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 2008, 17

Thursday, January 17, 2008

10:43:59 pm , 553 words, 3227 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Movie

Best of Ottawa 2007

I just saw this year's edition of the Best of Ottawa. My initial impression of the whole is unfortunately that it was much weaker than last year's. None of the pieces really bowled me over, and a few I found tiresome or simply didn't do much for me. Looking over the list of films again, though, I see that there were several films that were in fact quite good, but compared with the ultra-tight selection last year it was a bit underwhelming.

Leading the pack for me was the German film Framing by Bert Gottschalk. It was the only totally satisfying film in the selection for me. I remember now that my favorite pick from last year's selection was also the winner in the Best Abstract/Experimental category. It just seemed like the only film that felt like it had a clear sense of what it was doing, with no technical or formal stumbling around, and perfect execution of a satisfying concept. Several of the other films might have been either interesting or entertaining, but only seemed to scratch the surface without providing any sort of depth of meaning or insight, without any unforgettable aftertaste. Framing left me with a rounded sense of satisfaction by creating beautiful images and using those images to sing a poignant eulogy, an ode to that medium that up until only recently was the substrate of all our animation. Think Norman McLaren without film. Without using any words or narrative or figures, it's a film that conjures up a lot of things in your mind and makes you think back and feel, all while you marvel at the accomplishment and ingenuity of the imagery. It's curious how the emotional impact seems greater when the images are abstract, like you're not being guided down a path of meaning but left to discover your own.

Jeff Scher's L'eau Life was a visually pleasing piece using rotoscoping of old footage of people frolicking in water, with each frame painted or drawn or papered to create a constantly flickering and shifting pattern on the screen, through which we can nonetheless follow the action. A straightforward idea, but visually quite satisfying. Josh Raskin's I Met the Walrus was also a satisfying piece. It consists of a tape recording of an interview with John Lennon, with images sprouting in quick succession in a visual interpretation of Lennon's words. It seems like a facile idea, but the unfolding parallel layers of words and visuals give the words an added richness of meaning as well as a shade of ironic and playful distancing, transforming a tape recording into a very fun odyssey in images, a torrent of call-response improvisation in images. Michael Langan's Doxology presented a series of simple looped tableax depicting pixellated actors going through cosmic rituals involving tennis balls, followed by a succession of processed footage of urban landscapes. The execution of the film was great, and it comes across as rather assured in its quirkiness. Other than that, some of the other films were amusing gag pieces, but that's about it. I was surprised to find that there was no one major gravitational sun pulling together this year's selection. Which reminds me that I still haven't had a chance to see Madame Tutli Putli, though it played at the VIFF a while back.