Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
Absurdity told with a straight face and a warm heart
Tumbleweed! is a story told using archive footage of the time when tumbleweed was first discovered and presented to the scientific community. There was much fascination over these things that distinguished themselves from weeds (the worst of all God's creations) by virtue of their continual forward motion. But this story is smaller than that this is the story of one weed that stood out by not tumbling as the others did.
There are several aspects to this film which make it work. The first is that it plays it straight throughout and constructs a very pleasing sense of absurdity which is gently amusing because of how "historically" it is presented. The narrator never breaks his tone even when he delivers the most obvious of jokes, while the footage mostly blends archive footage with mock-archive in which VFX are well used and pretty seamless. In this way the film is amusingly engaging even if it could have done with a few bigger laughs along the way. On top of this it importantly has a nicely human touch too it is not just an absurdist piece but it also has a pleasing heart too, one that is helped a great deal by the straight delivery because, while we know it is silly, the tone of delivery allows us to feel a little bit for the tumbleweed at the heart of the story.
Technically the film is very well constructed and delivered. The content could have used a few more imaginative touches of absurdity along the way just to add a few additional laughs in there, but it is amusing and surprisingly satisfying at the end thanks to the carefully measured tone of delivery.
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