Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Animation Extravaganza at the Atlanta Film Festival - 2008

The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 will be presenting the "Animation Extravaganza" program on Friday, April 18th (9:35 PM), at the Landmark Midtown. Of the eighteen short subjects to screen, I was fortunate enough to be able to see the nine shorts that are in the AFF's competition. (I was also able to see the animated feature and accompanying short.) So, just as a way of encouraging MORE shorts programs, here's my little preview, in alphabetical order.

BAD HABIT, LITTLE RABBIT (dir. Christian Effenberger, Germany, 7 mins.) Traditionally animated, with a classic "cartoon" look to it, it is humorously drawn, with an obvious joy behind the making. However, its pacing is just a bit slow in delivering the punchline.

BUNNYHEADS (dir. Jim Blashfield, 5 mins.) Based upon the sculpture and drawings of Christine Bourdette, Blashfield creates a surreal, stop action, life cycle of little wooden (?) creatures. It has a slightly disturbing atmosphere, not unlike the work of the Quay Brothers or Jan Svankmajer. However, the movement is nearly balletic. If it weren't for some repetitive editing, which began to feel like padding, I would unhesitantly recommend this, as the quirkiness is right up my alley!

BUT SOME ARE BRAVE (dir. Grace Channer, Canada, 6 mins.) Grace Channer spent fifteen years animating with oil paintings to create this gorgeous, impressionistic montage of women struggling against an industrial cataclysm that threatens their cultures. Yes, it sounds heavy, but her paintings are graceful and sweeping. Also, animation via oil painting freaks me out! I think it's amazing!

THE CHESTNUT TREE (dir. Hyun-Min Lee, 4 mins.) A traditionally drawn animation, and in fact, maintaining a rough line draw at times, it lends a simplicity, charm and warmth that has been missing from a lot of the recent CGI. Lee creates a girl's dancing and playing in the yard, with fantasy twists, that never crossed my "CUTE threshold", which is something of an achievement in itself! Nominated for last year's ANNIE award and doing a good deal of business on the festival circuit, I'm sure this isn't going to be the only chance to see this! But SEE IT, anyway!

FINAL JOURNEY (dir. Lars Zimmermann, Germany, 11 mins.) Essentially, it is an exceptionally DARK retelling of the Charlie Chaplin assembly line bit, in CGI. The animation itself is not as polished as some of its CGI'ed contemporaries. However, from the extended "making of" that was submitted with the DVD, it seems that this was quite a stretch for Zimmerman, especially in using motion capture, as his graduation work in "Media-Design" at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz. The soundtrack by Andreas and Matthias Hornschuh is simply GORGEOUS, and in spite of the fairly cold, technical nature of the visuals, the score kept me involved.

HITLER'S BRAIN (dir. Lear Bunda, US, 12 mins.) Lear Bunda is on the production staff of AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE, which might explain why this is such a whacked out desk top animation! I couldn't possibly supply a synopsis beyond what he submitted to the festival. I didn't really understand what was going on beyond the fact that "we" were trapped in some weird on-line universe, which would eventually lead us to Hitler's brain. The look of this is fairly crude, but in a strange way, incredibly appropriate to the daydream musings it portrays. The visual chaos is sort of intriguing, but at twelve minutes, it might be a tad long.

THE MADNESS OF BEING (dir. Hal Miles, US, 8 mins.) Hal Miles, a faculty member of Visual Effects at the Savanna Callege of Art and Design has created an exceptionally BLEAK, stop motion short, featuring robots (or more accurately, the bare armature of stop animation models) dealing with a GREAT DEAL of depression! That said, the photography is great, as is the actual movement. Miles put an exceptional amount of detail in his figures' movements, which make up for the minimalist look of the film.

MOVIEKISS: THE LITE BRITE VIDEO (dir. Gina Niespodziani, 5 mins.) This is not the first time that a Lite Brite has been used for animation. However, it is one of the most memorable, if not for the fluidity of the designs, but for the length of it. I sort of wish that she had a firmer, more permanent camera mount or lighting, as the frame includes some background beyond the toy itself, which becomes distracting as it flickers. However, it is a study in patience and timing, as her visuals evolve in sync with the song it accompanies.

THE PLUSH LIFE" (dir. Timothy Heath, US, 3 mins.) This was cute. Disney/Pixar-cute. It is the CGI'ed tale of a pair of unidentifiable plush animals car pooling to work. The characters heartily conceived and voiced. The look is exceptionally accomplished. However, I am afraid it crossed my "CUTE Threshold" and even though there is nothing technically or artistically that I can point to, it lacks any kind of edge, really. Odd that, considering it centers around a nose-piercing.

The other nine shorts that I was unable to preview are:

The Adventures of Baxter & Mcguire (Mike Blum)
Bottled (Jian Lee)
Deadly Desire (Darius Hill)
Fetch (Dana Dorian)
Kidtastrophe (Charles Shorter)
Lav Dance (Charles Shorter)
Running Seasons (Y. Grace Park)
Snapshots (James Mullins)
When I Grow Up (Michelle Meeker)

Maxxxxx says re:
Hitler's Brain: "Woooooo!" (He's a parrot! What do you expect...?)