Monday, 19 July 2010

Julia Pott "Howard" (2010)

Guest Reviewer: Marta Macková

Julia Pott’s new graduation film Howard (Royal College of Art, 2010) is a touching reflection on long term relationships. Its thought provoking script is beautifully brought to life by hand drawn animation. Howard’s illustrative frames take us to sensitive, surreal landscapes with a feel similar to Kovalyov or Paarn’s films. Julia’s combination of human and animal characters is cleverly thought through and describes greatly the loneliness and heartache of their relationship. Julia has created yet another powerful and moving short. Julia’s a freelance animator and illustrator working from London and New York. Her clients include E4, Passion Pictures, Sherbet and Etsy. You can watch more of Julia’s animation work including her animated short My First Crush and an interview about Julia’s work as an animator she has done with Etsy called Animated Portraits on her YouTube channel.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Jeff Scher "Summer Hours" & Tobias Hall "Threads"

Taking a screen shot for Summer Hours by that harbinger or recorder of the seasons and life in general, Jeff Scher, much beloved of the Animation Blog, is an interesting task for no frozen frame is ever quite the same. Frozen is an inappropriate word for this particular film is about warm, sunny weather by the sea, summer at its most evocative, suffused with an essence straight from our childhood, when excitement mounted the nearer to the sea we got. So seagulls, waves, sun, yachts, fish, sand, blue skies fading to dusk and night fishing. And mosquitoes - certainly can’t forget those. There’s something of the symbiotic about Jeff’s relationship with composer Shay Lynch, like the horizon on a blue sea, one merges into the other. Jeff speaks of a darker mood given the appearance of an oil rig (without the BP motif as far as I can discern) emphasised by the music and sound distortion though I can’t see or hear it myself. Still, there is a skull on the beach as subliminal warning of something drowned out by the infectious loveliness of summer. Skull not withstanding, by absolute way of contrast view another rotoscoped animation from Coventry University’s Tobias Hall, newly graduated with a first class degree, the final project being Threads, a monochromatic, music video for Portishead whose anguished music establishes an altogether colder season than does Summer Hours. In his Vimeo notes, Tobias writes of the angst aired as our guy unravels by the door or is submerged on the sofa. The rotoscope animation has a bare boned realistic effect made the more interesting as the surreal creeps in and the guy disintegrates in line with the lyrics: "I'm worn, tired of my mind/ I'm worn out, thinking of why/ I'm always so unsure." Bundle of laughs: but distinctive work from Tobias.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Conor Ryan "Phil Lynott" (2010 Music Matters)

Thin Lizzy’s singer and frontman is the subject of Phil Lynott, an animated biography for Music Matters, an industry-led campaign site to drive for legitimate musical downloading. The organisation has commissioned a series of animated films on a wide variety of music, from a Welsh Male Voice choir to Blind Willie Johnson, Kate Bush and Louis Armstrong. Today’s post features one that does not as yet appear on the site. Directed by Conor Ryan, with the assistance of Eoin Ryan, the black and white video features the singer whose songs have become classics. The potted biographies all communicate the leanest of facts but here we learn that this son of an Irish-Catholic mother and Afro-Brazilian father gravitated from the working class suburbs of Dublin to booze and girls, and of course stardom. The film features some iconic imagery of London set with a nicely textured look, plus music that still rocks today. One of Conor’s early movies way back from when he graduated in 2004, Cold Pursuit, was featured way back in the early days of the blog. I shall have to make a feature, Where are the Animators Now?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Hampa Studio "Margarita" (2009)

Hampa Studio base their very assured short film, Margarita, on a poem by Rubén Darío - Margarita, how beautiful the sea is. Written by the poet for a daughter of a close friend, poem and film tell the story of the little princess who has a quite magical life in her castle with her loving father, the King. When she sees a glistening star she sets off on an epic sea voyage to obtain it, without seeking permission. In fact the fantasy element is rich in the original poem: "But, alas, our little one went far/ across the sea, beneath the sky,/ and all to cut the one white star/ that left her wondering a sigh." Alex Cervantes writer/director and writer/producer Diana Rodriguez take their cues from this, the film rich in beautifully orchestrated and coloured spectacle, none more so than the girl setting off on her journey by tiny boat, the motor of which is a record player, the speaker under the keel emitting musical notation. Storms, whales, pirate ship and mountain peaks await the princess. There is also a lesson to be learnt from the movie, the little girl pursuing a dream, overcoming obstacles. ( The Spanish soccer team had similar high ambitions and the skill to stick to their beliefs.) Margarita is a professional production, a full studio team contributing to its success. I must pick out Ivan Llopis for his superb music, alongside a stand-out song from Lonely Drifter Karen. It is refreshing to see a full making of film recording the thoughts of those concerned, and the production from low tech pencil to extremely high tech CG, even a word with the composer and footage of the soundtrack being recorded. Hampa Animation Studio is located in Valencia.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Henrik Malmgren "The Guest" (2010)

Henrik Malmgren’s well crafted The Guest has a not dissimilar feel to that classic 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers where instead of Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce we have the lonely Elsa celebrating the birthday of her departed husband when a fugitive from the police takes shelter in her home. The brute - complete with pump action shotgun, police helicopters screaming overhead and the house surrounded - is charmed by the old lady whose solution to the problem is gracious and not without tension. The 3D drama contrasts the sedate home of the lady with the urban chaos occurring noisily outside. As with its illustrious predecessor, the feature is the relationship between old lady and criminal, a tour of the family photograph album cementing a friendship. Very largely self-financed the film was made in co-operation with Open Workshop and the West Danish Film Fund. Teacher and musician, the multi-talented Henrik has a dedicated site for the film.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Tobias Stretch "In The Summer" (Crystal Fighters 2010)

The irrepressible Tobias Stretch is back again with In The Summer from Crystal Fighters. By now regular readers of the Animation Blog will know the score. Tobias creates fantastic puppets and props filming them in a rural location, here amongst gloriously sunny grassland and a waterfall. There is always an invigorating quality to his work, the fast moving music driving the piece along at a furious lick. I always watch for his vehicles. As a boy I had a home-made go-cart, or bogie as we used to call them. So I try to work out how Tobias achieves the practicalities each time, with complementary puppets lashed to the cart and camera attached. His carts are somewhat more ornate than mine however, this one propelled by rainbow balloons. He has a flair for colour, the sun god (for wont of a better description) all fiery and yellow, flowers in the meadows a sympathetic echo, the contrast with the dark and water well made. I have no idea of meaning though the lyrics of throwing coins into a wishing well are translated vibrantly into tiny puppets squeezed into a super nova mouth. Or something. And I suggest the head peeps out of saffron spiced oil in water. Beautiful really.

"Muzorama" Elsa Brehin, Raphaël Calamote, Mauro Carraro, Maxime Cazaux, Emilien Davaud, Laurent Monneron & Axel Tillement (2008)

To understand Muzorama it helps I suppose if one is aware of the work of French surreal cartoonist, Jean-Philippe Masson (Muzo). He is totally new to me but nevertheless I very much enjoyed a genuinely surreal experience in a universe turned head over heels. We begin in deceptively suburban surroundings looking down on houses and a tiny square before we meet a man with a bouquet of flowers. Birds sing in the background. The guy presents it to a blonde woman who almost takes it before devouring the blossom as we pan out to discover she absolutely towers over him. Pan out a little more and the pair form a painting on the wall as another man almost devours a giant spoon of food, thwarted by the tiny mouth emerging from his own mouth; meanwhile the same blonde cracks open a huge egg from which emerges her erstwhile suitor. Marvel at the 3D surreal world. Ingenious work then from Supinfocom’s Elsa Brehin, Raphaël Calamote, Mauro Carraro, Maxime Cazaux, Emilien Davaud, Laurent Monneron and Axel Tillement.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Zach Cohen "The Chair Not Taken" (2010)

Satire surprisingly perhaps is not something attempted by many students of animation as compared, say, with drawn cartoons for magazines where satire often has real bite. Refreshing therefore to view Zach Cohen’s amusing The Chair Not Taken. Made at the Shenkar School of Design and Engineering, Zach’s thesis film takes a painter whose seat is left for a moment whilst he recharges his paint brush inducing a mad dash by the exclusively elderly politicians desperate to gain the empty chair. Politicians the world over will scramble for a safe seat in parliament causing much spilt paint in the process. Nice touch that the only colour in an otherwise black on white film is red, much of it splurged in the frenetic last moments before, chair flattened, the spellbound politicians come back to earth – for a moment. In fact there are subtle touches of humour throughout. I liked the guy fending off chair grabbers with a flag, or the leapers into space acting out gravity defying dances behind the very down to earth decorator in the elevator. Flash used for this hand drawn look works very well. And politicians spill litres of paint and never clean up. Or is that oil comapnies? Count up how many politicians are represented. I think our own Winston is there somewhere.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Elianna Morningstar Hansen & Stine Nymand Svensson "The Fox Sisters" (2010)

The Fox Sisters are credited with having created the Spiritualism Movement in the New York of the C19th. Elianna Morningstar Hansen and Stine Nymand Svensson based their film, The Fox Sisters, on the three women, taking as the starting point the departure of the eldest sister who leaves her inadequate siblings to cope without her, something they signally failed to do. There is nothing of lightness here as one retraces the journey from childish nightmares to professional duplicity, the girls surrounded by shadowy figures in séance mode or petrified by the imminent loss of Leah, threatening to inform the press of their deception – yes, it was all a hoax, something the Spiritualist movement has shrugged off I guess. The sound and music is shrill as the outlined figures are set against a background with the look of damp wallpaper. There is a decidedly arty look to it all, coins as backdrop to signify greed, stained and spilt liquor, the younger girls' alcoholism, and a symbolic sequence as the Maggie and Katie are swept out on a bottle to a red wine sea. The character voices are all excellent, including Patricia Ryan who provides a cold Leah, the sister who thought up the deception, retaining her money whilst her weaker kin squandered theirs. The directors were awarded their much deserved Bachelor of Arts from The Animation School in Viborg though the movie owes something to an internship in Canada where Elianna, originally born in Toronto, worked at Chuck Gammage Animation Inc.