Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Roll Yer Own, 2008

ASIFA-Atlanta (Association International du Film d'Animation - Atlanta) presented its 2008 collection of locally produced, independent animation. It was a hefty sized program of seventeen pieces, representing a surprisingly broad number of techniques, even including a TI-86 Calculator(?!). The event was held at Five Spot in the Little Five Points area in Atlanta. The space is, in essence, a roughed out cabaret. What it may lack in projection size, quality and sight lines, is more than made up with by the sound design. Karl Sigler did a great job in transferring the various media onto a single, perfectly readable disc, which is something that certain other festivals may want to contract him to do! Though there could have been a slightly longer pause between a few of the pieces, that is an overtly anal-obsessive critique on my part, considering the excellent transfer quality. The directors were each presented with a disc containing the entire program, which will also be submitted to ASIFA-International for participation in "International Animation Day", which is celebrated worldwide around October 28th.

ASIFA-Atlanta President, Brett W. Thompson, gave a short introduction of the evening, as well as moderated the extensive Q&A afterwards, and launched the program with a title sequence that he created.
[Brett has gathered some of the entries onto his blog at Fluidtoons!]

[Film titles are hyper-linked to the artists' most apparent webpage, if available. Errors or misdirections may occur and will be corrected upon notice.]

"Roll Yer Own 2008 Intro" (dir. Brett W. Thompson - Flash - 0:47) Brett's little character literally vomits up art! (Perhaps this was a subliminal message about finishing those last few frames, or even pulling together festival programming?) It was a quick and humorous way of opening the night, and I would hope that Thompson creates more such "intros" for the area!

"Pullumo Arrives" (dir. Solomon Mars - Flash - 4:50) Mars creates a surreal alien world, in which even the actions and motives are nearly unrecognizable. His pacing and visual wit kept me interested, regardless of how disorienting the piece became. However, he needs to sharpen the uniqueness of his vision and be self critical of pacing and length. His style is reminiscent of Sally Cruikshank's early work. Given more time, tools and editing maturity, Mars could find himself in her ranks!

"Sustainability 101" (dir. Mark Smith - Flash - 5:00) Mark Smith submitted an educational film about energy sustainability, which is a dry subject if ever there was one and which is perhaps why animating it might be the best way to spread its message! It has an exceptional commercially accessible style. It would be cool to see Smith "unleashed" with a topic or storyboard that was not so "lecture bound".

"Code Monkey" (dir. Jennifer Barclay - Flash - 3:20) Jennifer Barclay, who is also the webmaster of ASIFA-Atlanta's site, submitted a great music video of "Code Monkey", by Jonathan Coulton. Her pacing and energetic visual style did not compete against the music it accompanied, but was excellently matched and complemented it. It was a fabulous few minutes!

"Knight vs Knight" (dir. Thomas Riley - TI-86 Calculator - 1:41) This was so retro as to be experimental! Who would think of animating a pair of battling knights on a Texas Instruments TI-86 Calculator?! What it may have lacked in drama and artistry, it makes up for in just plain "Huh!" factor. At less than two minutes, it is pretty fairly timed for the technical and visual oddity that it is.

"Global Warming is Your Fault" (dir. Jerry Fuchs - Flash/Traditional - 1:30) Short, well paced and to the point. However, I sort of wished that Fuchs pushed this to an underground and perverse limit! It could have been an ecological "Bambi Meets Godzilla", if he were to allow himself a more explicit ending! But that's just my sick sense of humor. As it is, it works perfectly well for "general audiences".

"Hitler's Brain" (dir. Count Lear Bunda - Stuff - 10:19) This is the third time I have screened Count Lear Bunda's acid trip of a desktop nightmare. I take a certain pride in my 'editorial memory,' and every time I've seen this, I swear I am seeing a newly edited version! But I know that can't be so. The visuals, the pacing and the sequence is so off the charts that it always feels like "the first time" for me! This time, I ended up becoming focused on the voice of Hitler's brain. It is an outrageous performance that reminds me of Invader Zim. The vocal talent is as unleashed as Bunda's visuals. When I first saw this (at home on a screener provided by the Atlanta Film Festival), I sort of passed it off as an indulgent hobbyist effort. But on every subsequent viewing, I'm falling deeper into the psychosis and... yes, loving it! I am afraid...

"Playtime" (dir. Candice Ciesla - Flash/Traditional - 1:40) This was a brief collection of visual one-liners and gags! It makes for a great demo reel, at the very least, and the individual segments would work pretty well, spread out amongst a programmed offering, rather than lumped together. Ciesla is quick and to the point, and the segments individually, would leave you wanting more! I mean, a snail trying to launch a kite?! What's NOT to laugh at that?!

"Moviekiss: The Lite Brite Video" (dir. Gina Niespodziani - Lite Brite - 4:57) This is another entry I previously saw at the Atlanta Film Festival, both on a home screener and in the cinema, but this is the setting where it belongs! Niespodziani's photography is a bit inconsistent. However, as screened in a club like Five Spot, the background lighting of the Lite-Brite was inconspicuous, and the nearly herculean effort of FIVE MINUTES of Lite-Brite animation was even more mind blowing! I would humbly, yet strongly suggest, that at some point, the video be matted so that the background lighting is removed, just for aesthetics sake. The recording sounded great, too, on the Five Spot's system!

"Bee Bog" (dir. Bryan Fordney - Traditional - 2:50) Bryan Fordney was represented with works at Animation Attack!, in last year's Atlanta Underground Film Festival. He has created an immediately recognizable character for his work, as well as an exceptionally unique and recognizable artistic style. His plots and sequences are so surreal as to be dreamlike, which causes them to bleed together in memory. This is the third or fourth piece of Fordney that I've seen, yet can not recall what happens, though I do vaguely recall the "plot" to "GETGOT". With a more definitive storyboard, I think Fordney will breakthrough on the international circuit, and this entry may be the most likely to be screened during International Animation Day.

"Special Delivery" (dir. Taylor Pate - 3D - 2:02) This was a nice homage to Warner Brothers 'toons of old! As a student project, it was quite exceptional. Pate displayed a good sense of pacing and some wild, visual panache, particularly during some of the more gruesome frames. He displays an adeptness at visual effects, and should he concentrate on characterization, he will have the whole package, as far as a one-man animator is concerned. His concentration on the visuals are particularly apparent, as the sound design, with its sampling of classic cartoon themes, needs some real balancing and mixing, and sounded almost tacked on.

"Farewell to Momentary Picture" (dir. Laurence Laufer - 2D/3D/Trad - 5:48) Perhaps one of the most poetic of the submissions, Laufer begins his sequence by literally hypnotic patterns, before moving across an ocean, onto an island, and into a television set that features jellyfish. Each segment has its own visual style. For me, that did add to the lengthy feel, and I would encourage a bit of editing, or a swifter pace. Underneath the visuals, he has laid down a soundtrack of effects and minimalist music, which ably supports the dreamlike nature of the film. I just got a bit hung up on the jellyfish...

"Maniacal" (dir. Em Kempf - Stopmo/Traditional - 4:48) This was Em Kempf's first foray into animation. It is a fine example of an artist taking sketchbook work and stretching it into another medium. She has a unique visual style, which she may find difficult to work with in animation. However, if she finds the patience, and she may find herself fine tuning or minimalizing her drawing technique, she does have a poetic and transfiguring vision that could well serve future projects.

"Madagascar Taxi" (dir. Albino Mattioli - Traditional - 1:26) Albino Mattioli is an exceptionally, highly respected artist in Atlanta, with a national presence. His work is discussed on levels that I am unprepared to do. However, as far as discussing his cinematic contributions, I must say that his work leaves me cold. I have been exposed to his "Visual Haiku" series and can appreciate the attempt to "animate" art. However I am not as appreciative of the animation of "art". In other words, what Mattioli seems to be reaching for is to give life to his artwork, as opposed to contributing to the art of animation itself. In his submission here, it begins with an intertitle explaining that the entire piece was made from a single drawing. What would be more specific, and which would point to the differing mindset that I am trying to elaborate on, is that the entire piece was drawn on a single page. Though, it could be argued that it is his intention that it be viewed as a single drawing, versus the traditional definition of animation, that is the viewing of consecutive drawings to produce an illusion. So, to his credit as an artist, his work does illicit commentary and discussion. However, from my own aesthetic, I would refer to Lily Tomlin, "Is it soup? Or is it art?" I choose 'soup' in this case.

"Words Won't Fail When Words Are Not Applied" (dir. Gary Eddy - ToonBoom - 10:26) Musician Gary Eddy has animated several of his songs. It might be pointed out that he is a performer/songwriter first, and an artist, second. By using ToonBoom, he was able to bring his drawings, sometimes nearly doodles, to life to accompany his music. His music, too, appeals to a particular taste. Simply accompanying himself on a ukulele, Eddy sings in a free-verse poetic style, which can test my patience, frankly. His animation of this free-verse, felt a bit long, if not slow. The subject matter, basically about relationships, and possibly regarding someone specific, as well as his artistic style, has been accomplished by others, namely Don Hertzfeldt and L E V, who seem to understand that animating a relationship requires a pace, verging on (or in Hertzfeldt's case, engaging) violence. Eddy's near passive-aggressive approach is nearly counter productive. He's just too nice!

"A Mother Goose Tale" (dir. Paige Adair - Flash - 2:05) Paige Adair is another Atlanta artist who is experimenting in animation. She is a painter and appears to have a style and sensibility that is quite agreeable to the animated form. She offered an impressionistic animation of a nursery rhyme. The beautifully painted characters have a pastel fantasia about them, and Adair has a lyrical pacing that befit the delicate appearance of her visuals. I look forward to future work from Adair.

"24 Frames" (dir. Brad Patullo - Stopmo - 18:12) Perhaps the most "commercial" of all the submissions in the collection, Brad Patullo creates a behind-the-scenes look at a disastrous university animation program. At eighteen minutes in length, I was wary, at first. However, Patullo has worked with the Will Vinton Studios and the influence is quite apparent. He has an eye for expressive detail in his models and in voice casting, which includes himself. This entry is also nearly the only one with a 'traditional' script. In a program such as this, it only emphasized the challenges of sync and character expression, not to mention pace, all of which Patullo handles with professional panache.

"Curtains" (dir. Amanda Goodbread - Flash/Live Set/After Effects - 2:54) Perhaps the most experimental of the group, and a last minute submission, Amanda Goodbread attempts a bit of existentialism as her character is peeping up at her, awaiting inspiration. The sound design is chaotic and slightly disturbing, as the animation, purposefully, does not know where it wants to go.

The next ASIFA-Atlanta screening event will be in July, with a program of commercial animation.


solomon mars said...

Hey, someone told me about this blog. Thanks for the kind words, and critique. Timing is my Achilles heel, but I plan to work towards getting better long before I graduate. I was so nervous showing this cartoon.
-live, love, and eat fruit.

Goodbread said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful review! You hit the nail on the head with subtle things that I had wondered if anyone would catch on to (mainly the Existentialism). Do you mind if I quote your review to advertise my film? May the quote read "ASIFA Atlanta" as thats who you represent, or would you prefer a specific title? Let me know as I am flexible :)

-Amanda Goodbread

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