Sunday, 30 July 2017

Animated Goings On: Mrs D Rotoscopes A Clockwork Mouse

Mrs D has been playing around with her beloved with TVPaint animation software.
She says: "My very first rotoscope. A clockwork mouse. Cute ... and another work in progress."

Rotoscoped Mouse from Mrs D on Vimeo.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Animated Discussions: Bitz by James Pollitt

Some of us like a dog.
Some of us would like to animate a dog.
Animator James Pollitt is already doing so with his creation, the whippet Bitz.

I favour the buzz of creating only from what is to hand, which is the challenge which James set himself in creating a critter from a selection of random bits and pieces. Voila - Bitz exists.

James has a kickstarter project going for creating more Bitz.
But meanwhile, for dog - and in particular whippet - lovers everywhere ... just click the arrow and behold the wonders and setbacks of animating Bitz.

BITZ- The whippet made from random stuff... from James Pollitt on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Criminal Reading: Norway, 1969 - Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum

Satellite People (K2, #2)Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum
Beginning with an enigmatic phone call from a wealthy tycoon wishing to discuss an imminent threat to his life with Oslo homicide detective Inspector Kristiansen (known as K2), Lahlum's crime novel is both tribute to and dedicated to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

Potential victim and detective never keep their Monday appointment as the tycoon is killed during a regular Sunday gathering of family and friends. His killer's identity provides the core conundrum for detecting partners K2 and his young, precociously bright, wheelchair-bound, friend - Patricia. But more people will die before they unearth the killer from amongst the dinner guests.

I try, but have to admit to rarely finding the "constructed" style of detective novel, full of chronological interviews, witness accounts and deductive discussion, a gripping read. So, much as I admire Lahlum's writing from reading his third in the "K2" series The Catalyst Killing a while ago, for this reason alone it took me some time to finish "Satellite People", his second novel in the series.

Lahlum is an excellent writer and this English translation by Kari Dickson works well. I like the way he sets his books retrospectively in the late 1960s and 1970s, a period which can still touch both pre- and postwar Europe (the dead tycoon in this story had been a member of the Norwegian Resistance) and in this way is able to bring a flavour of contemporary Nordic Noir social psychology to his plotting whilst constructing his books as classic, constrained, detective-mysteries.
In his end note, Lahlum pays tribute not only to Christie but to Conan Doyle. I can't help wondering if, given Lahlum's underlying sense of humour, he relishes the fact that Inspector Kristiansen is very much the Dr. Watson to Patricia's "Sherlock".

Believe it or not, despite causing me a slight reading struggle, I really recommend Lahlum's K2 series to fans of classic detective stories.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Opera Nights At The Cinema: Verdi's Otello with Kaufmann

I love Verdi's "Otello" and was not going to miss this week's live broadcast with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the lead role. I enjoy both Kaufmann's singing and acting. He has emerged as one of the greats. Although doubtless somebody will disagree.

Verdi's opera is based on Shakespeare's tragedy "Othello" in which a Moorish general (Otello), who serves the Venetians, is maliciously played upon by his aide (Iago) and led to believe that his new, young, Venetian wife (Desdemona) is unfaithful.
Iago is the driver - his jealousy, envy and pathological psychology moving him to ruin and warp everything around him. Othello is the subject, the man played upon, whose passions are worked and driven so that all that follows is tragedy. And Desdemona's constant good faith pushes her relentlessly towards her fate. This drama has always summed up tragedy to me - a collision of people's psychology and the turns of fate which explode into a terrible outcome - and we the audience can see it coming.

Verdi's opera has the drama and psychology of the original play together with beautiful music and a vocally challenging lead role in Otello. Domingo has been one of the great Otellos. I never managed to see him singing it live. But this week I got to see the broadcast of Kaufmann's debut in the role. Of course it seals him into it. I was relieved that he was not "blacked up". (School age trauma caused by my class being taken to see the film of Sir Laurence Olivier's awful performance as Shakespeare's Othello, whom I expected to drop on one knee and sing a rousing chorus of "Mammy" by way of encore.)

This production's sets involve partial walls (they appear as towering, dark, wooden walls or screens) which move around to change the space. As such the set has been described as minimalist. But I don't think it is. I can cope with minimalist. If a production and music is wonderful who needs a box of tricks?  But here it seems as if movements are made sometimes because they can. For instance why does Desdemona appear to rise up from the ground in one scene? As does the Herald announcing the arrival of the Venetian delegation? Throughout, performers have been walking on and off as usual, so why are these two entrances singled out as "magical"? No good dramatic reason that I could see.
And there are glaring additions to the design's "minimalism". A huge statue of the Venetian Lion is hauled on by the visiting delegation and in the final scene it re-appears, "broken". OK, I'm not a fan of heavy symbolism if it is not handled well but poke it into a relatively severe set and it's impact is disproportionate.

Never mind, I bicker ... because I can. The singing and acting of all the main roles is wonderful: Kaufmann (Otello); Maria Agresta (his wife Desdemona) and Marco Vratogna (Iago). It's a moving opera and a moving evening which we both did enjoy very much. And as usual The Old Man particularly looked forward to his interval ice cream.