Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Fast & Furious 9

Director – Justin Lin – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 145m

***

The hero’s embittered younger brother must be prevented from assembling a device with which he can conquer the world – in cinemas from Thursday, June 24th

Latest instalment of the long running franchise features stalwart characters Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who at the start are living off-grid as Dom is attempting to be a good father to his small son Brian. Cue a surprisingly gripping scene where their isolated residence receives visitors and it becomes apparent that Brian has been trained to hide himself in a specially constructed trunk on such occasions while the two adults, guns at the ready, prepare for what might be coming. (Strangely, this scene has an emotional resonance rare in the rest of the film; it’s one of the best things in it.)

The visit is friendly – it’s Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel, exploiting her English accent to the full) and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), members of the crew with whom the adults have shared adventures in previous The Fast And The Furious instalments, and they lay out what’s to follow which involves further characters from previous instalments: the shady intelligence operative Mr.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Features Movies

Son Of The White Mare (Fehérlófia)

Director – Marcell Jankovics – 1981 – Hungary – 86m

*****

Based on Hungarian folk legends, tells the story of three sons of the white mare who must free three princesses from their dragon husbands and restore the kingdom from chaos – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Special Screenings – Annecy Classics section

This has a script sourced from Hungarian folk tales. While it’s very cinematic, the writing is similar to religious texts like the Bible or mythological stories like the Iliad where events are related in a paired down, straightforward way no matter how far removed from everyday experience they might be. Thus, there’s a prologue about three princes begging their father for their inheritance so they can marry, only for their foolish new brides to disobey the patriarch and explore all the castle’s locked doors until they unwittingly unleash a dragon and are sucked into its domain.

In the ensuing chaos, the only hope comes when the white mare births two sons then escapes into the woods pregnant with a third. She weans him for eight years until her milk makes him strong enough to uproot a tree. Drained of milk, she dies. Treeshaker sets out to find his brothers Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer, of whom it turns out Treeshaker is the strongest.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Claydream

Director – Marq Evans – 2021 – US – 96m

****

The rise and fall of stop-frame Claymation pioneer Will Vinton and the Portland, Oregon animation studio that bore his name – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Special Screenings – Annecy Classics section

Will Vinton, founder of Will Vinton Studios and the man who made Claymation a US household name, is in the middle of legal proceedings between himself and Phil Knight, founder of multimillion shoe company Nike. How could these two very different individuals have come into contact with one another? Well, they had a number of things in common. Both were residents of Portland, Oregon who had built up businesses there based on a successful brand name.

In the sixties, while studying architecture at Berkeley, Vinton discovered Gaudi’s organic sculptured shapes which were to influence his animation work. Borrowing his dad’s 16mm camera, he started shooting anything and everything going on around campus. At an experimental film community he set up tabletop clay animation sessions, which would often turn out pornographic footage. He became fascinated by the magical process which imbued this material with life.

Closed Mondays

He built a studio in his house where in collaboration with artist and sculptor Bob Gardiner he made the short film Closed Mondays (1974) as an excuse to show off the techniques developed by the pair.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Dance Features Live Action Movies Music

Coppelia

Directors – Jeff Tudor, Steven de Beul, Ben Tesseur – 2021 – Netherlands, Germany, Belgium – 82m

****

People in an idyllic town must thwart the nefarious plans of a mad scientist in this extraordinary amalgam of dance, live action performers and animation – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Screening Events section

This isn’t the first movie to combine live action with animation nor will it be the last and while it has numerous echoes of movies intentional or otherwise, it’s very much its own vision. First and foremost a dance piece but far from mere ‘filmed dance’, it will appeal as much to admirers of the twin arts of cinema and animation as to devotees of dance. Being entirely devoid of verbal language, it’ll attract to lovers of silent cinema too. (One can imagine the film shown mute with a live orchestra playing the score.)

The lack of verbal language means that the characters are never named (just like in a ballet where you’d refer to a cast list in an accompanying programme) although tags for a number of them are obvious – several shop owners include a bicycle repair man (Daniel Camargo), a florist, a hairdresser (Jan Kooijman) and a baker of bread and cakes (Irek Mukhamedov) while a dance studio hosts a ballet teacher (Igoné de Jongh) and her child student troupe.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (L’Extraordinaire Voyage De Marona)

Director – Anca Damian – 2019 – France – 92m

****

Winner of the André-Martin Award for a French Feature Film at Annecy 2021.

Marona’s Fantastic Tale opens with a device straight out of film noir. The main character has been hit by a car and is dying in the arms of an old friend who got to him a few seconds too late to prevent disaster. Him isn’t correct though: both characters are female. Marona is a dog while late teenager Solange is her owner.

The narrative flies in the face of the idea that people take on pets and everything is hunky dory thereafter. Marona never has a stable life. She’s the last of nine puppies in the litter, so her mother names her Nine as if knowing that her daughter may not be around long and that a new owner will likely give her a new name.

The last to be born is the first to be given away as Marona is placed with her father, a haughty Argentianian mastiff of high birth. Marona only lasts about a day there and ends up walking the streets.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Marona’s Fantastic Tale for DMovies.orgRead the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Black Barbie

Director – Comfort Arthur – 2016 – Ghana – 3m 36s

*****

In the programme Today, African Animation – A Tribute To The African Continent from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival hybrid and online editions

This is structured around a reading of a poem by a girl whose mother gives her a Black Barbie doll for her birthday. She hates it – “I want the white one”. Using a variety of 2D animation styles and the occasional bit of human pixilation, Arthur produces simple, arresting images of black girls alienated from the physical basics of their existence by a society that constantly tells them white skin colour is significant and black skin and curly hair is something to deny. The film maker lifts all this above the level of mere polemic by making her images, some of which are no more complex than animated child’s drawings, constantly arresting, doing both her cause and the medium in which she’s expressing it proud.

This film is not suitable for children.

Festivals

2021

Annecy Animation Festival special hybrid and online editions:

Monday, June 14th to Saturday, June 19th.

Festival Trailer:

2020

Annecy Animation Festival special online edition:

Monday, June 15th to Tuesday, June 30th.… Read the rest

Categories
Dance Features Live Action Movies

In The Heights

Director – Jon M. Chu – 2021 – US – Cert. – 143m

***

Boy meets girl even as they yearn to fulfil their dreams outside the confines of New York’s immigrant-populated, urban Washington Heights district – in cinemas from Friday, June 18th

Musicals in the movies present a potentially strange world where people sing rather than talk and dance rather than walk. Set the movie in an urban setting and you have the possibility of crowds of people singing and dancing in unison. All this is a cliché, though, and in order for a movie to profoundly move us, it have to find ways of transcending such material, otherwise it’ll just feel like, we’ve seen it all before.

In The Heights ticks these boxes but sadly, most of the time, fails to transcend the clichés. It has other problems too: elements in the script which aren’t fully thought out and come across as merely confusing. The basic Boy Meets Girl plots are fine as far as they go but they don’t really go very far. The parallel countdown to a blackout looks highly significant, as though it’s going to presage some incredible change in the local community – a successful fight against greedy property developers or uncaring town planning bureaucrats perhaps – but after an incredible build up… the power goes out, people have to manage without electricity and… that’s pretty much it.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Reason I Jump

Director – Jerry Rothwell – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 82m

*****

The inner world of the autistic, explored through the writings and lives of autistic people and innovative cinematography and sound design – in cinemas from Friday, June 18th (Autistic Pride Day)

Originally this was a remarkable book in which autistic teenager Naoki Higashida communicated to the rest of the world in prose what it’s like to be autistic. It had already been widely read in Japan when author David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida, whose son is autistic, were so taken with it that they undertook an English translation. International acclaim followed. For Mitchell, the book provided the opportunity to understand his son’s interior world like nothing before it.

A film is a very different media from a book. That begs the question, if you wanted to make the book into a film, how would you go about it? Seasoned documentary filmmaker Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water, co-directed with Louise Osmond, 2006; How To Change The World, 2015) had some innovative ideas. One was to use Higashida’s writings as a through line for the film, augmenting it with the experiences of several other autistic people.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Dance Movies Shorts

Boxballet (Boxbalet, БоксБалет)

Director – Anton Dyakov – 2020 – Russia – 15m 15s

*****

A pencil-thin ballerina becomes involved with a rough, stocky boxer. Some things seem destined not to be… And yet… – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 1

Olya and Evgeny live near each other’s flats. When running to catch the subway train, tall, thin ballerina Olya’s movements are grace personified, the epitome of precision timing. The world of shorter, stocky boxer Evgeny, whose face is a patchwork of scars from his career in the ring, couldn’t be more different. Should she object to the hands of her choreographer on her leg when he’s showing her the position she needs to achieve? Is he being a little overly fresh? She’s unaware of Evgeny buying booze from the local shop and drinking it at home.

Then one day, he sees her in distress and rescues her cat from a tree. She invites him in for a cup of tea, but his embarrassment there causes him to know a cup off the table, breaking it. She takes him to an art gallery, a shooting gallery, roller skating. He retrieves her bag after she’s robbed in broad daylight.… Read the rest