Friday, 29 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Ontario's Sheridan College seems to have adopted the group approach with Electropolis. Thirteen students from their excellent Classical Animation program combined to make the 2D piece. Commencing with what I take to be a reference to The Matrix we see a humanoid happy enough until called upon to work for his living. So are we all, but this guy's world is a metal box on a pole directing pedestrian traffic through a set routine of stop start. Such a restricted life style for a guy simply bursting with dance talent can only end one way and he is sent to the municipal scrapheap for an act of exuberant insurrection. But not before he has got the pedestrians gyrating however. One man can bring traffic to a standstill and save the city! The collaboration works very well with something of the hero in the little fellow. I'll go for broke and mention the entire team responsible: Dawnson Chen, Hank Choi, Giorgio Mavrigianakis, Kevin McCullough, Dimas Mohammad, Allison Neil, Adam Pockaj, Dan Seddon, Amanda Stocker, Ki Eun Suh, Adam Trout, Jason Walmsley and Debbie Yu. A team this size is endanger of squashing individuality, ironic given the theme of the piece, but the wonder is that Dan's original idea is kept within a very tight framework. The movie might well have been made, albeit over a longer period, by one animator. In the closing frames one has to fight to resist the urge to at least tap one's foot. And it's refreshing to see drawing skills to the fore, with colour flooding into the people as their tired journey to work becomes something altogether more joyful. A feel good movie to get your feet tapping.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
I featured Chris Shepherd’s short Ax Men in December. Interesting then to see his debut film made an astonishing thirteen years ago for Channel 4. The Broken Jaw traces the recent history of a city public house, The Broken Jaw, a hostage to fashion that changes with the generations. Zimmer frame at the ready a group of men cough and splutter their way into the bar to repeat the exercise, expelling sputum to all and sundry whilst imbibing beer and tobacco. A louder era follows, disco, karaoke, fighting, bouncers, bright lights and ejection of the regulars as the pub changes its name. Nothing stands still. A gentler age beckons but not for two sets of regulars. This really is an impressive piece of work. Sketched with a bravura freedom, the characters are set against a photo montage. Standing alone amidst the slums, the terraced houses surrounding it have been smitten by the demolition gang or surrounded by temporary structures of so-called modernity. An eloquent statement on the state of flux in today's world, overcoming the comic headbutts and spitting. It occurred to me as I watched that every generation idolises its past. Rose coloured spectacles and all that. But Chris never lets any dourness creep in. Witty and gritty, there's always time for a laugh, a karaoke knees up as the guys launching into a lively musical number. Great song too. Show stopping.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Change4Life is a government sponsored health programme here in the UK to the tune of £270m, designed to change the nation’s food consumption habits - reduce waistline, extend life (my free tagline, the official one being Eat well, Move more and Live longer!) Part of the £75m advertising campaign is the ninety second Change4Life launched last year by M&C Saatchi and directed by Steve Harding Hill of Aardman. The ad takes a light hearted look at mankind’s changing eating habits. At first fruit is knocked from trees before we discover the thrill of smacking woolly mammoths on the head and devouring them. Whilst the hunt absorbed energy such a solution was fine for humankind, if fatal for the mammoth. However when the present generation expend their energies chasing digital nothings on games machines, heart disease strikes. The ad is a balance of education, humour and plasticine lookalike CG. Campaigns develop and the Department of Health is now sponsoring Channel 4’s screening of The Simpsons – a Mission Impossible perhaps. The latest development of the campaign is aimed at young mothers. Start4Life has one of the shiny little characters rolled up, shaped and sent off on the journey of life. The campaign has been criticised for its generous use of taxpayers' money for a private company. If a publicly owned British bank can fund Kraft's take-over of our glorious Cadbury's chocolate anything goes. In any case the little guys and guyesses are awfully cute. Steve is one of those Royal College of Arts people, graduating in 1995. He joined Aardman in 1999.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Toumai is the 2008 thesis film of Carlos Stevens and Brian Kinkley from the Art Institute of Portland. Not without ambition, it concerns the destruction of mankind’s natural habitat and its replacement by high rise buildings and pollution. This is not the most original of themes though given an unusual slant in that mankind is represented by one man who emerges fully clothed from the ocean, rampages through a paradise of plants and flowers before attempting an Icarus flight, laden down with the weight of the world in all its ghastliness. Icarus needed the sun to melt the wax: here the heat spews out from chimneys. An unusual mix of 3D and stop motion with an excellent score from McCay Marshall, the short has appealing moments, for example as the buildings career upwards like pop ups or the guy clutches a flower, low budget Avatar style (though not necessarily any the worse for it.) A short, enjoyable film with comparatively long credits! Bent Image Lab and Sarah Hulin provide the common threads, linking to last week’s post on Rob Shaw, Sarah being involved in the stop motion work with both films. Toumai, by the way, is the name given to the 6,000,000 year old skull of our earliest known ancestor discovered in Chad. In that central African country Toumai meant "hope of life".
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Made 59 years ago, Symphony in Slang takes the young fellow John up to the pearly gates where his idiomatic manner of speech bewilders St Peter and that famous dictionographer, Noah Webster. The short is a literal take on figurative language, essentially a collection of visual gags or puns, directed by Tex Avery, with design and layout by Tom Oreb and script from Rich Hogan. Ward Jenkins' blog has a good article on the movie including fascinating frame by frame presentations. Thus, in consecutive frames, as boy meets girl - my breath came in short pants, I got goose pimples, I was all thumbs, Mary’s clothes fitted her like a glove, she looked mighty pretty with her hair done up in a bun, she had good looking pins too…. and so on. The art of course lies in sequencing the gags in a reasonable manner, something that the script manages well enough, steaming through quick changing locations. His limited animation generally lacks detailed backgrounds or complex animation of much of Avery's output, with camera work being more straightforward for example. Notice the trendy young man, dashingly attired. As with fashion, some of the slang may well have dated but the comedy itself has weathered the sixty years since it was made. The battery of gags is sustained for the seven minutes or so. And how did Tom end up at the gates of heaven? (He died laughing.) Take care.
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
It is 1635. Charles I is feeling rather old, enfeebled, lacking in energy, out of sorts. Perhaps the visit of the world’s oldest man, 152 year old Thomas Parr, will revive him. Courtiers are despatched to persuade the old fellow to attend court. But Thomas has not reached an astonishingly ripe old age beholden to every Tom, Dick or Harry and summarily rejects the appeal. Couriers, if they are to remain courtiers, are not so easily dissuaded however and eventually the old man is transported in his bed to court where his arrival is celebrated in great style, much to his eventual discomfiture. Elizabeth Hobbs has her own style that is as distinctive as it gets. The Old, Old, Very Old Man - negotiated via her Flash website (Films/Archive) - is drawn in blue ink on white tiles, relevant in that it was inspired by Delft pottery at the British Museum. The result is a combination of the most delicate drawings with a humorous tone that is both sharp and light, as exemplified in the reaction of the monarch as his guest does the human equivalent of the parrot dropping from the perch. Or the response of Thomas to the courtier's invitation to attend the palace: Posh voice: "You have been summoned to the court of King Charles." Thomas's reply as he sips his tea is a perfunctory one - "No!" Lest I forget, the explanation for the old old old man’s longevity is something like head cool, rise early, early to bed. Edward Fox provides the marvellous voices whilst Tim Olden recreates the music of the era. History and a treat. Lizzy was educated in Scotland and now lives in East London. As well as her freelance work she is a tutor at Anglia Ruskin University.
Monday, 18 January 2010
New Zealand Book Council: Going West is an ad that certainly makes an impact: Where books come to life, we are informed in a dramatic realisation of the 1993 novel Going West from one of that country's leading novelists, Maurice Gee. Produced by Colenso BBDO and made at the London based Andersen M Studios, Line Anderson designed and animated the stop motion piece, brother Martin Anderson contributing photography and lighting. Again on credits, it is impossible to miss the sound design of Mikkel Eriksen whose complex, multi-track recording of the narrator's voice is given echo and reverberations to accompany the arresting visual concoction. There is something exciting about seeing the effects of an unseen razor sharp knife slice through the folded pages of the hardback, with houses, trees or suburban fences popping up in classic flip book style. Unlike some recent imaginative CG effects featured here, this is a more traditional technique, the precision of the camerawork and sculptor shown off to magnificent effect. The intention behind it all was to force the Kiwis to abandon the dark arts of the rugby field (allowing we poor Brits to occasionally win a game) and get reading. The link is to Vimeo where I first saw it; a YouTube link has had hundreds of thousands of hits so as usual I'm late to the party. The siblings both studied in their native Denmark and here in the UK. Martin lectures at two of the most prestigious institutions, the University of Brighton and Central St Martins.
Friday, 15 January 2010
Thursday, 14 January 2010
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Made in 2008, Jérémy Clapin’s Skhizein was commended in the Oscar deliberations whilst lesser films were nominated. Had I not bungled my own reviews here last year Jérémy’s remarkable film would without question have made my top ten, and at the higher end. (I deferred writing a review as at that exact time Jason Sondhi from Short of the Week had written a typically intelligent article.) Whereas Skhizein undoubtedly has comedic elements, I found it mainly touching, a metaphor for a range of mental or physical illnesses - in fact it refers to one specific condition suggested by the title. In his earlier movie, Une Histoire Vertébrale, the French director created two characters with physical abnormalities, a broadly comic tale that nevertheless made its point with compassion. In this later movie Henry is distanced 91 centimetres from himself after being hit by a meteorite. Speaking to his psychiatrist, the character explains his problems coping with the affliction. We see the care with which the man has organised his life to cater for those vital centimetres. Henry’s world is one of blueprints, shadowing the real world with delicate, measured lines. Of course there is humour as he travels outside his car or urinates to one side of the toilet. But essentially, through the conceit, Jérémy’s 13 minute film reveals the loneliness of a man distanced and alienated from society, losing his job, jettisoning friends and relatives, or being discarded. Appropriately, the colours look like they have been left overnight in the rain, whilst the director cleverly deploys his 2D character in a 3D world. A number of qualities appear unrewarded by those who make judgements on matters Academical. First is the telling humour and story-telling from the moment Henry appears to be floating in the surgery. But perhaps more notable is the sheer intellectual feat of a director rigorously pursuing a central tenet, exploring a fractured world with a remarkable coherence.
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
Monday, 11 January 2010
July 2012: I have just received an email from Alexandr Menshikov's sister Katya who lives in the UK. Her brother lives in Siberia and animation is his hobby. She should be proud of him. He has great talent.
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Friday, 8 January 2010
Archer is a new adult series from F/X. Before the details of what, how and, I guess, why, here's a sample of the humour. Sterling Archer, super spy and ladies man, is in bed with sultry Agent Lana Kane. That's amazing, she murmurs in admiration and pleasure, but is interrupted by a cell phone from his mum just as they are about to watch porn together. I can't believe you, she complains, but is told to turn it on anyway: "I can do both." If this is your cup of tea - and it made me laugh - then tune in on 14th January at 10:00 pm ET/PT. (I'm not so sure of when that time applies here in the UK but I'll be trying around then.) I'll just give you a taste too of the press blurb. "Archer is an animated, half-hour comedy set at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), a spy agency where espionage and global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine, betray and royally screw each other." It is tightly scripted, quick-fire witty and not as crass as some of the coarser animation aimed almost exclusively at juveniles, very well voiced by an experienced cast and there is a vitality about it, certainly judged by the trailers I've viewed. The artistic style is described by the artists as realistic, 1960's comic book style. The animation itself is best considered minimal with lashings of lip sync and well drawn. To view you'll need, I think, to install their station's movie player. Just a thought - I hope the episodes are available here in the UK. And to reiterate, it's aimed at mature audiences. I'll just about qualify. The image below is worth a click, revealing the artist's method. I hope the venture is successful and wish an enthusiastic team good luck.