Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thoughts on the MachinExpo 2010 Jury Nominees

I heart the Machinexpo.  Its got smarts, variety and edginess but lacks the attitude you might find elsewhere.  Its a great way to see new things or to see old things in a new way.  So when their jury film selections are released I get all excited.  16 films selected this year.  The majority of the selections are under 10 minutes and I managed to watch 3/4 of the selections in 2 hours.   So without further ado, heres my thoughts on the jury nominees...and as always these are just my opinions (which are seemingly often overly critical).  Your thoughts are welcome.

Unheimliche by Pierre Gaudillere - Im completely unaware of the creators intent here.  Based on my experiences this felt like a fan film or perhaps even a teaser for Limbo (the video game).  Little info in the credits as to what was used (perhaps it was limbo or perhaps Little Big Planet) or what it means.  Shadow profile looked cool but felt like a buildup to something more interesting.  The most esoteric of the bunch this year.  

Rod Pulsar - Terra by Rod Pulsar - No less than 10 seperate video games were used in this techno music will save the world flick.  Very well made, lovely to look at, clever premise.  In the end, I dont like techno music and the process of reading the subs kept me a bit distanced.

The Big Event by Jorge - I have voiced my positive opinion on this one elsewhere.  Razor sharp dialog and a tight focused story.  Perhaps lacks the visual bells and whistles of some of the other nominees but is more than competently put together. Excellent.  

That Girl Stole My Nick at the Voom Hotel by Luca Lisci - Snow Crash meets Lydia Lunch in easily the most bizzare Expo offering Ive seen.  An interesting portrayal of what I wildly imagine a 2nd life sex show to be like (though I realize its probably not).  At the beginning I was bewildered and by the end I had it figured as mostly genius.  I really liked the carnival vibe music that ends in an eerie, somber er...release.

W.B. Yeats - An Irish Airman forsees his death by Russell Boyd - A short Flight-Sim based, reading of a Yeats poem.   Nothing jumped out at me as particularly noteworthy though the ending is very nice.  I wonder if I'm missing something that hooks others either through knowledge of the  poem or the methods used in flight sim machinima.

A Woman's Trial by Chantal Harvey - One for the ladies.  Theres some nice inventive camera work focusing on the Eiffel tower.  However, once the sisters of the audience were formally addressed I felt a bit um..alienated.  But thats just me.

Major League Azeroth by John Hsu - Frenetic and crazy like a Japanese game show but still had me thinking about fast forwarding at times (perhaps it's a bit too long).  Would be interesting to see a "making of", as theres so much going on in this one but outside of the pacing, the effects and the howdtheydothat?? factor it failed to grab me.

Order of Madness by Eugene Tan - A modern war movie with a compelling description.  Some of the scenes were wonderful depicting war machines at their most sleek and destructive but I thought that the effect of jumping around between the shooter P.O.V. (with that rigid gun arm)  and the 3rd person perspective was at times rather jarring.  About half way through, OoM presents a compelling scenario where the protagonist uses all means necessary to stay alive.  It is a unique moment (at least for me) for this type of film.  I simultaneously hated and loved the way it made me feel and think.  Unfortunately, I felt that the last third of the movie was very confusing and failed to build upon that moment.   

Moonlighter by Igor Tkachenko - Exceptional animations (best Ive seen in Iclone).  Technically wonderful.  A cute scenario but feels a bit thin on content.

Dagon - HP  Lovecraft by Lainy Voom - Excellent and creepy.  Voom's distinctive style cuts out or alters much of the more goofy looking 2nd life animations and instead relies upon sets of slightly animated stills (if that makes any sense).  The style reminds me of an old TMU flick from Trewill7 about a serial killer and a tree (it featured AND I believe).  Anywho, great visuals, creepy stuff.  On par with her own The Dumb Man (one of my personal machinima faves).  A frontrunner I would bet.

gEISHA by Krish Spyker - Another distinctive 2nd life style.  Dirty, gritty, adult themed.  Very good.  Interesting both in its style and its point (and I have little doubt that there is indeed a point).

Clockwise Part 1 by Amorphous Blob Productions - Half Life noir.  Not quite as fun for me as Shelf Life (2009 Expos excellent Half Life Jury selection) but very smooth and very enjoyable.  Great VO performance from Ricky Grove.

Breathe 2 "Its a wonderful 2nd Life" by samlowry - A tour of great second life locations.  Well made, inspiring and a call for more creativity and less capitalism.    I'm a little torn on what this has created; it is after all just a tour of locations and perhaps a bit of promotion. Not so much a story or an idea but a nicely executed location tour.  

Out in the Cold by Legs I - A fine Xmasy WoW flick but I felt like I was missing some back-story that perhaps exists in the framework of the game (which I don't play) or barring that, in fairy and goblin xmas lore.

Success Begets Success by Freeta Kayo - A documentary about a man with a brain injury who finds inspiration and more in 2nd Life.  Its an inspiring story told (IMO) in a somewhat bland and unfocused manner.  Is more interested in the social environment of machinima than in the movie making aspects which is fine but hard to compare to the other nominees.  And I feel like a jerk for not liking it.

The Ills of Silence by Walvince - A complex espionage/thriller made in MovieStorm (French I believe w/ English subs).  Complex and a bit confusing at times but hugely original and stylish.  I found myself confused at times due to not understanding if there were cultural customs at work or a changed/imagined future society at work.  The animations at times were called upon to get something across that didnt always come (all the time spent staring at the "deaf" man didn't always convey the isolation I think it was supposed to).  A bit of a downer but worth the watch.

This is a pretty good collection of varied machinima flicks. I have gripes and personal opinions about many of them but an argument could certainly be made about any one of these being the big winner.  My favorites are The Big Event, That Girl Stole my Nick, Dagon and gIESHA with Dagon being my most probable to win and Big Event being the Underdog (ala ClockWork from last year).  I am surprised to see three 2nd Life flicks as my faves.  Perhaps some further thoughts on this in the future.

Today I looked back at my thoughts on last years Expo.  Interesting to compare to this years if your into that type of thing.