20 November 2022

e-lectricity

What do you automatically think of when someone says a film set in a South African township? Grinding poverty and misery all round, something worthy but perhaps a little painful to watch? Then perhaps e-lectricity might change your perspective a little. Yes, it is set in a township but is an unambiguous comedy. The township has no electricity so when the sun goes down the place is left in the dark.

However, there is some hope. Walter (played with considerable charm by Thokozani Ngoma) is an inventor – a little eccentric as you might expect but a shy and disingenuous young man, often the subject of ridicule when his attempts at generating electricity go badly wrong.

At the other end of the township is the indomitable Thimble (played by the talented Rethabile Mokhele), serial knitter and supplier of balaclavas to the settlement’s rather meek criminal underclass.

Somehow their fates are, well, intertwined.

This warm and funny short film was produced and written by Jade Galbraith and directed and written by Miklas Manneke.
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Lençóis Maranhenses - Brazil's Lagoons Among The Dunes

When you first see it, Lençóis Maranhenses in northeastern Brazil appears much like a typical desert: sand – and lots of it. 

Yet closer inspection quickly reveals pools of water among the ridged hills of sand, lining the landscape with their rich hues of green and blue. One of the most visually contradictory sights on our planet, there are lagoons among the dunes.

Land Art

Germany based artist Walter Mason has an affinity for pulling things apart and then putting them back in to place – but in a subtly changed way.  Chunks of ice can become upended, forming a chilly henge, elm leaves are stitched together then allowed to float away on the stream.  Beech leaves, torn asunder, find a new home on a lily leaf.  Yet the result is something quite extraordinary – intriguing but temporary, organic art which is recorded for posterity only on camera.  Following very much in the land art tradition, you can see more examples of Mason’s ingenious art at his Flickr photostream and on his tumblr page.

Ninja vs Pirate


Surely the only thing better than a film featuring a ninja, is when it has pirates in it too.  Of course if you have a film with ninjas and pirates the logical thing to do is to set it in outer space. Pure nerd bliss.

So, Ninjas vs Pirates does exactly that – with a lone ninja on a mission to relieve the robot pirate captain of his most treasured item.

Ninja vs Pirate, a 3-minute animated comedy short by 7 graduates from The One Academy, Malaysia who collectively call themselves Fruit Punch Studios.
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Slug Invasion


Morning breaks on a sleepy suburb but the quiet is soon to be disturbed by an army of slugs with only one thing on their mind – to find and eat the flowers in the garden.  Yet they have an enemy, the little old lady who tends the lawns and shrubs each day.  Total war is about to break out – one of savage attrition and in which there can only be one winner, but who will it be?

This is a great animated short by a group of students at The Animation Workshop in Denmark.  The Animation Workshop is an international centre of knowledge and development for animation (and related) professions and businesses.
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6 November 2022

Dance Slow Motion


See if you agree, but I thought there was something compulsive about this. Once the dance had started I just could not take my eyes off it.  I guess it may be because when you normally see street dance then things happen so quickly you simply don’t get a chance to take in what is going on.  Add a little Tai Chi style movement in to the dance and it can be even more perplexing - plus the fact the dancer is not as stick thin as the guys who normally do this (is there a little Blues Brothers going on here?) adds to the overall entrancement.

So, stand up Thai TV editor Sawang Treetippitak who created this with his trusty Canon T3i / 600D. The rest is just open-mouthed, drop-jawed history. Go Sawang!
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Reading Kills


Can you imagine a world in which no one can read because if they do their death will be imminent? This is something the denizens of this particular world discover - and you can imagine the effects it has on their society...

It would certainly be a deterrent, perhaps even more so than in that most famous of dystopic illiterate societies featured in Farenheit 451.

Beto Gomez developed this idea for his thesis work at Vancouver Film School.  No one is safe, it seems – so you may well ask yourself why you are reading this!  Watch out! Behind you!
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The Big One


Two aliens are in search of precious spheres which are normally about the size of an apple.  When they come across an enormous example – the eponymous big one – then the more dominant of the two decides that it is something he must have.  Yet that might not be as straightforward as it first seems.

This amusing animated short comes courtesy of a team of students at Stuttgart Media University (Hochschule der Medien).  They are Sören Hatje, Christian Höhn and Steffen Kuderer.  The Big One just goes to show that human weaknesses are not, it seems, restricted to humans!
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Take-Me-Away


I am a little surprised that Brisbane based filmmaker and digital artist Benjamin Zaugg didn’t simply call this Franken-Noodle but perhaps his own title has a little more class - and when you see the end of this animated short you will realize why he called it Take-Me-Away. From my own attempt at naming a piece of work which already has one, you may have already guessed what this is about.

A discarded half-eaten box of take-away noodles is brought to life and, as life does, immediately seeks to reproduce itself. Whether our noodly friend succeeds I will leave to you to discover. I was charmed by this piece which combines stop motion and puppetry. It also has a very catchy original score, Take-Me-Away, written and Composed by Ben Miles with vocals by Sam Jarousek. Two minutes of fun!
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The Happy Rizzi House

You can only imagine the coughs and splutters from certain more traditional quarters when the idea for the Happy Rizzi House was first mooted to the council of a historical German city.

SpongeBob SquarePants might be happy taking up residence inside its day-glo walls but some of the elders of the ancient German city of Brunswick (Braunschweig in German) were most certainly not amused. Worse still, the planners wanted it to be placed in the city’s most historic area, the Magni quarter. Many were agog that this outrageous idea could even be proposed, let alone accepted.

Micro Empire


Clemens Wirth likes small things. So someone passed him a microscope and a drop of water and he got on with it. What we get is a fascinating look in to the micro world – and it’s not something that you get to see every day (or would probably care to see if you are even remotely squeamish!).

Yet however much you may want to look away it is really difficult to do so because you might miss something with that extra wow factor.

There is plenty of wow in Wirth’s collaboration with Radium Audio. In his own words: “The real challenge was definitely the small depth of field in microscopy. It’s really fascinating how detailed this tiny world is, and unbelievable how much is going on in only one little water drop.”
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29 October 2022

Cwyfan – The Little Church in the Sea

Ynys Môn is an island perched at the top of Wales. Known in English as Anglesey, the island is connected to the mainland by only two bridges. In the seventeenth century, erosion of the coastline meant that an islet formed off the island – Cribinau. Yet there was only one problem – the cherished thirteenth century church of Saint Cwyfan was isolated on the newly formed tidal island.

City of Samba


You may not believe your eyes when you watch this. Created by Keith Loutit and Jarbas Agnelli, this is a tilt shift capture of the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval Party. You may have seen tilt shift movies before, but this will really make you sit up! It begins with a panoramic view of the city (including a helicopter rescue from the sea) and then, as night draws in, Carnaval begins.

It may not be quite the same as being there but this film captures the intense excitements as the floats pass by the immense crowds. Yet because of the tilt shift method employed everything looks tiny – you get to be Gulliver for a short time! You also get to see much more of it in five minutes than you normally would, thanks to the stop-motion technique also employed. This is simply dazzling!
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The Old Man and the Sea - Animated


Perhaps Ernest Hemingway's greatest novel, The Old Man and the Sea tells of the epic struggle between Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman and a giant marlin he is determined to catch.  Yet Santiago has gone without catching a single fish for over eighty days, something which the superstitious fishermen believe makes him unlucky.  His young apprentice Manolin is forbidden to join him at sea lest he be drowned and so the old man sets out alone.

The rest of the novel deals with the day’s long struggle between Santiago and the marlin.  This stop motion short by Marcel Schindler beautifully documents this epic clash between the fisherman and his quarry.  The design is by Hagen Reiling - fantastic and evocative artwork - and the music provided by Awolnation and their song Sail.  Altogether a wonderful twenty first century version of a classic of the 1950s.
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The Sublime Swallowtail

You may be familiar with the Common Yellow and the Western Tiger, but the Swallowtail family of butterflies is much larger and diverse than you may imagine. The Ark in Space is featuring some of the less familiar species, such as the Pipevine and the Chinese Peacock, along with some stunning photographs, and revisit one or two you have perhaps seen before - such as the Giant Swallowtail above.

Image Credit Flickr User TexasEagle
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My Way


There is only one way to live life – and that is your way!  So is the message of this marvelous animation by Bold Studio Zagreb. It takes us through the entire life of a single individual who lived his life My Way – with the help of the invisible pebble in his shoe (you will see what this means when you watch the animation!).

This is an unusual and quirky animation which is really something rather special.  What makes it as much as the wonderfully drawn animation is the idiosyncratic narration which goes along with it – and the way that the mantle is passed from one generation to the next.  My Way is based on the original book written and illustrated by Svjetlan Junaković who also created the animation!
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24 October 2022

Alaska’s Abandoned Igloo City Hotel

Even in the chilly Alaskan heartland, this isn’t quite what you expect. A giant igloo. Situated on the George Parks Highway, 180 miles out of Anchorage on the route towards Fairbanks, Igloo City as it is known stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. It has become something of a tourist attraction in its own right.

You may not have to guess when the Igloo Hotel was but as the 1970s are generally regarded as the decade that style forgot there aren’t any prizes if that was your first conjecture. Someone, apparently, thought that aping the Inuit tradition of igloo building would be a great idea for a hotel. Whether they simultaneously had the idea to build a giant tepee hotel in a Lakota community is lost to history.

Alien Nations: Up Close and Impersonal with Insects and Spiders

Over at the Ark in Space there are a number of insects and spiders awaiting your company.  Don't think you will be able to squish these representatives of seemingly alien nations on Earth, however. Thanks to macrophotography they look as big as you or I - and a few of them look like they would quite fancy us for their tea too!

Above is the eight eyes of a Hentzia palmarum Jumping Spider - or as many as can be seen without a 360 degree pan.  Head over to the Ark in Space for the rest of the collection.

Image Credit Flickr User Thomas Shahan
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The Monk and the Fly


Something like this is extremely likely to have happened to you.  Have you ever been annoyed by the buzzing of a fly but, whatever you do, you just can’t seem to catch (or swat) the little bugger?  So it is with our monk in this animated short by Matthew Darragh (created with the help of the Irish Film Board).  All he wants to do is a little peaceful outdoors meditation but he is continually interrupted by the fly!

To see how he solves the problem, you will have to watch the animation.  Of course, just when you think you have solved a particular situation, along comes something else to spoil your peace and quiet!
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The Elaborate End of Robert Ebb


Robert has a dull security job but while doing his rounds one evening he comes across a monster costume.  He decides on a prank but it is one which spectacularly backfires as the locals, fired up by recent news reports of a sea monster, form a hunting party (the type you see in all those Frankenstein movies) and hunt him down.  You just have to love an angry mob in this sort of movie!

Written and directed by Clement Bolla, Fx Goby and Matthieu Landour, this is created with more than a little love for the horror genre it gently usurps.  The hapless Robert is played (with increasing frustration) by Paul Hassal and although you may have to suspend your disbelief a little more than usual, that's not a big ask when a short film is as enjoyable as this one. It’s also very funny with a surprise ending which I only saw half coming…
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Made in Ladakh


This stunning video features timelapse sequences from 12 different locations in the northern part of the Himalayan region of Ladakh.  Here we get to see Pangong Tso lake,Tsomoriri lake,Kargil, Leh,Khardungla Pass, Nubra Valley, Diksit Valley, Likir Monastery, Chang La Pass and Moonland.

It was shot and edited by Panidhar Revanur using the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 500D with Magic Lantern firmware.
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16 October 2022

The Darth Vader Ant with Superhero Gliding Skills

Meanwhile over in South America, an ant that looks like Darth Vader has evolved superhero gliding skills.  OK, that may be a case of hyperbolics but the Ark in Space today features Cephalotes atratus which has more than just a trick up its sleeves if it falls from the canopy.  When falling, the ant utilizes posture to perform maneuvers which enable it to glide back on to the branch.  Take a look at this fascinating creature over at The Ark in Space.

Image Credit Wikimedia
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Modern Man


Rupert is a busy modern man. Today is the day he proposes to his girlfriend and he is putting the finishing touches to his preparations when a time-traveling cavewoman appears in his kitchen.  The rest, as they say, is history (or it will be, or at least might be, oh you know what I mean) in this entertaining short directed by Sebastian Solberg, shot by Dale McCready (Merlin, Doctor Who) and stunt coordinated by Dani Biernat (Skyfall, Shaun of the Dead).
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Harry Grows Up


Harry isn’t the first heartbroken New Yorker to take to the bottle but the difference here is that he is only eighteen months old. When Harry’s babysitter leaves, will he ever find love again and mend that broken heart? You can find out by watching Harry Grows Up, a very sweet comedy short directed by Mark Nickelsburg and starring (I am guessing here, as they share the same last name) his very adorable son Lucas as the lovelorn Harry.
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Inheritance


Take a short journey through the history of inheritance, from Aristotle through to the genetics of the present day, courtesy of animator Asa Lucander. Some of the ideas here are, to our eyes, fairly straightforward, but they had to come from somewhere – and that somewhere meant a lot of trial and error over the centuries! This animation first appeared as part of the Science Club series on UK TV’s BBC2 hosted by Dara O Briain.
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Apocalypse Rhyme


This is something quite extraordinary which may not leave you in a happy place but will certainly provoke more than a little thought.  The poem itself is an achievement – each letter of the word is singled out for treatment.

Yet the man behind it, Oliver Harrison, also created this animation and soundtrack too.  He gets our ‘Polymath of the Week’ award.
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Henna Tattoos: Exquisite, Impermanent Stains

Henna has been used since ancient times as a dye to color fabrics such as wool, leather and silk. Yet at some early point in its shared history with humanity it was discovered that it could be used to stain the skin temporarily. Ancient wall paintings discovered during the excavation of Akrotiri (destroyed by volcanic eruption in 1627 BCE) show women adorned with patterns and designs wholly consistent with henna on their nails, palms and soles. It is a tradition still thriving and evolving today.

Palmipedarium


Award winning French animator Jeremy Clapin’s relased Palmipedarium in 2014.  Set in the countryside the film focuses on a young boy and his strange new companion.  Discombobulating, atmospheric and drifting in that space between reality and imagination this reminded me of some of David Lynch’s early work, though this – like the creature – is very much its own animal.
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15 October 2022

Planning Attractions And Visits in New York City

New York City is vibrant and lively, and there is always something exciting going on that you can see or do. When planning out which attractions you want to see on your visit, you have to decide what is important to you. You must also think about your list of top priorities because you can always guarantee you won’t have enough time to do everything you want.

Heading to the Top Attractions

Firstly you will want to start marking down the top attractions you want to visit. For instance, is the Rockefeller Center high up on your long list, alongside central park? You want to go to the top attractions when you visit NYC because these are the places that give the city its excitement and its buzz. If you fail to head to these attractions during your visit you may find that you have missed out on a large part of New York life and culture.

Investing Your Time in the Many Museums

When you are visiting the city that never sleeps it is important to soak up as much culture as possible. Take in the beautiful contemporary artwork and creations at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) or head to the Morgan Library and Museum to satisfy your desire to see more from this city and remain inquisitive about what this vast city has to offer.                                  

How Long Are You Visiting For?

After establishing where you want to visit on your trip, you must then think about the expected duration. If you are traveling from a neighboring state, you may find that a 3- or 5-day trip gives you enough time to see everything that you want. However, if you are traveling from further away, perhaps the other side of the country, you will want to stay for a while longer. If you are rushing a trip, you will have to make compromises about where you can go, and what you can see. This is due to the time constraints as well as tiredness from travel being a factor.

Time of Year You Plan to Visit

New York can change how it feels and looks throughout the year. As the seasons change you will also see that there are different things to do in the city. For example, if you are a big film lover, you may want to time your visit around the film festival that is held September-October time. Or, if you love thanksgiving, you may wish to check out the city and see what parades it has on offer in November.

Why You Must Plan in Advance

Even though larger parts of New York are catered to tourists, you must plan trips and visits in advance to avoid disappointment. If you do not plan weeks (or even months) in advance then you may have to make compromises that ultimately affect your trip. Where you go, what you see, and possibly even where you stay can all depend on how long you give yourself to plan. Preparation will help to make your city trip memorable for all of the right reasons.

Image Credit

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9 October 2022

Halloween Safety Educational Film from 1977


This is a rather sweet educational film about the dangers of trick or treating at Halloween. Although it is only 35 years old it does sometimes seem to present an entirely different world to our own. It was rediscovered recently by Jason Willis who appears in the film himself at 5:26. You can read more about this rediscovery on his blog.

There is some groovy seventies background music but what is most interesting for me here are the costumes that are worn by the kids.  They are almost all home made (in fact in one scene we see mom taking up the hem of the little witch's skirt.  I just wonder how many kids are going to be wearing home made costumes as the trick or treat tonight!
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Monster Date


Those crazy kids over at the Vancouver Film School are the modern day equivalents of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.  The big difference, though, is that instead of putting on a show, these guys create a very funny and hugely enjoyable video for Halloween.  This has absolutely nothing to do with their degree work, it was just something that they felt like doing.  And what an awesome job they make of it!

The concept is quite simple and straightforward (which is why perhaps it makes this such blissful viewing).  Harkening back to the video dating fad of the 1980s this piece features a series of lonely hearted monsters in search of the special one.  Most varieties of monsters are represented, from vampires to zombies and there is even an appearance by a genie.  There are quite a number of great one liners, but for me, the genie has just about the best line - " I'm not looking for a girl who's just interested in rubbing my lamp".

The monsters here are fairly reminiscent - in terms of makeup and character - to the types we used to see in Buffy - and the whole thing is produced with wit and panache.  If this is what the students at the VFS make in their spare time, one can only wonder what amazing films they come up with for their degree projects.

Is this a tribute or a pastiche?  Who can really tell and to be frank, who cares?  It is great stuff, especially coming up to Halloween.  The fun doesn't stop there either.  The makers are inviting responses over at their YouTube channel. If you have the desire, you can create your own response (you have to be in full fancy dress) and submit it there.
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Houses to Avoid on Halloween - And How to Die Quickly if You Can't

You may be planning to go out this Halloween, perhaps trick or treating with friends. In case you really must, here is a short pictorial guide to the kind of houses you should really avoid this Halloween. There are a number of tell-tale signs to look out for. If you just know you're not the type to make it to the end of a slasher pic, follow our advice: stay in (not that it will help you if you believe in predestination). Otherwise you may well just become part of another urban legend, the stuff of future horror movies. Yet although your life might be over but there are a few ways to ensure your demise is as swift and as painless as possible.

Dalek Pumpkin

Just because we have never seen one before. Just because the maker of this particular Halloween pumpkin really knows his Kaled anatomy (post mutation of course and tucked inside its new shell) and... just because we thought you would love it!

The carrot is an unusual eye-piece - and the whisker is just what you might expect.  Plus - what is that sticking outside? Are the Daleks tracking down Timelords through their ability to hide from the rest of the universe?

Whoever made this - we salute you!

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Treated


It wouldn’t really be Halloween without a short movie following a kid dressed as the devil as he goes around on his annual trick or treat mission.

Yet this year he may get more than he bargained for!

This very short short was written and directed by Matteo Bernardini who shoots shorts, documentaries and music videos while training for features.

One word of advice. Watch this very, very closely. Blink and you may miss it!
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The Hellbender: Giant Salamander of the United States

This is the only species of giant salamander to be found outside Asia – and it is called the hellbender.  With a name like that it’s an appropriate Halloween feature on our sibling site, the Ark in Space even though despite its name and size there is really nothing to be frightened of (apart from its name and its size – it can grow up to 30 inches in length!).  With its story, together with lots more pictures and a fascinating short documentary, head over to the Ark in Space.

Image Kerry Wixted
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Al Dente


Taking place in a colorful and musical universe, Al Dente is a short film which tells us the story of a little street girl discovering the magic and the dangers of an ogre's kitchen.  It isn’t quite as harmless as it sounds – I am pretty sure that some of the imagery used in this animated short would have given me nightmares (up to the age of, oh, about 25) so do watch this first before you decide to show it to any small people in your household!

After all, Al Dente as a term describes when something is cooked so that it is firm but not hard, something that still offers resistance to the bite but is nevertheless cooked through - and that is how the ogre likes to eat the children he has captured!

Al Dente was created by Mael Francois, Carlos Felipe Leon and Jean-Francois Barthelemy for their graduation project at Supinfocom (yes, I should just change the name of Kuriositas to Animation at Supinfocom, I know).. Music is by Matthieu Alvado.
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