Thursday, August 20, 2020

A COVID vade mecum

Have you too been told airily by a well-intentioned acquaintance, “Oh, the curve is flattening, the numbers are slowly going down”? If so, here are some useful links to check before ripping off your mask and rushing off to party:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) 



TV and Twitter only sporadically provide updated COVID information and the situation constantly changes. Bookmarked city & State COVID websites can be quickly consulted before doing anything involving crowds or close contact. 

In case, like me, you’re confused about what the disease is called:

COVID19  (for the year it broke out), more easily referred to as COVID but also (confusingly) known as  “coronavirus” which is just part of the official acronym: 

COcorona virus (SARS-CoV-2) 

VI  = virus

D   = disease

MASKS do work and here’s scientific proof from a trustworthy source, THE LANCET Medical Journal:

MASKS cut transmission from 17% to   3.1% 

DISTANCING cuts it from     12.8% to  2·6%  

EYE PROTECTION cuts it from 16% to  5.5% 

Unclear language and euphemisms can be dangerously misleading and falsely reassuring; I thought a long hauler was a trucker, but no:

LONG HAULERS = persistent serious symptoms post-COVID.

If your City and State COVID UPDATE websites don't show 2 consecutive weeks of declining infections to a level below 5% (Calif is currently at 6.6%), stay home until they do. And when you do venture out, follow the 3 simple rules for avoiding COVID, you know what they are:

1) Wear an effective MASK (never with a valve which expels the virus with your breath). According to medical experts, universal mask-wearing would bring an epidemic under control within a few weeks.

2) Stay 6 feet (2 arm's lengths) away from people.

3) Wash hands often



Saturday, January 25, 2020



1) HAIR LOVE - M.A Cherry, Bruce Smith - 2D hand-drawn - (Sony) USA - OSCAR

2) DAUGHTER - Daria Kachcheeva - Stop motionCzech Republic

3) KITBULL - Rosana Suivan - CGI - (Pixar) USA

4) MÉMORABLE - Bruno Collet - Stop motion - France

5) SISTER - Siqi Song - Stop motion - China

(congratulations to all you men)

1) I LOST MY BODY  Jérémy Clapin - CGI (Xilam) France
I have such mixed feelings about this animated feature film from France adapted from the novel THE HAPPY HAND by screenwriter Guillaume Laurant, which won the Annecy Cristal Award and Audience Award as well as the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes 2019.

First of all, I love that this film exists, I love its ambition, its surreal soulfulness and the Cartesian concept of the hand missing the body and not the inverse. I love that this is not a fairy tale or a superhero saga but an animated film about death, desperation, finding yourself and avoiding your destiny. I love the black and white backstory in progressive flashbacks. I love that everybody loves this film, signaling studios once again that audiences are ready for the medium of animation to realise its full potential. I love the nicely observed characters, Naoufel and Gabrielle; they transport us across the void of despair to the hope that comes with a leap of faith.

The HAND, the lead protagonist along with its owner, is a problem for me, though. It’s Naoufel’s hand but, despite the unclear initial shots you wouldn’t know it. Understandably, director Clapin didn’t want the hand to look incongruously anthropomorphic but better animation and storyboarding could have given it a clearer identity (the beauty spot, the bandaid Gabrielle had put on his finger, for example) so we'd know whose hand it is and that it’s trying to return to Naoufel. Its bizarre, rotoscoped & weightless locomotion is disappointing. There are some spectacular camera angles for its traveling sequences which could have been matched by equally spectacuar animation. 

And it's the overall animation that bothers me most. At first glance it looks pencil-drawn but the stiffness and limitation quickly tell you it’s CGI, based on rotoscoped live actors. It's a mistake to think that live actors' movement is more life-like in animation, it's not. Just using the Grease Pencil tool in Blender to soften its 3D look does not make it pecil-animated. And isn’t it interesting that CG films try so hard to look pencil-drawn these days? The art of animation is more than looks, whether it be 3D or 2D. In this very bold and original film the animation does not measure up to the intellectual ambitions of the story and that does the film and the art of animation a disservice. It’s fitting that French animation should tackle such a soulful subject but animation isn’t a moving graphic novel, it's not rotoscoping, it’s an art form that has a unique language that should be respected as much as the subject. French animation can do so much better.

Despite my reservations, I still hope it wins an Oscar, which might encourage other studios to break out of the misguided “children’s genre” thinking and into the glorious story-telling diversity of the animation medium. 


3) KLAUS - Sergio Pablos - 2D hand drawn - (SPA) Spain

4) MISSING LINK -  Chris Butler - Stop motion - (Laika) USA

5) TOY STORY 4 -  Josh Cooley - CGI - (Pixar) USA - OSCAR. 

Disappointing that, despite such an interesting selection this year, the Academy chose to reward Disney/Pixar yet again.