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British Animation Awards 2014 (part 3)

Not to mention these spare balls that seem to be growing on my chin for some reason or other.It's possible that there may be some sort of law of diminishing returns at work here. As you surely must be aware by now, every bi-year the British Animation Awards holds a ceremony to mark the best work being done in the UK. One high-profile component of this is the Public Choice Award, in which three programmes of short films are toured around the UK, and punters get to vote on the ones they like the best. This year I've already covered programmes one and two, so inevitably this is the point where I talk about programme three.

Bottom line: this isn't as good a selection as the first two. But the curious thing is, I felt exactly the same way about programme three of the 2012 shortlist. It's possible this may just be down to an accident of perception rather than a deliberate arrangement by the BAA. Maybe I'll try watching the programmes out of order in 2016 to see what happens. But maybe we should concentrate on wrapping up 2014 first.

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MOSTLY FILM: All The Blobs

It's astonishing to think that Monoglot Movie Club has been a semi-regular feature on Europe's Best Website for over two years now. In that time I've visited the Netherlands, Brazil, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Norway (twice), Belgium, Sweden (also twice), Finland and Dubai - sometimes for work, sometimes for fun - and in each case, I've sat through films I haven't understood a bleedin' word of, just so I could write about the experience afterwards.

The latest episode - All The Blobs, available now -  returns to Holland for another look at the movies that were on show in cinemas back in December last year. As you'll quickly realise when you read it, that was where The Belated Birthday Girl and I spent our Christmas holiday in 2013. So you'd imagine that the Red Button backup content for the Mostly Film piece would be several thousand words of travel writing about where we slept, what we ate, what we looked at and how we got from one place to another.

That article is definitely in the pipeline: it's just not quite ready yet. So instead, you'll have to make do with some videos. This side of the jump, you can see The Kerstman himself making one of his regular appearances on the streets of Valkenburg: on the other, some trailers for the films namechecked in the piece.

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British Animation Awards 2014 (part 2)

What does the lion say?What are music videos supposed to do, exactly?

It's not the sort of question you tend to ask yourself when you're vegging out in front of... well, I was going to say MTV, but it's not like they can be bothered showing videos nowadays. But when you're in the position I find myself in every two years - watching a bunch of animations in miscellaneous formats as part of the British Animation Awards Public Choice, see part 1 for more details - then you have to start making value judgments on music promos, and that leads you to wonder what values you should be looking for.

For me, it's some sort of inexplicable alchemy - the images and music should work together to form something that's bigger than the sum of its parts, something you want to hit the rewind button on almost as soon as you've finished watching it. So, do any of this year's music videos hit that standard?

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British Animation Awards 2014 (part 1)

What will they say, Monday at school?It's astonishing to think that over eight years have elapsed since I was shitcanned from my first job. The three month gap between that and my second job was an interesting one, and there are several experiences that I still recall from that time. One of them, surprisingly, was my first ever attendance of the biennial British Animation Awards Public Choice screenings. I'd just had broadband installed (to help with the job hunting, among other things), and my review of the 2006 BAA programme is notable for how astonished I sound that at least two dozen of the 63 films are available to watch on the internet.

Video streaming became more commonplace as I covered the 2008 and 2010 collections. By 2012, it was so little of a deal that I could get away with only seeing the first two parts of the programme at its BFI Southbank presentation, and review the third part entirely from freely available online content. It wasn't an ideal solution, but it got me round a personal scheduling issue: and as we enter the first part of my three-part analysis of the 2014 Public Choice shortlist, you'll see that I've had to do it again.

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Simian Substitute Site For February 2014: The Brass Monkey


Books: January is traditionally the month to start going through the books that you received for Christmas. It's therefore my pleasant duty to report that Simon Singh's The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets is an early contender for my favourite book of 2014. Thanks, luv! Anyone who's ever spent any time watching The Simpsons will be aware of their love of geeky in-jokes: here, Simon Singh entertainingly writes about the gags that the writing staff appear to have included mainly for the amusement of themselves and a small number of maths professors. It escalates nicely, starting off with the Season 1 "r d rr" joke that O Level differential calculus can just get you through, and roaring past your personal comfort zone to a fake disproof of Fermat's Last Theorem that looks like the real thing on a domestic calculator. Singh guides you gently through the hard sums involved, happy to point out when it's acceptable to skip a bit. It's also interwoven with a history of mathematical jokes, for those of you who enjoy stories about squaws and hippopotamuses and so on.

Music: Regular readers will know that Ed Harcourt is held in very high regard in these parts for a number of reasons. Last year was a curious one in terms of our relationship: his album Back Into The Woods was a minimalist experiment that didn't quite do it for me, but in the same year he provided a suitably showstopping closing-down gig for Kentish Town venue The Bull and Gate. This year he came out of the traps early with a mini-album called Time Of Dust, and he's totally back on form. There's more invention and tunesmanship in these six tracks than most acts manage in a full-length album, aching with the sort of light and shade that Woods eschewed for the sake of more shade. Harcourt's website claims that this is merely a stopgap release to make the wait for his next full album more acceptable, but it's way better than that would suggest.

Theatre: One month into 2014, and the travelling continues. I went back to Helsinki for a week in January, but it was too cold and snowy (a low of -16 Celsius one night) to do very much other than hide in my hotel and write this thing. By comparison, the weather in Dublin was positively balmy: I managed to get out of my room in Bono's hotel most nights and try a few local restaurants. I even made it to the theatre one night, thanks to Decadent Theatre's production of A Skull In Connemara at the Gaiety. It's typical of Martin McDonagh's early plays, starting off by gently sending up the cliches of stage Oirishry before violently subverting them. In this case, it's the story of Mick Dowd (Garrett Keogh), who has a regular job clearing out old corpses from the church graveyard to make room for new ones, and the comic complications that arise when the time comes for him to dig up his own dead wife. It's enthusiastically played by everyone, with Jarlath Tivnan - the grandson of Brendan Gleeson's fiddle teacher, apparently - having enormous fun as one of those young eejits that McDonagh enjoys writing so much. If you're in Ireland over the next few months, north or south, then you might be able to catch the show on tour.

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