Friday, March 02, 2018

NYICFF ’18: Musical Shorts—Jazzoo, Tintico’s Afternoons, Flip the Record

Ears of all ages can appreciate good jazz. In fact, there is an under-the-radar tradition of jazz children’s music going back decades. The late, great Phil Woods released a CD inspired by A.A. Milne in 2009. More awkwardly, Horace Silver released his Guide to Growing Up, with voice-overs by Bill Cosby back in the early 1980s. Of course, the classic examples would be Raymond Scott’s repurposed cartoon soundtracks. The Swedish jazz combo Oddjob followed in this tradition with their EP Jazzoo, which they have now adapted as an animated short film with director Adam Marko Nord. Jazzoo is one of three tremendously entertaining music-themed short films screening at the 2018 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Jazzoo screens as part of the Shorts for Tots program, but any adult who doesn’t start tapping their toes to Oddjob's groovy, up-tempo tunes is a total weirdo as far as we’re concerned. They will introduce us to a heaving, hot hippo who seeks some cooling relief with the help of one hardy little birdy. After that, a resourceful orange fish successfully plays a game of cat-and-mouse with a shark. A little koala cub figures out how he can bounce along with a kanga’s roo and then a gaggle of elephants party and get-down, to the annoyance of the wet blanket monkeys. It all goes zipping along, thanks to the colorful animation and Oddjob’s propulsive music, especially the crisply swinging muted trumpet of Goran Kajfes.

Similarly. there is no dialogue in Alejandro García Caballero’s Tintico’s Afternoons, but the music says plenty. A retired rumba-mambo bandleader still has the trumpet chops to accompany his old 78s, much to the delight of a mosquito combo, who play right along with him. However, when his old Victrola conks out, his spirit goes with it. Somehow, the ‘squitoes will have to find away to restart the music, which sounds fabulous. Old masters like Machito and Tito Rodriguez would surely approve of Daniel Hidalgo’s soundtrack. As an added bonus, the animation is also quite elegant and sophisticated.

In contrast, there is plenty of talking in Marie Jamora’s Flip the Record (trailer here), but the real communication will be done with turntables. Hip hop and turntablism was new and fresh in the 1980s and Vanessa is an early adopter. The music hits her on a deep level, but her DJing older brother just sees her as his annoying kid sister, whereas she sees herself as DJ Vandal.

Courtney Bandeko already has a number of credits on her resume—and it is easy to tell why from her performance as Vanessa/Vandal. She just radiates charisma and star power, but she looks believable behind the turntables, as well. Bandeko is terrific, but Jamora also includes some appealing eighties nostalgia (remember when watching Love Boat and Fantasy Island was the thing to do on a Friday night? Vaguely?), while incorporating colorful but loving scenes of life of in a conservative Catholic Filipino-American family. The passion for vinyl will do your heart good if you’ve ever done any crate-digging, but parents should be cautioned, there are one or two swear words, because this is hip hop after all.

Jazzoo, Tintico’s Afternoons, and Flip the Record would flow really well if they were programed together, but NYICFF has them split up in different (but logical) thematic blocks. All very highly recommended, Jazzo screens as part of Shorts for Tots on 3/3, 3/4, 3/10, and twice on 3/11; Tintico’s Afternoons screens as part of Friends & Neighbors: Mexico on 3/10 and 3/18; and Flip the Record screens as part of Girls’ POV on 3/4, 3/10, 3/11, and 3/17.