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.



Saturday, December 28, 2019



1) WRITING SOUNDTRACK writing, music 
2) NOBEL PRIZE FOR ART art, nobelprize 
3) DANDELION WINE  Bradbury, writing, writers, summer 
5) ROBOWRITERS  AI, algorithms, writing 
7) GENRE WRITING writing, genres, literarygenres, fiction 
8) ANIMATION OSCAR NOMINATIONS 2019 animation, Oscars


1) THERE THERE by Tommy Orange (Audio book) A stunning, rip-your-guts-out writer whose raging, long-suffering characters are not quite as resigned to the tragedy in their daily life as they seem to be. A stark, dark debut novel written with poetry and brutal objectivity. Beautifully interpreted by talented narrators. The audio version of a book is the most ethereal of all literary experiences and if not done well can diminish, even ruin it; the wrong tone can change the meaning of a serious, scholarly work or make characters unbearable. Whereas a good narrator can give a book additional facets and layers of life.

2) TOUS LES HOMMES N’HABITENT PAS LE MONDE DE LA MEME FAÇON by Jean-Paul Dubois, a French Goncourt-winning writer whose style is quite American in its crispness and clarity with an underlying French soulfulness. After growing up in France, the protagonist, the son of a preacher and a cinema-owning mother, visits Denmark then settles in Canada where he spends some time in jail and reviews his life. Sounds boring, is not. Full of humor, poetic connections and marvelous characters.

3) AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD by John Le Carré. I loved this not-quite-return-to-the-classic-spy-novel but a sort of modern cross between The Tailor of Panama and The Looking Glass War. A tad far-fetched but very enjoyable. He can create a character in one sentence, a mood with a word. The master. 

4) L’ETRANGER by Albert Camus. (Audio book, read by wonderfully bi-lingual actor Michel Lonsdale.) Listening to this famous book first read in Paris, I rediscovered the feelings evoked by Camus that had remained with me all these years: the protagonist’s islolation, loneliness, alienation and the Algerian beach. That a writer can rekindle the same feelings decades later is why he won the Nobel Prize, no doubt. 

5) EDUCATED by Tara Westover. Here is a natural-born writer who wrested herself from a dangerous and destructive family to get a Cambridge education and a new life with the help of a Bill Gates scholarship. Clear, objective writing devoid of sentimentality makes for smooth, easy reading of a hard subject. Good book by an exceptional and inspiring woman.

6) L’HERBE DES NUITS and SOUVENIRS DORMANTS Audio books written by Nobel Prize winning Patrick Modiano. The male protagonist meets a mysterious young woman, goes for long walks with her in Montparnasse or Montmarte or other quartiers of Paris. She shoots someone but is never arrested. Basically all three of his books I read are variations on this story. He is known for writing the same book over and over, satifying to him, perhaps, not so much to the reader. I did love the walks through familiar streets and mentions of real Parisian addresses.

7) PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Warm, thoughtful female characters living passionate, uneasy lives in Nigeria. Making writing look so easy, takes great talent.

8) L’ETE DES QUATRE ROIS by Camille Pascal. (Grand Prix de l’Académie Française  2018) History vividly brought to life with Kings Charles X, Louis XIX, Henri V and Louis-Philippe and additional characters like Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas sweating through the long, hot summer that culminates in the July revolution of 1830. 

9) WAITING by Ha Jin (Pulitzer). I love how different Chinese literature is from Western literature. This author makes you wait then slowly brings the point of his story into focus, like a fish rising from the deep. Very satisfying. 

10) L’AMIE PRODIGIEUSE (Tome 1) by Elena Ferrante (Translated from the Italian by Elsa Damien) Wonderful writer who describes her endearing characters in actions and arouses your emotions with words written and unwritten. A very talented writer, whatever her name is.

10) CIRCE by Madeline Miller who skillfully brings gods and goddesses to life and has cleverly made a franchise of mythology. (Audio book)

11) LE CONTE DE MONTE-CRISTO (6 hefty tomes), Alexandre Dumas. I read this in English as a kid and loved it but enoyed it so much more now that I know the cities, streets and places, I’ve  seen Marseille and lived in Paris and even been to his famous address on the Champs-Elysées and who doesn’t love a satisfying tale of revenge and living well?

12) MRS. DALLOWAY – Virginia Woolfe – formidable style, muscular prose, milquetoasty characters and practically no plot.