Friday, 29 February 2008

Endre Skandfer "Mind the Gap" & "Substitute" (El Caco)

Oscar winning Storm Studio, covered yesterday, employ some extremely talented people. Norwegian director Endre Skandfer is one of the more recent additions to the staff, arriving in October 2007 from Qvisten Animation. His movie Mind the Gap is as an interesting example of his work. Marvin is a fairly busy sheep in a world peopled by sheep. (For all they are sheep they behave like people.) Marvin travels on the underground tube train passing a guitar playing busker. The musician gives him pause for thought, as does the arrival on the seat opposite of mother and daughter (sheep). Marvin is transported in his mind to his childhood as a young lamb (boy) where, whilst attempting to sleep, he counts sheep (yes sheep) jumping over a fence. Told in a series of flashbacks Marvin's reaction is quite extraordinary. Beautifully drawn and animated throughout I was a little distressed to discover an obviously caring mother allow her daughter to blow bubble gum all over her woolly face. If I found the true reason for Marvin's discomforture a little hard to discern I can well understand the reason for the transformation of cuddly kitten to diabolical destroyer of ladies' underwear in Substitute, an animated music video for Norwegian band El Caco. Any person attempting air guitaring in the shower might be similarly spirited away. The juxtaposition of band and feline is apt and very funny. It is in his 2006 Show Reel that one obtains a truer perspective of Endre's range of talents including the tale of the disappearing hand in the screenshot below. Endre studied animation and documentary filmmaking at Volda College graduating in 2000. Mind the Gap was Endre's first film released in 2003. His very readable website and blog – can’t tell the difference these days - together with terrific drawings, watercolours and paintings - Skandfer Film.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

"Out" Samuel Deroubaix, Jerome Dernoncourt and Corentin Laplatte + Kristin and Lars Hellbust

It was whilst researching the output of Storm Studio, the Oslo and London based studio responsible for much of the follow-up and special effects for the Oscar winning Peter and the Wolf (many congratulations to brother and sister Kristin and Lars Hellbust) that I came upon today's rather special movie - Out. It was produced, like so many other great and almost impossibly accomplished movies I have featured on the Animation Blog, by three Supinfocom Valenciennes students, Samuel Deroubaix, Jerome Dernoncourt and Corentin Laplatte. Using clips and stills from four classic westerns, Stagecoach, Fort Apache, Rio Grande and High Noon, the trio patch together a six minute, mad-cap chase sequence of absurdly effective 3D adventures in, for the most part, black, white and orange. In a series of "Once Upon A Time" adventures our twelve foot hero egged on by the director ("I want water , send in the water!") drives his car ( a magnificent man in his flying machine) in a phrenetic chase much to the appreciation of the girl from the movie. "Wonderful!" she swoons and our hero gets the girl in the end. But not before we have some inspired splicing of Hollywood and Supinfocom, the 3D characters and vehicles strangely sitting well alongside the old films. A fabulous fairground roller coaster and an under water sequence were my highlights, though perhaps the zany soundtrack, ratcheting up the whole mad, frenzied experience, is an equal delight. Watch the movie and enjoy the extras on the film's website. Which brings me back to Storm Studio who just happen to have signed up one of the three - Corentin Laplatte (Coco). More about him when I have continued to peel away the onion layers to reveal the many talented young people Storm have attracted. Oh, and I have not forgotten the Polish Se-Ma-For Studio where the bulk of the work for Peter and the Wolf was produced.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The Meatrix, The Meatrix II and The Meatrix II ½

Free Range Studios claim that over 15 million people have viewed The Meatrix. Personally I can't count past ...say ... a lot before getting bored so am unable to vouch for the figures. All I can say is that it has been a very popular movie in school since 2003, and an absolutely inspired idea. In a clever parody of The Matrix, our trio of Moophius, Leo and Chickity reveal what lies behind the dark glasses. The source of meat is often divorced from the reality and therefore makes perfect sense for The Matrix treatment of worlds within worlds. The screenshots from The Meatrix 11: Revolting say it all. "Leo, look through the illusion of The Meatrix" orders Moophius handing Leo the shades: instead of beaming milk maid we have robot-like machine. In effect the series is a very carefully crafted advocacy for the anti-factory farm lobby, pro-organic food and the like, guaranteed to appeal to young peple in particular. Get involved, is the cry along with countless other nationalities on their international page as well as the mechanisms to enable that involvement. It has been an internet phenomenon. Now my purpose is not to take sides here, though my sympathies tend towards humane treatment of animals and keeping food natural. It is a one sided advocacy however (although what else could it be?) with, in the final episode The Meatrix II ½, meat processed in factories being showered in manure from poorly butchered carcasses and a worker's finger chopped off due to the dreadful work practices. Take away the very clever plots, animations and cute voices and listen to the words and Moophius is a spokesperson pure and simple. Supporting the website is a whole battery of blogs, links, organisations, lesson plans and the like aiming to transform a flash based cartoon series into a massive campaign. And how it succeeds. The voices are excellent - cow/ chicken/ pig/ rascals - fight scenes expertly staged and animated, guaranteed to sustain interest - will Moophius be carted off to the rotating butcher's blade? There are even touches of humour with the mystical beast walking into a rake carelessly abandoned in the factory farm, not to mention a love interest. And there's that underlying blistering brilliance of the choice of name: Moophius. Now that deserves to change 15 million lifestyles.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Murray John - commercial shorts

My last couple of posts have been graced by rather tasteful though grey screenshots. Today's animator is presented in a series of very short shorts, and glorious full on colour. Anti-Landmine is a dramatic introduction to the work of South African, Murray John. In less than 10 seconds Murray communicates the reality of a landmine explosion, except that it is taken out of a war situation and brought into the city.
His Tongue (or rather Mick Jagger's) pays homage to the Rolling Stones phenomenon in a bawdy though complementary video that does justice to the lyrics and the band.

Similarly the longer Spun has the shock qualities of a rather brutal relationship, with the woman, for a change, the aggressor.

His style need not only be to shock though his trail for CBBC is a little punchier than most, certainly any featuring Basil Brush that I've seen.

The promotional video Roxette is therefore typical: bright arresting images, in the pop art tradition, with vivid colours, absolutely bursting with life and vitality.

Since 2003 Murray has worked as an Animation Director at the sparkling London studio, Bermuda Shorts. However I have linked his work to his excellent website. Murray is a very commercial animator and stylish artist, with an "in yer face" appeal that I like very much.

I should also point browsers in the direction of Short of the Week where their esteemed critic Richard Propes has featured James Kim’s Pin Point this week. It is very accomplished, comic in a way and, having just viewed it on Richard's recommendation, can recommend it myself. Richard has also thereby drawn attention to Independent Lens and their on-line shorts festival.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Academy Award Winner 2008 Suzie Templeton & Hugh Welchman "Peter and the Wolf"

Congratulations to Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman for their success in obtaining an Academy Award for Short Film (Animated) at last night's Oscar ceremony. I reviewed the movie on January 20th. Featured comments from last night:
  • "This is for everyone. This for our fantastic crew and this for everybody who worked so passionately on our film to make our dream come true." (Suzie)
  • "Yeah, no this really is a fairy tale ending for us, but hopefully it's only the beginning for Peter and this amazing award, and it will help keep Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" in the hearts and minds of children all over the world. So, the Academy, thank you so much. it's been amazing." (Hugh)

I failed to give information about Hugh who was the film's producer. He is Producer and Joint Managing Director of BreakThru Films with ‘Free Jimmy’ the most recent animation success I have seen. I will feature some of his work later this week.

Meanwhile, as a postcript (added 27th February) do read Anna's comment below about the key role played by the Polish animators and financial support by the Polish Film Institute. I was sadly uninformed and Anna has put me right! More precisely, I needed to commend the work of Storm Studio in Oslo and Se-Ma-For Studio in Poland. As recompense I'll do some research into their work and post a blog shortly.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Mickey's Orphans - First Academy Award for Animated Short Film

This is a movie I intended to post at Christmas but given today is for the Oscars it's as good a time as any to feature the very first animated short awarded an Oscar in 1931. Mickey’s Orphans is not unnaturally in black and white and wears remarkably well for its years. Directed by Burt Gillett it commences in seasonal fashion with a poor lady laden with heavy basket, her face hidden by a shawl and braving the fierce snow that lays on the ground and all around her. Attracted by the sound of Minnie singing "Silent Night" and accompanying herself on the organ, the stranger leaves her basket on the doorstep. And what a seasonal treat is in store as Minnie and Mickey are delighted by the kitten who pops its head from underneath the cover. Their pleasures are not to be solitary ones, no sir. Kittens stream from the basket like aliens from a teleporter. The pristine home of Mr and Mrs Mouse is trashed. Poor old Pluto, seen here in his last moment of bliss, is used as playground punchbag and master and mistress fair no better. Yet through it all the proud foster parents arrange treat after treat, including the rare sight of Pluto done up as a reindeer with Mickey as Santa wearing a white wig, before it too is used to injure him.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Brent Green "Susa's Red Ears"

Brent Green is a Chicago based animator whose work is distinctive to say the least. If I attempt to explain Susa's Red Ears I'll get it wrong so here goes anyway. Susa sticks a fire truck in her ear on the day the sun explodes and she doesn't. That much comes via the commentary so I'm on firm ground. She's playing with the truck on the carpet upstairs but nevertheless manages to stick the vehicle inside her head. Susa makes inventions, like the robot made out of bits and pieces and dressed in an army coat and, lying on her dresser, she thinks up other inventions - how to engineer a taller child. Fast forward to the day the sun explodes and whilst skin is melting, Susa's watching everything. That's it for meaning. Once upon a long time ago I used to haunt poetry reading evenings where performance poets gave recitals and the "in" crowd seemed to understand them and I was decidely "out" until I threw in the towel, learnt terms like cryptic, allusive, stream of consciousness, and prospered. Well Brent's work is a bit like that with the addition of holding one's attention visually - much better than a held up notebook or sheet of A4. And the animation is always watchable. He breaks the rules. His materials appears to be what he has to hand. If you look at the first screenshot you may see what appears to be sellotape (Scotchtape, maybe). At first I was working out how he'd created the shimmering effect. I'm still not sure but it just might be tape securing his cut-out figures or the characters could be holding sheets of plate glass. Whatever, his work has texture and style. Transitions in the tale might be a chalked blackboard with a phrase about the advantages of eating ice cream, or he simply dispenses with all that and has a blank screen; his narration has the quality of an artist explaining his work over dinner; the music is a hand straying over a keyboard or some cheery guitar riff. This lack of artifice is deliberate, endearing and clever. The second screenshot is a couple dancing on the dashboard; we get to enjoy it for quite a time. At the foot of the article is his sunset, a colourful scene that serves to show the richness of his work. Brent's website, Nervous Films, has several films on it, all posted by him on YouTube, as well as news about his talks, screenings and exhibitions - a busy man! It also has his gallery from which the two images are taken almost at random - I'm trying to learn from the allusive nature of Brent's work.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Tori Amos Tributes

I wondered what sort of animated tributes are out there for one of my favourite artists Tori Amos. First up is the colourful and upbeat Big Wheel. Here Tori's red hair is very much in evidence and the visuals respond well to the lyrics. The same animator, YouTuber Newuisme, also created Bouncing Off Clouds and which again is more than competently produced though perhaps the strong colour is rather too full on for my tastes. LM Movies provided the Sim orientated Silent All These Years. I've never been a fan of the activity (sorry) and although the images are fine for the "domestics" inherent in the story it's not particularly artistic, save perhaps for the images of Tori at her piano. Mr Zebra on the other hand has some style. Made by 20 year old animation student Marek Gabriel Hruska at Thomas Bata University in Zlin, the Czech Republic it consists of images of Tori and a few cut-outs, maybe not enough to be truthful though Marek has promise. My favourite? No, this goes to Catherine Lamy with her one minute Self Image - nothing whatsoever to do with the song but I like the line drawing and the girl has taste, as do all those who chose to link their work to the artist.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Laith Bahrani Nizlopi "JCB Song "

I get to watch a lot of animated music videos but this one is a joy. If you missed it first time out (released in December 2005) Nizlopi's "JCB Song" is a case of song and animation perfectly in tune. Nizlopi is a two piece band, Luke Concannon and John Parker, who write natural, unpretentious lyrics and the voice of the singer is very pure of sound. That's about as far as I go on music but my purpose here is to praise the work of the comparatively new Monkeehub. Now I first became acquainted with their work through the awesomely good Low Morale series and their creator, Laith Bahrani, featured here almost a year ago. The animation in question must have been one of their first major commercial works. Commissioned in January 2005, the story is of a boy and his dad, who happens to drive a pretty spectacular vehicle: "I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. / Drives me round in his JCB." And the lyrics just get better: "My dad's probably had a bloody hard day/But he's been good fun and bubblin' and jokin' away /And the procession of cars stuck behind / are gettin' all impatient and angry, but we don't mind." So Laith has Dad and Luke at the head of a procession of cars. We've all been there but who dare criticise Luke's dad, such a hero to his young son. Drawn on lined notepaper the video commences within the office of the Low Morale team, the drawing of the yellow JCB on the desk. From here we are on the journey as dinosaurs and butterflies drift by, whilst coloured vehicles mass behind and the scenery delicately streams by as pencil grey line drawings. Dad, Luke and JCB soar into the clouds and we have been enchanted. This is not an overly complicated animation, but neither is the song. The humour is natural, ironic, almost incidental as Luke speaks his lines. David Crawford did the moo-cows, Nick Cooper the office and Laith just about everything else. He's got a distinctive and sharp intelligence, sense of humour and style. I love his work. The best place to view the animation is via the specially set up website .

Monday, 18 February 2008

Walt Disney "How to Dance"

The release late last year of the new short, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, coinciding with Walt Disney Studios stated desire to make new shorts in their classic style, partly as a training vehicle for their animators (watch a clip from Animation World Network) led me to look at what their old "How to .." series has to offer. How to Dance was comparatively late in the programme (1953) though for reasons that are more to do with my wife than myself, it is a suitable film to consider. Goofy teaches himself to dance with cut-out footprints, dress-maker's dummy and guide book. Naturally things go awry. Directed by Jack Kinney, the opening is a fine sequence of historical snapshots as we enjoy South Sea Islanders dancing by moonlight as well as Irish and Scottish dance routines. There are some great gags. Goofy, after training alone, finally decides he requires a dance partner and speaks through the open door to his would-be partner with a dream of a voice. What he gets is a dummy on wheels which Goofy proceeds to whirl round the room, learning the routines. He progresses and seems to have acquired the real deal until she glides past an open window and her dress proves transparent. Dancing does bestow a little confidence and Goofy feels ready, as the film nears its end, to attend a real dance.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Yannick Puig "I Lived on the Moon"

Yannick Puig's spectacular I Lived on the Moon would suit a large screen; even on my monitor it looks good. In what is essentially fantasy, a father takes his son to the moon using the power of his imagination. There are two parts to the movie. In the first, father and son gaze up to the very showy moon to rather dreamy music and dancing monkeys. The longer second section has the boy blast off, almost literally, on a climbing plant that makes Jack's beanstalk seem tardy by comparison. To whirling synthesized music the boy is transported on vehicles, the first a vegetable with an extended root system and a rather large mouth that sings with the music, though my favourite is a flying ray that soars in the heavens about cotton wool clouds and shooting stars. Don't try to understand the action, just hold on tight and watch the jellyfish and duck when the galley ship in the screenshot fires a rather hideous red Halloween lantern at you. The splendid website is complemented by a blog. We are even provided with an explanation. Yannick's moon is a " place filled with flying snakes, fireflies and three tailed monkeys. A beautiful place, safe and far away from the human culture. A place for imagination, a place in which you'll find the entrance only if you open your mind." Born in France but now living in Spain, 27 year old Yannick provides insight into the techniques and software he used for the animation - 3dsMax 8, Photoshop, and After Effects, which I know and V-ray, of which I'm unacquainted. There are also sections in the movie clearly made to look mechanically constructed- waves that ripple across a stage, a sun on a stick, monkeys cavorting on rocks; at other times the action is computer generated. As I said at the outset, the movie is pure spectacle and succeeds well in transporting us to a moon of the mind. Yesterday I quibbled about the only means of seeing the movie being on YouTube; in contrast Yannick provides a high quality download.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

"Ah" - Bastien Dubois, Joris Bacquet & Simon Moreau

Ah is not a long name though today's seven minute movie is epic in some ways. The second French movie in two days from the same institution, Supinfocom Valenciennes, is a marker for quality. This time the talented trio are Bastien Dubois, Joris Bacquet & Simon Moreau. A huge number of people have viewed the YouTube version. Gazing into her hot alphabet soup, a young girl is plunged into a surreal landscape of alphabet letters that rain down on her or tower like rocks in the Grand Canyon. At first the letters are a source of wonder, one bobbing in front of the child is a mixture of balloon and sponge. Following the letter "A" takes the girl through a field of rather ominous rubbery antennae thence to letters on tentacles. The visual impact of the scenery uses the linked software, 3ds Max and Combustion, to its impressive limits. At one point the girl stands on a promontory over a huge desert-like valley as seemingly endless letters swarm in the sky, at another she is on the seabed amidst twisted roots and weed as she seeks to save a boy trapped in quicksand. This is the most disturbing scene in a quite dazzling movie as speech consists of a series of letters bursting from the mouths of the pair as the extreme danger of the situation mounts. Reflecting both nightmare and dream, wonder and terror, the movie is fascinating throughout. As to precise meaning I'm not entirely sure. Letters are to do with communication and there are difficulties of wrestling with words in the film. However, all the ingredients of a bad dream are there - being chased or trapped, wandering lost, falling, flying, bewilderment, you choose it, it's there - and this sense of nightmare is what the movie seeks (and achieves.) It genuinely is spectacular too as the child flees tsunami and various manifestations in a landscape seemingly intent on her destruction. Strangely enough it is the alphabet pasta shapes that are the source of her possible survival. The music by Mathieu Moreau and Alexis Urbanski suits the action well, with a melodic, dreamy quality that can be trance inducing or unsettling as required. The only disappointment is that visitors to the impressive Website are then redirected to YouTube for the film itself.

Friday, 15 February 2008

"Ar(r)etes" Sylvain Blond, Cail Julien and Quentin Ricci

The screenshots probably say it all. A crystal clear coral reef with multi-coloured fish is damaged by a leaking drum of oil. What makes Ar(r)etes a little special is the grip the oil takes on the ecosystem. To a pounding soundtrack, mutations take over and we see the world in microcosm. Some of the graphics are stunning. The orange fish seems to be our guide to proceedings and swims through a strange landscape of stubbed out cigarette butts on the ocean floor, a black television set on the sea bed, pale, washed out fish on screen, strands of oily waterweed, and cascades of the detritus of our failing civilisation. As black underwater pumps work in the murk a giant black hand reaches out. Sylvain Blond, Cail Julien and Quentin Ricci produced the five minute movie in 2005 whilst at the Supinfocom Valenciennes, an establishment on which I have many times lavished praise. The film was well received on the festival circuit in 2005 and 2006. Tomorrow with no apologies I'm featuring another movie from the same university. What an outstanding group of students are produced in Valenciennes. I have made a start on the lists of websites and blogs mentioned Wednesday. I'll have to think up a way to make a list more interesting, either to do or read!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Valentine's Day Animation: Alfredo Cassano & Alessandra Sorrentino "And I Love"

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day. What could be better on such a day than a song from an Irish singer (Wayne Brennan) and a warm romantic movie from two Italian animators? Alessandra Sorrentino, a traditional animator and storyboard artist, was born in Turin whilst Alfredo Cassano originated from "Brindisi, a small town in the wonderful Salento" and lives in Torino. The pair were were commissoned to make the rather lovely And I Love (the link is to Alfredo's website) in 2006. Romantic scenery, moonlight, a beach, sunset, boy meets girl: true love. And beautifully drawn throughout. It's a treat at any time of year. But today! In Alfredo's words Alessandra and he "worked together through every step of the production and very often share the same job as we did at Cartoon Saloon." Alfredo is currently working on Brendan and the Secret of Kells in production at the Cartoon Saloon, Kilkenny, Ireland. Now I happen to be a great admirer of that studio, and one of the co-directors Nora Twomey has her film, From Darkness, as number 7 in my Top Ten movies from last year. Together with Martin Fagan and Tomm Moore from the company, they give glowing testimonials in Alfredo's resume available on his website. Alessandra too has her own website and blog. I've just spent a few minutes checking out her work and can vouch for the quality. I shall be taking a closer look in the next few days together with a further view of Alfredo's material. (I responded to Alfredo's comment below by amending the review!)

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Borge Ring "Oh My Darling"

In contrast to yesterday, today's offering is perhaps lighter fare. A quite delightful movie, Borge Ring's 1978 Oh My Darling covers the changing relationship between a child and her parents as she grows up and flies the nest. I would describe Borge as a mainstream animator though one can only admire the masterly fashion in which the complexities and dynamics of the modern family are revealed. His featured movie is smoothly rendered, very accessible and never less than good natured in its story of the girl, the very apple of father's eye. We see the baby evolve as a chuckling creation in the womb, a source of delight for her parents, father in particular, through adolescence and eventual meeting with the man who will shortly become son-in-law and parent of the new grandchild. Such is life and Borge skips merrily through the years, love and rivalries. The metaphor of the stork is used throughout the movie. From straight-forward storks on the roof the action becomes increasingly fanciful until the couple themselves perch on their own roof, gazing down at the nest-building of their once so little girl, calling for the fledgling to return; mother sniffs the air, again on the roof, for the scent of her daughter's cooking, finds it wanting and adds extra seasoning; daughter and mate soar, enraptured, into the sky. The father is suspicious of the rival for his beloved daughter's affections though enticed by impending grandfatherhood. Only mother needs to be won over and poor old dad, torn between the two households, is quite lost in Borge's increasing phantasmagoria. Born in Denmark in 1921, Borge moved to the Netherlands in the 1950s making a career for himself in television commercials, artist, draughtsman, and from 1968 as animator on the Asterix series. Working with Steven Spielberg he won an Oscar with his animation film Anna en Bella in 1986. Borge is as near as we have in Europe to Disney animators, a great compliment from an admirer. Oh My Darling was Oscar nominated. It is strange because in the movers and shakers of world animation Borge Ring is not mentioned quite so much as his talent warrants, Oscar not withstanding. If you doubt this try to find a copy of the DVD. It was all I could do to discover a copy of Borge's Oscar winner. However the man and work is loved by fans – judge this exchange on Patrick Mate’s blog. It was whilst searching for the DVD that I happened on the recent post and obtained the wonderful drawing below and a beautifully written and illustrated blog. Another hugely informative blog I happened upon by a most experienced animator is that of Mark Mayerson . I've meant for some time to attach a favourites list of blogs and websites. I'll simply have to get round to it!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Luis Cook "The Pearce Sisters"

The 2008 BAFTA Short Animation winner, The Pearce Sisters, though supremely stylish is not a movie for the squeamish. Two sisters, Lol and Edna, eke out a cruel living for themselves catching Atlantic herring and preserving them in the smoke kiln. This part of the film is notable for the gritty realism of fish being netted, killed, beheaded, gutted, all with consummate skill. Other moments reveal a bygone Britain, one from the sepia photographs purchased at coastal resorts depicting fishing communities of perhaps 50 years ago - kerosene poured to start the fire, the museum piece of a box of Brygrey matches, one of which is struck to light the fire of driftwood, the hauling in of bulging nets by hand, fish innards thrown to the screaming gulls, the kettle on the hob. But it is difficult to avoid the sisters themselves, two gargoyles of women, one small the other huge, with muscles to match. When they pull in a drowning man, pound oxygen into his lungs, it seems somewhat lacking in gratitude that he charges off into the cold Scottish waters rather than face them. Luis Cook is from Aardman Animation, a much loved British institution but one associated forever in our minds with stop motion, a dog, a sheep and ingenious inventions. Luis' film breaks with traditions, demonstrating the versatility of the studio. Atom Films, to which the link is made, grade the movie as suiting a mature audience and they are correct. The gruesome fate of seafaring men is enacted in gory detail. The movie is based on one of the stories in the Mick Jackson anthology, Ten Sorry Tales. Luis' style of working and techniques used deserve some explanation. Commencing with first with clay, 3d CGI models were generated, printed out, 2D images created and worked on for detail and then scanned back into 3D models, Photoshop providing the textures. "Confused? So were we, but blundered our way in ..." (Luis) The gore tends to take over in the imagination and without giving anything away, it has to be said the horror element is well to the fore. That said, there's something remarkably human, even sad, about the two ugly sisters. The tea party at the close of the movie has excited interest for, as you will see, obvious reasons, but there is an attempt by the women to establish some kind of a society in a bleak world. This bleakness is well established by the rather depressed yellows, turquoises and greens, not to mention the incessant driving rain of the Scottish island. These women are ugly, alone and in order to survive have to be brutal to survive a harsh environment. When one of the sisters releases a trapped fly into the air or allows the crab to eat the slimy viscera, there is some humanity at work. And if the ladies wish to invite guests to their dinner table it's difficult to see how this could otherwise have been achieved. Full length BAFTA movies and would-be Oscars celebrities tend to attract the headlines but I doubt you will see a better movie this year. Lol and Edna are most decidely not Keira Knightley but there is sufficient depth in their depiction here not to paint them as entirely monstrous. For all that I should decline the girls' invitation to dine.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Cordell Barker "Strange Invaders"

Canadian Cordell Barker is best known by me for his classic The Cat Came Back - about which I have yet to write, come to think. However it is his 2002 Oscar nominated Strange Invaders that is today's focus. Roger and Doris desire a baby and urgently attend to the matter: "Watch my back!" In the meantime a meteorite appears in a starry sky and lands plum in the couple's living room. And glory be, the pair have a child albeit one with feet on fire and upside down. The mayhem continues as the strange invader turns the house upside down, inside out and chaos rules. With knowing winks towards Steven Spielberg and even John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos (though with laughs!) the action and humour come thick and fast. The pace of the 2D animation is at times frantic. Based on the real life changes that occurred when Cordell's life altered dramatically with the arrival of three sons ("three evil boys") in the 1990s, Strange Invaders is a salutory lesson for anyone contemplating parenthood. (My own home has never been the same since.) But this is a child who can eat you out of house and home, plate, goldfish, cat food; who plays in the toilet pan whilst you're in the bath; and there's one gorgeous sequence when Doris can stand it no more and is transported down from the bedroom to the car and escape. Or is it? Gags come thick and fast, frame by frame, all drawn beautifully and there's inventiveness aplenty with "camera" angles looking down on the moonlit village, up at the sky and full on as Roger screams in full throated ease at the sheer horror of it all. The voices are provided by Cordell himself and Jennifer Torrance as Doris, whilst there is a suitably stirring musical score by Luc Préfontaine. Such a talent as Cordell is obviously in demand and, not in any way surprisingly, he was snapped up by that Canadian stable of thoroughbreds, Pascal Blais Animation. Cordell did not appear from out of the sky; prior to his work on his two Oscar nominated movies he enjoyed a successful career in television commercials and on Sesame Street. The DVD can be purchased from the remarkable NFB. Finally, the professional in me feels compelled to point to the admirable Teachers' Guide.

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