Just trying to make sense of my notes on the short animated films (I’m trying not to type ‘animated shorts’) from the first selection up for the McLaren Award (the award is for best British animation, and (but?) is voted for by the EIFF audience, which in this case was distinctly small). Mostly I’m getting that I shouldn’t attempt to write in the dark.
(All blockquotes are from the EIFF website descriptions. Sarcasm is my own)
Asya Lukin / 2007 / 10 mins
One day – one life in St Petersburg. According to writings and biography of Russian absurdist poet Daniil Kharms (1905-1942). An animation attempt to combine styles of documentary cinema and constructivists theatre, seeking to reveal Kharms’ vision of life.
And not making a whole lot of sense – a combination of spludgy claymation and angular stop-motion that left me cold, but I’m quite intrigued by the writer himself (more info about Daniil Kharms on Wiki-P.
Matthew Cooper / 2007 / 7 mins
Sometimes we feel we need to change ourselves for someone else, however, this doesn’t always produce the results we expect. A swarm of hairy caterpillars deliver wish fulfilment to a lonely computer worker but fate often plays ugly tricks.
Their description makes it seem a lot clearer (my notes just say ‘wtf?’) – more stop-motion, with hairy caterpillars performing body swaps on poor unfortunates.
And Life Went On
Maryam Mohajer / 2007 / 6 mins
Tehran, Iran, 1985. The Iran/Iraq war. Air raid sirens. All the neighbours rush down to the basements/shelters. So what’s going to happen in these shelters? Will every woman cry and scream while every man will shiver and chew his moustache with rage and fear? You will be surprised!
Hard to judge this, it’s so close to the similarly themed and styled Persepolis.
Michael Zauner / 2007 / 7 mins
A man finds god and puts him in his armpit. In order to bring God home he has to find out where God lives. Do you know where God lives?
Another ‘wtf?!’ here, in my notes.
Peculiar Twisted, but quite funny with it, and a strong style.
Greg Villalobos / 2008 / 3 mins
Stylised animated documentary from BAFTA-Award winning director/producer team Greg Villalobos and Martin Orton. This film tells Yemmi’s story, a 16-year-old from Bournemouth, who has refused to let the difficulties of her past stop her from having a successful future.
A young Nigerian girl recounts her experiences of being fostered into a white British family.
Underwhelming – I never really respond to these ‘documentary’ animated interpretations of real life tales.
Sally Arthur / 2007 / 3 mins
Mrs P gets lost in London so we don’t have to…
Nifty use of typography (I like type :) in a sparky film about Phyllis Pearsall, the creator of the original London A-Z Street Atlas.
Don’t Let It All Unravel
Sarah Cox / 2007 / 2 mins
Don’t pull the end of the thread. Darn it.
Nice conceit (a knitted world unravelling, threads pulled by aeroplanes), but undone by a dreadful soundtrack, and an over-emphasised punchline (which is also the title, so, no prizes for guessing the intention). Nothing wrong with the sentiment, but still…
Graham Young / 2007 / 4 mins
A contemporary haunting. The fictional “bringing together” of a passenger plane and a tall building might be considered taboo.
Ooh, is that a 9/11 metaphor I see before me? An elegant, atmospheric cg creation, with no point to it, so it feels a little like a showreel piece for modelling and lighting.
The Life Size Zoetrope
Mark Simon Hewis / 2007 / 7 mins
One mans life told in one shot on one giant human sized zoetrope.
Another neat concept, using a fairground ride as a zoetrope, but nothing special about the animation within that set-up (telling a life story – heavy on the metaphor, light on wit), so kind of a missed opportunity.
Mikky & Me
Chris Halls / United Kingdom / 2007 / 4 mins
Once upon a time there was a senile old man who lived in a cartoon world of his own. Unable to cope with the world around him he had become dependant on his elderly wife. Finding that she is undergoing a rendezvous with the neighbourhood cad he wreaks revenge in a crime of passion of cartoon proportions, in a bid to reclaim his love.
Twists the early Mickey Mouse to complement a dark little comedy. I thought it looked a little like Belleville Rendezvous, stylistically, and apparently the director is now working on the latest Sylvain Chomet film.
Tom Mead / 2007 / 5 mins
In a hierarchy dominated city the rich live at the top amidst leisure and sun and the poor live below in a mixture of smoke and darkness. Following a twisted painter, slowly it becomes clear that he has painted his last stroke.
Anime-ish – so, didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that sort of complex background, weird freaky foreground action combination…
Space Travel According to John
Jamie Stone, Anders Jedenfors / 2008 / 3 mins
Funny, wise and gloriously eccentric – 10 year old John reflects on the wonders of space travel. His insights into intergalactic exploration are magically brought to life using ‘sandimation’.
But don’t let that put you off… Actually, one of my favourites from the selection, a child’s-eye-view of the possibilities of space travel, half absurd, half compelling.
Eb Hu / 2007 / 4 mins
This is a abstract visual piece depicting a dying girl’s last wishes.
Not exactly abstract, rather some very exquisite CG animation that looked rather like ink in water turned to flower, insect, landscape forms, and not connected to the subject, which takes the distinctly dodgy route of pulling in a young cancer patient’s words (spoken cloyingly by an actor).
Will Becher / 2007 / 3 mins
When his trusty WM500 forecasting machine malfunctions, the weatherman’s life takes a turn for the worse.
Chipper little comic tale (stop-motion again) – concise, well executed. You can see the punchline coming a mile off, but it’s a good punchline.
It’s true that as a writer (even an aspiring one) I’m prejudiced towards plot, story, character. And I freely admit to being a sucker for anything that makes me laugh. But overhearing two guys seated in front of me saying that ‘It’s tempting to to vote for the films that make the audience laugh’ before discussing the films’ technical merits, I can’t help thinking – well, yes. Voting on the artistic and technical merit is all very well, but they are short films, not showreels, and a film has to be complete. You wouldn’t rate a live action film, or a feature length animation, purely on it’s visual or technical achievement. It’s a truism that if you notice how good the special effects are, the film’s a failure – why not the other elements that should work as part of the whole.
(Pixar doesn’t rock because they’re technically or visually superior. Pixar rocks because they tell stories.)