31 December 2014

Old Tricks


If the older gentleman in this short film by Theodore Buckwald looks familiar that’s because you have recognized him from his many on-screen appearances.  If you are my age you will remember Joe Spano as Harry Goldblume on Hill Street Blues. Younger Kuriositas readers may have seen him as Special Agent Tobias Fornell on NCIS.  Here his character gets to grips with a hapless young burglar, played by Drake Zimmerman.

Famous Fred


Famous Fred is based Posy Simmonds' enchanting story, Fred, a family moggy by day and an astounding superstar by night.  It features the voices of Lenny Henry and Tom Courtenay.

However, a case of cat flu threatens to cut short Fred’s musical career.  A lovely animation for this time of year, Famous Fred won the1997 BAFTA for Best Children's Animation.

30 December 2014

Birth of a Star


Have you ever wondered how a star is born? Then look no further as it is all explained in this fantastic video, produced by: Jason Drakeford, Jonathan Corum and Dennis Overbye for the New York Times.

Take a visit to the Orion Nebula, a vast galactic nursery where clouds of gas and dust mingle, birthing new stars and planetary systems.  The narration is wonderful – I loved the way that proto-stars are referred to as cosmic tadpoles – and the footage from NASA, ESA and the European Southern Observatory is simply stunning.

Rocketboy


This is an interesting animation which follows a boy’s obsession with rockets and rocketry from youth to adulthood.  I have to admit I may not have followed its every nuance but I found it a fascinating watch nonetheless and it has a good home on Kuriositas! Rocketboy was directed by Minhyuk Jang of 2GREY, a design and motion studio based in Seoul, Korea.

Made in Britain: Superb Time-lapse


The chances are if you have seen a time-lapse recently on UK TV that it could well have been made by Chad Gordon Higgins.  This is a collection of some of the work he has done in and around Great Britain and it is quite stunning.  I have to say the Stonehenge section stands out but the shot of the artist completing her painting is probably my favorite part of this collection of sights that were all Made in Britain.

Viktoria Modesta: The World’s First Bionic Pop Artist


The time for boring ethical discussions around disability is over. It's only through feelings of admiration, aspiration, curiosity and envy that we can move forward.” So says British pop singer Viktoria Modesta and, if you haven’t heard of her before, prepare to have your perceptions of altered beauty changed. This bravura video was made for UK TV’s Channel 4 and was directed by Saam Farahmand of Rogue Films. Riveting.

28 December 2014

Faucaria Tigrina – In the Greenhouse, No One Can Hear You Scream

They say that life imitates art but perhaps in this case it is the other way around. This is Faucaria tigrina or the Tiger’s Jaw – a succulent plant found in South Africa.

Yet caught at the right angle the plant does not resemble so much the jaw of a tiger as that of an altogether alien creature, featured in a number of movies starring Sigourney Weaver et al.

Sunday Short Movie – Ups & Downs


In any relationship between brothers there is, at times, friction.  Yet when one feels that he is being neglected while all the attention is lavished on the other, things can sometimes get a little more difficult.  Ups & Downs, directed by Stuart Fryer and produced by Charlotte Woodhead, tells the story of Josh (Otto Baxter) and Harry (Bobby Lockwood) and shows that at the end of the day, blood is more often than not thicker than water.

26 December 2014

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

This is one of my favorite paintings – each and every time I go back to it I seem to be able to discover something new – or just simply get lost in its amazing detail. It was executed by Joseph Wright of Derby in 1768 and today you may think of it as a fairly traditional composition.  In its day, however, it was ground breaking.  It is still considered by many to be one of the masterpieces of British art.

See the reverence on the faces of those caught in time?  This scene of veneration was in praise of science and until this point the awe depicted here would have been strictly reserved for scenes of historical or religious significance.  Wright was really breaking down the boundaries here, but despite this his style was never widely imitated despite the fact that he was held in great admiration by contemporary artists.

The painting shows a natural philosopher – there he is center left looking at you, inviting your participation.  He is recreating an earlier experiment by Robert Boyle in which a bird is deprived of air.  The reactions of the onlookers represent a whole gamut of human emotions. One poor girl cannot even look on, so upset is she for the bird - her father tries to explain the nature of the experiment while the younger sister can bring herself to look at the experiment, but what a look of concern she has on her face!

Others regard the experiment with an air of scientific curiosity while the gentleman on the right seems to be lost in his own contemplations, perhaps on the transience of life and of our power over it.  The two young lovers on the left, however, only seem to have eyes for each other and are, it seems, unconcerned about the fate of the bird. The whole scene is beautifully composed and the choice of representing it in candlelight an absolute masterstroke.

What do you think? asks the natural philosopher.  Should I continue with the experiment and kill the bird or halt it, saving the bird while denying ourselves new scientific knowledge?  Which avenue would you chose?

Image Credit Wikimedia

Nightfall: Epic Science Fiction Fantasy Animated Short Film


This is quite an extraordinary short film being completely computer generated to begin with but that is not quite what I found the most astonishing thing about it.  It would probably be wrong to call this a silent movie but it could be adequately described as a wordless one.  Not a single word is spoken throughout and this is something which adds to its power.

The software used to create Nightfall was 3ds max 8 (vray, mentalray), combustion 4 and Premiere Pro.  The film was rendered in HD 720p with 25 fps – which may be an issue if you have a slow running PC but it is worth being patient. Its running time is a surprisingly long 11:30 min and it is made up of over seventeen thousand frames.

There are (as you might expect) numerous influences at work here –from the concept of a ring world which has echoes of the Larry Niven novel among others.  Sure, we have a thousand queens and dark lords in the history of science fiction too.  The design of the spaceships too, seems to have drawn some inspiration from the like of Battlestar Galactica as well as the more obvious Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Babylon 5.  In fact, although the plot bears no comparison, it this reminded me of Babylon 5 more than anything, if only in its epic sweep.

Yet drawing inspiration from other sources is fine as long as one’s own finished product is original.  This is an epic tale drawing to its end and because so much is left to us, a marvelously enigmatic piece of filmmaking too.  Nightfall draws heavily from its sources but at its heart is something a little different and more grown up (certainly darker) than the usual science fiction and fantasy fan boy fodder with which we are presented.

"What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." The quote at the film’s beginning – from Nietzsche -  places this work of animation very much in the grown up category.

The film is made by Valentin Schwind, a computer graphics artist and developer.  28 years old, he was born in Stuttgart, Germany and went to school in Esslingen, where he is still living today.  He graduated in 2008 from Stuttgart Media University where studied for his Media Computer Science Diploma.  Today he works as a freelancer for visual effects and game studios throughout Europe and also as a lecturer at the Stuttgart Media University.

The music is by Ivelina Nedyalkova.  A contemporary of Schwind’s at Stuttgart Media University she was persuaded by the animator to produce the soundtrack after he had heard her playing the piano.

Plot – so possibly spoilers:


The whole movie is like the end of some massive trilogy, but to put it in a nutshell.  A huge ring world, powered by an artificial sun is ruled over by a benign queen.  Yet a dark lord falls hopelessly in love with her and he desires her more than any other thing in the universe.  Surrounding her home world with an enormous space fleet he declares a war which will end a way of life which has endured millennia.  He has the queen to himself.  And the universe falls silent.

25 December 2014

Thursday


Thursday? What day would this be then?  On any other Thursday life in the city goes on as usual, as illustrated in this animated short by Matthias Hoegg of Not To Scale.

Lives interconnect in unusual ways in this city where technology and nature strive for something similar yet so different.  Thursday was recognized with a BAFTA Nomination in 2011

24 December 2014

Even Pigeons go to Heaven


An old man, Moulin, has cut off the world and lives a miserly existence on his own.  One day he climbs a pile of books so he can reach a bottle of spirits and the stack collapses.  Fortunately a priest arrives to stop his fall but notices that the old man has brought something else to the ground as well as the bottle - a red sock containing all his savings.

The priest promises Moulin salvation if he signs over the money.  He has a device which will ensure his entry in to heacen but the old man wants to see more proof....

This extremely cool animated short directed by Samuel Tourneux was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007.

Be the Snow: A Pillow Runs Away to See the World


There are times in life when we have to leave our comfort zone behind and that is as true for pillows as it is for us.  This little guy decides to run away one night and discover the world.  How will he fare on his adventures?

This charming short combining live action and animation was created by Amir Honarmand for the National Film Board of Canada.

23 December 2014

The Curious Copyright Case of It's A Wonderful Life


It’s A Wonderful Life did not make a major mark on the box office when it was released and won a single Oscar for its special effects.  However, when its copyright lapsed it became a massive Christmas favorite beloved of millions.  Yet this was not the end of the story – or really the beginning.  FilmmakerIQ here gives us the most comprehensive video account of the story of the movie – ever!

Santa’s Flying Christmas Tree


A good dose of silliness at any point in the year never did anyone any harm.  Yet it is this time of year which tends to bring out an especially virulent form.  Otto Dieffenbach has one of the best jobs on the planet – he creates and flies aerial images for promotional purposes so a little silliness is not outside his JD.  Here he does his best to encourage a little festive cheer with a flying Christmas tree, Santa and a little Harry Potter thrown in for good measure.

What if Everyone in Manhattan Disappeared?


It is something that we see in science fiction movies and Manhattan seems to be a popular choice in presenting this sort of dystopic nightmare.  One of the fascinating things about such an exodus is seeing the sight of an empty city.  Everything looks normal except for one thing – the complete disappearance of the entire population.

Yet this kind of thing is happening in our world right now – in Syria.  The Assad regime and the rise of ISIS have forced ten million people out of their villages, towns and cities – that is, staggeringly, half the population.  Out of this number more than 3 million are under the age of 16.

This video was created for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) by Purpose and the Hamdi Foundation to raise awareness of this appalling situation by giving us the image of Manhattan emptied of people – perhaps something we know might better help us understand the enormity of the issue.  It is - put simply - the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Where did these missing millions go?  Syria’s neighboring countries have taken in the biggest numbers yet these are not wealthy countries and the strain is becoming intolerable.  Lebanon has, for example, seen its population grown by 36%.  At the last count the UK had taken in just 54 people.

The international community is failing to respond to their needs meaning millions do not have enough to eat, fuel to keep warm or a safe place to lay their heads. Visit http://www.unhcr.org for more information and to pledge your support.

We have the United Nations for many reasons but to help our fellow human beings who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in dire circumstances, is pivotal to it existence.

This issue needs to be addressed but we cannot simply stand by and expect our governments act – as sometimes they need to be prompted.  As a private citizen you can help by persuading your government to unlock crucial funding for UNHCR or indeed make a donation to the Syria Emergency Winter Crisis Alert appeal..

22 December 2014

Watch George Clooney in Downton Abbey: The Full Episode


George Clooney and Downton Abbey? Thanks to UK charity Text Santa (which raises money for a variety of good causes), the Hollywood star made his first (and probably last) appearance in Downton Abbey as the Right Honorable George Oceans Gravity, Marquis of Hollywood in a nine minute pastiche of the long-running drama.

Owing a little more to Dickens’ Christmas Carol than your average episode (although writer Julian Fellowes has made homages before, including an outrageous spin on Mrs Minniver in the first series) we have Lord Crawley losing the family fortune (again!) and wishing he had never been born (riffing It’s a Wonderful Life in to the bargain). In for a penny, in for a pound as they say!

So appears an angel played by the lovely Joanna Lumley who whisks him away to see what life would have been like without him.  This enables the new Lord, played by Clooney to make his appearance and, well, anyway, here’s the whole episode.  It’s a massive plug, of course, for the Text Santa (and rightly so) which this year made over £5 miliion.

The Incredible Hulk Hands


If you like your comedy in the ilk of Airplane! or The Naked Gun then it’s highly probable that you are going to love this 4:26 slice of delight.  Written and directed by Ali Fararooy (who I suspect spent his younger years watching movies like those I mentioned above) this may not be a Christmas movie but it certainly raised my spirits.  The story may also be one that is a little trope-tastic but it does not suffer from any of the associated fatigue you might imagine: rather it feeds off them. 

A nerd, on his early morning run, finds himself in the usual kind of trouble, the sort that always happens when his kind dares to venture on a football field – he attracts the attention a group of jocks looking for a little pre-prandial entertainment.  Once his pain is done he quickly finds the means with which to exact his revenge (the clue is in the title so this is hardly a spoiler).  Cue vengeance and retaliation (or should that be the other way around?).

The use of music in this comedy short is inspired as are the blink and you miss them physical puns and, of course, the VFX.  So, yes. You might say I like this.

A big nod to the cast too – The Jasons and Momma Outta Bullets combining their talents to great effect

The Shot


I am not including The Shot on Kuriositas because it tells a profound tale which will change your life. Rather, I am doing so because I found the performance of its young star, Samuel Belbin (pictured), very, very funny indeed. It’s not often that I have laugh out loud moments online (he said sadly, bless the poor old bugger) but this provided me with two over the space of its three and a bit minutes.

So, what provoked such mirth? The Shot tells the story of a kid left alone in the car by his mother while she pops in to a shop. In the few minutes that she is away he does something that he cannot quite believe himself. Produced and directed by Chris Thomas and written by Richard Standen, The Shot will, I hope, put a smile on even the most cynical of faces!

Peter and the Wolf Animated


If you are a fan of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf then this is going to be a huge treat for you.  This is part of Emmanuel Linderer’s work for a TV special created by Camera Lucida.  Although not the complete tale you do have the essentials – it’s like a précis.  The characters are all there – the duck and the little bird, the cat and of course Peter and the menacing wolf but the animals are created in a surprise way.  This is lovely work.

21 December 2014

We Were Not Made For This World


Based on the story by award-winning cartoonist Paul Hornschemeier, We Were Not Made For This World is the story of a robot that searches for its creator in the desert outside the city where it was created.  It was created by Colin West McDonald as part of The Robot Scriptures, what will be a three part narrative film about the origin, evolution and exodus of artificial intelligence.

Sunday Short Movie: A Long Walk


You will probably not see a short film as moving or gripping as this for quite a while. This story is based on true events and focuses on an American neighborhood in the 1970s. It was written, produced and directed by the über talented Chinonye Chukwu.

A father humiliates his son by parading him through the streets in women's clothing in front of all the other kids on a summer day. The impact of that decision ripples through his family and best friend's lives for years to come.  The Long Walk is earnest and very clever film-making at its best with some standout performances, wonderfully evocative period detail and - just so you can't say you weren't warned - heartrendingly sad.

Can This Scaredy Swan Ever Become one of the Seven Swans a Swimming?


Life can present us with all kinds of issue.  For a swan, just about the biggest would be a fear of water – and this scaredy swan has just that phobia in this short by Burcu & Geoffrey.  Even though he shows a certain willingness to try, when it comes to the point of entry he doesn’t seem keen at all.  Yet will he overcome his scarediness and become one of the seven swans a swimming? Watch and find out!

20 December 2014

The Suitcase


It is 1940 and the borders have been closed. It looks as if the regime will be able to round up those who stand against it at their leisure. Yet Cleophea owns an extraordinary suitcase which she uses to help fugitives cross the frontier.  However, one fateful evening it looks as it perhaps her luck has finally run out.  This suspenseful animated short was created by a group of students at LISAA in 2013.

The Geminid Meteor Shower: From Phaethon to Earth


Here is the Geminid meteor shower of December 2014 from a slightly different perspective! Shane Gehlert of Blue Dog Films filmed some time lapse images over two nights in December 2014. Intrigued by the Geminid meteor shower, he decided to make a short film with additional animation to explain (very simply) how it comes about from its origin on Phaethon to its impact with Earth.

Amsterdam Light Festival 2014-15


In November 2014 freelance filmmaker Jack Fisher was invited to the Netherlands to make a time-lapse of the Amsterdam light festival. It was the most challenging film he had made to date as he only had seven days to plan, film and edit this hyperlapse whilst battling wind, rain and everything in between.  However, I think that you will agree that the result is wonderful: the festival end of 18 January 2015.

Angels' Carol


It’s almost Christmas so that means it’s time for a flying giant white rabbit.  Of course. In fact this is Trunk Animation’s take on what should accompany John Rutter’s Angels’ Carol.  As it should be, it’s all about getting home in time for Christmas with everything you would might expect (driving snow, treacherous roads, and the warmth of strange woodland creatures) plus a nod to studio Ghibli’s Totoro.  Noëltastic.

14 December 2014

A Little Amsterdam Love Story


This is just about as sweet as it gets, following a tiny denizen of the Dutch capital as he makes his way to that important first date.  Yes, that is pretty much it but this is delightful work by Andrey Koval with some lovely touches throughout guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  It makes you wonder what goes on in cities all around the world which we fail to notice. 

The Story of R32


When, in the future, old robots are discarded as they are replaced by more advanced versions, what will become of the obsolete?  Although the subject is touched on in a number of movies, this short focuses on one robot who just wishes to fulfill its primary function – to look after someone. Yet when the opportunity comes along, is it too late?  Directed by Vladimir Vlasenko, this short features some superb CG and enough pathos to pull even the most hardened of human heartstrings.

13 December 2014

Coldplay: Ink - Official Fans' Cut of the Interactive Video


A few weeks ago Coldplay released their first interactive music video.  Now based on Coldplay’s fans’ engagement, the makers of the video, Blind Inc, have been able to bring us the compilation which represents the most popular variation (out of a possible 300) that the video presented.  I am so happy they did this – I like the interactive version but really wanted to see which one came out on top!

Owl


A series of uncanny dioramas set in the English countryside. Owl is a mixed-media animation combining CG visuals, Infrared film photographs and marker pen sketches to unique effect. The final animation represents a collaboration between Thomas Beg and the haunting music of Collectress, a quartet of long-term musical collaborators based in the UK who have recently released their debut album Mondegreen.

Miss Alissa – A New Superhero


If you were given two weeks to create a new superhero, what would you do? Here is Martin Woutisseth’s take with influences from Harley Quinn, Bruce Timm, Faster pussy cat, Kill! Kill!, Kill la Kill, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Robert Valley, Queens of the stone age Go with the flow, Eagles of Death Metal Wannabe in L.A, Dizzee Rascal Fix up! Look sharp and Jamie Hewlett.  I think we should have an entire animated series of Miss Alissa’s adventures!

How to Pass GCSE English


In my other life I am a teacher so I thought I would share with you one of my latest videos.  I am obviously not in the same league as the animators that we feature on Kuriositas but I hope that the videos I make (based on PowerPoint presentations) find an audience and allow people to improve their English skills.

This one is for GCSE English which is an exam taken by 16 years olds in the UK, although many adults take it too for one reason or another (usually missed opportunities previously in the life).  This video covers the questions featured in the OCR exam board Information and Ideas exam which is difficult to pass if you don’t know what the examiners are looking for.  I hope this helps a few people get through an exam which the UK government is making a little more difficult each year in the mistaken belief that making it harder will raise standards!

12 Dogs on 12 walls in 12 cities in 12 days

As Christmas approached the rush to be ready and get all the presents sometimes precludes a little thought.  Charities like Dogs Trust in the UK are faced with the annual prospect of rescuing hundreds of homeless or abandoned dogs whose prospective owners simply did not take time out to think through the responsibilities involved with creating a forever home for a canine addition to their household. So, how to try and get people to think things through a little more?

This is certainly one way.  The pair of (self-described) gonzo artists more than willing to take a punt at pretty much anything who go under the collective name of id-iom has recently been on a road trip of the UK.  While in each of the dozen cities they visited they painted a dog on a wall for Dogs Trust.  As a memento paw-i (probably too bad a pun to have included here, but it’s almost Christmas) they included the real reasons Dogs Trust was given when those reluctant to see through their commitment delivered a dog to the charity’s doorstep.

8 December 2014

Where There’s Muck There’s Aluminium


Plastic-aluminium laminates have been troubling recyclers for years, in as much as they could not be recycled commercially.  Before now packing containing these laminates would end up in landfill or simply incinerated. Now, however, Cambridge University and its spinoff company Enval have invented a way to turn your old drinks cartons and toothpaste tubes in to aluminium and fuel. The eureka moment?  A bacon roll and a microwave oven.

Home Sweet Home


In Home Sweet Home, a house decides to escape its desultory urban surroundings and sets off to find a new home.  Before long he has companions and this trio become an inseparable band of explorers in their pursuit of a place to call their own.  Yet there are some things that even the bonds of friendship cannot overcome.

This beautiful, funny and melancholy animated short was made by a very talented group of students in their last year at the superlative Supinfocom Arles.  They are Pierre Clenet, Alejandro Diaz, Romain Mazevet and Stéphane Paccolat: the music is provided by Valentin Lafort.  I expect that animation aficionados might hear a lot more from them in the future.

7 December 2014

Boy Meets Girl


10,000 years in to the future, what will have happened to us? Rick Barcode’s latest short film allows us, like any grown-up science fiction should, to make up our own minds.  Yet when boy meets girl there will always be consequences.  Beautifully shot, this melancholy short film is complete in itself but I hope I am not alone in wanting more. Mr Barcode is currently in film school at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.

Musical Recordings from the Realm of the Dead


Four separate individuals at the dawn of wireless technology unknowingly become accidental collaborators of a musical composition that is pieced together through radio waves. Let’s face it, any video which features Elisha Gray, Ralph Dunstan, Guglielmo Marconi and, particularly, Nikola Tesla, is going to find its way on to Kuriositas. Directed and animated by Troy Morgan this is haunting, atmospheric and like its subject, unique.

Crowded


The denizens of Crowded amble through their ever-expanding habitat seemingly oblivious to their mutating landscape – while the voyeur sits back and inhales the swarming scenery. The convivial tone veils the dystopian message of the narrative.

Cranes, trains and automobiles instil a sense of constant industry – as the populous swells upwards, outwards, downwards and inwards – contorting and adapting – forcing the inhabitants to recast themselves. Crowded was directed and animated by Andrew Khosravani and Cristina Florit Gomila.

The Last Time I Saw Richard


It’s the time of year when scary stories seem all the more frightening – and The Last Time I Saw Richard fits the desire for a few December chills perfectly. Jonah is a loner at the teenage mental health institution in which he is incarcerated until the arrival of Richard. Yet despite the growing bond between the teenagers, there are darklings hiding in the shadows of the night. Written and directed by Nicholas Verso this short movie is guaranteed to give you the wibbly-wobblies.Viewer discretion advised.

6 December 2014

Dogs on Ice

Dogs like nothing better than when something a little out of the ordinary happens. So, when the world has turned white one morning and the water has gone hard and slippery, you can’t blame a dog for getting a little excited, can you? After all, when the going gets cold, the dog gets going. Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has a great collection of dogs on ice pictures for you today…

Image Credit linuskenstam

The Dinosaur Graveyard of East Berlin

They lie, dead, struck down where they stood by a global event they could neither forecast nor understand. Extinction came quickly: in a matter of years the dinosaurs were no more. Yet this is no reference to the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which led to the extinction of the majority of dinosaur groups at the end of the Mesozoic era.

These dinosaurs (as you may have suspected) are rather more modern – as was their downfall.

The DVRSE App: Black Friends When You Need Them


If you're white and want to look cooler but don’t actually have time to befriend black people then this new app might just change your life. The team at DVRSE have created an amazing app which could increase your cool factor by a quotient – not to mention your ability to get jobs in progressive companies and – perhaps – even get lucky a little more often.  Best let the team, directed by Marvin Lemus, to explain.
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