Thursday, November 26, 2009

The 9th Annual Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema

Friday, November 20
Skipped the Thursday opening Gala and film--didn't want to take an extra day off of work (and was reasonably confident that I could see Mary and Max another time). So, drove to Waterloo, Ontario on Friday afternoon. Knew I'd have a little extra time, since the first film that I wanted to see was at 9:15 p.m. So I checked into the hotel and took a meandering (read that: 30 minute) drive to the Gig Theatre. Next time, I'll plot out that five minute drive on the map a little more clearly.

First Squad: Not the cornucopia of Zombies and Nazis that I was hoping for. The ending was a touch anti-climactic, but was the first of a trilogy. I did like the documentary feel to it with the Russian actors talking like they were being interviewed.

First Squad:

Afterwards, met an Evangelion fan named Jennifer.* Had a short chat with Joe Chen. Unfortunately, "Boogie, el aceitoso" couldn't make it here in time to be show--despite the best efforts of Mr. Chen and the Argentianian consulate to sidestep an official who was looking for a bribe/extortion fee.** So, it was back to the hotel and the very comfortable bed. Going to be a good weekend.

Saturday, November 21
Got up after a fitful night and made it to the Gig Theatre with plenty of time to catch the Serbian film "Technotise: Edit & I". This was the world premiere and I so wish that there had been more people around to see it! It was like watching an animated story from Heavy Metal magazine (or Metal Hurlant). You could really see the level of detail in this film as the creator had been working on this story for twelve years!!

Technotise: Edit & I:

A quick lunch later and I was back for the russian film "Fedot the Hunter". Imagine a feature length (90 min) film that is animated in Terry Gilliam's visual style of cut-out figures, except the colors and patterns are rich and vivid and every character moves with purpose, weight, and secondary motion. It reminds me a lot of how my friend Leah animated her entire MFA thesis film in Photoshop using characters built entirely of textures that she scanned into her computer.

Fedot the Hunter (entire film with English subtitles):

Early afternoon brought us the first of two retrospectives on Russian animation. Given that a quarter of my family hails from Russia, this held a certain place in my heart. Eugene, the gentleman who did most of the subtitle translations, selected the films and was there during the screenings. The really nice thing was that he took the time to introduce the films and explain the context of what we were going to see in addition the historical and cultural relevance of each film.

Laughter and Grief by the White Sea (entire film w/English subtitles):

The Little Tiger on the Sunflower (entire film w/English subtitles):

At 4 o'clock, it was time to visit another branch of my family tree as they screened the Irish film: Brendan and the Secret of Kells. This film was produced by Ireland's Cartoon Salon and told a fanciful tale of the history of the Book of Kells***, Ireland's greatest national treasure. If you've watched Samurai Jack or Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, then you've seen some of the visual style of this film. It looks like it was created using Flash and After Effects. This is one of those films that is so enthralling that I can't wait for it to be shown here in the States. As much as I enjoyed Coraline, Secret of Kells is the film I'm hoping will win the Academy Awards.

Brendan and the Secret of Kells:

A minor diversion to the cute, but unengaging Klasky-Csupo feature "L.A. Dolce Vita" and it was off to one of the five films that I drove to Waterloo for.

Evangelion 2.0: You Shall (Not) Advance. I was more than cautiously optimistic having seen Evangelion 1.01 the previous year. Wow. Just wow! Personally, I hated the original Evangelion tv/OVA series. Epitomized the best and worst of Japanese Anime: technical brilliance in the art and animation, characters so utterly unlikable and story execution so utterly idiotic that it rendered the final product unwatchable. No wonder the director had a nervous breakdown. Well, this was his chance at a do-over, and he succeeded on every level. Had he produced this film instead of the television series, I would be joining the ranks of the zealots who think that Evangelion was the best Japanime title of all times.

Evangelion 2.0: You Shall (Not) Advance:

Debated the merits of going back to the hotel and getting a little more rest, after all, I'm driving down to Ohio on Monday to film (and help remove) part of an engine on Tuesday morning. Decided to push the envelope a little and bank-sleep on Sunday night and catch Metropia tonight. Metropia was a decent film--visuals were pretty odd--but this was a pretty solid take on the 'corporate mind control' film. Unfortunately, while the film was built using a new technology, the projector wasn't strong enough to display the film in all it's glorious high-definition detail. Nice thing was, the story and performances were still strong enough to hold everyone's interest, even though we could barely see what was happening half the time. Would love to see this one again on equipment strong enough to handle it.


Once again, skipped the evening outing with festival goers and went back to the hotel to get some sleep. This time was a touch more successful--not much, mind you, but a little more.

Sunday, November 22
Skipped Panique au Village this morning. Saw the shorts on the net. Cute, but not my cup of tea. So I opted for the sleep instead. Was the right choice. They're showing Panique au Village at the Detroit Institute of Arts if I want to see it in January. The part two of the russian retrospective was just as engaging as the first.

The Cat Who Walked by Herself (Part 1 of the film w/English subtitles):

The Elephant and the Pug (entire film w/English subtitles):

The Lost Letter: The first animated film produced by the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any trailers or clips of this film online.

The Stolen Sun (entire film w/English subtitles can be viewed in two parts on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2

Last film of the day was the Production I.G. film Musashi: the Dream of the Last Samurai. This was Mamoru Oshi's portrayal of Musashi that was based upon Oshi's research into the man, not the legend.

Musashi: the Dream of the Last Samurai:

And that was it. Four hours later, I was home. The drive home was a blur as I had so much running through my head--films, people I spoke to, a fun weekend in Canada. Once again, Joe Chen and crew put on a phenomenal show. Yep, I'll be back next year as this film festival gets added to the list of festivals I attend every year.

* Don't often hear a girl say "I'll wait until it's out on Blu-Ray before I buy it."
** Boogie will be shown at a later date, so I see a return trip to Waterloo in my future. :)
*** The Book of Kells is a lavishly illustrated copy of the first four gospels of the Holy Bible copied by the early Celtic Christians.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Animated Inspiration: Fuggy Fuggy

For this week's animation, it's the return of Fuggy Fuggy! The Brothers McLeod are bringing us five new one-minute animated shorts featuring our favorite ninja-in-training. View the first short "Thrift" right here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Animated Inspiration: Germans in the Woods

Germans in the Woods from Rauch Brothers on Vimeo.

In memory of all our veterans who have served our country during peacetime and war, here's a short animation about WWII called "Germans in the Woods" by the Rauch Brothers. This film is based on the audio recordings of Joseph Robertson, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Animated Inspiration: Brendan and the Secret of Kells Trailer

This week's animation is a trailer from the Irish film: "Brendan and the Secret of Kells". This gorgeously rendered film is about a 12-yr old monk as he is given the task of completing the Book of Kells--one of Ireland's national treasures. This film is in the running for an Oscar, so there's a chance we might see it here in the States. 'Till then though, it's playing next week at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Animated Inspiration: C-Block

This week's animation is called "C-Block" by Vladimir Kooperman and was his fourth-year film at Sheridan. Mr. Kooperman hand drew this film, colored it in Photoshop and composited it in After Effects. I saw C-Block at the Toronto Animated Image Society's summer screening back in '07 and it continues to impress me today. Mr. Kooperman is now working at Pixar (and rightfully so). His film is about a dog and his squeeky toy. Enjoy. :)