Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 BLOG REVIEW

1) CHARLIE HEBDO LIVES  - CHARLIE HEBDO is as much a part of the fabric of French life as baguettes and Beaujolais. Difficult to define but just as important as Voltaire, Descartes and Sartre. Assassinating its artists and writers won't kill its spirit of iconoclasm that continues in the mind of every reader...

2) VIVE CHARLIE, VIVE LA FRANCE - On Sunday almost four million French people showed the world how to stand up to terrorism: we saw the descendants of the 1789 revolution (strengthened by immigrants) do what they do best, be gloriously French and not in a frou-frou and foie-gras way. Parisiens traditionally demonstrate when they're pissed off about political issues and, with the memory of the guillotine still resonating, politicians often listen. On Sunday the whole world listened, everyone was impressed, everyone was Charlie. ...

3) ANIMATION IS A MEDIUM NOT A GENRE - At last night’s Academy Awards, animation was once again referred to as a genre in front of the whole world. This must stop. Animation has come to be considered a genre because it’s the preferred medium for children’s films, especially in the US, where...

4) DISNEY AND THE SAME-FACE SYNDROME - It was disappointing to see a recent Twitter discussion about Disney’s CGI animation of female characters still mired in the same specious arguments that have been going on for the past two years, ever since Disney animator Lino DiSalvo made his notorious remarks...


5) PARIETAL ARTISTS - One day, 35,000 years ago, a group of homo sapiens were hunting bison in what would become Northern Spain. It wasn’t the first time they’d hunted together and they soon made a kill. As they skinned the beast and prepared the carcass for eating, one of the more observant hunters remarked on the color of the skin and the beauty of the beast they’d killed...
  

6) FILTERING REFERRER SPAM - I recently took my blog off-line to investigate sudden spikes of statistical activity with a 100% bounce rate. After going through Google Analytics with a fine-tooth comb, a picture of the shadier side of the web emerged. On one hand, it seems LUMIÈRE is a very popular name in Japan and China for some reason... On the other hand there was some phishing from fake Russian banks (worrying) but mostly the spikes were caused by...

7) GENRE WRITING - I don’t know about you but I'd rather not have to label my writing. If literary labeling needs to be done at all, (and, apart from broad categories like FICTION and NON-FICTION, I don't think it does) isn't it something for others to do? Like agents, publishers, reviewers, booksellers, readers?

 
8) MUST MAKE ART - After reading yet another article proclaiming that an artist “must make art” (You’re only a writer if you “must” write.) I can't help wondering if this is true. Wouldn’t it rather be non-artists who have to go out and earn a living doing something they hate who must do what they do?  There are two facets to this idea: obligation and inspiration. But what is the schedule for creating? Must you make art every day, once a week, bi-annually? ...

 
9) LA MARSEILLAISE


             Allons enfants de la Patrie,
           Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
           Contre nous de la tyrannie,
           L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)                          
          Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
          Mugir ces féroces soldats?
          Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
          Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes!



10) REALISM IN ANIMATION - I’m a big fan of animation for adults and, since professional animation directors seem reluctant to innovate in that direction, I’m glad to see live-action directors taking the initiative. First there was James Cameron using MotionCapture in AVATAR (not really animation) and now we have screenwriter Charlie Kaufman using stop-motion puppets with 3D-printed faces in his directorial début ANOMALISA. 
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ANIMATION, LAMARSEILLAISE, ART, WRITING, REFERRERS, DISNEY, FRANCE, PARIS

Friday, December 4, 2015

REALISM IN ANIMATION

I’m a big fan of animation for adults and, since professional animation directors seem reluctant to innovate in that direction, I’m glad to see live-action directors taking the initiative. First there was James Cameron using MotionCapture in AVATAR (not really animation) and now we have screenwriter Charlie Kaufman using stop-motion puppets with 3D-printed faces in his directorial début ANOMALISA.
 
Unfortunately, the characters in both films look unbearably creepy due to the Uncanny Valley effect of corpse-like faces and unnatural movements, even though the AVATAR characters were generated by human actors and the ANOMALISA faces were 3D printed from real people. But why, if you were going for so much realism, leave the seams showing on the ANOMALISA faces?



It’s a mistake to think that realistic images make realistic characters. Just ask Nick Park whose stylised claymation characters couldn’t be less realistic, but their down-to-earth voices and finely observed gestures make them very human. The place for realism in animation is in the movement and in the voices.
 

And, no matter how moving the dialogue or profound the script, words alone will not make you character come alive either. Words are not what move an audience, it’s how they’re delivered that’s affecting. It’s the  expression, the small familiar gestures that accompany them that connect us to a character on the screen. When an audience is staring in horror at Zombie faces, they tend not to even hear the dialogue.  

The power of a non-human performance is all about acting with face and body done by expert animators who spend a lifetime studying human and animal behavior and movement. It has nothing to do with the photorealism of CGI or 3D printed faces of live people or motion captured by actors. Done well, any animated object can move an audience (the TOY STORIES), a drawn animal can make you cry (BAMBI) and a CGI-generated cartoon character can win Oscars and thrill a whole generation (FROZEN).


ANOMALISA may win prizes for writing and novelty but it shouldn’t for animation. I applaud Charlie Kaufman’s effort to educate audiences to expect more from the medium of animation and hope more film makers, especially US ones, will use animation as a medium to tell more adult stories like PERSEPOLIS and WALTZ WITH BASHIR, remembering that just because it's for adults it doesn't have to look realistic.


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ANIMATION, STOPMOTION, CGI, UNCANNY VALLEY, ANIMATION IS A MEDIUM