29 March 2021

Jungle Jail


When you are the new prisoner in an enormous, scary prison you know that you have to keep your head down and get on with things. So, when one scrawny little guy becomes the place’s newest inmate that is his intention. The prison bully, though, is soon after him. Yet things do not always go to plan and when he sees an opportunity to become the bully himself he grabs it – literally.

This entertaining short is made by a group of students at ESMA Montpelier which seems to churn out world class animators with astonishing regularity. This particular animation, which examines the nature of the bully in all of us, is by Mathieu Arnoux, Hugo Cierzniak, Aymeric Palermo and Bruce Nguyen.

Puzzlewood – Tolkien’s Inspiration for Middle-earth

Puzzlewood – even the name conjures up images of ancient ents, elves, wizards and hobbits.  

You could easily be forgiven for thinking that you were lost somewhere in Middle-earth.  

Indeed John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was fascinated by the place and it is said to be a major stimulus for the imagination of the man who brought us Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf.
You do not, however, have to be transported to another world to enjoy such Tolkien-esque landscapes for yourself.  Puzzlewood stretches over fourteen acres of the Forest of Dean in the English county of Gloucestershire (pronounced Gloss-ta-shire). Yes, it is even in a shire!

The Bombay Highway Code


This is a delightful and elegiac look at the sights and sounds of Mumbai, written and narrated by live action and creative director David Baksh.  It is all very laid back which belies the often frenetic way that the citizens of the great city of India travel on its streets and highways.

Yet in this open, poetic love letter to the city, Baksh evokes the essence of the place beautifully.

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Portugal, You Will After Watching This


Photographer and filmmaker Kirill Neiezhmakov has excelled himself this time.  Visiting Portugal in May 2014 he took in Lisbon and Sesimbra, creating this amazing combination of time-lapse and hyperlapse, with a little tilt shift thrown in for good measure.  The merge from one place to another is seamless (how does he do that?) as is the transition from terra firma to water.  An outstanding piece of film.

Hollywood Zombies


This new movie imagines a Hollywood overrun by a zombie virus, where all of your favorite stars are turned in to the living dead and stalk the world in search of flesh. Well, sounds like a great idea but this is a fake trailer by the super-talented Fabrice Mathieu.

Once more, Fabrice has put his very clever film editing techniques in to full-throttle – I for one would pay to see this movie!

21 March 2021

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Wulingyuan, You Will after You Watch This


If you liked the film Avatar and day-dreamed about visiting Pandora (yes, me too) then perhaps you can, after all. OK, not quite but Wulingyuan in south-central China is the closest that you are probably going to get.  Filmed by Abel Blanco with his Phantom3P, this perfectly showcases the exquisite landscapes of the region.  Shot over five days Blanco managed to avoid both the incessant rain while he was there and the tourists (don’t go here if you think you will be alone!).

What is the Higgs Boson? An Animated Explanation


So, here it is – everything you ever wanted to know about the Higgs Boson but were way too intimidated by the science to ask.  Particle physics is something of a mystery to me and so it was great to watch this animation and be able to get something of a grasp on the Higgs Boson and what it actually is (and isn’t).  This is (I am guessing!) a simplified explanation of what the Higgs Boson is and why it is so important (nothing would exist if it didn’t, effectively!).

This animation was created by James Sutton for part of his final year studying graphic design. The soundtrack is provided by christ. There has to be some irony in that.

The Night the Moon Fell


This animated short by John Bashyam has already enjoyed a considerable amount of success online but has only been made available for embedding on any old website like Kuriositas. now.

It tells the story of a young boy, fascinated by astronomy, who discovers one evening that the moon has fallen to the Earth. A story full of joy and wonder, this has an ending which will leave you in pieces…

One Rat Short


This is another beautifully made animated short by Charlex – who should really think about working on something full length if you ask me, as their talents as creative designers are wonderfully put to work in the field of advertising but when they do their own thing as it were, the results are incredible.

Written and directed by Alex Weir, One Rat Short tells the story of a rat who inadvertently stumbles in to a biomedical research lab inhabited by a rather nasty computer with arms and hundreds of other rats, used in behavioural experiments.  Of course, there is one lady rat that particularly catches his eye.

Now hold on a second before you move on – this is no Ratatouille (although I loved that for different reasons).  The rats while anthropomorphised are closer to the real thing – they don’t talk for starters – than we have seen in a lot of other animated works. 

I hope you will find One Rat Short as entertaining and as visually stunning as I did – this really does give other animators the high water mark by which to measure their own endeavours. There is also an ending that will bring a tear to your eye – don’t say you weren’t warned.  Thanks to Charlex for another animated treat.

The Strange History of the Sunflower

You may not think that there is much to know about the sunflower. After all, the plant is virtually everywhere. Yet it has something more than a simple, straightforward history and is more of a globe trotter than you may imagine.

Its story has the historical and continental sweep of a Hollywood epic, from the pre-European Americas to Tsarist Russia and back again. Here is the tale of the peripatetic sunflower, accompanied by some stunning photography.

16 March 2021

The High Roller: Record-Breaking Addition to the Las Vegas Skyline

Next time you’re in Las Vegas and you have half an hour to spare then you might consider its newest, record-breaking attraction.  The High Roller may not be for you if you don’t like heights but if you want a better view over the city and its environs then you have to get in to a helicopter.

14 March 2021

Lost in the Wild


The longer name of this interesting short is The untold story of Robots learning to coexist with Nature.  It takes a science fiction approach to a well known nature documentary format (in fact whoever is narrating, they channel David Attenborough really well).

It serves as part of Rinus Bot’s work for their Masters program in Media Technology at Leiden University.  The rest (comprising a scientific paper and an interactive data visualisation) will be published on a unsuspecting world in the near future.

If You Want It


Si tu le veux translates as if you want it – and this remarkable short piece directed and edited by Grégoire Thiry, screenplay written by Lou Bruston and starring Nathan Cohen shows that you should not let things get in your way either particularly when it comes to self-expression.  You may be surprised by the moves that Nathan is able to produce but their message is more profound that simply look what I can do – it’s a signal to us too to go out and excel at what we enjoy.  As the end title says – if you want to dance, then dance.

The Most Beautiful Shots in the History of Disney


I’ve been a Disney fan from a very early age so immediately I saw the title of this compilation by Jorge Luengo Ruiz I had to take a peek and, of course, stayed on till the very last second.  It is easy to forget all of the magical moments in these movies (I’m getting a little maudlin now!) but this makes it easy to revisit many of them.  Perhaps we can become a little worn-out when it comes to re-watching some of the older films but seeing such short excerpts rekindles the love.

Dewi the Dragon: Guardian of Castle Harlech (and Coolest Dragon on Earth)

Harlech Castle was constructed atop a spur of rock next to the Irish Sea by Edward I of England to seal his victory over Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last sovereign Prince of Wales. Although the sea has retreated and no longer protects the castle a new guardian has recently arrived. Where water once protected Harlech, now it is fire. Dewi the Dragon, resplendent in his scaly coat of steel, is the new sentinel of the still magnificent medieval castle and guards the town’s inhabitants from harm.

The red dragon (y ddraig goch) has for centuries been the symbol of Wales and the Welsh - it can still be seen throughout the country every day wherever the nation's flag is flown.  It is thought to have been the standard of King Arthur, although its first appearance in writing comes from the Historia Brittonum written around 828CE. It also appears in the Mabinogion, collated in medieval times from the ancient narrative oral and written traditions of the Welsh. The list could go on but suffice it to say that the red dragon for many symbolizes all things Welsh.

13 March 2021

The Wife of Bath's Tale


It is always a surprise for students new to Chaucer just how filthy he was.  Some of the images he put down on paper were truly eye-watering in their general dirtiness.  It’s always odd how that even though we know the history of the time, a lot of which was unpleasant to say the least, we somehow expect the literature to be squeaky clean, the product of a more innocent age.

If Chaucer is certainly not one thing, then it’s innocent.  The Wife of Bath’s tale is full of political incorrectness – so much so that a lot of feminist literature has been written about it - both for and against. The Wife of Bath embodies antifeminist beliefs in some ways but in others she resists them – a contradiction which has made her character so interesting for so long.  So here is her story, one of a knight, but not the kind that you get in Hollywood movies.  Having committed a heinous crime he is sent out in to the world by Queen Guinevere to discover what it is that women truly desire.  See if you agree with what he discovers.

This animated version of the Wife of Bath’s Tale was made by Beryl Productions International in 1999 and was nominated for a huge amount of awards, including an Academy Award.  It won the Emmy and the British BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

Plus, if you are in need of some reading material at the moment, give the tale a go.  Better still, read the Wife of Bath’s Prologue where she recounts her life and her times with her five (yes, five) husbands - and how she got her own way with them.  Chaucer may have put his pen to paper over six hundred years ago, but Allison remains my favorite of his pilgrims and she is a character who has fascinated and reviled readers for centuries.

When Rock, Paper and Scissors Come to Life, Who Will Win?


When Rock stumbles upon the magical Paper, it's love at first sight. But when the wrath of Scissors threatens the well-being of Paper, Rock must stop at nothing to save what he loves most, no matter the cost. Broken: Rock, Paper, Scissors is a student animated short film, produced at Ringling College of Art & Design. It was created by Garrett O'Neal, Gang Maria Yi and Bryan Locantore with music by Erez Koskas.

This Way Up


Laying the dead to rest has never been so much trouble. This Oscar Nominated short is directed by Smith & Foulkes and written by Foulkes, Smith, and Christopher O’Reilly, and produced at Nexus by Charlotte Bavasso and Christopher O’Reilly, the film follows two dour unfortunates as they battle a series of misadventures while trying to deliver a coffin to the graveyard.

The Deadly Dewdrops of the Drosera

Look closely, but be wary of touching.  Those beautiful glistening drops of dew at the end of the plants you can see in these photographs are not quite what they seem.  In fact, rather than being dew, that jewel of the earth, these gleaming globules are in fact mucilage. Muci-what?

The Incredible Glasswing Butterfly

It never ceases to stagger me what nature can come up with and the glasswing butterfly is just that – staggering.  The name speaks for itself – the glasswing’s claim to fame is that its wings, spanning up to six centimeters, are almost completely transparent. That’s right, you can see just about right through them.  The Ark in Space, our sibling site, has a feature today on this extraordinary creature.

Image Credit Naz Dore

6 March 2021

Contact Juggling - You Won't Believe This is Real


This held my attention right to the end.  I must have lived a sheltered life because I don’t believe I had heard of contact juggling before, but now I have I am an immediate fan!  It differs from toss juggling in a number of ways (have a look at the Wikipedia page for a full explanation).  However, essentially it involves rolling a ball around one’s body, spinning the ball and finally manipulating it so it appears to be hanging in mid-air.  The young man in the video above does all with dexterity and grace. I honestly thought I must have been watching a CGI trick!

The video is by Kuma Films and was made at the National Taiwan University.

A Gallery of European Synagogues Throughout the Centuries


Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot) recently commissioned Arik Boas Animation to create a series of snapshots of life in and around European synagogues throughout the centuries.

It is part of its new exhibition - Hallelujah! Assemble, Pray, Study – Synagogues Past and Present. The result is something rather special. We start with the Ashkenazi Synagogue of Venice, in the 16th century. Religious instruction for children takes place inside, alongside a wedding ceremony in the piazza.


It’s time to fast-forward to Amsterdam in the seventeenth century.  We witness the city’s Portuguese Synagogue, passing through Torah study in the back room, into a spirited community discussion at the main hall.


Next, this gallery piece shows the Vilnius Great Synagogue Courtyard (Schulhof) in the nineteenth century, with the rabbinical court ending a pillory punishment and a soup kitchen‫.‬


Finally we arrive at a cantorial concert taking place in The Great Synagogue (Tlomackie) in the Polish capital Warsaw in the early twentieth century.  I don’t know if there are more pieces in this wonderful collection but will add them if and when I discover there are.  This last animation is I think my favorite with its fiddler completely off the roof.

Did you spot the time-traveling cat which made an appearance in each of the animations? No?  Perhaps you had better check through them again!

Kernel


In the not to distant future a city lies bereft of intrigue and knowledge under a vast smog of ignorance. One man above the dreary bustle seeks to return the vitality of wisdom with his Cathexis Tree; a botanical marvel designed to absorb the clouds of discarded intellect roaming the rooftops and reproduce it in the form of Kernels.

When haste precedes caution, Leonard discovers the true potential of his creation; that one must sow the seeds of knowledge to fight the rot of ignorance.

Bucharest Rising


Bucharest Rising is a timelapse film by Mihai Doarna of the bustling capital city of Romania. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture earned Bucharest the nickname of "Little Paris". The Second World War, Ceausescu and the 1977 earthquake put paid to that. In recent years, the city has been experiencing an economic and cultural boom and today, Bucharest is an interesting mix of neoclassical, communist era and modern architectures.

The Astonishing Eggs of Alien Nations

They may look like they come straight out of a science fiction film, but these eggs are real - they come from the stink bug. It’s life, but most certainly not as we know it. Our sibling site, Ark in Space has a new feature today about the eggs of insects.  It doesn't sound thrilling exactly until you see them - then your jaw slackens. Take a look at the astonishing eggs of the alien nations all around us.

Image Credit

Teufelsberg: Abandoned Cold War Listening Station Built on an Artificial Hill

A remnant of the Cold War, Teufelsberg Listening Station stands deserted, abandoned to the ravages of time and vandals.  Dominating Brandenburg Plain, in the northern section of Berlin’s Grunewald Forest, the permanent station at Teufelsberg was constructed in 1963.  Yet perhaps the most surprising fact is that the hill itself is less than twenty years older than the listening station that sits atop it.

At the end of the Second World War, Berlin was in ruins.  The process was to take more than twenty The process of rebuilding was to take more than twenty years but by 1948 the city was in crisis.  The Soviet Union had blocked all transport access to the parts of the city under Allied control, to effectively control Berlin.
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