The Minneapolis Indie Xpo is no more.
The one-day show celebrating independent comics and Midwest cartoonists was launched in 2010. In a letter to supporters, Festival Director Sarah Morean said that after taking a hiatus, organizers have decided to put and end to the festival "for reasons unrelated to the show's success."
By all accounts, MIX was an enormous success and stood every chance of growing still. Let that be encouragement for any future comics fans or would-be organizers who might consider starting a new show of their own in our absence.
We certainly did our best -- in partnership with many great artists, partners and sponsors -- to create an attractive, well-run and high-quality showcase of independent comics for the city of Minneapolis. We increased attendance from 1000 to 2200 in one year, by extending the show to two days and heightening awareness of comics and our festival through ongoing promotions and partnerships. We provided high-quality programming which will continue to be archived on our site and YouTube page (stay tuned for future additions). Also, we created an environment that invited more Midwesterners to encounter exclusively indie comics, sometimes for the first time, on their own home turf.
We continue to believe in comic books, their independent creators, and this city which without a doubt has a love for them.
We will do our best to continue to connect the public here to the greater Minnesota comics community by sharing comics-related news and events through our Facebook and Twitter accounts, for as long as it is possible to do so. Feel free to alert us of an opportunity to share your comics-related events.
You can read more about the comics expo here.
This is the time of year many Minnesota film fan anticipate as much as the coming of spring: the unveiling of the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival schedule.
The festival runs April 12th through May 3rd this year, primarily at the St Anthony Main theaters in Minneapolis, but with some screenings at the historic Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.
Now to be completely candid, as of this moment the films and the time they are screened are listed on the MSPIFF website but the full schedule is not there yet. A downloadable schedule is promised soon.
However MSPIFF Executive Director Susan Smoluchowski, and Programming Director Jesse Bishop gave a rundown of some of the highlights the other day.
The festival will open with "The Intouchables" a controversial French comedy about a man paralyzed from the neck down and his unlikely friendship with a man recently released from prison. The movie is the second highest grossing film in France of all time.
The opening weekend also includes the latest from director Fred Schepisi (Last Orders, Six Degrees of Separation, Roxanne) called "Eye of the Storm." The director will introduce the film.
Also Saturday the 14th has been declared Milgrom Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the U Film Society by Al Milgrom, which in turn spawned the MSPIFF. In addition to a number of screenings there will be a party with special music guest Willie Murphy.
The festival includes a focus on the Middle East, including the closing film from Lebanon "Where do we go now?" the hit at the Toronto International Film Festival from the director of "Caramel" Nadine Labaki.
There will also be a focus on music, including "King for 2 days" which was shot in Minneapolis a couple of years ago during the Walker Art Center's celebration of drummer Dave King. He will play at the Astor Cafe after the film. The new Andrew Bird film is also on the docket, as is the world premier of a new documentary "The Entertainers" on the best ragtime piano players in the country. For that show several of the musicians will be present, as will a piano.
Susan Smoluchowski pointed out three panels during the weekends of the festival. First up will be a discussion on Sunday 15th at noon entitled "Muslims and the Media" featuring US Representative Keith Ellison and documentary director Daniel Tutt who's "Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World" will screen both at MSPIFF and on PBS this summer
During the second weekend directors Peter Raymont, and Steve Ascher will discuss "The Doc and the Artist" during a panel on directing documentaries and particularly about filming artists.
The final weekend will be a panel Conversations with Minnesota Feature directors.
There's lots, lots more in the schedule and it's well worth a scan.
Most of the Oscar news we read earlier this week was about The Help, or The Artist, or Hugo, so you're forgiven if you didn't notice the winner for short animated film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
The film is a charming homage to the joy of reading, your local library and the secret lives of books. It was inspired in part by Buster Keaton, Hurricane Katrina, the Wizard of Oz, and children's books publisher William Morris.
Yet it only takes fifteen minutes to enjoy:
Interestingly enough, while the film obviously praises the physical book, it also has an iPad app, where you can interact with the story. In a story for the LA Times co-creator William Joyce said "There was some trepidation about doing the app -- we didn't want to kill the thing we love -- but at the same time we thought, 'This new technology could very well be a way to help save publishing. But we're not sure. Let's dive in and see.'"
Sean Ohlenkamp and his wife were reorganizing the books on their shelves one day when they got inspired:
After having so much fun with their own book collection, they took it to the next step, paying a visit to TYPE bookstore in Toronto. The results are charming:
Ohlenkamp jokes that he's now looking for volunteers to help him take on the Library of Congress...
An announcement about the forthcoming "Animinneapolis" event arrived via Twitter today. The big event will be held in Bloomington June 29 - July 1, 2012.
Aimed at fans of Japanese animation it will feature screenings of classic anime and the latest offerings, chances to meet the top voice-over specialists who lend their talents to dubbing stories fresh from Asia, and of course there is the chance to dress up as a favorite character.
Of course there are rules, and the Animinneapolis folks have already posted them. Frankly they kind of make you think. And wonder...
Please behave responsibly while at the convention. Remember you are representing the convention, the entire Minneapolis anime community, and every other attendee. Be considerate of all guests, attendees, and AniMinneapolis staff.
Any violation of rules can result in the suspension of membership privileges to the convention. You may be asked to leave, and in extreme cases you may be asked to never return. In addition, any attendee found breaking state or federal law will be reported and suspended from the convention. We reserve the right to determine what is and is not acceptable, and we may revise the code of conduct at anytime without notice.
"You break it, you buy it." If you damaged, deface, or otherwise break any equipment you are to pay for a replacement out of your own pockets.
If you win any prizes but are not present during the allotted time limit, the prize may be handed down to your follow up. Please consider checking your cellphone and in Con Ops regularly, and be aware of when the prizes will be handed out.
Masquerade department staff members may be allowed to participate in one cosplay event during the whole convention. Staff members may be pulled out if help is needed elsewhere, however. Staff can not win any awards during the Cosplay Masquerade.
Anyone found willfully damaging another individual's costume or harassing another cosplayer, will be ejected from the convention and likely prosecuted.
(Image courtesy Wikipedia, Photo taken by: Alton Thompson, 2009)(1 Comments)
Sculptor Natalie Djurberg has produced a gigantic and uncomfortably human flock of birds.
Photo courtesy Walker Art Center
Atmospheric music fills the room, interspersed with what might be nature sounds. The birds are so brightly colored, it's overwhelming at first. Each is intricately textured, and ripe for interpretation.
"When I was starting doing the sculptures, the more I looked at birds, and the more I looked at their behavior, some of their behavior so resembled human behavior and emotions," she says.
Some of the birds strut with pride, others bicker and fight. There are so many of them that Walker curator Eric Crosby finds them kind of intimidating.
"I mean the idea of the flock as a social group is that it has its own kind of consciousness, right?" he says. "One that is not about the individuals own ideas but about a collective that may bully and pester individuals, that may do violence to others. I think that's a theme that's running through the whole exhibition."
But remember these are sculptures, built from scraps of cloth and wire, and splashed with the paint still engrained in Natalie Djurberg's fingernails.
The installation includes not just sculpture, but some rather gorey animated films as well, with music composed by Hans Berg. You can find out more about the exhibition by clicking on the audio link below:
Todd Boss and Angella Kassube are on to something big.
Boss - a poet - and Kassube - a designer/animator - have created what they call "motionpoems." They're using poems as the scripts for animated shorts. The results are otherworldly:
It started out with just Kassube animating Boss' poetry, but it's expanding to something much bigger; they're connecting filmmakers with poets from around the world. Their goal is to increase the audience for poetry by turning them into compelling short films.
Up until now it's been a volunteer project, but Motionpoems has signed on to animate 12-15 poems to accompany Scribner's 2011 Best American Poetry anthology and is looking to pay participants a stipend for their work.
Euan Kerr reported on the Motionpoems project a while back - you can read that here.
You can see more poetry in motion here. What do you think? Are you a traditionalist, or do you think animating poetry in order to draw in a younger crowd is a good idea?(1 Comments)
In March, the Huntington Library in Pasadena opened an exhibition of the sculpture and animation of John Frame. His work is haunting, beautiful, and dreamlike, which makes perfect sense since this latest project came from a dream. I've included three videos in the post - first, the animated film "Three Fragments of a Lost Tale", second, a video of the making of the sculptures and animation (filmed by Johnny Coffeen), and third a story by Southern California Public Radio which includes images from the exhibition. Enjoy!2 Comments)
Miwa Matreyek creates performances where real shapes and virtual images trade places, amid layers of animation, video and live bodies. Using animation, projections and her own moving shadow, Miwa Matreyek performs a gorgeous, meditative piece about inner and outer discovery. The piece Matreyek performed at TEDGlobal 2010 is an abridgement of the work "Myth and Infrastructure." Take a quiet 10 minutes and dive in. With music from Anna Oxygen, Mirah, Caroline Lufkin and Mileece.
Somewhere you get the sense that the late great Chuck Jones is smiling. The creator of Daffy Duck and longtime Wile E. Coyote torturer would surely approve of Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud's hilarious "Despicable Me."
It's the story of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) a super-villain on a mission to steal the moon. It's never really explained what he'll do with the celestial body, but it certainly looks good as he rolls out the project to his assembled Minions in a manner not unlike Steve Jobs at an Apple sales meeting.
Actually Gru is facing what turns out to be a bigger challenge than mere lunar larceny. His claim to be the world's baddest bad-guy is being challenged by a Bill Gates-like super nerd usurper called Vector. Not only does Vector repeatedly out-villain Gru, he delights in humiliating the older criminal mastermind in a manner anyone who has spent time on an elementary school playground will recognize.
Complicating matters further is Gru's decision to adopt three girls from a local orphanage. He thinks they would be useful in his plan to undermine Vector, but as tends to happen in animated films, the girls have other plans.
There is plenty of slapstick, especially amongst the endless supply of accident prone and trigger-happy minions to keep young eyes interested (particularly in the 3D version.) There's also enough of an undercurrent of wry humor, old movie references, and winks at the trials of middle age and the dire economy to keep their attending adults engaged too. The film revels in its cliches, even putting cast and audience though a roller coaster ride just in case the 3D wasn't being tested enough.
The film is such fun, it makes one wonder whether Steve Carell's movie career might improve if he no longer actually appeared on screen, and just did voice work. It's just a thought.
It's gorgeous out. This is not a time for too much serious thinking. And so, for your pleasure, I present a little distraction. Third year CalArts film student Hyunjoo Song created this lovely alternate version of Red Riding Hood, and I think you'll find it quite charming.
Thanks to PBS' blog "Art Beat" for this chat with MoMA film curator Ron Magliozzi. You can read the whole post on the museum's retrospective of Tim Burton here.
"Logorama" (Image courtesy Shorts TV UK)
The nominees for the Short Animation Oscar are delightful (if a little on the dark side.) They will be screened starting this weekend at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis and the Zinema 2 in Duluth.
There's always a danger of spoilers in a post like this, so I will attempt to step lightly:
French entry "Logorama" hurls us into a bizarro world Los Angeles where trademarks and company logos have come to life. The cops are Michelin Men, the buildings are all corporate signs, and even cars take some corporate shape. When a well-known fastfood figure goes rogue, things get even crazier (and foul mouthed.) Just to add to the wackiness, the film is in English with French subtitles.
"Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty" from Ireland retells the fairy tale in a peculiarly wondrous way
Likewise "The Lady and the Reaper" from Spain presents a very modern take on what some people daintily call 'end of life issues.'
"French Roast" is another French entry, although curiously the director Fabrice Joubert worked with Nick Parks of Wallace and Gromit fame. Joubert casts a curious eye on the goings-on in a small Paris cafe.
And finally Parks, Wallace, and Gromit return in "A Matter of Loaf and Death," a half hour wild adventure involving yeast, windmills, and crocodiles.
Watching these movies allow us to see how animation has changed in recent years, and how it has attained incredible heights. It also shows how fierce the competition has become in this category. It's a win-win for animation lovers.
(You can get a taste of each film here)
For those of you who are waiting with baited breath for the release of the Luc Besson-scripted parkour thriller "District 13 Ultimatum," which opens in Minneapolis next week, here is a little video to ease your anticipatory pain. Parkour is sometimes defined as moving through space in interesting ways, and this seems to fit the bill.
Two of the 10 nominees for best picture have heavy Minnesota connections: "A Serious Man" and "Up." The former is the Coen Brothers' homage to life (although they claim not their own) in 1960's St Louis Park, and the latter is Bloomington native Pete Docter's animated exploration of old age, balloons, and to hear him tell it, Midwestern sensibilities.
Now of course we will get into our regular debate as to whether Minnesota can really claim people who have not lived here for years, but let's leave that aside for a while.
Both "A Serious Man" and "Up" are little cinematic gems and if the nominations get a few more people to see them it's no bad thing.
Of course, with 10 nominees, and with "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" in the mix, both of them have to be considered back in the pack, despite their great merits.
The same sadly is true for "Coraline," up for the best animated feature award, which is based on the gloriously creepy novella by Neil Gaiman, who tells people he lives in Minneapolis in part I believe to avoid having to explain he's really living in Wisconsin near the Twin Cities. "Coraline" was one of the first in the new wave of 3D movies which really uses the extra dimension to enhance the storyline. However it's up against Pixar's "Up," Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Secret of Kells."
A similar writerly connection links Minnesota and "Up in the Air" which is based on a novel written Walter Kirn who hails from Stillwater. (H/T Curtis Wenzel.)
One other local connection is St Paul native Joe Chisholm who masterminded the clandestine operation needed to get images of a dolphin slaughter which is chronicled in the controversial film "The Cove," which is nominated in the best documentary category.
In the same category "Food Inc." an exploration of the impact of factory farming on the health of consumers, was producer by Minneapolis native Bill Pohlad.
Update: Lucinda Winter at the Minnesota Film and Television Board points out another two we should mention:
1. ART DIRECTION, MAKE-UP, COSTUME DESIGN (3): YOUNG VICTORIA (Apparition is the US distributor, Bill Pohlad is a partner with Bob Berney in Apparition)
2. COSTUME DESIGN - BRIGHT STAR (Apparition is distributor, Bill Pohlad is a partner with Bob Berney in Apparition)
The Movie Maven and I were looking for other vague Minnesota connections. She came up with the fact that "The Hurt Locker" star Jeremy Renner was in "North Country" the Charlize Theron vehicle about sexual harrassment on the Iron Range. And of course "Crazy Heart" writer/director Scott Cooper, says he learned the importance of story while working on "Bill's Gun Shop" in the Twin Cities.
What is remarkable is the number of people from these films who have been on the MPR airwaves over the past months. We've had Peter Docter, members of the cast from "A Serious Man," and "Up in the Air" writer/director Jason Reitman.
We had writer director Oren Moverman talking about "The Messenger," which snagged a best original screenplay nomination (and a best supporting actor nod for Woody Harrelson.) We had writer/director Armando Iannucci talking about "In the Loop" which is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. There is also an interview with Christophe Barratier director of "Paris 36" which scored a nomination for best song.
And then in the longest Minnesota stretch ever, we should mention Helen Mirren, who is nominated for Best Actress for "The Last Station" She has a tattoo on her thumb, which she recently declared she hates because as she told Good Morning America "I decided to get a tattoo because it was the most shocking thing I could think of doing. Now I'm utterly disgusted and shocked because it's become completely mainstream, which is unacceptable to me."
And where did she get that tattoo? Many years ago while travelling through Minnesota.
The Floating Mountains of Pandora, just one of the wonders of "Avatar" (Images courtesy 20th Century Fox)
I left "Avatar" scratching my head a little. The movie is breathtaking. Director James Cameron and his crew have created a stunningly beautiful film, filled with images of fantastic animals, and incredible landscapes. For people of my age they conjure fond memories of the Roger Dean illustrations on Yes albums from the 1970s. What's more the visual feast just keeps coming at you for almost three hours and in 3D too.
The headscratcher is for all the money spent on this film, hundreds of millions reportedly, why wasn't some of that money spent on creating a better story?
It starts out with such promise: a marine who uses a wheelchair after some vaguely defined incident in his past finds himself transported to another world. He's there because he has the same genetic make-up as his scientist brother who trained to be an avatar driver to explore this planet, but was murdered. The avatars are very expensive and built specifically for each driver, so it's a lucky break for the human explorers to find someone who can take over the job.
Thus the grunt finds himself reborn inside the 10 foot tall body of a Na'vi warrior, complete with blue skin and a tail. He sets off and soon finds himself caught between the mining company from Earth desperate to get at the minerals under the Na'vi's sacred sites, and the Na'vi who he grows to respect and love.
It's not that the "Avatar" plot doesn't hold together. It's just predictable. Perhaps huge battle scenes are inescapable in movies like this, but it would have so wonderful to have them come up with some other way of dealing with the conflict. Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" deals with many of the same issues as "Avatar" and came up with a much more novel solution to the conflict.
This is the second time in recent months that a movie with incredible visuals has been lacking a spectacular script. "9" suffered the same fate, although at a much smaller cost.
"Avatar" is definitely worth seeing, on as large a screen as possible, and preferably in 3D. But it's tantalizing to think about what might have been. And maybe that's just what we have to hope for in the future.
The New Zealand Book Council clearly has no interest in those who claim the days of the book are numbered. The council is going to the mat with this TV spot. (Click on the box to the right of the volume control at the bottom to make it full-screen.)
While there is always danger in doing what amounts to readers work for them, this packs a punch.
The other night when I went to see "9." I spent a few minutes talking with a couple of fine gentlemen from Canada about getting the shakes in a movie house.
The Canadians were Philippe Roy ands Guy Marcoux, who both work with D-Box, a company which makes chairs designed to make movie watching, and video-game playing, what Philippe calls an immersive experience.
I was at the Theaters at the Mall of America, one of only seven multiplexes nationwide to feature D-Box seats.
Basically what happens is when something shakes, rumbles, or even explodes on the screen you feel it through your D-Box. Philippe says after the introduction of Surround Sound in theaters, making your seat part of the action was the next step.
The idea is to link a mechanical system in the chair to what is happening on screen. Guy says this is done through a code created by a motion designer.
"A what?" I asked.
"It's like a sound designer, except it's for motion," he said with a smile. They described how the motion designer watches a move frame by frame to create the code which is fed into the chairs as the film rolls. It's only been done with a few titles: "The Fast and the Furious," "Terminator Salvation" "Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince," and "The Final Destination." Now "9" becomes the first animated film to get the D-Box treatment.
Being of that age, I brought up how I had seen "Earthquake" back in 1974. I was convinced that this had been a similar mechanical system all those years ago.
Philippe looked mildly pained as he explained that system depended on banks of sub woofer speakers mounted at the front of a theater, pumping out low frequency sounds. I remember even now how the sensation was quite frightening. Every time a shock hit in the film, your knees started shaking.
The D-Box is much more sophisticated. Watching "9" it was quite remarkable how small movements on screen caused your chair to react. They were actually much more effective than the moments when the action on-screen became very violent. Good sense and insurance companies mean a seat can only whip around so much when while the characters were being thrown across the landscape. So the immersive experience didn't match the visual and the magic dimmed a little.
You'll pay a premium to sit in a D-Box. At the MOA Theater they are $16.50 as opposed to the $9.50 for the plain old stationary seats. However you can buy a D-Box seat for home use, either with your DVD or game system. There are even ways of converting certain existing seats to the immersive experience.
Actually, you can try it out for free. There's a demo chair outside the theater at the MOA.
I must admit I was intrigued by the D-Box, but I think I'd want to carefully select the next movie I see with it, to maximize the effect.
Has anyone else tried them? Let us know your reactions.
Posted at 6:22 PM on September 9, 2009
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Animation
9 and 2 go exploring in '9' (Image courtesy Focus Features)
There has been a great deal of excitement about the release of "9" the sumptuous animated adventure by Shane Acker which opens today. For those of you who don't follow these things closely, that's "9" released on 09/09/09. Clever, hunh?
(Last night's preview screening was meant to start at 9.09 pm, but that's a whole other story.)
The film is visually fantastic. Aker sets a group of robotic ragdolls loose in a post apocalyptic landscape which is terrifyingly beautiful.
Our heroes, who have numbers from 1 to 9 rather than names are made from leftovers: pieces of sackcloth, old garden gloves and electronic bits and bobs. Yet somehow they have learned the basics of walking and talking, as well as a great deal about emoting, particularly about bravery and fear.
These ragtag humanoids have a lot more personality than many actors we see on screen today, and they need all their grit and guts as they battle horrific monsters constructed from more malevolent cast-offs, usually including several large blades.
Sadly the visual spectacle is draped around a flimsy plot. It's unfortunate because the animation is so good you want the film to succeed. I will be watching for Aker's work in the future, but "9" doesn't hold up.
Special effects producer Bruce Branit created this short film, which is now getting its own legs. "WorldBuilder" is a sweet little story that revolves around the notion of what we might be able to create in a virtual world.
Imagine yourself the city planner, architect, decorator and gardener for your own virtual neighborhood. What would you build?(1 Comments)
This is not a new upload to YouTube, but still one I find captivating. Take a tour through 500 years of portraits of women, and notice the themes that emerge. There's the importance of the gaze, the only ever-so-slight smile, and the tilting of the head. Looks like those painters liked their women as elusive as they were beautiful...(1 Comments)
Mineapolis-based Barrie D'Rozario Murphy (BD'M) received top honors for three of its video creations at a recent competition hosted, in part, by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Two of the short animated films were advertisements for United Airlines ("sea orchestra" is above, the "heart" ad can be found here).
In addition, a 30-minute film created for Chambers Art Hotel in Minneapolis was also recognized for creative marketing. It features what appears to be surveillance video of hotel rooms and other corners of the building (personally I like the couple swing dancing in their room, best, although the woman feeding the sheep is restful). To see a clip that features samples of the Chambers surveillance camera shots, visit the BD'M website, go to "new work" and look under "brand experiences."
The Show's winning entries initially will be screened at MoMA, and then will go on tour across the U.S., including a stop in Minneapolis later this year. Once the tour ends, the 2009 Show winners will become part of MoMA's permanent film collection.(1 Comments)
I stumbled across this lovely little video on vimeo.com - I like how even in a world of high-tech animation, such simple imagery can still be compelling when done elegantly.