Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Machinima Expo - Some Jury Film Comments

The 2009 Machinima Expo takes place in second life this Sunday with multiple events, screenings and the winners of the Jury Prize and Asian Jury Prize.  I spent a lot of time recently watching some of these films and here are some of my thoughts..

The jury films can be broken up into two categories; the artsy films (9, Transient, AM-Radio, Push) and the story based films (Cafe Insomniac, Clear Skies, Clockwork, Death in Venice, Saving Grace, The Orchard).  Outside of this was Taste the Cake which is a music video about the game, Portal, and Twilight of the Gods which could be considered a story based film but the story is so thin that it feels (to me) more like an extensive flight sim tech demo.  

Noting the dominant platform used in the film,  there are 4 Moviestorm films (Cafe Insomniac, ClockWork, Death in Venice, Saving Grace), 2 Second Life films (AM Radio, Push), 3 Half Life2 films (Clear Skies2, Shelf Life, Taste the Cake), 1 WoW film (The Orchard), 1 TM flick (Transience), 1 IL2 flick (TotG) and one that Im not entirely sure of (9).  Its a bit dissapointing that no Iclone flicks were selected though my favorite Iclone film, Lizard's Coming Home was selected for screening.

Here are the films:

9 by Claus-Dieter Schulz - Akin to watching a collidascope set to music.  Too esoteric for me personally.  It would have probably been more impressive if I had any background on the how/what/why but without this info I found this one lacking.  As an aside I did a little research and found this:  Like I said, it does seem a lot more interesting when theres some background accompanying the flick.  

:transient” by Sisch - I remember watching this about a year ago.  At the time many of The Movies people were considering using outside editing software on our movies and this was a highly touted example of such things.  Its funny that outside editing was such a big deal to us old TMOers not so long ago.  Anywho, I paid a lot of attention to the technical aspect of the film and failed to just watch the movie.  Coming back to it I was highly impressed at how well this holds up compared to the other art films selected for the jury.  Great music.  Very cool movie.

“AM Radio – Second Life – HD” by Pyewacket Bellman - Another esoteric one but this time full of images and things and places that I can relate to (at least on the surface).  Definitely beautiful things to look at and perhaps there is a hint of story here but I found myself wanting more than a hint and thinking about what else could be done with all these crazy places and things.

“Cafe Insomniac” by Hardy Capo - I need to revisit.

Clear Skies 2 by Ian Chisholm - I will have to come back to this when I have 45 minutes to dedicate to a machinima film.  I saw the first Clear Skies at a Machinima Fest in NYC last year.  Seeing it live on a big screen with a crowd of people was actually not an optimal experience for me.  I was preoccupied with watching the people attending and there were other things happening (a forum discussion in another part of the room) and the sound was inferior to the headphone experience.  As such I wasn't all that impressed.  The exterior scenes all felt like a video game and it felt pretty long to me. I will try to give this the attention it needs (soon) as many people have raved about it.   And many people cant be wrong..hehe.

Clockwork by IceAxe - Heres one that I forgot just how good it was.  The strength here is the environment that is created.  A V for Vendetta/Clockwork Orange world that is so real you can touch it. Put together through colinear peeks into various phases of that life (the robotic radio - a definite V influence eh, the govt sequence, the droogs, the police).  It really is effective and soo stylish to boot (that scene of the gang walking along the edge with all its high contrast is very very nice).  A strong contender me thinks.  

”Death in Venice” by Kate Lee & Sherwin Liu - I need to revisit.

”Push” by Lainy Voom - The odds on favorite to win in my book.  Beyond polished and way too cool.  If I saw this in a commercial break I would sit up scratch my head and hit the rewind button on my dvr.  What does it mean?  Who knows.  Who cares.  Its fun and interesting to watch like some kind of complex cartoon mousetrap device.  If you haven't seen it yet let me assure you that you can find two minutes of your life to watch it.

”Saving Grace by Sisch - Will need to revisit.

Shelf Life by James Spencer and Jon Sortland - This one was a revelation to me (I'm not so very up on the latest and best releases).  Cinematic and very eerie.  Pulled me in and left me wanting more (Shelf Life 2 will premeire very soon).  Ended up reminding me a bit of Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness".  I have been playing HalfLife2 a good bit recently so I am aware of the world they have to work with and this still felt fresh and inventive.  Still, I think the restrictions inherant in the engine/platform will keep it from taking home the win.  For example, the creation of Push is constrained only (well mostly) by the imagination while Shelf Life is a very good story acted out in a premade environment.  Eh, perhaps this makes no sense.  Regardless, I will definitely be in line to see part 2.  Very good flick.

”Taste the Cake” by Ray Koefoed - A fun, well made music video about the game Portal with very original music to boot.  Its the only jury film that could be considered Comedy.  It probably wouldn't have made my list of 12 (lacks something to really push it over the top and felt like a commercial for the game) but its definitely very good.  

The Orchard by Dan Ross - A world of warcraft flick that is attempting a little bit of fairy tale horror but ends up feeling awkward because of the character cartoony looks and some of the mildly awkward and limited animations.  This is the first WoW film I have watched and I suppose the land of fairies and orks just isn't my thing as yet. 

“Twilight of the Gods” by Jan KopÅ™iva - A WWII aviation flick with loads of very very cool air combat footage and very little else (in what was approximately a 12 minute film).  There are little snippets of story here and there (the nurse, the germans, the Saving Private Ryan ending) but overall it felt like a very long tech demo to me.

Im hoping to rewatch Death in Venice, Saving Grace and Cafe Insomniac soon as well as watching Clear Skies 2.  Also hoping to get around to the Asian Jury films this weekend.  Might try to post again about these and some of the screened films as well in the next day or so.  Saw a mountaineering GTA flick I'm just itching to talk about..hehe.


  1. I've watched them all.
    I have to say I'm pleased that 'Coming Home' wasn't a jury contender.
    I found it sterile, cold, and downright derivative. But what do I know?

    The Asian Jury films are a joy. Have fun.

  2. I've watched them all, too, and I'm very excited about coming sunday - I wouldn't want to lay bets... so many great, and very diverse movies to choose from!

  3. Love the capsule reviews. Being on this list is fantastic! Machinima is evolving rapidly and we are part of it. :D