Looking back at Glucose four years later, it's easy to see why folks were so excited. For lack of a better word, and at the risk of sounding absurdly unhip, it just looks and sounds cool.
Time works differently on the internet. In the online world, there's no such thing as past, present, and future. It's an eternal present, an ever-evolving mash-up of nostalgia and futurism, recycled memes, retro aesthetics, and stream-of-consciousness creation that seems to compress eras in the same way it transcends space.
Jeron Braxton's animation is very much of-the-internet. It's practically overflowing with nostalgic nods to eras past, from its low-polygon neon art style to its depictions of Polaroids and Macintosh desktops, to its constant referencing of video game and pop culture history. But it's not nostalgic in the sense of wanting to re-create or re-inhabit the past. Instead, those recognizable elements are used to build something that feels brand new, even as it reminds you of the past.
They feel like the future, too, or at least a future. When The Fader premiered Braxton's 2018 short Octane, their headline stated it as blatantly as you could: "Jeron Braxton's short films might be the future of animation." Sure, the "might" is doing some work to walk things back, but judging from the rest of the article, it feels like a hedge added by a nervous editor. A responsible editor wouldn't let you definitively claim that a 23-year-old was the future of an entire medium, but Braxton was fresh off a jury prize at Sundance and an exhibition at San Francisco's Museum of the African Diaspora, so you can see why you'd want to put that thought out there.
Looking back at Glucose four years later, it's easy to see why folks were so excited. Aesthetically, the film is basically a PS One having a nervous breakdown. Character models skew and stretch like they're constantly on the verge of falling apart completely, a satisfying contrast to the rigid perspectives and boxy furniture that make up the film's backgrounds. The soundtrack is as attention-grabbing as the look, a fusion of chiptune sounds and avant-garde electronics that wouldn't be at all out of place on a label like Brainfeeder. For lack of a better word, and at the risk of sounding absurdly unhip, it just looks and sounds cool.
It's also incredibly disorienting, and the first minute or two might feel like weirdness for its own sake. Once you fall into its rhythm, though, it's clear that there's more going on than random imagery. The disconnected scenes gather momentum, the pace slows down to something approaching contemplative, and (to borrow from that Fader piece) it becomes "a surreal, disjointed, and truly moving exploration of police violence and loneliness in the internet age." Or at least that's one interpretation of a short that seems open to many readings.