[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
In An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It—Lachlan Pendragon’s Oscar-nominated animated short—the fourth wall is a fragile construct. Much of the action is glimpsed through a monitor mounted to the camera recording it, with the hands of the artist visibly manipulating the puppets in the background, just barely out of focus. Once the protagonist—a mild-mannered telemarketer—realizes that the world he inhabits is a total fabrication, the seams holding it together gradually begin to unravel. Peering beyond the border of the frame, for example, reveals details (or, more appropriately, the lack thereof) that would otherwise be invisible: the words printed in an employee manual, an entire desktop computer, and his coworkers’ legs dematerialize the instant they exit the viewer’s direct line of sight. Haunted by this nightmarish new reality, he attempts to escape through a door to nowhere—only to plummet into a tray containing multiple reproductions of his own detachable lower jaw.
Featuring a cheekily self-referential tone that perfectly complements its central character’s self-awareness, An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake is a subversive masterpiece, transforming the very medium of stop-motion into a compelling metaphor for the suffocating existential horror of existing in a society befouled by commercialism, consumerism, and materialism. After all, despite his apparent deific status, the Filmmaker—much like his creations of felt and wire armature—is subject to the whims of forces beyond his comprehension, squandering his craft to produce advertisements for furniture and office supplies. He may sculpt the universe, but the Almighty Dollar reigns supreme, pulling his strings with the promise of a paycheck… and the threat of poverty.
This overarching theme would be intolerably cynical and nihilistic… were the movie surrounding it not so charming, innovative, and effortlessly hilarious. An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It blows its fellow competitors out of the water; I'll be rooting for it to take home the golden statuette on March 12.