“MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA”
Blu-ray, DVD; 2016; PG-13 for profanity, peril, cartoon violence, sexual humor
Best extra: Writer/director Dash Shaw’s commentary
IN “My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea,” an animated character named Dash Shaw – with Jason Schwartzman’s voice – is a sophomore at Tides High.
Dash and his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) are writers for the school newspaper. Verti (Maya Rudolph) is its editor. Those three are joined by Mary, a snooty popular girl (Lena Dunham) and Lunch Lady Lorraine (Susan Sarandon) to form the core group trying to survive the result of an earthquake, which has caused their school building to fall into the ocean.
The real Dash Shaw, whose career has mostly been as an independent comic book artist, also made some very short films. This is his first feature, on which he collaborated with his wife, Jane Samborski. The quality of its animation is uneven, veering from slapdash sketches to artfully rendered silhouettes; from wobbly, flickery movement to smooth realistic gestures. And as the plot becomes increasingly surreal and the disasters heighten, the backgrounds turn more painterly and interesting until they’re downright psychedelic. The often snarky tone and humor of Shaw’s film will likely appeal most to an audience of 20- and 30-somethings, particularly those with memories of being awkward, artsy teenaged outcasts rejected by a cliquish high school in-crowd.
This co-production of GKids and Shout! Factory looks just fine on Blu-ray, but it’s hard to judge line drawings and other 2-dimensional media in terms of Blu-ray quality. The lines of the cartoon often look sloppy or fuzzy, but that’s more a product of the original art work. The HD sound is good, with dialogue mostly clear. The score by Rani Sharone is well-modulated and serves the subject matter and visuals nicely.
Extras include five of Shaw’s short films, and “The Art of ‘My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea’” making-of documentary. Shaw’s conversational commentary, by turns rambling and informative, begins with his artistic autobiography. He notes that, growing up in the 1990s, he was very influenced by Japanese anime, which first “connected comics and cartoons” for him. He studied at New York’s School of Visual Arts, where his part-time job in their film library exposed him to alternative cinema. Although he didn’t like early computer animation, he became a convert when he found out he could use Photoshop technology to mimic the look of handmade cartoons.
Shaw’s short films led to working with IFC, and providing art work for the feature film “Rabbit Hole,” through which he met John Cameron Mitchell (who voices a character in “My Entire High School”) and Nicole Kidman. Many doors opened for him after that, leading to the coup of assembling such an impressive voice cast for “My Entire High School.”
Shaw began with a comic book version of the story before he conceived it as a film, which he says combines Hollywood disaster movies, art cinema, and autobiography. He discusses the score, admitting to not being at all musical: “I handed Rani the movie … and told him I wanted it to be like a drug experience … with wall-to-wall music.” Shaw says that his good fortune at getting “great actors” gave him “the coolest cast in the world,” which provided “an emotional heart to the movie.”
All the art in the film, which he wanted to “look really new and fresh,” was made with markers, acrylic paint and collage; none was computer-generated. He recruited different artists with disparate styles to create some of the painted backgrounds. Shaw’s list of some of the inspirations for his film include Charles M. Schultz, Tim Burton, and a 1970s Japanese TV series called “Devil Man.”eggy
All the art in the film, which he wanted to “look really new and fresh,” was made with markers, acrylic paint and collage; none was computer-generated. He recruited different artists with disparate styles to create some of the painted backgrounds. Shaw’s list of some of the inspirations for his film include Charles M. Schultz, Tim Burton, and a 1970s Japanese TV series called “Devil Man.”
- Peggy Earle