Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Darkness Demo

The Darkness Demo (Fullyamblomatic review)
by Ben Croshaw
July 24, 2007

This short film is a 3 minute, 14 second review of the video game demo for "The Darkness." The whole video is done using static images and recorded speech. Through the images and accompanying narration, the director takes us through his first attempt at playing this particular game.

The narration and images are humorous throughout with the director making many references and allusions to people, events, and movies in popular culture. There is a definite tongue-in-cheek feel to the short as the gamer evidently did not enjoy playing this demo. It moves at a brisk paces as the narration is done rapidly and the images are cycled through quickly; I enjoyed this because it kept me engaged and on-my-toes.

I enjoyed this experimental short because of the humorous static images and the speed at which the narrator took the viewer through the events. It was well-paced, concise, and witty. The quirkyness of it reminded me of many similar youtube videos that fall into this genre --voiced over static images -- that are renowned on the website.

Good video, different, and funny.

Thursday, October 20, 2011



Directed by Colin Levy, Netherlands, 2010, 15 Minutes

Source: YouTube

Sintel is the story of a girl name Sintel who by chance comes across a wounded baby dragon. After taking the baby dragon in, healing it, and naming it Scales, a older dragon captures scales and takes it away. Sintel then goes on a perilous journey across the world in order to get her dragon friend back. However, when Sintel finally finds scales again, certain events lead to a sad and shocking ending.

When I first saw Sintel I was blown away by the graphics, cinematography, and the story. However, as I watched the short over and over again I began to realize that something was missing. That something depth meaning that this film gives off a feeling that your being rushed through a complicated story. In other words, Sintel feels like it should be a two and half hour epic instead of fifteen minutes of rushed mediocrity. While the various landscapes and shots are stunning, this movie is really disappointing because this deep and amazing story is rushed leaving the viewer wanting more.

However, Sintel is a different type of film than any of the other films posted so far on this blog. Sintel is a free open source movie created on a open source 3D program called Blender. The main purpose of this film was to raise money through DVD sales to help fund the Blender Foundation, which oversees the Blender 3D program. In fact, it's through my interest in the program Blender that I came across this movie and it stuck with me ever since. In case you are unfamiliar with what an open source movie is, it's a movie where by purchasing the DVD you receive all of the files used to make the movie. This unfortunately means that the main reason this movie doesn't stand up well is because it's meant to sell DVDs for the content instead of the story. By rushing the story and making it complicated, the Blender Foundation was able to create tons of content to put on the DVDs that makes them a better deal but at the same time kills the magnificent story.

This still isn't an excuse for ruining an amazing story and Sintel is still an amazing short film. However, in order to see it's beauty you have to really look deep into it's rushed story line and imagine what it would look like if it wasn't rushed. Hopefully at some point in the future, they decide to redo this short and flush it out so the story really gets a chance to shine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Your post is stupid. My post. is. AWESOME!

This was to be the original pilot for the show Adventure Time on Nickolodeon. However, it was never turned into a full time show, but was later picked up by Cartoon Network. This short tells the story of Pen and his dog friend Jake on a mission to save the Princess from the Ice King.

Personally, if any of you have seen the new episodes on Cartoon Network, I don't recommend it. This short is so much less trippy than the popular kids' show the public now knows as Adventure Time. This short has much better humor and doesn't heavily rely on the strange narration that the new show does. Maybe I'm spoiled by seeing this before the new show came out, but I still think this does a much better job of portraying Pen and Jake's adventures.

While the animation itself is not all that fancy or advanced, it does the job of creating an interesting world for Pen and Jake to explore. It's weird enough to make the show not too cliche, but it's not as bizarre as the newer version. This short is able to get across what it wants to without relying on overstimulating its audience.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creature Comforts by Nick Park - 1989

"Creature Comforts" is a claymation short by director Nick Park based around the idea of a reporter interviewing different animals at the zoo to get their opinion on their living situation. Different animals are seen talking into a microphone about living at the zoo and what their take on the situation is. All this comes from Nick Park aka the creator of Wallace and Gromit.

I think that this film is ingenious. First of all the concept of interviewing animals at the zoo in the style of a human interest story for the news, and hearing them talk matter of factly how they would rather live somewhere else, or how they feel safe seems so ridiculous that in a way its hilarious. Their anthropomorphism - everything from rolling eyes, raising their hand, gesturing, wearing old lady glasses plays on stereotypical human characters, combined with their zoo animal situation and story is done brilliantly, and clearly underscored with this very dry humor that the director uses to mesh animal and human together.*** Their very human teeth are out of place, and yet work because they serve to further anthropomorphize the animals. The voices are also very important in that blending. Matching these blase british voices (that are very unlike the dramatic and exaggerated voices we often hear animals given in other films) with the human teeth really gives the viewer the feeling we are seeing people interviewed...but they just happen to be animals. In a bizarre way, it makes ones think about how unfair and absurd the concept of a zoo really is.

The humor in the film deserves to be mentioned in its own right as well. The nonchalant mood of the film juxtaposed with the absurdity of the story being presented is so dry and subtle in its humor that at the end you aren't even quite sure why what you just saw was so funny. The subtlety comes from the bits here and there that are so off the wall - and yet they aren't screaming at you to pay attention to them. For instance the polar bears talking about loving steak, or the eyes of the bushbaby really being glasses, or my personal favorite - when the the chicken is talking about the circus, and in the background you see one chicken snap another chickens beak off its face as if it were wearing one of those fake beaks on an elastic string around its head. All of this is presented as ordinary, but it is so far from that that it end up being highly humorous. Basically after I watch the film I just sat their shaking my head saying "What..." to myself and knowing that I loved it.

If for nothing else (psh) Nick Park deserves to be lauded for his animation technique. This entire piece is done so intricately and perfectly that he effectiveley creates that fourth wall, which is arguably harder in claymation. The voices, the motions, and the almost invisibility of the stop-cutting (sorry if thats the wrong term) all work in harmony and the piece appears seamless. The look of the creatures is also another aspect that adds to the humor of the film. The cuteness, or how some of the creatures are slightly cockeyed, or most noticeably how most of these creatures are much more bizarre looking than their real life counterparts is done just so that even the look of the film is hilarious.

This actually film ended up winning the Best Animated Animated Short Film award at the Oscars, and I believe it completely deserved it.

*** The director used street interviews for the voices of the animals.

Eating Sand

Eating Sand
Aaron Stewart
Country Unknown
Uploaded in 2009

Sometimes you watch something that asks more questions than it answers. This short is one of those things. It begs questions like, what is this, who did this, and why? The information that the poster/creator gives you does not answer any of these questions.

But when you think about, your reaction to the short mirrors the plot (if you can call it that) of the short itself. You stumble upon a strange person doing a strange thing and begin to repeatedly question them. In the short the bird gets his answer in the form of an explanation that seems completely ridiculous to us. The viewer of the short does not get a ridiculous explanation from the short itself, but I think I may have provided one.

But this brings me to a larger point about animation, especially in short film. We have no real idea whether or not the explanation that Billy gave to the bird was ridiculous in the context of the world they exist in. All animated films, movies and shows create a world with rules that different than ours. As long as these rules are internally consistent then we simply accept the creative license that the animators are taking.

However, in a short film, there is no time for the rules of the world to be established. Eating sand is a great example of this because it is so short. We have no idea what if what is going on here is at all normal in this world. Do all of the things there speak in a series of horn notes? Could one house a civilization of sand castle building insects in his stomach? I have no idea, and neither do you.

Now this is not to say that animation cannot be successful in a short film. I love animated shorts. But I think to make them successfully, one has to understand that they work best when they are using surprise. Whether this surprise is unnerving, funny, or (in the case of Eating Sand) just odd, I think that if a short like this can come along and surprise us, then it is not a waste of time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hedgehog In The Fog

Hedgehog in the Fog
Directed by Yuri Norstein
Animated by Yuri Norstein
Russia, 1975

We watched this short in a course I'm taking called Russia and the United States. While discussing the cultural discrepancies between the two nations, we watched this as an illustration of Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's value orientations.

Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck broke culture down into a few categories including human nature orientation (do they think humans are innately good or evil?) and Man vs. Nature orientation (does nature dominate them or vice versa?).

This animated short addresses human nature orientation a few times, namely when our little hedgehog encounters the dog and the fish (or "stranger"). Although there are a few potential "bad guys", no character every actually does some thing bad- whereas numerous characters do kind things for the protagonist. This is a cultural value the US shares with Russia: a general belief that people are good at heart. On the flip side, you'll notice our pint-sized-pal gets knocked around a lot by good old mother nature. He's afraid the fog will choke the horse, afraid of the tree, and let's not forget 7:53 (possibly the most depressing line I've ever heard in a children's cartoon) where the Hedgehog calmly accepts that the river is probably going to drown him. This is a mentality that we don't share, preferring to dominate nature than admit submissiveness, which may be why it strikes me as so horrifying.

Aside from being an interesting take on Russian cultural values, this short also won "Number One Animated Film of All Time" in 2003 at the "All Time Animation Best 150 in Japan and Worldwide" competition.