I'm Morgan McGuire (@CasualEffects). I've been working on computer graphics and games for 20 years at great places including NVIDIA, University of Waterloo, Williams College, Brown University, Roblox, Unity, and Activision.

See my home page for a full index of my blog posts, books, research, and projects.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Favorite Films from Annecy 2013

Top three:

1. Miss Todd
Miss Todd
Kristina Yee 2013
A paper-cutout musical, historical fiction (pleasantly heavy on facts), feminist tract, and fun story. That it was also a student graduation film is amazing. This was my favorite film of the festival.

2. Will
Eusong Lee 2012
The saddest and most emotionally effective short I have ever seen at the festival.  I cried and wanted to run from the theatre once it became clear where this was going.  If the last 15 seconds were cut, then it would be perfect.

3. La Grosse Bête
Pierre-Luc Granjon 2013
Well animated, with a compelling story. This also acts as a precise allegory in a world debating civil rights vs. security.  The timing and direction are flawless and masterful.

Other highlights:

Les Voiles du Partage 
Pierre Mousquet and Jerome Cauwe 2013
Mad Max meets Charles Bronson for a fast-paced dystopian satire. It is great to have some films that are just fun!

Rabbit and Deer

Nysuzi es Oz (Rabbit and Deer)
Peter Vacz 2012
2D meets 3D, and science is the original sin.

Duku Spacemarines
Nicolas Liautaud, Alice Suret-Canale, Hugo Paquin, and Nicolas Dubois 2012
For every student whose film or game design included "and one more awesome thing..."

Pawel Prewencki 2012
A simple vignette of the beach, with one cynical note.

Betty's Blues
Claymation and animated woodcut bringing to life a set of three blues songs; the stories are dark but presented more cheerfully than you might expect.

Paul Wenninger 2012
A stop-motion live-action journey of epic scope; the music-video like novelty wears off after a minute and the impact then begins. I believe that the actor was also the director.  His performance is particularly impressive--it would be hard to maintain that composure over such long stop-motion scenes.
But Milk is Important

The Caketrope of Burton's Team
Axelandre Dubosc 2012
A chocolate cake zoetrope in homage to Tim Burton.

But Milk Is Import

Anna Mantzaris, Eirik Gronmo Bjornsen 2012
Shy guy meets shy girl in stop motion with lots of knitting and felt.

Masaaki Yuasa
Japanese insanity, with manga tropes.

History of Pets
Kris Genijn 2013
The pets don't fare so well in this funny and lighthearted tragedy.

A Girl Named Elastika
Guillaume Blanchet
The journey of a rubber band girl across a cork board in thumb-tack stop motion.  A fresh look and self-deprecating presentation.

Balance and Swing
Balance and Swing
Anne Beal 2012
A beautiful watercolor from RISD.

Aux Gambettes Gourmandes
A light powder (think sand and sugar painting) animation with a fun and accurate twist.

Spela Cadez 2013
Extremely smooth and self-contained Kafkaesque stop-motion. Women in Annecy shorts regrettably tend to caricatures: nurturing mothers, children, thin beautiful 20-something sex objects, grandmothers, or extremely fat.  This one had a much more interesting character.

The program this year seemed heavy on slow, depressing films about child abuse and refugees. These are seldom my own favorites because, while the subjects are of course important, they very hard to present in a novel or nonobvious way, and thus tend to disappoint as art and are underrepresented in my list.

I noted fewer films from North America and from Japan this year.  Monsters University was shown in 3D and was good, and technically perfect although I found the story and cinematography less compelling than Pixar's previous best films.  New work by Monty Python and Bill Plympton was good but not as exceptional as we have come to expect.

Bonus! A favorite from last year is now online: Una Furtiva Lagrima

Morgan McGuire is a professor of Computer Science at Williams College and a professional game developer. He is the author of The Graphics Codex, an essential reference for computer graphics that runs on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.