(What a perfect excuse to not start working right now!)
The first two films have music I had to mute immediately: boring, bad stuff. That's already the biggest point against music videos: that in most cases the work put into the animation isn't justified by the musical quality. (And I don't care about lyrics, I only care about the music.)
But I already saw both films. The first one is a nice moody piece, I'd like to see it on the big screen once. Not bad. The second is only of interest for typographers, but in that context it really scores as an example of choosing the correct typeface for each word. Apart from that it's only one more of thousands of "moving type" films, and it showcases all recent tricks used in advertisement and TV station IDs. A good showreel for the animator, boasting his skills in After FX. But I've seen funnier "text only" films before, especially "So is this" by Michael Snow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i6H1KDJ9Ic
"Synchromy" is interesting because the sound has been animated on film - it's more an experiment in synthetic sound than animation. I like this stuff because it illustrates some part of technical history. Visually, there's not happening much. Musically, it's a not-so-good Boogie improvisation. But the sound ... it sounds like 1950, but it's 1971, a time where synthesizers would have been available for someone like McLaren. So it's always been a technically anachronistic film.
There's always been a strong connection between recording devices, music box pieces, and animation. Sometimes a modern filmmaker chooses the oldest available recordings to work with, as it was the case of a video about some work of Conlon Nancarrow I've seen in the 90's. Nancarrow did write a great deal of Player Piano music, or better, he punched it directly into the rolls. This is one of the oldest techniques to record music. Now Nancarrow not only composed "musically", he also worked "graphically", like in "what happens if I just punch diagonal lines all over the score?" (Search for him at youtube or google to listen to some stuff.) The results are a bit hard to listen to - in the same amount as McLaren's animated sounds may be hard to watch.
That modern filmmaker (have that name in some catalogue here) translated the piano rolls into MIDI information, which were sent through a script which caused After FX to create bright moving squares at certain positions, which were treated with some backlight ray effect, so in the end it looked like a digital version of a lamp behind a player piano roll ... much ado about quite not much, I'd say. But it was interesting to watch.
What strikes me most is that some elements seem to persist, no matter which filmmaker in which decade works with that stuff. Playroll notes are nearly always represented by squares or rectangles. New sequencing devices, or computer-generated music in general, have more often than not been demonstrated with playroll pieces - because that content seemed to fit that medium best. (I'm interested in the history of synthesizers, as you may have noticed.)
"Canon" does what can be expected, and it's not the first or only film done with that idea. It gets a bit silly in the end, as if the filmmaker didn't know how to end gracefully. However, the "story" as you may name it, or choreography, roughly follows another well-established routine in film: first show the mechanism as it is supposed to work, then, as the audience knows what should happen, show what happens instead. Most Marx Brothers films use this setup in general, and many more examples can be found everywhere. One of my favourites is in "Delicatessen": a short-sighted woman has prepared the coffee table, she sits on her places and rehearses all necessary movements like offering cake and serving coffee. So we know how it's supposed to work. Now the doorbell rings, and she takes off her glasses. The mechanism should work, however, her visitor spoils it as he sits down on her
place... it ends with broken dishes and a twist: she opens the cupboard to reveal a row of identical coffee pots.
"Repete" and "78tours" are two examples of another well-established genre in animation, I like to name it "Quodlibet" after the analogue musical form. (Other are "Satiemania", "Tango", and that showreel of Kassel animation studio "Lichtwerk" ... plus uncounted amounts of student films every year.) You can see the same underlying construction here: an established routine, repeated, then varied or destroyed. It's a bit like a Vaudeville act, of the kind where a certain stupid joke is done again and again, but always spoilt differently. Well, call me a simpleton, but I can laugh hysterically about that, sometimes. A subgenre of this is the film which shows several repeating movements in detail, then zooms back to reveal they're just parts of a gigantic machine. One example is the work of Henning Lederer (http://vimeo.com/user1208362/videos
Schwizgebel is critic's darling with his films, because they generally don't make any sense, but incorporate enough hints and cues for a critic to show that he knows his film history. In this example it's about the spinning record, other rotating things, the connection between cheap musette accordeon waltzes and fairground attractions like caroussels, and he throws in some old cinematic devices for good measure, like a zoetrope. People like me also remember that you can easily build a zoetrope with a piece of cardboard on your grammophone, and media historians will also remember the "Dream Machine" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamachine
) which is said to create hallucinations, again based on the record player. Now that's quite a lot of cultural injection for a single film, isn't it? But does it show, and does it make it a better film? I doubt it. As much as Schwizgebel is a skilled painter, as much I was left untouched by his films every time.
Which leaves only Betty Boop. Why is it that we still enjoy this purely nonsensical silly stuff? I think because it's a very pure kind of entertainment, which only works in animation, and is not
overloaded with connotations. It is pure movement, and it is purely visual. This very special quality is mostly lost in contemporary animation. I found some examples only in very amateurish films by non-educated artists, those who haven't been spoilt by rules of storytelling or matters of taste or, one of my most hated reasons, "character development". In the classical cartoon period some artists have been able to incorporate stuff like this, "just because it's possible". Oh wait, some artists still can do this: Mike Scott (http://vimeo.com/1617742
), who's an active member over there in the Anime Studio forum, and Alex Budo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0PGK7a2IFo&feature=related