Web Series: You can’t have ackee without saltfish

Pause whatever daily routine you’re doing. If there’s anything the selections in this month’s web series column teach us, it’s that there is beauty in the mundane. Web series Ackee & Saltfish features two hysterical women debating over repetitive routines in everyday life; while the animated short AGAIN challenges its viewers to resist failing into daily patterns. Both are gems and sure to be a highlight to everyones day.

Web Series: Ackee & Saltfish: Two women were shocked and horrified after discovering they were given a plate of ackee without saltfish, which typically go together as a classic Jamaican dish. It may not sound like much of a premise, but that’s all Michelle Tiwo and Vanessa Babirye needed to carry an entire episode of their laugh-a-second web series, Ackee & Saltfish. Composed of only 6 episodes and totaling less than 30 minutes of content, the show proved quality over quantity can go a long way.

The show unwaveringly follows a simple setup of the two women discussing (and, inevitably, debating) unorthodox topics like perusing carpets in a rug shop and eating the end slices on a loaf of bread. “I come from a long line of back bread eaters,” Tiwo vehemently argues as Olivia, her voice assigning equal seriousness to all her lines, no matter how ridiculous they get. “I remember it was Christmas and my whole family was together, and there was only two loaves of bread with four end pieces. Do you know what happened? There was a fight that night.”

The show is written and directed by Cecile Emeke, whose most impressive technique is her simplistic approach to directing. The show doesn’t use any fancy camera tricks or film equipment, instead opting to show a few camera angles per episode. This testifies to the confidence Emeke has in her writing and the actresses on the screen. It’s not easy for a show with production as simple as this to attract press from the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Much like the titular dish, however, the show wouldn’t be complete without both its ackee and its saltfish. Tiwo and Babirye make a formidable comedic pair. It takes a certain kind of chemistry to riff on something as benign as the end slices of bread for a full 5-minute episode. Though Babirye’s Rachel tries to present herself as more logical than Olivia, both end up defending their often weird and always hilarious opinions, no matter how fruitless the conversation becomes. The show provides humor and leaves the audience hungry for more.

Season one was released in 2015. While there is currently no news about the possibility of a season two, donations can be made on the show’s website for the show to continue. A short film starring the duo is also available to watch with a donation.

Short film: AGAIN: For anyone who’s ever felt their life may be a little repetitive, Nico Gao’s 5-minute animated short AGAIN proves there can be beauty even in monotony. The short, written and animated by Gao, tackles the antithetical subjects of suicide and happiness in under 5 minutes, but never loses the brightness of its own pastel-colored animations.

The film follows a pink, humanoid blob who lives in a blocky and pixelated city inspired by early 90's arcade games, and beep-boop-beep sound effects to compliment every movement. After cycling through another routined day, in which he walks his digital dog, the character surveys an art gallery that only displays QR codes; while he repeatedly plays the same computer game at his job.  The pink blob gets hit by a car on his way home and discovers he can’t die. Instead, he reappears on the same sidewalk completely free of injury, like Mario restarting a level after being chomped by a Goomba on an old Nintendo Entertainment System.

Intrigued (and perhaps a little frightened) by his newfound invincibility, the pink blob tests his immortality in several ways. Though the subject matter of suicide may not be a bright one, Gao’s quirky animation and bright visuals bring a certain innocence to the short that prevent it from extending beyond cartoon violence. Aided by the 3D and visual effects of Ren Wang, the short is a treat to look at. The atmosphere provides enough personality to sympathize with a character who doesn’t speak.. The music, also reminiscent of an electronic video game, further adds to the atmosphere, all of which adds together to create a distinct vision.

AGAIN is a refreshing reminder that it is possible and necessary to find inner peace when life gets you down. It’s the little pieces of beauty, like this short and Ackee & Saltfish, that help us break out of uniformity.