Steven Soderbergh Films, Ranked, Vulture. Grierson and I do these lists pretty regularly now — we’ve done two this week — but our favorites are always the director ones. And Soderbergh might be the single most fascinating director to write one about. I’ve told this story before, but I ran into him at a rainy Times Square bar one time and broke one of my rules by walking up to him and telling him I was a fan. I told him I’d even read his book, “Getting Away With It.” He looked at me lopsided. “Why?”
2. In Appreciation of Joey Votto, Sports On Earth. I’ve always wanted to write a Sports Encyclopedia that’s somewhat similar to what David Thomson does with his New Biographical Definition of Film. It would be full of essays like this one about Joey Votto. I would have a blast writing that book. I should pitch my agent.
3. Samuel L. Jackson Films, Ranked, Vulture. Samuel L. Jackson has been in way too many movies, but we still had fun.
4. Review: “Logan Lucky,” Paste. This movie is an extreme amount of fun. Go see it.
5. The Angels Stink, But That Might Not Keep Them From the Playoffs, Sports On Earth. The paragraph in here about Albert Pujols just kills me. I can’t believe he has fallen so far. There is no joy in his fall.
6. The Ten Worst Players in Baseball This Year, Sports On Earth. Speaking of Pujols ...
7. NFC East Preview, Sports On Earth. These are helpful, recharge-the-batteries-in-August twice-a-week easy ones.
8. AFC North Preview, Sports On Earth. Plus, they’re good reminders of, you know, what’s going on in the NFL. (I tend to take summers off from the NFL, for my mental health.)
9. Dive Dive Dive, Sports On Earth. I’m wondering if any of you have ever read any of these, even once.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, a lighter, mid-August show this week, about “The Glass Castle,” “Good Time,” “Ingrid Goes West” and “Persona.”
The Will Leitch Experience, new theme music! At least! With Alyson Footer, with two more shows coming next week.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, big SEC preview. This is the first WSLS show we’ve done in my home in Five Points. It was nice to break into my own bourbon for once.
My wife and William are in Southampton this weekend, hanging out at fancy golf clubs with her dad. That leaves Wynn and I to chill here in Athens with the Heisman Trophy.
(We’re still never letting him play football.)
Have a great weekend, everyone.