Search form

AWN Blogs


Annecy’s Love Affair with Paper Airplanes

Ask yourself,” What happens when you get hundreds if not thousands of animators in a theater before a screening- with a few minutes on their hands?”

The answer: Paper Airplanes!!!

The object is to see if you can create a flying vessel that will guide all the way to the stage of the main theater at Annecy.

And…if others take up a supportive role in your efforts to reach the stage- that’s okay…because it’s Annecy!

Everyone in the audience joins in- whether you are the great Italian animator Bruno Bozetto (70 plus years) or a wide eyed student in attendance at the world series of animation.

What do you expect from all those animators who are given sheets of paper before the screenings.


Wet Rats

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 8:28am

Why can't they make a feature cartoon about rodents without sending them into the sewers via the kind of ride you'd pay money for at a water park (without the turds, of course), i.e. Stuart Little - Flushed Away and now Ratatouille? (Oops, it hasn't opened yet, gave that one away. I better not tell you he meets Harry Lime down there and becomes his partner in an animated sequel to The Third Man entitled Harry and Me.)


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Comic Books (But Not The Superhero Variety)

With GHOST RIDER arriving on DVD and FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER hitting theaters this week, I thought it would be nice to spotlight comic books for This Weekend's Film Festival. However, with GHOST RIDER getting panned and F4 2 looking not much better than its awful predecessor, I thought it was an even better idea to bring attention to good films based on comic books. But when I began thinking about it, a lineup of SPIDER-MAN and BATMAN films didn't get me excited. Then I thought of graphic novels. And this idea led me to graphic novels that do not feature superheroes. There have been some great films in the past few years that have been based on graphic novels, some of which don't even have anything to do with action.


Separated at birth 1

"Hammy" in Over the Hedge, and "Twitchy" in Hoodwinked.

The winner: Hammy, as the film switches into bullet time to travel with a seemingly normal Hammy while the rest of the world is froze-frame stationary. Which brings us to...

"Hammy" in Over the Hedge and "Fry" in Futurama, "Three Hundred Big Boys"

The winner: Philip J. Fry, saving his slo-mo friends from a fiery demise thanks to 100 cups of 31st century coffee. Also, his heroic feat aired in 2003, three years prior to OTH's premiere. (Hmmm...)


A cool video about the Animation Festival at Annecy

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Here is a very cool webcast from Annecy 2006. It gives the flavor of the event along with some animation...their site:


Yes, I am NOT there this year- Annecy 2005 was my third time there- I am already planning to attend next year.

I love that festival and the town.

On Monday the films begin - in 2005, we attended 5 screenings - almost overload. Our last screening of the day was a Frederick Back retrospective what began at 11:00 p.m. at night in a venue in the old part of the city....amazing!


The power of The Force and 41 cents will get your letter mailed

Saw those 'Star Wars' stamps at the PO, featuring the real-life likenesses of (along with Alec Guiness) Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer and Harrison Ford. Excuse me, but I always heard that you had to be dead for ten years to get on a stamp.

Well, maybe the PO was looking at their careers.


Triumph of the Penguin Will

Not Chilly Willy, but that totalitarian dude Mumble. In last year's Oscar winner Happy Feet this guy waddles along and forces an entire penguin community to give up their generations-old tradition of covering a pop song to seduce a potential mate. Yes, individuality and free will are tossed off the ice floe so that they can all dance in absolute, fascistic lockstep. This is the message the Academy of MP A&S thinks worthwhile of conveying to our children? Well fie and fiddlesticks, I say! (Actually, I say 'fie and fiddlesticks' several times a day)

Seriously, am I the only one who had problems with this film? Mumble returns from his Quest to the Human World, and in about 30 seconds of screen time bends a few million exquisitely rendered digital penguins to his will. COMBINE singing and dancing like in an old-time musical, synthesizing the old and the new? I guess that idea never occurred to George Miller. That 10-second scene in the ice cave where Mumble converts his clinically-depressed dad to his cause? Phony, phony, phony; they probably realized it was time to wrap up the picture toot-sweet.



There is something primordial about the characters in REVENGE. A throw back to misogynistic conventions of men and women where men possessed a beautiful woman and valued loyalty between friends and respect over everything else. Director Tony Scott is a perfect fit for this testosterone filled story. Quentin Tarantino calls it his masterpiece, which I find a strong word, even if it is the director's best work that I've seen. The film works for two reasons 1) the actors make us believe in the characters and 2) the screenplay has no pretension to be anything more than what it was meant to be.

Jay Cochran (Kevin Costner, DANCES WITH WOLVES) has just retired as a pilot from the Navy. Years before he helped save the life of Tibby Mendez (Anthony Quinn, GUNS OF NAVARONE) on a hunting trip and they have been friends for years. Cochran goes to visit the rich older man at his Mexican estate where he meets his friend's young, gorgeous wife, Miryea (Madeleine Stowe, BAD GIRLS). Cochran knows that his friend is wrapped up in shady dealings, but doesn't care. Part of why he doesn't care is that he is reckless and a hot head, which leads to an uncontrollable attraction to his dangerous friend's wife. The opening sequence only hints at the violence to come when Tibby finds out.



Dear Friends:

For any of our animator friends who will be at Annecy please save Friday evening for ANNECY PLUS which I have programmed this year. The attached poster and press release gives all the details. If you are not part of our animation community you can skip this message.

Warm Regards,



Le Venitien Bar and Lounge Square de l’ Eveche
(by the canal, less than 500 meters from the Bon Lieu)


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Visual Effects

With the Visual Effects Society Festival this coming weekend, I thought it would be a great idea to center This Weekend's Film Festival on movies featured on the VES' 50 most influential visual effects films list. The lineup comes from a sampling of four-star films from across the list. I selected one film from the first ten films on the list then another one from the next ten films and so on.

What struck me when I looked over the complete list of 50 films (which you can find here) is that for the most part they're all good films. The list does seem to skew toward recent visual effects accomplishments, but it doesn't leave out many of the obvious landmark achievements of yesteryear. Many of the films are some of the greatest entertainments of all time. So does this mean that great visual effects only appear in great films or is it that we only remember the great visual effects if they are in great films?


CITIZEN KANE (1941) (****)

Widely considered the greatest film ever made, and for good reason, CITIZEN KANE matured filmmaking by combining established techniques with new innovations. No first film has ever been as influential as Orson Welles freshman turn behind the camera. The fact that he also starred in, co-wrote and produced the film only heightens the accomplishment. But does the label of "the greatest film ever made" hurt it? I'm sure the label and it's stark black & white cinematography scare away younger audiences, who have all seen THE GODFATHER (which is often a close second as the greatest of all time). What those film viewers are missing is a thoroughly modern film. Made over 60 years ago, the film has not aged a bit.


SURF'S UP (2007) (***)

Last year penguins danced in HAPPY FEET; now penguins catch the big wave in SURF'S UP. This animated mockumentary looks great and has enough heart and laughs to be a step up from Sony Picture Animation's first animated film, OPEN SEASON. But more so than Sony's MONSTER HOUSE, the film suffers a bit from having a stock hero, leaving the flare to the supporting cast. Nonetheless, the characters are likeable and the laughs are enough that this film is the best time I've had at the movies this summer so far.

Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf, HOLES) lives in Shiverpool, Antarctica and has dreamed of becoming a professional surfer ever since famed Big Z came to visit his town when he was a small child. A film crew interviews Cody as he sets out to prove his mother Edna (Dana Belben, HAPPY TREE FRIENDS) and older brother Glen (Brian Posehn, TV's THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM) wrong and make it off the block of ice where he was born, succeeding as a pro athlete. Determined, he all but forces himself on talent scout Mikey Abromowitz (Mario Cantone, TV's LAUGH WHORE), who works for the Don King-like surf promoter Reggie Belafonte (James Woods, SALVADOR). We learn that Cody's idol Big Z disappeared during a surf tournament, leaving the arrogant Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader, TV's THE DREW CAREY SHOW) behind as the reigning champion. Cody makes friends with laid-back Chicken Joe (Jon Heder, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) and pretty lifeguard Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel, THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY), but a clash with Tank leaves Cody finally in the care of the Zen-like Geek (Jeff Bridges, THE BIG LEBOWSKI).


THE DEAD GIRL (2006) (****)

Practically an anthology of five short films that share plot and thematic similarities, this gripping independent production shows how one particular brutal death effects many lives as well as universal issues of life and death. Director and writer Karen Moncrieff, whose first film BLUE CAR dealt with dark, touchy emotional territory as well, brilliantly constructs an episodic feature that feels like a whole, but could conceivably work as parts. This is a remarkably good film.

The story begins with Arden (Toni Collette, THE NIGHT LISTENER), a mousey woman who cares for her bedridden and mentally abusive mother (Piper Laurie, CARRIE), finding the mutilated body of a woman in a field. The media attention that surrounds the murder just upsets Arden's mother more and brings Arden to the attention of an intense, tattooed grocery store worker named Rudy (Giovanni Ribisi, SKY CAPTAIN), who is obsessed with serial killers.



After a triumphant start to this franchise, I'm sad to report that the final installment in the original trilogy is only partly successful, leaving me vastly disappointed in all the potential wasted. Convoluted, over-long, dramatically weak in too many areas, contrived and often unfunny, this bloated exercise in over spending on razzle-dazzle to distract audiences from a void of enough new ideas will probably satisfy some with a solid conclusion, but others might find the time invested not worth the journey.

With Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander, THE LIBERTINE) wielding his control over Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, SHAUN OF THE DEAD), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, ELIZABETHTOWN), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, SHINE) and Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris, TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY) must begrudgingly team up to help save Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, ED WOOD) from Davy Jones's locker, so that the nine members of the pirate alliance can free goddess of the ocean, Calypso, and stop Davy Jones from terrorizing the sea.


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Romance

Well, I'm three for three on keeping the This Weekend's Film Festival alive as a weekly segment on this site. Because there wasn't any worthwhile DVD releases this Tuesday to build the lineup around, I had to come up with another theme to tie the films together. It's far from Valentine's Day, so why romance you might be thinking. Well, it's my 5th wedding anniversary on June 1st and in celebration I thought it was as good as time for any to look at five great films for the romantic at heart. Some of the films in the lineup are fairly straight forward… but I know you're gonna want to know how a zombie film, which I referred to in my original review as "the goriest film I've ever seen," works into this week's group of films.


FAST FOOD NATION (2006) (***1/2)

Despite some structural problems, FAST FOOD NATION shines with intelligent debate, an impressive cast and a layered approach at looking at the entire fast food industry from the corporate level to the meat supply level to the store level. Based on the bestselling non-fiction book, director Richard Linklater and co-writer Eric Schlosser find a way to bring out a bit of the human side behind the disturbing facts that were revealed in the original tome. Seen side by side with the documentary SUPER SIZE ME, one may never eat a fast food hamburger ever again.

For the film's corporate look, the fast food chain Mickey's is riding the success of their new burger the Big One. Marketing exec Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) is sent to Colorado to investigate one of their beef supply facilities after an independent report reveals a high level of crap in the meat, literally. For the supplier side, we follow a group of illegal Mexican immigrants — Raul (Wilmer Valderrama, TV's THAT 70S SHOW), Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno, MARIA FULL OF GRACE) and Coco (Ana Claudia Talancon, THE CRIME OF FATHER AMARO) — as they cross the border and get jobs at the meat packing plant. On the local store level, Amber (Ashley Johnson, TV'S GROWING PAINS) is working to make enough money to go to college, because her mother Cindy (Patricia Arquette, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER) can't afford to send her.



Dear Animators:

This year Bill Plympton will be attending THE PLATFORM FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION in Portland, Oregon instead of The Annecy Festival of Animation. Bill has asked Nik, Jonas Raeber and myself to carry on the ANNECY PLUS tradition that he started two years ago. If you had a piece of work rejected by Annecy please send it to us so that we can consider screening it at the ANNECY PLUS show.

We are now into day 15 of a postal strike in Gent and no one is sure how long the strike will last so it is best to send DVD's via UPS or Fed Ex to:

Nancy Denney-Phelps

Donkersteeg 31

B-9000 Gent Belgium

We will be leaving for Annecy on 8 June so please send your work right away!!!


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Letters From Iwo Jima & Apocalypto

Wow here it is the second weekly This Weekend's Film Festival. I never know how difficult it will be to get around to a regular column on Rick's Flicks Picks, but I'm at least two for two. Like last week, I'm building this week's theme around film(s) newly released on DVD. Two of my favorite from 2006 arrived on DVD yesterday — LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA and APOCALYPTO. They're completely different films, but I've found some interesting companion pieces for the lineup that will pull this week's festival all together.

The Friday night, opening night film, WE WERE SOLDIERS, ties together the two films in the obvious themes of war and Mel Gibson. The APOCALYPTO director stars in this Vietnam war film, which like the companion pieces of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA looks at both sides of a single battle. Another similarity is that SOLDIERS looks at the affects of war at home like FLAGS. America "wins" in both SOLDIERS and FLAGS/LETTERS, however America far outnumbers the Japanese in the latter while America is the underdog in the former film. It's an interesting contrast to look at the unflinching way all three films deal with war and the uncertainty of it all. How does being outnumbered feel when you win in the end versus losing in the end? How is battle different yet the same when decades separate the battles of World War II and Vietnam? While SOLDIERS may be more flag waving than Clint Eastwood's two epic movies, the three films all share an even handed tone that never undermines the complexity of human conflict during war. If you want to learn more about this film, read my original review.


THE OFFICIAL STORY (1985) (****)

Winner Best Foreign Film at the 1986 Oscars, this harrowing tale of political awakening works more so on an emotional level than an intellectual one. This does not mean that the film is absent of ideas, because it is filled with Argentinean history and the political strife that enveloped the nation in the 1980s when the government was rounding up dissidents, who were often never seen from again.

Alicia (Norma Aleandro, SON OF THE BRIDE) is a high school history teacher. Her husband Roberto (Hector Alterio, SON OF THE BRIDE) is a rich businessman, who has dealings with the country's elite as well as the government. Alicia knows little about the rallies in the streets of her city where poor mothers seek information about their missing children. She only knows what has been written down in books. Alicia is a great mother to her adopted daughter Gaby (Analia Castro), who just turned five.



One of the key reasons MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON works at all is that the aw-shucks attitude of its title character isn't the attitude of the whole film. This isn't a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER worldview going on here. Director Frank Capra, known for his flag-waving sentiment, is fairly cynical about how government works. The Senate in this 1930s film almost feels modern. The film is actually a cry for a noble institution to hold up to its noble ideals.

When a vacancy opens up in the U.S. Senate, naïve Midwesterner Jefferson Smith, who has made a name for himself working with underprivileged boys, is picked to fill the spot. His father was good friends with Sen. Joseph Paine (Claude Rains, CASABLANCA), who supported Smith's appointment. Smith idolizes Paine, but he doesn't know that he's been chosen as a patsy. Paine hopes to use Smith as a way to help pass a bill, which will make corrupt businessman Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold, THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER) a lot of money and insure him a shot at the presidency.


HOT FUZZ (2007) (***1/2)

What writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg did to the zombie film in SHAUN OF THE DEAD, they turn around in HOT FUZZ and do the same to the buddy cop genre. They certainly know their actions flicks, referencing specific bad actioners like POINT BREAK and BAD BOYS II while skewering the whole genre with pointed jibes, post modern references and a subtly that often walks the edge between homage and satire.

Officer Nicholas Angel (Pegg, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) is the best cop on the London police force. He's so good that his superiors are looking bad, so he gets a promotion to sergeant in a sleepy village where the top crisis is when a swan gets loose. Angel takes his job very seriously. He follows the letter of law precisely. Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent, MOULIN ROUGE) tells him that he needs to lighten up and that some rules need to be bent for the betterment of the village. But Angel has a hard time letting things slide such as Butterman's police officer son Danny (Nick Frost, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) driving drunk. Angel quickly becomes a celebrity of sorts in town and Danny begins to idolize the former big city cop. However, when a brutal traffic collision seems a bit fishy, Angel starts to suspect that something is rotten in Sanford and everything seems to point to Machiavellian grocery store owner Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton, LICENSED TO KILL). When Angel starts to voice is worries to his fellow officers, the intense and crude inspectors Andy Wainwright (Paddy Considine, IN AMERICA) and Andy Cartwright (Rafe Spall, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS) think he's nuts, because there hasn't been a murder in the village in 20 years.


SHREK THE THIRD (2007) (***)

I walked into this movie not expecting much due to the lackluster appeal of the trailers. I walked out thoroughly entertained, more so than I expected to be. However, now a week after having seen it, I barely remember it and really can't recall anything that really stuck out as spectacular. Shrek is approaching middle age and so is the franchise. SHREK THE THIRD is like going to your high school reunion — it's entertaining to visit with old friends, but those wild and crazy guys aren't like they use to be. That being said, Shrek's latest tale isn't boring and at least moves the franchise into a logical direction instead of just spinning its wheels with a rehash of what worked in the first film.


This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Pan's Labyrinth

This is the first edition of the This Weekend's Film Festival. Hopefully, this will become a weekly feature of the site. But who knows what will get in the way. Each week will have a new theme. The only criteria for the fest's lineup are that I've already reviewed the film and that it's at least available on DVD. For the most part the films will be three star flicks, but a there may be an occasion to embrace less than positively reviewed films. I hope to bring attention to films I like and hope this is a fun way to encourage people to check them out and even better… have a fun thing to do on a weekend or two.

This week I'm building the lineup around PAN'S LABYRINTH, which just arrived on DVD. I felt it was the best film I saw from 2006. So the Friday evening film is Guillermo del Toro's fairy tale for adults. Fantasy films are on the rise lately thanks to the LORD OF THE RINGS series. Del Toro took many risks with this dark story that takes deep emotional issues and presents them on a grandly magical scale. The layered story works on more than one level. Visually arresting, the film will leave its images imprinted on your mind forever. For more on the film, read my original review.


DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2006) (***1/2)

This Oscar nominated documentary chronicles the long trail of child abuse inflicted by Father Oliver O'Grady and how the Catholic Church covered it up and allowed it to continue. More of a chronicle of what happened then a deeper look at why, the film succeeds the best when it deals with the way the sexual abuse affected its victims, which does not include just the grown children, but their families as well.

Part of the film's intrigue comes from the interviews with O'Grady, who now lives on a church pension in Ireland. The smile on his face and the lack of real remorse for what he has done only makes O'Grady's chronicling of his actions more chilling as well as fascinating.


CHARLOTTE'S WEB (2006) (***)

Quick to remind us of its friendship message, this adaptation of E.B. White's children's classic comes to life with a wonderful voice cast and great visual effects. It's sentimental OUR TOWN-like narration from Sam Shepard brings the material to the brink of being too maudlin, but the film's good heart and good intentions save it from being a sap fest. There could be a subtler rendition of this story, but Gary Winick's version keeps true to the heart of the book and does it in a first rate way.

Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay, THE WILD) is the runt of a litter of piglets. Fern (Dakota Fanning, WAR OF THE WORLDS) saves Wilbur from the chopping block and adopts him as her pet. When he gets too big to be a house pet, Fern takes Wilbur to stay in the barn at her uncle's house. The menagerie of animals in the barn begrudgingly co-exists and warns Wilbur that spring pigs don't ever see a winter. Wilbur then befriends the outcast spider Charlotte (Julia Roberts, PRETTY WOMAN), who with the bribed help of hungry Templeton the rat (Steve Buscemi, FARGO), begins to write words about Wilbur in her web, which causes a sensation.