animation

All posts tagged animation

song-of-the-sea-posterAfter just one stunning theater viewing, Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea became one of my favorite animated films of all time. From an island nation with a daunting pound-for-pound cultural legacy, this fiercely Irish modern folktale embodies both the intellectualism born in their poet-king pubs, as well as the supernatural climes of their landscapes.

The comparisons to Miyazaki masterpiece Spirited Away have run a bit rampant; I’d like to expound on why this film, while indeed similar in tone, art style, and theme, is more than mere Celtic Miyazaki-esque.

In this article, I’ll discuss the visual and cultural themes of the movie, and explain its message for viewers today. Despite superficial similarities, it is these themes that make it quintessentially Irish. To quote the great Irish novelist John McGahern:

“Everything that we inherit, the rain, the skies, the speech, and anybody who works in the English language in Ireland knows that there’s the dead ghost of Gaelic in the language we use and listen to and that those things will reflect our Irish identity.”

I’ll show that SotS flavors well-known tropes with directed, intentional nuance that makes it more of a continuation of the worldview posited in The Secret of Kells (Moore’s first film). You could almost consider SotS to be a chronological sequel, diving deeper into the schism between spirit and human worlds that began in TSoK. Both reflect the Irish psyche that is the product of a transformation from the island’s Celtic paganism to its inevitable assimilation of Christianity. Where TSoK indulges in the intrigue of that transition, SotS grounds it in a modern story of loss, and offers folkloric lessons as an answer.

SPOILERS BELOW!

Before we begin, I want you to take a moment and consider the single most important question to answer about SotS: Why does Saoirse choose to stay in the end? Answering this will reveal the meaning of this movie, and is the goal of this analysis, so you should have your own ideas before reading this.

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Check out this amazing short film from Aardman Animations, who were previously responsible for much light fare like the lovable Wallace and Gromit. This short film, directed by Luis Cook, is their first non-commercial film, surpasses all attempts I've ever seen at merging the fluidity of 3D with the dynamic of hand-drawn graphics. Usually, the two blend about as well as teflon on cast-iron, but I couldn't take my eyes off this piece:

The harbinger to November rain seems intent on supplanting the throne of the bluesiest period of the year. I'm talkinga about our dearest, most choleric month of August.

Within its tendrils melancholic, the stock-market caesar takes its annual brute stab in the back in time for the ides of the eight month. But having done a lot of spiteful math this week, I can proudly say that I've managed to beat the S&P 500, albeit by a meager +1.6% percent. Wherefore proud? Considering the "surprise" downturn the market had, and my own inexperience with having just started investing last October, that's not bad. My gain has hovered at 5.22% with minor spikes to 16%. However I've situated myself for much better gains later this year, now that I've weathered the worst. I've learned a lot about something I always considered to be pure gambling. Of course, the less you know, the more gambling it is.

While the stock market was taking a beating in auto, food, and near about every other sector, another rainy cloud snuck in. E3 was canceled. There isn't much to say about this that isn't already covered in this excellent article. I'm bummed, but I think it's for the better.

But all is not lost! A new animated series based on Mike Mignola's art, voiced by the likes of Paul Giamatti and David Hyde Pierce, has been born, and it's awesome. Remember the feeling you had the first time you saw Dexter's Labratory or the Braak Show? Aqua Teen Hunger Force? The Tick?!? Here it is, times ten tenfold. Watch and weep, for joy and for August.


Wow. In the continuation of our theater binge (at today's prices, two theater features IS bingeing dammit), we took one incredible ride with Pixar's Cars, the first movie all year that has left me wanting to spend more. If its illusory two hours hadn't disappeared in blink later at 11:00 pm, we would have U-turned for another lap, it was that good. It seemed to hit a holy balance of fart jokes for kids and smart jokes for 9-5 kids, and layered it all in a nostalgic, cheesy, and overly sweet slice of American pie, keeping the patriot in me brinked on tearful. I'm a sap for a movie like this, which draws upon a mode of storytelling Hollywood blockbusters have forgotten, hell forSAKEN for predictable, inbred tautology sewn into pointless SFX.

Which is not to say Cars wasn't predictable or free of cliché, just that it delivered them through a veneer of empathy that really REALLY made cars into people. I left the theater expecting the parking lot automobiles to wake-up and wave at us. I found myself questioning the geneology of a Beamer. I expected Mustangs to look at me over-the-shoulder. I wondered if my Infinity had a Japanese accent. Once again, Pixar pulled the trick they know best… bringing everyday things to a life more vivid than we had ourselves.

Forget about the incredibly shading and lighting and composition. Forget about the perfect mechanical-anthromorphic animations. I can't express how touched I was at the premise that Radiator Springs was being bypassed to save ten minutes once folks took the interstate megahighway over a humbly scenic Route 66. I hear from Californians all the time how the rest of the country is a bunch of inbred hicks. Maybe this movie will take them a notch down for a sec. It was about time for us to get a story about self-centered urbanites being the fish-out-of-water in a mostly honest, hardworking American Etc. But that's the residual Bay Area in me speaking.

So, I can now only look forward to the next release from Pixar, the immaculately animated Ratatoille in the pic above. Summer has become fun again.

This, then this, and this makes me sad. Sad in a gloaty, shouldnadonethathe'sjustaboy way where the evolutionist in me looks forward to a rebirth.

Steve and I were talking yesterday (when he graciously dropped by my class to give the students a talk about real-time rendering), and we've come to see that the future for entertainment can only be minimally pioneered with better and better graphics. This is in stark contrast to a few years back when we argued fitfully, and he claimed that ultimately the graphics were 90% of the sale. Yes Steve, this is my I-told-you-so.

Anyways, the problem today is that games have better graphics, but not better visuals. Visuals here meaning the fundamentals of good art direction, like cinematography, good acting, shot composition, and that ill-defined "style." I've mentioned the Uncanny Valley before, and it's only gotten worse. We've made incredible milestones in shadowing, shading, and surfacing technology, polycounts, texture resolutions, but at the end of the day, an awkward camera angle of a stiff animation of a poorly acted Batman is is never as Batmany as Frank Miller's.

The even deeper problem is that with the novelty of graphics revolution, consumers are plucking down (often to their regret) for deteriorating sequels. They keep EA in business, and tell EA it's not profitable to make anything better than a B- game. The real innovations have suffered for it. AI/physics driven animation, adaptive AI, muscular systems, intelligent camerawork, even fucking blendshapes have, for the most part, taken the backseat to the new titans of what can only be described as "real-time Poser art." Until these changes happen, no matter how good Neo looks in a still, his wooden movement or lack of upper lip realism brings it all crashing down.

The news headlines scream about the gaming industry being bloated. Actually, it's just the opposite, except there's just nothing out there good to spend my eager money on. You know what I mean.

I look towards episodic content to save the day. I look towards the revolution it created in Cable TV quality, when you can stop paying when something starts to stink. Then the scam of the $60 game will come crashing down on developers thinking they'll sucker enough folks in for their bottomlines, all the while wondering why milking their big brands gets less profitable every year. I look towards Valve's Lost Coast as an big step in this direction. Though Valve may fail (their stories are frankly eons behind cable TV), they'll bravely open new ground for a consumer base that purchases more responsibly, perhaps enough to put an end to these Scavengers of Licenseploitation ruining games, movies, and comics all at once.