My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (2017)
dir. Dash Shaw
written by: Dash Shaw
starring: Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon
Alternative animation is threatened by the Academy Awards rule change, recently the most reliably intriguing category with inclusion of lesser known independents over the Angry Birds or Trolls of their years. 2015 alone gave us Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa; Brazilian dialogue-free Boy and the World; stop motion, also silent Shaun the Sheep Movie, and Japanese pseudo-sapphic When Marnie Was There. Though they lost to Pixar’s Inside Out (which I love), this showing has proven consistent since the regular expansion to five films. Certainly that’s attributed to a larger number of entries, but weeding out the Smurfs sequels from adult animation might be challenging with open polling for the nomination pool.
This year has an entry certainly not greeting the father-daughter matinee crowd. My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, written and directed by animator Dash Shaw, delves into a psychedelic flight for survival for friends at odds. When Dashall (Jason Schwartzman) and Assaf (Reggie Watts) feud following their separation on the newspaper staff by editor Verti (Maya Rudolph), Dashall releases an expose on Assaf’s erectile dysfunction (never disproved). Dismissed from his writing duties, Dashall discovers forged documents approving an unstable addition to the school’s roof. Stressed to the breaking point, the school plunges into the nearby sea when the fault line under the school succumbs to the increased weight. Now, the students must contend with the rising water and cliques-turned-apocalyptic-warlords to reach safety in the higher levels.
Schwartzman’s self-possessed vocal stylings serve the character well in this psychedelic Poseidon Adventure. Dashall is portrayed as a stubborn, pig-headed, wannabe journalist, and Schwartzman’s normally irritating voice fills the character with the self-involved gravitas that you know the fictional character doesn’t give a hoot what you think. Reggie Watts, filling in throughout the film, slips in undetectable, along with the toned down Rudolph, rarely rising above a subdued monotone. Susan Sarandon is the clear standout, playing Lunch Lady Lorraine, their sloppy Joe slinging savior. Sarandon’s deep, authoritative voice adds layers to LLL’s alliterative, storied history for how she became a lunch lady after a full, adventurous life.
Odd, stark, and minimalist, My Entire School Sinking in the Sea is an original debut. The minimalist art allows for the absurdity to blossom, adding in elements of classic early 90s tech (a fun SNES-style fight scene feature LLL is the best) and filled with tie-dyed spiraling. The Clueless-meets-Thunderdome elevation of the disaster movie is part somber-part mayhem, but it’s fully committed to its varied delivery. The splashes of memory remind of the magical sense found in youth, whether it’s awful like losing friends or drowning in shark infested waters. Each moment is found to be more simple from the adult perspective, and the unshaken resolution derives the growth inherent from adolescent turmoil dwindling from memory. Smart and vibrant, this GKIDS feature harnesses more of the awardable dependability common for the company.