A review requested by Beef Jerky Guy with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser.

Step one: watch this. You won't spend three better minutes all day.

I have only a vague idea of where Mike Jittlov came from or how he came to make the three-minute short film The Wizard of Speed and Time, which was initially shown as part of the Disney promotional special Major Effects in 1979. And I'm honestly not sure that I want a better idea than knowing that Jittlov was making stop-motion effects-driven films for a few years who got some of his footage in front of somebody at Disney at some point. I'd much rather allow The Wizard of Speed and Time to continue to exist in my mind as it has since I first saw it, in the early stages of sleep deprivation, at Northwestern University's B-Fest back in 2002, as some kind of madcap sui generis piece of found art.

Emphasis on the "madcap"; and also the "art", for that matter. The Wizard of Speed and Time is a wee little slip of a thing, just 3 minutes long, but those minutes are filled to the brim with virtually constant movement. It is, after all, very little other than a demo reel for Jittlov's in-camera effects work (he also starred as the titular wizard, and I cannot even imagine the degree of difficulty doing both of those things simultaneously), which means that it will damn well have nothing but effects. And those effects are some of the best that have ever been made for no budget and with a crew of two (the second being Deven Chierighino, credited merely as "production crew" alongside Jittlov, AKA "did everything while Jittlov was in front of the camera").

Hell, I might even waive the qualifier: the level of precision in the last minute and a quarter of The Wizard of Speed and Time is unimpeachable and would be no matter how much money or how professional of a crew you threw at it. The technology Jittlov used was ancient: stop-motion animation had existed for almost 80 years at the point the short came out, and The Wizard of Speed and Time could have been made in the 1910s without the loss of anything but color and its soundtrack. Neither of which is incidental, of course. The soundtrack, in particular, is cannily used to aurally prod us into believing the visuals and stitching over any moments (which are few and far between) in which Jittlov and Chierighino fall short. But everything about the film's actual construction is as primitive as cinema itself, nothing but a camera that has a variable frame rate.

This is proof, then, that no technology is as good as creativity and artistic vigor, for what The Wizard of Speed and Time achieves in its rickety primitivism is as good as it gets. The number of moving objects that have to be accounted for - one of them a human body, no less - is as impressive as the fluidity with which all of those objects are animated, and the brashness of the effects that find Jittlov running parallel to the ground along a wall, or outracing a train.

All of this could have been done more elegantly and less laboriously than Jittlov did it, of course, but only at a cost to the film itself. This looks cheap: it was shot on battered 16mm that got even more battered by the time anybody decided to go about digitising it. And that cheapness undoubtedly makes the film more special: in the way that a documentary that looks like hell has more of a "realistic" aura, so does the "I made this in my parents' garage" quality of The Wizard of Speed and Time give it a more humane, tactile, friendly quality, while also making Jittlov's achievement seem that much more pronounced. We've seen enough massive effects-driven films with a sufficiently high standard of quality that none of them really seem like much besides just wallpaper at this point; something as proudly homely as The Wizard of Speed and Time can never cease to be impressive, because it constantly foregrounds the work that went into making it.

The result is unfettered joy: a shamelessly silly tribute to the most idealistic possible version of what the movies are and how they work (via speed and time, through no coincidence at all). It's there in the cheery "up with Hollywood!" slice-of-life that's the closest the film has to a plot, and in the "movie equipment, like, comes to life, man" musical number that closes it. The message of the film is all about cinema's capacity to provide wonder; how marvelous, then, that it's so unimpeachably good at creating wonder all its own.