Wednesday, 28 April 2010


This unusual short, entitled The Occurrence, comes care of Polish animator Hieronim Neumann. Using stop-start animation, Neumann weaves a surreal, almost Kafkaesque narrative about a mysterious force which sets a whole town out of balance. Nicely shot in two-tone filters.

Long before The Mighty Boosh made it to the little screen, Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding featured in this enjoyable romp about a man and his imaginary girlfriend. The relationship gets intense with the introduction of a second girlfriend, but is complicated further when the three 'meet'.

After the mild controversy of Erykah Badu's Window Seat, few thought that another music video scandal was on the horizon. This is the video for M.I.A.'s new song Born Free, directed by Romain-Gavras, son of politically-minded auteur Costa-Gavras, and concerns a modern genocide attacking red-haired people. Though the subject matter may sound amusing to some, in execution it is shocking and highly effective. YouTube has already taken down the video once or twice due to its brutal content, and the likelihood is that this version will also soon disappear.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Although the honour of the best version of the song goes to Odetta in my opinion, this version of the negro spiritual Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child is enchanting, and on many an occasion I have found myself revisiting it. The singer is Liz Mitchell of Boney M fame, her backing group the Les Humphries Singers from Germany. What makes this clip so special is its low VHS quality which blurs the singers' faces and interrupts the performance with jerky interference. The sound on the other hand, while not perfect, is as clear as a bell by comparison - it's as if nothing can hinder the song's awesome power. One Youtube commenter claims the video to be one of the "top 5 most beautiful things I have been exposed to on the Internet". Interestingly, there is a far higher quality colour version of the video floating around, but the experience is just not the same.

Seemingly inspired by both the cutesy serendipity of mumblecore and the lonely outsider motifs of Larry Clark's filmography, the works of cross-disciplinary collective Reining Nails often flip between different stories, exposing only the most emotional moments of each before moving on. This work, entitled Hail Cracking Cobra Eggs, shimmers with nostalgic minutiae and tragicomic characters, and it's easy to forget it's just five minutes long. The group are soon to shoot a feature film called Natalie Natasha.

Last but not least, a short documentary clip describing Touch, a piece of work by performance artist Janine Antoni. Although usually known for sculptures and performances evoking femininity, here she opens more questions about origin and perception. For this work, Antoni returned to her childhood home in the Bahamas, set up a strategic tightrope and walked along it, the camera's angle aligning the bowed rope with the horizon. It's short, but sweet.

Monday, 8 March 2010


This advert for Choice's "Peace on the Streets" campaign uses a simple but very effective trick to get its point across. Unlike other campaigns in the same field, it's clear what is being said here, and the advert doesn't trivialise the subject for artistic effect.

I'm not exactly going to run to the cinema to watch Tim Burton's interpretation of Alice In Wonderland, partly because I'm sure there's a film more deserving of the 3D treatment, but mostly because of my caustic cynicism. On the other hand, there's no better time than now to rediscover Cecil Hepworth's 1903 version of the same story, which recently got a restoration by the trusty ol' BFI.

Love him or hate him, David Lynch is an undeniably memorable figure, his works serving to unite the popular and commercial with the subversive. With his unique style comes a recognisable set of motifs - the singer, the red curtains, the moody lighting. This promo video, for Lynch's Afghan musical protégé Ariana Delawari, shows all of his cinematic flair without detracting focus from the video's objective. A very winning advert.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


The Oscars are drawing near, and most eyes seem to be on the battle of the exes between Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron. Naturally, other categories get forgotten in the grand scheme of things, particularly the animated short film award. This year's list features some very interesting submissions (I say this on the basis of having seen two of them). While I would love to see Aardman win another Oscar for the collection, I've found myself more drawn to a French production named Logorama (2009). The film is composed almost entirely of animated logos - 2,500 of them, to be precise. The story has a simple "bad guy on the run" arc, with Ronald McDonald taking the role of the villain. It's a stroke of genius in my opinion, filled with sarcastic digs at the expense of various conglomerations. Above is just the trailer - the full video will most likely do the rounds of the 'net post-awards ceremony.

Continuing the theme of consumerism and materialism, here's a Brazilian film named Island of Flowers (1989). Director and writer Jorge Furtado focuses on the journey of a tomato as it is harvested, processed, turned into food and then waste, before starting the whole cycle again. It sounds overwhelming, but it has a comical tone and it's easy to lose yourself in it.

Last but not least, a little skeletal skulduggery care of Disney and Ub Iwerks. If you're not completely entranced and spookified by this, I judge you differently as a person. Enjoy!

Monday, 1 March 2010


Originally created for a collaborative short film project called Visions of Europe, Béla Tarr's Prologue (2004) is a quietly moving piece of cinema which makes a bold, if rather blunt statement about the state of Europe today. Prologue also neatly sums up Tarr's oeuvre, constituting one slow pan across a queue of wizened men and women. Mihály Víg's music is absolutely perfect for the film.

This one has more than done the rounds of the internet already, but it bears another mention. YouTube user dokugyunyu makes stop-start motion animations on various themes, but his video of a wolf chasing a pig is by far the most impressive. The chase carries out through a series of photos around a house, taking into account dimension and scale. A lot of effort has clearly been put into it, and once the film starts, you just never want it to stop. Brilliant ending.

Following on from the John Whitney computer animations in the last post, I've decided it's about time people heard about Carla's Island (1981). Essentially, it's just a shot of an island over the course of a day, but as basic as it is, the animation is charming in its own way. The rippling waves, the sinking sun... oh to live on an island! Scored by a wonderfully eighties theme tune.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


As its (ludicrous) name would suggest, Sissy Boy Slap Party (1995) features a group of effeminate men on a tropical island, slapping each other silly to the sound of machine guns. Director Guy Maddin is well-known for his faux-silent movie style, which is used to unusual effect here. No need to keep a keen eye out for subtle tropes or symbolic signifiers - this film is more the territory of John Waters (himself a fan).

I initially took a dislike to this film, believing I'd seen it elsewhere in various incarnations. But on closer inspection, Harpya (1979) is a lot more rewarding than I first gave it credit for. The design of the creature is marvellous, as is the lighting. This won a Golden Palm back in the day, and it's easy to see why.

This is essentially just a demo reel, but nonetheless incredible. John Whitney was one of the early computer animators who worked with Alfred Hitchcock and Saul Bass on the Vertigo title sequence. In terms of form and content, they aren't hugely interesting, but you have to remember the time they were made, and the fact that the process was completely analogue.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Piotr Kamler is one in a long line of brilliant Polish animators. As with many of his fellow countrymen, Kamler eschews realistic depictions in favour of an emotive and abstract approach. In this short, L'Araignéléphant (1967), a confused creature questions who, what and why he is. The inventive visual style is augmented greatly by Bernard Parmegiani's sweet score, and while there are better films by Kamler, this never fails to cheer me up.

For his film Stealing Beauty (2000), Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner took his family to Ikea stores in three different countries and had them act out family dramas in living room sets. The film starts looking as if Ben-Ner had made his own set, but as the film continues, it becomes more and more clear that no permissions have been granted, and filming is repeatedly interrupted by security personnel. The above video is just the trailer; watch the full film here at Ubuweb.

Synaesthesia is the condition of having sensory experiences cross over. For example, a person with the condition may taste salt when reading the letter G, or hear crows when thinking of the year 1911. The experiences are completely involuntary and the links are often arbitrary, but the theory goes that it is the result of 'over-learning' information. It is this subject that two-man team Terri Timely take on in their 2009 film Synesthesia. A family goes about its daily duties, apparently unfazed by the psychedelic experiences happening around them. As a synaesthete myself, I have to say that the real thing isn't quite as exciting, but this is a fun film worthy of your time.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Let's get the ball rolling! First is a Brakhage that I am ashamed to admit I saw for the first time today. The film is Mothlight (1963), and was created by sandwiching moth wings, blades of grass and other garden detritus between two layers of film stock, then projecting the film as it is. Through capturing and magnifying these small, delicate fragments of nature, Brakhage gives voice to a beauty we may previously have ignored. Sadly, the YouTube video above doesn't do it justice (I'll probably copy-paste that statement into every post), but hopefully it'll catch your attention.

Caroline Leaf is an animator who has used various materials throughout her long and illustrious career. In The Owl Who Married A Goose (1974), a special little fable created for the National Film Board of Canada, Leaf works with sand animation to narrate an unconventional love story based on an Inuit folktale. The soundtrack occasionally grates, but overall it's charming and skilfully executed.

Last but certainly not least is this wonderfully weird short from the emergent 'talkie' era. Tomato Is Another Day (1930) tells a mundane story in a deliberately mundane manner, poking fun at the inane vestiges of silent films that directors worked into the first sound films. The lead actors enunciate lines slowly and sparsely, conveying no emotion in the tone of their voice. The film was decried at its premi
ère, but we can appreciate it much more in a modern context. Brings to mind David Lynch's static melodrama Rabbits (2002).