When I was a kid, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the fields near my house looking for gnomes, hobbits, fairies and buried treasure. As the sun would set my focus shifted over to UFO’s, ghosts and explosions in the night. I never found any of those things in the night or the heat of the day, but the searching was so much fun. I think that’s a big reason why I find myself returning over and over again to David Lowery’s brilliant, wonderful and magical short film, “A Catalog of Anticipations.” Not only is it an excellent little film, something in it speaks to the inner child in me and not in the typical “someone-got-kicked-in-the-nuts” kind of way. Plus, it’s just plain cool.
Executed entirely (save a few frames if I’m not mistaken) through still shots, simple animation and voice-over narration, “A Catalog of Anticipations” tells the tale of a young girl who spends her day collecting odd artifacts in the area around her house. The hobby begins rather strangely as the girl finds a crusty old animal jawbone in a field. She takes it home, cleans it up and puts it on display. Soon the jawbone is joined by various bugs, butterflies and other natural oddities in a kind of mini-museum in her bedroom. Yet one day the girl finds something extraordinary and takes that home as well.
Nope. I will not tell you what she finds but it’s simply amazing as is Lowery’s film. I can honestly say it’s one of the best shorts I’ve ever seen and, in fact, it’s kind of a big, fantasy driven idea ala “Pan’s Labyrinth” but done on a micro-budget. Lowery succeeds in telling this story through very conservative means highlighted by excellent sound effects and fascinating animation. The photography is also incredible and not a shot is wasted.
Lowery has not only made a great film (at any length), he’s put one of the most valuable lessons in indie/small budget filmmaking into action: keep it simple and tell a great story. There’s also several layers to “A Catalog of Anticipations” as the film manages to be whimsical yet creepy, organic yet tightly constructed…imaginative yet realistic. I could go on and on about this gem of a film but then I might give something away. Instead I encourage you to seek the film out and prepare to be floored.