Saturday, 29 November 2008

Hank Friedman - "Care for Some Whiskey" (Leerone)

Care For Some Whiskey has singer Leerone enjoying an alfresco meal with several fluffy friends when she inadvertently falls into a hole where a charmless ogre with knife is busily making mince of several caged furry innocents. Our girl does not panic however and a gift of a flower seems sufficient to dissuade her would-be mincer to give up his day job and prepare to join in a more conventional feast with new found friends. As well as being as good writer, Leerone is no mean actress and director Hank Friedmann embellishes her talents with his well edited stop motion work, to add to his excellent set and models. Strange to see the residents of Sesame Street wielding knives, or minced up and stored in gooey jars. A real fun movie. I love the song. The singer sounds a bit like Tore Amos here, a favourite of mine, so I'll have a look at refilling my iPod with Leerone's album. The live action camera work was by Larkin Seiple and the indispensable DeK from No Fat Clips has a 58mb high resolution version for download (Care For Some Whiskey). Leerone's blog is a hundred times more literate than most in the genre and from there I learn that Long Beach born Hank "created the Transdimensional Short Film Festival, and produced and directed the UCLA sketch comedy program Fireside Chats" and currently works for Final Cut LA. A talented man and, I bet, a busy man after this.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Raimund Krumme "Ropedance"

It is instructive to compare Raimund Krumme's 1986 Ropedance with, as an example, his recent ad for women's Levi Jeans for Acme. Ropedance is a witty study in which two tiny male figures struggle for supremacy with a rope. Manipulating perspective and full of comic antics, the deceptively simple animation is typical of a master craftsman and artist at work. It takes the animation genre at face value, a medium able to impose a world of impossible possibilities and entertain into the bargain. Raimund's intelligence shines through in this classic work. His Trading Secrets has that same control of line and figures whereas it adds colour, upbeat music and is altogether contemporary. You might also be interested in his Pangea or Crossroads. Raimund's academic background and commercial expertise is impeccable. He is presently Professor for Animation, Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and has worked in Paris and in 1996 moved to the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Acme Filmworks

For an easy life I’m tempted to give up writing my blog in this form and compile the Acme Filmworks blog instead. I would be assured of a seemingly endless conveyor belt of talent from across the world and also be reacquainted with some old friends of the blog. Take Gianluigi Toccafondo, a director with a distinctive blend of live action and animation characters. His Running blends in the sites of Prague and the runners for their International Marathon to stylish effect. Meanwhile in the Bay of Huatulco Caroline Leaf whets one's appetite for the summer vacation with an appealing ad for the tropical beaches of Mexico's Huatulco with her mix of animation and film footage; Erica Russell uses a striking mix of red and black to promote the financial company Instinet in her elegant Bullfighter; and in Books the skilled hand of Sarah Van den Boom has Lilliputians garbed in their academic robes crawling through giant books for the Californian University of Pennsylvania. Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis, Bill Plympton, Joanna Quinn, Danny Cannizaro ....... the fabulous list goes on and on. Thanks to Acme for their comprehensive website and all ads we don't see here in the UK.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Joris Oprins "Wad"

Today's featured animation is another world away from yesterday's and, indeed, tomorrow's scenic extravaganza. The Dutch Wadden Sea is a semi-enclosed area of the North Sea consisting of tidal mud flats and marine life - for which it is internationally well known. It is not a particularly scenic place though I accept beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Wad, directed by Joris Oprins in 2003, is a quirky movie set amongst the mud and sand in which two people and a dog get trapped by the rising water. Thickly drawn in mud and tar on wet sandpaper, the colour scheme must have been easy to assemble, as would the drawings. However it has a comic charm, as the murky figures make sandcastles and, this is guesswork, catch crabs. One is dragged off by the wind though the second perseveres and leaves a touching reminder at the close. Joris graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2003. His company website does have more orthodox work on it including work in colour!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Pota Tseng "Musk"

A mystical tribute to the art of CGI technology and artistry today in Pota Tseng's ravishing Musk. It cheers one up on a winter's day with its blue butterflies, peaceful woodland setting and running deer. Apart from the words, what is so inspirational is the quality of lighting with speckles of light and leaves flitting across the screen, the sunlight cutting in amongst the trees and water. The musk deer itself is wonderfully realised, as is the moment when the spirit of the beast heads towards the moon. The software is Maya, Photoshop and Shake for compositing. Suffice it to say that I have ordered a copy of the latter to play with. Musk is a presentation in visual and musical form of the Nobel Literature Prize winning Sir Rabindranath Tagore's poem, The Gardener, itself a translation of Kabir, 1398-1518. Pota produced the piece whilst a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His website has the credits, including the chosen music.

The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me;
but my deaf ears cannot hear it.

So long as man clamours for the “I” and the “Mine”, his works are as naught: When all love of the “I” and the “Mine” is dead,
then the work of the Lord is done.

For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
When that comes, then work is put away.

The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower withers.
The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself: it wanders in quest of grass.
From: Songs Of Kabir
Translated by Sir Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, 24 November 2008

Masayoshi Nakamura "White Birds" (Sarah Fimm)

Directed by Masayoshi Nakamura, White Birds (for Sarah Fimm) is a dreamy piece with a white bird flying across layered clouds and waves. Partially seen in silhouette, simplicity has it virtues when it comes to something as smooth as this. It fits the gorgeous song perfectly. Sarah's music is new to me. She has a most appealing voice and the folksy number is destined for my iPod. The music video was produced for New York's Newspeak. Born in Nishinomiya, Japan, Masayoshi is now domiciled in the USA. His website has other stylish illustrations and animations. Alternate viewing via Reel Exchange.

AURORA 2008 Award Winners

AURORA 2008 Award Winners
The award-winning films for AURORA 2008 were announced at the awards presentation on Sunday 16 November. Three cash awards and one special mention were made by the competition jury, as follows:
Best Music Video: Flesh Unitard in P*E*A*C*E* by Jessie Stead (USA)
Best Film: the object which thinks us: OBJECT 1 by Samantha Rebello (UK)
Dick Arnall Award, for rogue vision in the manipulated moving image
Infection Transmission Event / Cloudy November by Paul Abbott (UK)
Special Mention: Origin of the Species by Ben Rivers (UK)
Further details, including the jury's citations, can be found here.
AURORA Edition 2 and book now available
The new AURORA DVD, Edition 2, and this year's sumptuous book, AURORA 2008: The Infinite Measure, are now available to buy from the AURORA shop online. The DVD (£15) features ten of the best new artists' films from across the world, taken from the selection for this year's festival (including the winner of Best Film, the object which thinks us: OBJECT 1), whilst the book (£10) includes exclusive writing by Robert Beavers, Mark Webber, Henriette Huldisch, Iain Sinclair, Chris Petit and others - as well as colour plates and full film notes. Available from the online shop (and check back for more DVDs and books - available soon).

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Petra Freeman "The Mill"

The Sunday Classic
The Mill
Petra Freeman

The Mill directed by Petra Freeman is a movie that defies clear interpretation though the sheer magic of events captivate. In simple terms it is a fantasy stemming from a young girl's fascination with bees. The girl is carried off by the swarm of bees, enters a beehive, and a bee becomes a playmate. Other than explaining that the girl undergoes a journey in her imagination, Petra is non-committal in her explanation of meaning: "I feel if I say what I think then that limits other people's ideas about it." My own ideas are confused though appreciative. It is certainly, if partially, to do with coping with loneliness through imagination, rather as Jumping Joan covered here earlier. The girl's journey is strange. The fluidity of the movement in the animation aids this depiction, Petra's method of creation being to paint on back-lit glass, stacked in layers for depth. The dream commences almost in nightmare as a tiny sailing ship heads into an amorphous mass of red and black from the gloom of which emerges the girl peeping through curtains under a giant pair of white hands. It is full of enigmatic scenes: she watches as the beekeeper dressed in his protective robes calms the hive whereupon the girl unsuccessfully attempts to follow him out of the garden; she stands on a precipice having emerged from her own hair; and she conjures up a child's swing that morphs to a hive. The bee seems part of her and her journey an exploration of herself. The hive is viewed as one of those huge dark satanic mills that still distinguish parts of the north of England, forbidding one moment, enticing the next, the sense of drama heightened by the very dramatic music, Sofia Gubaidulina's 'Offertorium'.
Biography: Petra's father kept bees himself in their North Cornwall home. She was born in 1964, obtaining her BA in Theatre Design from Wimbledon School of Art, prior to studying for her MA in Illustration at the Royal College of Art, 1988-1990. The Mill was funded by Channel 4 and the British Film Institute and won the Freeman the Debut Prize at the 1992 Hiroshima Film Festival.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sarah Van den Boom "Novecento Pianiste"

Sometimes I am surprised by the little attention paid to works of art. Sarah Van den Boom's 17 minute and startlingly well made Novecento Pianiste ( is a case in point. Based on the Italian novel by Alessandro Barrico, the story is of Novecento, abandoned as a newly born baby and growing to manhood on one of those stately and vast liners that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the early part of the 20th century. He is discovered by a member of the crew on top of the piano that, alongside the ship, is to be his life for the duration of the movie. We follow the child to manhood, raised by his rescuer below decks, teaching himself to play and becoming a much loved fixture in the concert room on the transatlantic voyages. The hand drawn animation is wonderful throughout in shaded black and white though colour is subtly introduced at times for emphasis and punctuation. The detail of the drawings is achieved by a natural artist, one able to work at pace, full of delicate shading, perspectives and a capacity to tie ideas together: the shoes of the young woman on the stairs as she leaves her infant, those of the adult as he treads his way towards dry land; the sudden adoption of strong colour and a different style as Sarah's narrative encompasses the jazz era; humour and pathos, drunk in charge of a grand piano: a burial at sea. Although a favourite on the festival circuit, I have no idea, for example, why this quite wonderful movie has had such comparative little exposure on YouTube -Novecento Pianiste 1 & Novecento Pianiste 2. Perhaps the English speaking world's notorious unwillingness to deal with a foreign language is at the root though one need not fear: the dialogue is sparse indeed and the film entirely accessible to all. And an exceptional treat it is too. Sarah's Press Details provide background and her website provides links to her work, including her artwork. She has contributed glorious ads for the top USA company Acme Filmworks. I will return to the director's commercial work next week. I am presently allowing myself to consider my top ten films of the year and Sarah's 2005 movie is at the forefront of my mind at the moment in this respect.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Aleksandra Korejwo "Butterfly" and "Article 16"

A visit to Acme Filmworks is to be confronted by a surfeit of riches. Their directors are fabulous talents with a diversity of styles representing some of the world's finest. Aleksandra Korejwo fits it the category, her roll call of honour being long and distinguished. On Sunday week I will look at one of her earlier classic pieces. Today it's two of her ads. Butterfly is from the celebrated stable of ads for United Airlines, many of which I have featured over the last two years. In her trademark swirl of coloured salt the ad celebrates the airline's flat-bed seats in their Business Class flights. A woman in scarlet dress is whisked off to the clouds, transforming into opera diva and then butterfly in her opulent comfort. Using illuminated salt on black canvas and shed condor feathers for her brush, the rich blue and red, together with the movement of stirred salt is luscious. The same technique is used in a harder edged short for UNICEF Article 16, emphasising the threats to human rights as well as stressing the innocence of childhood. The UNICEF campaign of ads for Children's Rights has representation in differing styles from several countries. Aleksandra's website is KOREJWO’S ART.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Emru Townsend

Emru Townsend - 1969-2008
Emru died peacefully on November 11th.
A moving tribute was posted on Frames Per Second.

Steve Katz "Protest"

Protest directed by Steve Katz (1999) is a combination of CGI and live action photography. The two minute film highlights the threats to the elephant in eye-catching style. The action is deliberately far removed from the African savanna, based in a city of tall buildings against which one finds the arresting image of the elephant set against the skyline, perched precariously on the edge of a skyscraper precipice. We follow the heavy foot of the beast, then see its now tiny form and those of its family as they crash down from the giant buildings to the pavements far beneath - to the amazement of the urban citizens. Thereafter our eyes are at gutter level as workmen hose the streets and we see the detritus of life washed away. The music accompanying this powerful piece is the richly textured Alfredo Catalani ‘s aria from the opera, La Wally, that adds immeasurably to the drama of a powerful movie. Animation and filmed footage act in unison here. Following the water as it flows into the drains allows one just time enough to consider the plight of the elephant in our modern world, a metaphor for what we place at risk. The concept did not initially set out to be a campaigning video; rather Steve had an image of a falling elephant that he wanted to explore. He is a director at New York’s Pitch Animation Studio and an author of a book on my Christmas list, Film Directing Shot by Shot. An alternative screening for the movie is the excellent Sputnik 7.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes "This Way Up"

This Way Up directed by Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes (only a fragment I'm afraid) was commissioned for The Animation Show by the BBC and I saw it at the Bradford Animation Festival last Friday. It tells the tale of two hapless undertakers who undertake rather more than they planned. (Strap line: "Laying the dead to rest has never been so much trouble.") It has that sense of style about it that distinguishes the class act. One of a collection of talented individuals recruited by top London agency Nexus, Alan and Adam have achieved several major awards since leaving the Royal College of Art in 1997. The movie in question has commenced a long line of awards commencing with the Mundos Digitales Festival in Spain and taking in Ottawa where it won the Audience Public Prize for Best Short Film. Christopher O'Reilly worked with the pair on the script and as one of a number of producers. It is too easy, for lack of space, to miss out the actual animators so I'm not going to: Antoine Bourruel, Boris Lowinger, Dominic Griffiths, James Wilson, Mark Davies, Mélanie Climent, Reece Millidge, Roly Edwards, Steve Brown, and Stuart Doig. The guys' website and blog are worth a visit as is their employers.

Animation Competition: Big Star TV

I shouldn't click my own ads for Google, my sponsors, though the money goes to charity anyway. However in the case of Big Star TV I make an exception. There is a monthly prize of $1000 with grand competition winner of $5000 at the end of the year. Deadline Date: Jan 23, 2009 for the animation short. For this on-line competition of 3 to 15 minutes of content there are no restrictions on content or degree of expertise! Worth it.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

David Chai "Cole Needs Women"

Cole Needs Women directed by David Chai is a very funny movie. Our hero in this excellent comic short discovers that, after researching the subject assiduously, he desires all the woman in the world. The international ladies are duly enticed into his spaceship by a cunning plan involving a wonderful poster and odour of chocolate. So successful is he in his mission that he denudes the world of its women. Will he answer the call of men everywhere to return them? Beautifully drawn in cartoon style, the humour is consistent in this shades of grey movie, with genuinely witty visual gags packed into the mix - from the positions Cole assumes to do his surreptitious research on woman's habits, the anarchy of salmon attacking a bear, and the pods returning the women to the Earth. David, as well as independently producing award winning animations, is an instructor of animation at San Jose State University. His work is a regular feature of festivals across the world. More from his The House of Chai and José State Animation / Illustration Club.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Billy Collins & Jeff Scher "No Time"

I had no time yesterday for my intended Sunday Classic on The Mill, so I'll revisit the partially completed piece in time for next week. No Time is a moving poem by Billy Collins, animated by Jeff Scher. I have taught poetry for more years than I care to admit and have lost both my parents so feel empowered to comment on both facets of a terrific short. Billy, as America's Poet Laureate, writes in a direct manner and his material is accessible to all. The simple memory of a dead parent's disapproval recurring years after his death is one to which many who have lost parents can relate. For his part Jeff is hugely sympathetic to the poem. The images flash by, almost subliminally, of tickets, postage records, dentists cards and the like, superimposed over loosely painted scenes and people. The boy and man is comforted from the grave by his mother, his age and colouring changing in a shimmering succession of colours, and her arm around him in sympathy as she protects him from the words and scorn of his father. The images of the graves as a backdrop are seen in changing colours, in one image, for one fraction of a second, accompanied by a postal stamp, a message to us all.
"In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side beneath a slab of smooth granite.
Then, all day, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down."

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Lisa Paclet "Shoe Army"

With a cosmopolitan background of higher education in Florence, Minneapolis and Paris, and currently working in the animation and film industry in the French capital Lisa Paclet produces innovative work. Take Ghost Dancing, an accidental animation, so-called, in which two dresses hanging outside the apartment doors sway in the breeze or Shoe Army in similar vein albeit these are her rather fashionable shoes extracted from the wardrobe in November of last year, photographed, music added and synchronised from slim and shapely to bold and chunky, light and lemon to gloss black. Here she encapsulates a life, formal and play. It really works this idea so much so that am I thinking of nicking it and emptying out the wardrobe. Sadly my colour balance would be two-tone and altogether more chunk than chic. I guess Lisa completed the work in bare feet. She wastes little. Wrapped chocolate fish form the artfully composed and orchestrated Fish. Moving away from her camera Lisa's Dinosaurs discloses the courtship rituals of the prehistoric beasts whilst at New York's Chelsea Hotel Lisa and her friends construct a piece of art that itself becomes the art. Fascinating and a nicely understated interface for her website.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Brady Baltezore The Country (Billy Collins)

A time back a correspondent suggested it must be hard obtaining sufficient material for a daily post. Quite the opposite. The Sundance Channel's Action Poetry featuring the poems of Billy Collins provides a wealth of starting off points with different styles of movies. Today’s movie therefore is 31 year old Brady Baltezore's The Country (20mb) made in 2006. Collins explores the little anxieties that plague us, in this instance, the rural householder who locks away his matches in case a mouse takes one into the floorboards and sets the house on fire. Initially sceptical, even amused, the narrator, a city dweller, is nevertheless himself disturbed as he ponders that little grey figure scurrying about beneath his bed, lighting the match and igniting the building. He leaps into fantasy as the "brown Druid" raises his torch to his grey followers and burns the house down. Anxieties: what if a mouse found a match, did I actually lock the front door before setting off to another continent, what if what I said to her was interpreted as….The neuroses of modern man sprinkled with a dry humour. Brady treats the story in linear fashion - the guy lecturing on the dangers of matches, the restless night, the rodent weaving its way through the innards of the house, striking the match and captivating his thrilled followers to a backdrop of blazing house. The piece is drawn in 2D with lots of close-ups of matches, mouse and man. Into this world are added rendered photographic images of keys, pipework or kitchen table. The mix complements a poem in which fear and fun are intertwined. Formally working for San Francisco’s Radium Brady is now freelance. More of his work, as I am wont to say, later. In the meantime Brady's website is Pistols Loaded and terrific.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Jeff Scher "Dog Days" & "All the Wrong Reasons"

Animation takes all forms, many of which are represented here in the blog. New Yorker Jeff Scher paints in watercolour and these paintings are sequenced together as movies. He has an eye for detail or nuances of life whether it be the behaviour of dogs or man. Though he also does live action work, somewhat rarely for the industry nowadays he uses hand drawn rotoscoping, cel by cel to achieve his effect, a technique first devised by Max Fleischer in the early part of the last century. Dog Days is an attractive example with the heat of the day reflected in the hot colours of pink, orange and yellow. The dogs pant a lot. A warm treatment of his subject then in terms of affection and clearly a dog lover. All the Wrong Reasons (or, via YouTube) is a dreamlike excursion through the flickering memories and fears of the day - a circus, wedding, fierce dog. His sharp eyes are at work again, sifting through the detritus of the day, beautifully capturing the moments of beauty or fear that whirl about in our subconscious. He used almost 3,000 paintings and collages here, the constantly changing colours inducing a dream-like state, with the music of Shay Lynch stitching the piece together. Jeff's website, Fez Films, has his paintings for sale - the dog's on show at $500 or so! His work is showcased in Animated Life, a series for the New York Times. He accompanies his animations with philosophical or poetic commentary that sets the scene well for the moving material. His writing, as with his animation, is idiosyncratic, viz: "I shot this film with a Beaulieu wind-up 16 mm. movie camera from the ’60s and film stock that was at least ten years out of date. The film was shot on a balcony with an awning while my wife napped in the next room with one of our boys. They slept so deeply that even the thunder did not wake them" - the sequenced live action short and very soothing ‘While You Were Sleeping’. If you are in need of further Inspiration follow the link.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Dave Jones "Sleep Elusive"

I write too much. It's a fault. Sometimes I should just cut down the word count on my posts. Dave Jones has his economy of effort off to a fine art. Produced early in his career, Sleep Elusive is one of the best comic shorts using Flash. The plot is simple. Man is tired and ready for sleep. Noise from the next apartment breaks that sleep. Man rages and rages before determining on destroying the noise makers whose nocturnal pleasures are driving him mad. Man makes big mistake. El Emigrante and The Heist, again employing early versions of Flash, have different styles, the latter being a more conventional cartoon. Economical, funny and stylish these comic shorts are a delight. And don’t miss Vanessa Amorosi as she attempts to retrieve her dog. Dave is a natural artist, master of comic timing and I am a great admirer of his work. He now works more in stop motion which I shall be looking at shortly. Visit his website, Transience.