Monday, January 31, 2011

Film Reviews: Gasland (dir Josh Fox)

This week the Oscar nominations were announced for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. You can see a full list of nominees here . Gasland is nominated for the Best Documentary category. It tackles the issue of natural gas drilling within the United States.

I'm also a big Jon Stuart fan, and  often watch The Daily Show, online. This week he welcomed guest T. Boone Pickens, BP Capitol Management. I am disappointed in the Jon Stuart for continuing the PR myth that Mr. Picken's and the  Picken's Plan are interested in the welfare of the environment and ending our dependency on foreign oil. Picken's blatantly lied on national television to American's when he said fracking doesn't cause damage to the environment or people's health. I think Stuart has a responsibility as being a prominent member of the media to ask the hard questions, and he can get away with doing so because of his charming sense of humor.   Stewart asked if the U.S. has been slow to embrace natural gas due to issues of safety, such as the harmful effects of fracking. While there are accusations that fracking contaminates the aquifer, Pickens insisted, "I have never seen that happen. And you're not talking about Ned in the first reader. I've been here. I have fracked 3,000 wells in my life... I've never seen anything damaged."  (Huffington Post) I just think Stuart could have laid into him a lot more.
 Yes America has a foreign oil dependency issue. However, it's not just foreign oil we have a dependency issue with. We have an issue with consuming non-renewable resources and fossil fuels. If congress, corporations and scientists put as much effort into research and development into clean energy (solar, wind, and tidal power) as they put into creating loop holes in the very environmental laws that were created to protect people we could get somewhere. Corporations have all they money, so they can make the rules, or at the very least buy someone who can make the rules.
    The Jon Stuart interview also represents a larger issue of politicians using creative advertising to tap into American's patriotism and interest for creating jobs in a depressed economy, while exploiting natural and human resources causing irreparable damage on the environment.

Red winged black birds dead at new years. Is fracking to blame? copyright New York Times

There was also a point in Gasland which highlighted some of the dead animals from a fracking sight. It reminded me of a smaller version of the recent events in Arkansas where thousands of birds just fell out of the air as well as fish going belly up.

Arkansas is a state that has heavy natural gas drilling  (fracking) operations in place. No wonder the official cause of these mass animal deaths is still officially "unknown".  Please,  allow me to clarify,  officials know why these animals all suddenly died, but because dead birds and fish generate bad publicity, someone at the natural gas PR firm has paid big time to keep things hush hush in the media. But don't let me tell you what to think. Watch Gasland and then remind yourself of the events in Arkansas. Put two and two together for yourself. If you have any other hypothesizes, I'd love to hear them.

I haven't yet viewed all the other films nominated for the best documentary academy award, however in my humble opinion this film does what docu does best: eviscerating real people and the situations they confront in life, looking into the causes of these problems, and starting a conversation. Life is tough, let's talk about it.  When we as a people can be satisfied being more, and having less corporations will begin to loose power over the people. Until then it's in their best interest to keep us consuming, and lying to us.
Gasland gets a 4 out of 5, and I reccomend it to everyone who loves to drink fresh water in their own home.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Back to the Sea

I went to work in China on this film earlier this year. I think it's supposed to have an international release sometime this year , but this is the first time I've seen any actual animation from the film. My job on the film was color concepts and prop design.  You can see the work I did here and here.


Friday, January 28, 2011

More Effects Concepts

I decided to scan in some of my animation that I've cleaned up already to play around with colors, and methods of painting the effects for this shot. I'm pretty pleased with this scene so far, I think the line tests are showing something promising, with a little more work it will get there. I really like the red one, specifically since in the film the actual colors will be so different, and as always I love deep turquoises with yellows. There are five main beams of light, some with as many as 3 layers of animation. Not all are painted in the concept paintings.

Oh here's a line test of my animation, it's not final yet.  I'm planning on more inbetweens, to smooth out some of the jerkier streams of light, and maybe  complete revision of the one in bottom right hand corner. Any other suggestions to improve on it?

Untitled from rory animates on Vimeo.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Concept Art for Sing a Little Song- the Book

I've been busy writing stories and working on ideas for the book! Here are the two newest concept paintings for sale over on etsy.  Some of the decisions I've made about the book include making it a collection of character driven short stories  (about seven of them) that more or less all happen in the same imaginary world. The top concept painting is for a story called The Water Bird (working title). While the painting in the middle is a concept from the most developed story to date called The Bird Who Fell in Love With the Whale.  At the moment I think my narwhal looks like an old potato with broom handle stuck in it, I'm developing the illustration digitally ( the bottom illustration is an example of my work in progress) so hopefully other people wont think it looks too terrible. Support my book by buying concept art on  my etsy store. Hey who knows, I could be famous one day, then you could be rich because you knew me when.

work in progress

OK, I have to get back to animating. I have lots of lighting effects to draw before tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll show you a line test....... if you're niiiice.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Film Reviews: This is England and This is England '86 (dir Shane Meadows)

     I guess since I've been living in England going on four years come July, my friends back home in the states seem to direct all their questions and curiosities about the country in my direction. This is definately the case with This is England (dir Shane Meadows 2006) I suppose also because I am still a punk rock kid at heart. This is England chronicles the lives of a clique of skin head teenagers who encounter the realities of the British Nationalist Party in 1983 set against the backdrop of the Falkland's War. Shaun, played by Thomas Turgoose is a kid getting bullied who runs into a clique of skins in a subway after getting knocked about at school. The skins are a gang of well meaning misfits (that  incidentally remind me of people I used to be friends with in real life back home in Atlanta) who take Shaun under their wing and hang out with him, and give him some form of identity within the group. However when Combo, a skinhead who has been in jail for three years because of taking the rap for the leader of the skins, comes back to town the mood changes.  Combo brings with him nationalistic ideals of racism and bigotry which pull the formerly light hearted friends apart. The attention to detail pertaining to  skinhead culture is quite faithfully accurate. In fact the skins I know pretty much look exactly the way these guys do in the movie. Feather cuts on the girls with Ben Sherman shirts and bleached out jeans. I think the only thing that is missing from This is England is a concert scene complete with mosh pit. I know bands like The Glory would have loved to have been featured.

The film is does what great indie films do. It provides a window into the lives of a fantastic cast of convincing characters dealing tough situations in a way unique to time and place. I also find that the issues of joblessness and bleakness of future relevant to the current uncertain economic climate in a post bail-out world.

This is England  also reminds me of Penelope Spheeris's actual 1983 film Suburbia  in that it too chronicles the lives of youths in the punk rock and hardcore scene of LA, perhaps mixed with Misfits  another great British series chronicling the lives of social outcast (although they happen to have super powers).
This is England '86 (2010) is a four part mini series  produced for Channel 4 that picks up with the gang 3 years after the end of the film.  It's always interesting to see characters develop over extended time periods, and a rare treat to be able to watch a film so well done followed up by an equally thoughtful predecessor. '86 presents a bleakness of reality that is sometimes comical is just how unbelievable it is.
For example, when Woody brings Lol back to their "castle"  (new apartment )  after the failed wedding for the first time,  for Lol to find she will be living in what can only be compared to an ash blackend hovel infested with maggots where someone had died and decomposed. It's slightly ludacris in how bad a place this could possibly be. However, what keeps the mood of the film from being completely bleak  and depressing is the amount of devotion everyone has to each other. They are the family for each other that they may not have had at home. It's reassuring even at the darkest moments.

I recommend This is England to anyone interested in skin head and punk culture, indie film, the 1980's, and perhaps what it may be like to grow up under privileged in certain areas of England. It's fantastic.
4 out of 5 for the whole lot.  Oh and the soundtrack is pretty bitchin' too.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to say that being a skinhead isn't inherently racist at all, as a sub cultural movement skin heads extol the virtues of the working class, listening to reg-ea, ska, and more recently Oi! music. The dress sense reflects the utilitarian needs and the budget of the "working class".
It is unfortunate that mainstream society more often than not automatically views skins as racists. The overwhelming majority of skin heads I know and am friends with aren't racist at all, and there is even a popular movent within the skin society called Sharp (Skin Heads Against Racial Predjudice) that goes out of their way to make the point that racism and bigotry is not ok. I have been, and am still friends with a lot of skin heads who have been wonderful friends when I really needed them. Oi! Oi!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dream Box

So there is this exhibit coming up, open call at Uni, that I thought I might put something together for. Pretty open criteria, A5 image on good paper, having to do with Dreams. Last night I had a dream about flying. Maye I'll do something with this. The dead line is February 21st.  It's a been a while since I showed anything in public. I guess I should think about it some more.

Self Portrait

        This is how I see myself most of the time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hand Animation Effects

I'm getting ready to do the light effects  on the hand that I animated (see post here) so I wanted to do a couple of concept paintings of different styles of effects. I've done some effects animation tests already, so I kind of have an idea of what i think works best, but I had a little time this afternoon so I painted these up. I might add some more after the initial post, so if you're interested check back for more!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Film Reviews: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (dir David Linklater)

I stumbled upon Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (2004) on a list of indie films. It looked interesting, a film set in Paris, a city with which I have had an intellectual romance myself, although I was only there in person for about an hour and never left the train stations or the metro. So unfortunately I  personally have never had the pleasure to traipse the streets that have been home to so many influential people in history. I love the french people, and try to speak as much of it as I can, whenever possible. So I thought this film would perhaps expand my vocabulary  whilst expanding my personal knowledge of film.  However most of the film is in english, so my hopes of boning up on my french were slightly dashed. The tagline, "What if you had a second chance with the one who got away?" perfectly outlines the story, which ultimately makes up for it not being in french.  It stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as a pair of lovers encountering each other for the first time in nine years, after having only spent one night together in Vienna. If that isn't romantic enough, it gets better. The film itself is dialogue heavy, laden with philosophical insight on their lives during the interim. It's cathartic is a way that perhaps only someone who over analyzes every aspect of their romantic life could appreciate. It is so sweetly fantastic, mixed in with the bitter reality of what love is and how life works that it renews hope for old relationships and like an invisible friend patting you on the back saying, " there, there I know life stings some times but love makes it all worth it in the end when it works out." The film is set in almost real time, adding to the sense that this scenario is entirely plausible. The couple have very clearly impacted each others lives through this one chance meeting on a train and changed it forever.
There is little to no action in the film at all, and yet it manages to excite the mind in an intellectually stimulating way. The manner in which these two star crossed lovers have dissected their emotions about each other, and how their lives have unfolded in the mean time is incredibly relate-able. There is however an element of sadness in the fact that it has taken them so long to reconnect. The film forces you to confront your own personal dilemas in the romantic department. It asks the question, " If you knew you were with the wrong person for several years but had a kid, and reconnect with the love of your life you had thought you lost forever, what would you do?" I think the great result of this line of questioning is that (hopefully) we come to the same conclusions as the characters at the same time they do so there is an due to the real time element of the film.  I personally found this film very satisfying.
Since I enjoyed Before Sunset so much, I did a bit of investigative googling and found it's prequel Before Sunrise which is the story of how the two characters met each other and became so important to eachother in their subsequent lives. Before Sunrise(1995) is a nice enough story, but not nearly as compelling as it's sequel. Hawke and Delpy are shockingly young compared to their appearances in Sunset, and they are sweetly naive, optomistic, and invincible in a way that you are when you're young. They are charming in a way courting us with the intricacies of their courtship. It's a sweetly romantic film, but nothing too terribly special.

  I know the films were meant to be watched in order, before sun rise before sunset, but I think I valued the story of them as a whole more because I already knew how much the initial encounter has effected them , due to viewing Before Sunset first.  It was an accident on my part, but a happy one. I reccomend this film to anyone who has met someone very special they had to leave all too soon after just meeting them and spending very long time periods away from them, while yet thinking about them almost every day. It highlights just how rare and important those connections are, and underscores how valuable they are in life. They really don't happen all that often and when they do, you must really appreciate how lucky you are, even if only for a little while. And if you ever do get a second chance with "the one who got away" make sure they don't get away again.

Before Sunset 4 of 5

Before Sunrise 3 out of 5

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Should I Work For Free?

A friend of mine posted this on facebook, and I thought it was good enough to post over here for people who might just stumble upon my blog.  I know that as a young artist and animator a good way of getting established is by doing internships, and working on as many kinds of projects as you can to build skill sets. However I do get annoyed by people ( many of whom are not in the industry themselves) who think that art must just fall out of the sky , and expect the work they want done to be perfect, fast, and free.  I'm an artist, and I'm also a human being which means I have to put a roof over my head, food in my gut, and clothes on my back just to name a few basics. I love being an artist, and I've followed my dreams to get where I am and it's the only thing I ever really wanted to be since I was a little kid. I also deserve to be paid for my time, expertise, and insight into projects. So I wanted to share this with everyone on here who is considering what they should be paid, or indeed if at all.  

Remember if you are an artist you have value, and deserve to be paid a fair wage. Don't let people take advantage of your time, talents, and generosity. And if you aren't and artist then you should at least consider supporting living artists, after all Van Gogh doesn't have to worry about paying bills anymore, and because Hitler couldn't go to art school he ended up killing a whole lot of people.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Film Reviews: True Grit (dir Coen bros) and True Grit ( Henry Hathaway)

As the theatrical release of the Coen brother's remake of the 1969 film adaptation of True Grit is upon us, I thought I would take a moment to look closer at both works. I have to say I've seen the Coen bro's 2010 version now 3 times in a  week. It's an uncommon film which leaves one thinking about it  long after having seen it. The first thing I noticed about the Coen bros version is the use of language within the dialogue. Contractions  (we're, they're, I'll ..etc) are banned from the script, resulting in a very clipped manner of speaking which sounds formal and at the same time almost foreign.  This close attention to detail within dialogue lends authenticity to a story that in it's orginal form ( a novel by Charles Portis)
represents a narrative about charatcers who in addition to their roles within the book have been educated mainly by the Bible, or at the very least have been to church a lot. The other striking quality of the Coen bros film is quality of work. Every aspect is thoughtful, from the color scripting, to how the night scenes are filmed, sound design and score, not to mention the acting (which is superb).

"ohh let's find some where to sleep, I'm so tired it's so late"... broad daylight
Hailee Steinfield and Jeff Bridges as Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn in True Grit 2010
The same thing cannot be said about the 1969 Henry Hathaway version unfortunately.  In fact, I would say at some points, the film is down right careless.   The scene where Rooster Cogburn, Laboef, and Mattie are looking for a place to sleep, is filmed in broad daylight.  However the Coen's version of this scene is dark with the authenticity of night, almost so you only catch glimpses of action which makes watching the scene much more exciting.  The Henry Hathaway version stars  John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, who fails at playing the character of Cogburn, although he does succeed in playing an authentic version of John Wayne with an eye patch. The entire film is as contrary to the spirit of the book as it is possible to be without having huge choreographed dancing technicolor musical numbers. The book as well as the Coen bro's film is a work of sincerity, modesty, and adventure through the sense of duty, while the '69 version is almost reminiscent of a child's romp with old yeller, with production design a typical of the late 1960's. Kim Darby who plays the role of child heroine Mattie Ross has a Twiggy-esque hair cut and wears a bright tangerine dress, thoroughly unsuitable for the time period and the message of the film. Her acting is almost equally as distasteful. Darby comes off as incredibly naive, demanding, slightly prissy and bitchy.

In the modern release Hailee Steinfield plays Mattie Ross to great satisfaction. She posseses a wisdom and determination uncommon in a girl who is actually 14. Steinfield gives gravity to her role which is combination with everything else makes for a  wonderful film. I don't want to give too much away, so all I will say is go see it.
True Grit (2010) 5 out of 5
True Grit (1969) don't bother

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hand Animation

Finished up the trace on this shot of character animation. It's part of a larger scene, so in the film it will make more sense in context. I have to say hands are really strange things. They are like little characters all in their own right. I've always had trouble, like a lot of artists drawing hands, so I was really excited to approach this particular scene as a challenge.

Hand Trace 02 from rory animates on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Film Reviews: The Fighter (dir David O. Russell)

       So it occurred to me that I watch an ungodly amount of movies. It's not an unusual day when I watch two or three sometimes four films.  I partly watch films because I consider myself a film maker, animation being my chosen medium.  So I am one of the privileged who can say legitimately that I watch films as research.  But I started watching films because of my dad. He was a major classics buff and made damn sure that I was brought up with good taste. His favorite actress to this day is Greta Garbo (Ninotchka) , and refers to her as "the Face of the Century".  I also feel like in certain ways, we connect through film as films take place of shared experiences as a society. So I should probably spew my opinion of some of the films out onto the inter-webs because that seems to be the new shared consciousness.

     So today I watched The Fighter Directed by David O. Russell starring Mark Walberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams. At first the film starts out leading us down the path to believe that what we are watching is the come back documentary of Christian Bale's character Dick Eklund, however the plot thickens and we are privy to an intensely dysfunctional family dynamic that has Walberg's charatcer's (Micky Ward) boxing career being sold short to make a fast dime for "the Family".  Aside from the harsh reality of how "the family" is portrayed the rest of the film is some what predictable, although satisfying in it's predictability. The audience knows Micky has to triumph in the end, however the journey to this inevitable triumph is what makes the story interesting. The conflict of interests between Micky's mother and his career  forces the question where personal responsibility ends,  boundaries begin to confront the necessity of personal growth and autonomy. The rest of the film is almost as predictable as a live action Disney movie. The only redeeming quality of the film lay in its creative camera work, sound design and editing. Script was not it strong point, although the dialogue had a natural bantering quality at moments that added to it's realism. In one scene at a bar the family is chattering away in a lively manner while Walberg's character sits quietly to the side enjoying their company from a modest distance. The body language subtly indicates that his character is ready to move on, he just hasn't been given the opportunity at this point. The Fighter is the happy Hollywood version of 2008's The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke which was more emotionally realistic in it's stark view of life for a "one trick pony".  I recommend The Fighter for guys who have girlfriend's who owe them favors, boxing enthusiasts every where, as well as people who love complicated family dynamics in their dramas.
3 out of 5

Next up both True Grit(s) as soon as I can watch the 1968 John Wayne version without falling asleep.

On a personal note I'm still working on ideas for the Book, and animating like a crazy person. More art stuff soon, and maybe even a line test! ooh you lucky bastards

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Concept Paintings for Sing a Little Song the Book

As promised  here are the scans from the first of the concept paintings for the book. I'm still in the early brainstorming stages so comments as always are welcome as well as ideas. All paintings are also at my etsy store
Thanks for looking!