November 19, 2008
Joseph Chen, curator of the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, likes to highlight the fact that animated films are neither tied to a specific genre or animation technique, nor are they thematically hide-bound – the only thing linking them is that they are animated and generally do not include much live-action (although some do mix it up). The “Midnight Madness” screenings are, in Joseph’s words “all about edge” – both story-wise and in the techniques used to “paint” the story.

This year’s two midnight screenings were We Are the Strange (by MDOTSTRANGE, a filmmaker based in San Jose) and From Inside (by John Bergin, a Missouri-based artist and feature filmmaker).


We Are The Strange is definitely edgy - an assault on the senses for which I wasn't really prepared, but which had me thinking for some time afterwards. It was a clever composite of 8-bit, pixelated gaming imagery, cut with stop-motion animation, a couple of live-action appearances, and anime-style animation. The soundtrack was cranked to 11, and, frankly, you're not meant to be comfortable with it. But I was definitely engaged - and it was as visually complex and interesting, as it was disturbing. Not for everybody, but I really liked it.


From Inside was the Saturday night midnight screening. John Bergin, the writer, director and animator, warned us before the movie started that the story was as bleak as the weather outside (it was windy, bitterly cold and snowing). What followed was a visually stunning, dark allegory. How do you find hope in a world going to hell - what can you do to stop it, and should children be brought into this chaos? Or are children the only redemption we have? I loved this movie - it combined 3D animation along with awesome 2D 1930s-inspired, dark illustration. Again, not for everyone, but a truly beautiful piece of artwork, and a story that ends on a more hopeful note than you're lead to expect.

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July 2, 2008
There is a reason Batman has his own label on fps. Besides many of us being big comic fans, many of us are huge fans of the Bat specifically. He has numerous animated interpretations and the notable incarnations in the 90s and 00s have definitely left their mark on (what was) Saturday morning television, cable television, comic book adaptations, and Warner Bros. television animation.

So people are a little nervous about an anime version of Batman since Batman: Gotham Knight was announced. I am a huge Batman fan and a huge anime fan, but I won't champion one at the expense of the other. After hearing about the talent behind the series of interrelated shorts, both American and Asian, I was somewhat relieved, but I was also willing to wait for a final verdict once I'd actually seen the shorts. After getting a peek at the soon-to-be released DVD in a theatrical setting gearing up for the 2008 edition of Fantasia, I think people's fears are largely unfounded.

Disliking the stories because they use the visual style of anime is just as bad as only liking it because it is anime. What you need to know is the stories are told well. What you need to know is these stories all embody something about the Legend of the Bat and are consistent with the characters that have already been established. It does look great!

And the same people that dismiss the anthology because it is anime will probably be the ones who refuse to notice that there are six very distinct visual styles that are employed to tell each story. The level of interestingness does vary depending on the style you are drawn to, but this is also the case of a decades long comic-collector who has some artists they prefer over others. Like these artists, Batman's look changes at the whim of the artists involved. The two stories with styles I found the most recognizable and distinct from the others were produced by Studio 4°C. They were even distinct from each other. Selecting one of these as the first story in the set was a great choice as it breaks conventions of what people consider the "anime style."

There are no spoilers in this entire post. I am not interested in ruining it for anybody, especially the die-hard Batman fans. However, if you are told or read spoilers elsewhere, you will not find out anything new about Batman if you already know his character. You will feel comforted by the way the stories fit easily into the mythos that has already been created from past stories. Just go and watch the stories unfold, and enjoy another glimpse of Batman's early days as he tries to learn the ropes of crimefighting.

You can catch a theatrical screening of Batman: Gotham Knight at Montreal's Fantasia festival on Saturday at noon, before it is released on DVD next Tuesday.

Previously on fps
2008 Fantasia Festival Animation
Batman: Gotham Knight Promo Video Online
DC Comics OAVs
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
The End of Justice League

Previously on The Critical Eye
Batman Animated
Batman & Batman Beyond
Paul Dini
Bruce Timm & Glen Murakami

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February 18, 2008
Batman: Gotham Knight, the anthology of US-scripted, Japanese-animated Batman stories occurring between the most recent and forthcoming live-action Batman films has a promo video circulating online.

While everyone in the promotional video is extremely articulate, I'd still recommend listening to it with the sound off. You may miss one or two insightful comments, but most remarks are things we all know about the Batman character. The commentary about the Japanese aspect of the production may have been more interesting if one of the Japanese participants actually got a chance to describe it, instead of it being distilled for us by Westerners.



Previously on fps
DC Comics OAVs
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
The End of Justice League

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