Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ottawa animation fest's best delivers diverse cartoon party

IT'S not a good sign when an animator fails to close a film festival entry, desperately submits a roughly cobbled-together one-minute doo-dad titled Sorry Film Not Ready, and it still manages to get included on the annual best-of collection.

Auspiciously, the program of a dozen animated shorts culled from the 2010 Ottawa International Animation Festival does contain films of more work-intensive value. None of the films are on the list of this year's Oscar candidates either, but one film from last year's festival Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage is a 2010 Oscar nominee, so most probably some of the films on this year's program may be chosen for 2011.

My individual picks from the 14:

-- Little Deaths, an erotic doc-toon by Ruth Lingford, offers up some sumptuous, occasionally abstract images over the voices of various people effecting to explain what orgasm feels like.

-- Midtown Twist is a deftly satiric, jazzy representation of Manhattan commerce from animator Gary Leib.

-- Angry Man, from Norway, is a moving but frightening short employing storybook-like cut-outs to depict a little boy's fear and confusion at the spectacle of his father's violent rages. A dog and a flock of strange birds compel him to reveal shameful family secrets, and free his family from the oppression of bad temper.

-- Love & Theft, a German work by Andreas Hykade, is an elegant vision (if such a thing is possible) in which one cartoon face morphs into another. The "theft" in the title may refer to faces that look something like copyright-protected figures such as Micky Mouse, Donald Duck, Betty Boop, Spider-Man and Spongebob Squarepants morphing into Karl Marx and Hitler, among many, many others. This is simple (but subversive) animation at its best.

-- The External World from David O'Reilly is a grand prize-winning, retro-computer animation featuring a assortment of pretty hilarious sight gags incorporating prehistoric video-game imagery, bloody slapstick and just plain rude behavior.

The Best of the Ottawa International Animation Festival plays at Cinematheque until Thursday, Feb. 24.


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