Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: January 2007, 31

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

11:59:17 pm , 1140 words, 3482 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, Indie, TV

BOO 2006

Just came from witnessing this year's Best of Ottawa (2006), and for my money it was the best of the Best of Ottawas I've seen. Chris Robinson even dropped by for a bit beforehand, and he agrees. Goes to reason (that it was the best), because this year the selection wasn't merely a rote regurgitaton of the award-winners, but the best of signed Chris. I've been kind of out of it in terms of animation lately (it comes and goes in cycles), but this was a nice revitalizing shot in the arm and kick in the head that made me fall in love with all that moving drawing stuff all over again. I've been diplomatic about liking everything in the past, but here there's no need for diplomacy, as everything hit that nirvana spot in the back of my brain just at the right angle. Absolutely top-notch selection in other words showcasing everything that's great about animation, and it's interesting since half of them didn't win any awards.

By far, far my favorite (to my own surprise) was the only Japanese entry, Lightning Doodle Project (Pikapika), which was made entirely by people waving flashlights around in front of a camera. (reminded me of Beep It) It was one of those rare moments of cinematic wonder when you see something that makes your eyes and mouth shoot open, and you just gasp like a little child in sheer, simple, beautiful wonder. Packed with the type of goodness I most value: much in little. Taking a simple concept and making a perfect, tight little film like this with its own unique visual approach, inventing its own idea of what constitutes a valid visual creation. At the same time it's a wonderful treat for the eyes, with a warm pulsing glowing mood and fantastic, freeflowing shapes that I could see myself coming back to immerse my eyes in again and again. All of it created by ghostly figures shot in the twilight under underpasses at evening digs and other exotic locales of the urban preserve. Nirvana in a light stick.

Crossing the Stream and The Carnival of the Animals were next up on the fave list, though it's hard to rank when everything is so damned impressive. Neither of the latter won awards, but I award them my own personal award of Best Shorts To Watch To Fall In Love With Animation. I could hear one cinemagoer whisper "didn't like that" after Crossing the Stream (Skip Battaglia), but tsk, tsk, it was a ravishing, perfectly delectable stream of consciousness cascading of lines following a cowboy (?) crossing a stream with his horse and pony, an ode to the beauty of line that reminded me again what it was I loved about animation... that primal thrill of watching lines move. To a lover of dancing lines such as myself, it was a wonderful experience, and I send out a tender-hearted bravo and wahoo of joy. A poem written in lines of water. The erotic element was at high noon in The Carnival of the Animals, which was fantastic in more ways than I can count, multi-layered in ways only animation can be, with crazy designs and colors, great ironic matching to a classic soundtrack (music tinging animation and animation giving a new tinge to the music too), a fun yet deep romp in cartoon sexiness that was the most satisfying non-abstract (tho not-quite-narrative) piece to me.

The closing film Who I Am and What I Want was a great surprise closing, starting all primitive and scribbly but gradually drawing you into its calmly insane meandering narration of crazy but invigorating and liberating yearning to be this and that. The final spurt of wanting achieves a truly enthralling rhythm that you don't want to come to an end. Who was that? What did it mean? I could sense myself sailing along on a perfect and comfortable razor's edge of comprehension-incomprehension that I rarely attain but now wish I did more, as it feels great. The name of one of the co-directors (Chris Shepherd) rings a bell, but I can't remember from where.

It wasn't surprising to see Andreas Hykade there with his latest short, and I'm glad it was included, because Hykade is a master storyteller in the medium of animation like few I've ever seen. Taking a story that in its outline sounds like a Disney live-action heartwarmer of a boy and his rabbit and turning it into something as hair-raising, resonant, elemental, almost mythical as he has here, without dipping into schlock or schmaltz, seeming to speak to so many things without coming across as a facile Allegory with a capital A, now that can't be an easy task. The film fairly seethes with invisible controlled tension, the lines sparing but masterful, pared down so that every object is merely a symbol for its referent. One of the very rare instances that makes me want to praise animation as a storytelling medium.

Every other piece was worth the price of admission, from the hilarious tour-de-force in pencil by Joanna Quinn, to the lo-fi but brilliant guy101 narrating the story of an online encounter and encounter-within-an-encounter in the language of chat boards and DOS prompts. It's a film that didn't win an award but that works fantastically as a film, and that is what unifies these. Not that they are award-worthy, but that they are all solid works, films, with depth of meaning and solid directing, no matter the technique. The famous Rabbit was there, and seeing it again made me think the reason it's a great film is because it's doesn't feel like it was made to win an award, but rather invents its own unique narrative flow with its own inner logic based on the premise and source material, and that's the sign of a great animated film.

Totally unrelated, I remember noticing that one of my recent favorite discoveries, Hiroshi Okubo, had worked alongside fellow Studio Torapezoid member Ono Manabu since the beginning of both of their careers, but not knowing the circumstance behind their association. I just discovered the reason for this upon seeing both credited under the moniker of "Studio Roman" in the Tylor OVAs from about a decade ago. It seems they both started out working together at this studio. It was particularly interesting to note Ko Yoshinari credited alongside them (in 4 & 8). For a studio I'd never heard of, that's an impressive array of talent to have sent out into the world. Focus tends to be given to the big production studios, but there's a whole galaxy of small subcontracting studios like this that narrate a kind of alternate history of the development of anime. Oh Pro is merely one of the bigger and more successful examples. Studio Roman was involved in 3-10, of which Okubo was involved in 4, 5, 8, 9, 10.