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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Baltic and Back

I've been on a three week vacation to the Baltic. St Petersburg welcomed me with its warm embrace, cheerful customs officials and expensive visa. Loved it. I'll be back tomorrow.

Friday, 13 July 2012

John Hubley "Flat Hatting" (1946)

Take cover, that dare-devil pilot Murphy's going to dive-bomb beauties sunbathing on the beach. Shrieks of terror. The trouble is Murphy is bored, bored to distraction. No city or farm is safe from his antics. And it was all predictable from early childbirth. Why, as a boy Murphy dangled from chandeliers holding cats, chased girls round the playground. He'll come to a sticky end in the US Navy. The great John Hubley's little known short from 1946 is still funny and apposite today. I've got one such terror in the house this very second. But I digress. Made to demonstrate the perils of flying for kicks, Flat Hatting is a great find. As I have remarked before, animations never age if they are well made and this one is. What is it? 66 years old and wonderful to behold. Confident, surprisingly modern artwork and animation, easy humour, some terrific aerial shots of the countryside and cities. And that feature of the times, a tendency to moralise, albeit tongue in cheek and commissioned by the military. Great work from the master, Hubley. Just one problem - I think I'd be more like Murphy having seen what one can get up to in an aeroplane.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

"Oben" Thierno Bah, Noé Giuliani, Pierre Ledain and David Martins da Silva (2012)

Commencing a movie in an emergency hospital with the patient in a critical condition and simultaneously reliving the circumstances that brought him to this point is not new. However Oben has a novel visual appeal that transcends a well worn scenario. The angular and at times semi-abstract artwork together with a stylish use of colour blocks ensure this is no run of the mill graduation film. EMCA's Thierno Bah, Noé Giuliani, Pierre Ledain and David Martins da Silva keep the tension going particularly given such a clever sound design as that from Prince N'Gouda Ba. It's refreshing to see such distinctive work.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Oerd van Cuijlenborg "An Abstract Day’ (2009)

An Abstract Day might well be misinterpreted by the family should they just overhear the sexually explicit soundtrack. Dutch animator Oerd van Cuijlenborg's film is described as semi-abstract which, sadly, is a turn-off for some but this is a class piece and sustains interest for its entire five minutes. It follows a day in the life of a couple from awakening to the sound of traffic and kites shrieking past their apartment to the heat of a city, escape to the countryside, thunder storm and evening peace. The director's ability to capture the various moods and locations with shape, colour and the most delicate of brush strokes is remarkable: the rural and urban scenes, the heat and the passion. In fact the screenshot is rather less abstract than the general film but, artist that I am, I felt it suited the design of my blog more than naked flesh with pulses of light and life bouncing about. Unlike some critics, I liked the soundtrack. And I should note that I've entered the summer vacation period where exotic lands beckon so the posts will be sparse.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

"Slug Invasion" The Animation Workshop (2012)

The wettest summer in the UK, certainly in my lifetime, and slugs are on the rise in the gardens. In a parody of every Hollywood GI buddy movie that you should really have missed, The Animation Workshop comes up with the very funny Slug Invasion. So you get the timid recruits, the full of manure sergeant, some ghastly dialogue (as spoken by many a celluloid hero) and the sort of scenarios that sadly are taken from real life folks. Set in a little old lady's suburban garden, the slimy invaders have to fight hard to stay alive. There's much goo, and red goo at that, in glorious viscid 3D action. All might be termed predicable once the slaughter commences in earnest but it's great fun seeing the spike plonking down from above and our heroes looking up at the giant in her sunhat as the gore count rises inexorably higher. Or is it inexorable? Extremely well made in a manner that is becoming a trademark of this marvellous animation school, the honours go to Morten Helgeland, Casper Wermuth, Lasse Rasmussen, Carina Løvgreen, Kirsten Bay Nielsen, Polina Bokhan, Peter Egeberg, Magnus Myrälf and Maria B. Kreutzmann.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Heliofant "I, pet goat II" (2012)

I, pet goat II commences with a parody of George W Bush that I felt did not quite live up to the remarkable degree of praise from Vimeo (and other) viewers. However I quickly realised what the buzz was about. Set in a surreal landscape (the screenshot is typical) the seven minute short explores a decade of suffering, offering topical, media, political, environmental, Islamic and Christian references in its exposition. Sequences move pretty quickly. To take one: Obama, stunned and helpless in a polar White House, from which we pan out to witness an iced representation of the twin towers collapsing, to follow a boat bearing Osama bin Laden in a manner reminiscent of Kate Winslet on her doomed ship, distant oil platforms and maybe genetic research. And throughout we are carried along with a regal soundtrack from the Tanuki Project. We are informed that the team utilised "dancers, musicians, visual artists and 3d animators" and, in truth, the piece has all the ambition of a mammoth stage production, firmly placing the newly created Canadian Heliofant on the map. And some. A burning Christ heads out to sea, towards the horizon, ice-caps melting blended spectacularly with the dreadful echoes of the twin towers crumbling, shards of our ice civilisation crumbling into the ocean. All brilliantly lit, with vibrant colours of ruby red, turquoise blue, purple, green, yellow ochre. It is truly one of the most remarkable shorts of the year, or indeed a decade. Of pain.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Caroline Torres "21 Years in 7 Minutes" (2012)

The best animation website launches its third annual Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival and it's off with a lovely Flash film. Caroline Torres does what a good animator does best, mastering the drawing tablet with the hand sketched look of her 21 Years in 7 Minutes. Take that moment when a child realises that chicken is indeed chicken, that boys aren't all rough, add the expanding chest measurement, smoking on top of a hill, more boys; anyway our girl goes to arts school and meets lots of other boys, girls, passes through the mandatory psychedelia phase and falls for the redhead in the beard.  A student at Rhode Island School of Design, Caroline's film reminds me that things have not changed that much since my day. It also squashes a lot of incident into a short time-frame, briskly encompassing a range of emotions, funny and not so funny, all imaginatively encapsulated.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Franck Dion "Monsieur COK" (2008)

I first covered Franck Dion's stop motion L'inventaire Fantôme in July 2007, back when I worried about the speed of Internet connections. Franck's second film, Monsieur COK, is a much more ambitious affair. Set in a retro-futuristic munitions factory, circa WW1, that churns out bombs stamped COK and reproduces or disposes of people at will to suit his task, the egg shaped controller or, more charitably, entrepreneur, Monsieur Cok, has an eye for profit, profit at all costs for his employees. He is however plagued by the eternally angry Barbu, a hammer and sickle bearing guy with limitless talent for revolution, despite all the set-backs he has to endure, of which there are many. Will he or his boss crack? A mix of stop motion, paper cut-outs and 2D animation the production is on a grand scale, full of wit and spectacle with one redoubtable character and one stupendous villain. There is a zest about this film that is so refreshingly dark, never more so than when Barbu is involved, launching vain assaults against remorseless odds, against merciless, robotic brutes. Ah...  More details can be found at the dedicated website. Franck is the founder of Paris based Papy3D Productions. He has just enjoyed success with his latest film, Edmond was a Donkey, winning  the Jury's Special Prize in Annecy and the Bravo!FACT Award for Best Canadian Short in Toronto. Monsieur COK, strangely enough, has not enjoyed the competition success it richly deserves. I think it is outstanding and I guess many of you may not have seen it. You are in for a treat both visually and for the wonderful music by Pierre Caillet that casts an acerbic eye on the action.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Nandita Jain "Myths About You" (2008)

Myths About You presents two myths or truths about our origins. First is the story told by the Mannans, the original inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent's forests. This is the "mythical" and it is shorter and in a sense more colourful. The second is much longer, in terms of animation and history. This is the "empirical" commencing 14000 million years ago and covering dinosaurs and continents colliding. Amazing in every way. Everything coalesces towards an appreciation of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, where magnificent beasts need our protection. Nandita Jain's eight minute piece is a thoroughly well researched, fascinating mix of hand drawn images, nicely animated and designed. Immanuel Suresh is our guide in a documentary that is both poetic and scientific, entertaining and illuminating. It is also rather beautiful in parts particularly given a magnificent soundtrack from Julius Packiam. I know of Nandita's work from the UK's National Film & Television School from which she has recently graduated. Her first degree was obtained from the National Institute of Design in India.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Wasaru "Parler le fracas" ( Le Peuple de l'Herbe 2012)

Let me tell you, there's gonna be a riot. The people are all down-trodden, the pigs get the jobs, the food, lifestyle. We chickens do all the work, churning out automobiles we could never afford, trudge to and from work, live in shabby apartments. All the time the boss pores over his town plan, bulldozes the greenery, builds higher and higher. Something's got to give. And it does. There's gonna be a bloody revolution I tell you. Parler le fracas is a breath of hip hop, rancid air from Le Peuple de l’Herbe featuring Marc Nammour. It's as good a music video as I have seen for some time. Directors Wasaru show just what exposure a great animated video can give a song. And this is a great video. Jérémy Couturie's characters are wincingly good, collapsing chickens and dribbling pigs. Something of an epic scale to the city too with its asymmetric buildings and mad city planner. There is a translated version available.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Gobelins Annecy 2012

Each year as a trailer for the great animation festival at Annecy Gobelins L'Ecole de L'Image makes a selection of short films with their second year students, much anticipated, much appreciated and scene stealers in their own right.This year's theme was evidently Ireland. Good idea and we have less of the frantic chases. You'll notice the Irish have red hair.

First off and in no particular order is The Line. Here the UDA and IRA battle it out metaphorically as green versus orange over the streets of Belfast. Rowsing stuff and just the right stance for Annecy. (Maël Jaouen, Sarah Colmet Daâge, Laura Pannetier, Guillaume Arantes and Emmanuel Asquier-Brassart)

Beyond the Sea is set on the Giant's Causeway as a dreaming young man slips into carnival mode. Nice view of the Titanic. (Marthe Delaporte, Christine Shin, Chloé Nicolay, Guillaume Dousse and Cyrille Chauvin)




Holy Sheep has the grim reaper as we have never seen him before. The Good shepherd does his best to look after the sheep and we get some authentic Irish dancing. (Yoann Bomal, Karina Gazizova Dejong, Jeanne Sylvette Giraud, Hélène Leroux and Gaspard Sumeire)


Matches portrays the British soldiers as faceless  thugs preparing to do battle on the streets. Three fresh faced boys light the skies and all look on in wonder. Annecy is made for such small mercies.(Augustin Clermont, Juliaon Roels, Léa Justum, Manddy Wyckens and Thibaud Petitpas)

Hurley's Irish has a picturesque village in Connemara and a Biblical style intervention for the good folk to get their game of hurling off to a good start. (Clément De Ruyter, Eve Guastella, Adrien Gromelle, Estelle Chaloupy and Pierre Rütz)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Ben Casey, Matt Smart & Ben Clube "Adrift" (2010)

The University of Hertfordshire turns out technically adroit students and when allied to the imagination the result can be some first rate pieces as in Adrift from Ben Casey, Matt Smart and Ben Clube. We are frankly in the realms of high fantasy here as a girl living high in the sky on a Blue Whale needs an anchor point and discovers one from a young aviator inhabiting a floating island. So steampunk and heroic 3D effects, plus a smidgen of high skies romance albeit the kids may seem a little young for this sort of thing. However if a girl is old enough to fly on a whale she's old enough for dating. Hertfordshire's a rising star in UK animation. And this fantasy stuff has quite a following as a visit to our local Waterstones demonstrated last weekend as I toured the shelves and my wife bought children's books.