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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Friday, April 2, 2010

06:02:29 pm , 558 words, 1187 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Short

Best of Ottawa 2009

I also saw the Best of Ottawa 2008 last night. A good selection overall with a variety of styles, striking a balance between festival award winners and films that just deserve to be seen. Here's a brief run-down.

I'd seen Please Say Something, The Black Dog's Progress and The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9 before, but they're each great films in their own way, so it was nice to see them included. The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9 seems quite accomplished for an undergraduate film.

The Bellow's March was the most fascinating film in the selection to me. It features perplexing loops of shifting transformations. I liked that, watching it, you can't really tell how it was made, i.e. is it CGI or real. I haven't looked into how it was made, but I suspect there must be some explanation out there somewhere. I saw mention of 3D printing in the credits, so I suppose this was indeed physical matter?

Chick had a great sense of style, with its black and red scheme and bizarrely designed couple going through a darkly ironic take on perennial courtship rituals. I think it was CGI, but CGI done right, effectively using the silhouette scheme by constantly playing with the forms of the characters.

The Art of Drowning was a brief but effective rendering of a poem about drowning. It had a simple style with black and white, sketchily rendered rotoscoped footage that matched the poem well.

What do you all think the best music video of 2009 was? There are a lot of strong contenders. Even I have a hard time choosing. I'm not sure the video for MGMT's Kids is it, interesting though it is. The animation starts quite a ways in, so I was scratching my head as to why it was included for a while.

Madagascar was apparently a commissioned tourist film, but it floors you with its constantly shifting, rich and sophisticated blend of different styles of imagery illustrating a first-person narrative about a visit to a village in Madagascar. Visually, at the very least, the most impressive film of the selection. A must-see.

I talked about The Face by the duo of Ray and Penny before, but I had no idea Ray (AKA Lei Lei) had done another film since then, so I was happy to discover his latest film here: Magic Cube and Ping-Pong. Though I'm not too sure about the soundtrack, it's otherwise delightful and visually very creative, fulfilling the promise I sensed in The Face.

History of the Meat-Packing District was a nice little 1-minute piece full of crazy indie-style drawings morphing constantly into one another, telling the eponymous history of the meat-packing district, apparently. I didn't quite get how the beavers and chicken-headed hookers fit into the scheme of things, but so much the better. A pleasurably enigmatic minute of crude crazy designs and transformation.

Wasn't too keen on the other films, which where either slight or too bizarre for their own good, though I still thought they were each more interesting than most of this year's Oscar short nominations.

Hrm. Seems I missed BOO 2008.

Best of Ottawa 2007
Best of Ottawa 2006
Best of Ottawa 2005

Look out for Chris Robinson's Japanese Animation: Time Out of Mind later this year. I suspect it will prove to be among the more interesting and readable publications on the subject.



Niffiwan [Visitor]  

I also saw “Best of Ottawa ‘09″ a while back in Toronto, though I’m not sure that it included the same films. Back then, I was impressed by “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9″. Now that I watch it again, I realize that there are a ton of problems with it, and that I mostly liked it because I disliked the films around it; it was a comparative relief to watch something at least decent.

I liked Bruce Bickford’s “The Comic That Frenches Your Mind", though it felt unfinished.

Is so little good animation made in Canada? Or maybe I simply have different tastes from the Ottawa fest’s selection committee. Maybe they don’t respect old-fashioned things like story and pacing very much when they make their choices…

04/20/10 @ 21:21
Ben [Visitor]  

It’s not meant to be a showcase of Canadian animation. I like their selection criteria. I’d rather see cutting edge films that bring something new to the table than typical story and character animation that dominates things elsewhere.

I’m not in a position to comment on how many good animated shorts are made in Canada per year. Though I think it’s impressive how many good films do get made thanks to the support of the NFB. Malcolm Sutherland has made a good film or two in recent years for the NFB, but these weren’t included here.

That Bruce Bickford film was included in the Ottawa screening? It wasn’t shown at mine.

I agree with what you’re saying about the Terrible Thing from Alpha-9. It’s a well done film, but quite accessible and not particularly groundbreaking. The Progress of the Black Dog was by far more formally creative.

04/23/10 @ 07:39