European Shorts #2

More shorts and, in my opinion, the better block of the two. Though I agree with most that Logoland from block #1 is the best overall short in the festival, this one has better looking, smarter, funnier and more though-provoking shorts. I particularly liked Fard and Lebensader and the Little Dragon looks amazing.

If you can find these shorts anywhere on the web, they’re all well worth a few minutes of your time.

Fard on indieClickTV

Oblivion Island

Hottarake no shima – Haruka to maho no kagami (Oblivion Island) (2009) – [rate 3.5]

Oblivion Island has a very original style, mixing a strange brand of hand drawn backdrops with perspective added in with computing, with characters that are fully rendered CGI. It’s a family movie and the plot is strongly reminiscent of Spirited Away. A bit too much, in my opinion, it becomes “one of those movies”.

The basic premise is clever: somewhere there’s an island where all the objects that mankind neglects are brought to, after being stolen bij fox-like serfs of some Shinto-deity. The creatures on this island have no technology of their own, but using whatever they can get their hands on and some moderate magic, they have shaped the entire island out of second hand goods.

The visuals are wonderful, but the movie is too long for its content and tends to drag on a bit around the middle. The plot is predictable, though that might be expected for a family movie, but there are hardly any surprises at all.

Recommended if you’ve already watched Spirited Away ten times and your kids are still clamoring for more.

European Shorts #1

Always a lot of fun, the shorts. Watching the shorts adds to the flavour of the festival, although it can be hard to remember all of them, considering you’re watching a small dozen shorts back to back. The best was clearly saved for last with the excellent Logorama. But the ultra-short Barbie Butcher got a very good laugh as well.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

(2009) – [rate 4]

A star-studded cast in this latest Wes Anderson movie. And not just a movie, stop-motion animated movie about animals fighting humans in a Watership Down meets Wallace and Gromit if Roald Dahl had written it sort of way. Roald Dahl did write this story and his specific brand of humour, combined with some scenes that are no less Wes Anderson than his non-animation features make this one a worthwhile watch – though it is said that mr. Anderson’s actual involvement with the movie wasn’t as extensive as the billing might lead you to believe.

The voice acting is very good, the jokes are well-paced and sharp and there are many visual gags that got a healthy laugh out of me. This movie is very funny, looks great and will appeal to all ages, or at least the ages that Roald Dahl generally appeals to.

The plot could perhaps have done with a little more interest and depth, even as a movie for all ages. Apart from a subtext about the nature of creatures, both psychological and biologicalm the story is pretty straightforward, but lacking the whimsical twists and turns a good Wallace and Gromit will offer.

Do watch the title roll at the end – you might be amazed at the amount of fame in there, especially considering the brevity of some of the roles.

Summer Wars

Summer Wars (2009) – [rate 4.5]

The festival kicks off (for me at least) with a wonderful animated feature about a boy lucking his way into spend a week of the summer with the most popular girl in school, who happens to be a young daughter of former Japanese nobility. Sound to sappy for your tastes?

Just wait until the fate of the world ends up in the hands of a gamer fighting off a rampant A.I. bent on destroying the world because of a penchant for games and no moral inhibitions. Did I mention the boy is a math genius, skillful enough to break serious encryption overnight? Wargames anyone?

The strange mix of approaches actually works very well and the attention to detail of everyday Japanese life, as well as the family situation lend a great deal of character to a movie that feels very ‘now’. There’s some serious fiction in here, but it’s set in today’s world and addresses our place in it with very lighthearted drama and even though there’s some impressive action sequences, I’d expected this movie to be rated all ages.

Recommended and very humorous, I’d say you can’t go wrong watching this.

Edison and Leo

Edison and Leo (2008) – [rate 2.5]

The animation is right on target, the characters have plenty of character and the story isn’t just straightforward in this animation movie. Some scenes looked a little rushed and reminded me of Robot Chicken episode, but even that didn’t detract from the overall movie. So why the low rating?

Well, there really is no point in watching this well-made movie. It’s not a nice family picture, since there is some seriously graphic violence and sexual material in it that makes it unfit for the young. But the story doesn’t have the depth, background or sufficiently rich ideas to recommend it to your friends, more so since you’ll be sending them to see stop-motion animated puppets.

If such a movie is to succeed, it needs to tell a good story in an inspired setting like Strings (2004). Or it needs to have memorable and loveable characters like Wallace and Gromit (1995). Policital satire also works, as in Team America: World Police. But Edison and Leo is a somewhat simple story about the unknown (and fictional) side of Edison and his family background.

It’s well-made, with nice effects, sound and voice-acting, but I really can’t think of a reason to go see it and I would only recommend it if you really like animation or if you don’t care about brutality and (mild) sex in the movies your kids watch. They might learn something…

From Inside

From Inside (2008) – [rate 3.5]

John Bergin has delivered an impressive piece of work, if you consider that most of it is his own doing. A feature-length story of a woman on a train, traveling through a wasteland with nobody around to tell the passengers where they are, where they are going and why they are here. The movie is sufficiently vague to allow many interpretations and for some, maybe a bit too vague.

I really enjoyed the first half, but after that I started to feel little new in the way of ideas and images was being added, without the questions posed sofar going anywhere near an answer. A bit of a missed chance in my opinion, since the world the movie is set in evokes more than enough questions worth exploring.

Just so you don’t go and get disappointed: be aware that a large part of this movie consists of camera movements on stills, paintings, drawing and other static material. The narrative is driven by a (good) voiceover and camera movement and this may be a bit tame if you were expecting visual spectacle. Some of the more dynamic scenes are very atmospheric in their own way, but some of the viewers disliked the stark contrast between relatively clean computer graphics and the freehand drawn scenes.

Original and creative, this is not for everyone and I won’t tell you more about it, because I think this is a story best enjoyed with as little information as possible…

Waltz with Bashir

Waltz with Bashir (2008) – [rate 4.5]

In this animated documentary, Ari Folman makes very effective use of animation. It’s not just stylistic, though many of the scenes are sleek, colorful or even hallucinatory thanks to the style of animation that reminds me of woodcut prints and Flash animation. But by showing you scenes with extreme violence or under poor circumstances in stark animation, the movie takes away the grit and filth that would just detract from what is going on and why people are acting the way they are. Continue reading Waltz with Bashir