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Review: 'Bitter Lake'

Your rating: None Average: 3.4 (10 votes)

Bitter Lake, a movie created by furries in association with Eurofurence, was fairly well-hyped before it was finally screened at the convention and distributed on DVD.

Unfortunately it seems that hype was poorly founded. The movie is disappointingly short, especially at $20, but by the end I was thankful it wasn't any longer.

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further if you want to give this movie a chance.

The pace of the movie is slow, but it's the characters and story that really killed it. I was strongly reminded of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; neither movie actually has a protagonist. In Bitter Lake we watch as four leaders attempt to be diplomatic for a third of an hour.

The characters stand around and talk for a while, but nothing they say tends to really sink in as meaningful. No puns, no comic relief, just talking. At no point does anything happen that reveals personality on the part of any character, let alone something to make the viewer actually care about anyone or the story. No love interests. No renegades or rebels. No innocent victims. Everything is simply dull.

In the remaining twenty minutes they kill each other one by one, while haranguing their victims with their motivations for doing so. That's it.

In forty minutes, we watch a handful of fursuiters stand around and slowly do nothing but blather at each other, die, and answer the questions posed in the synopsis on the back of the DVD with a simple "no" and "yes."
Bitter Lake poster
The actors managed to gesticulate during some (but not all) of their dialog, a strong requirement to make up for the unmoving fursuit expressions. Still, they rarely moved around, and usually kept in pace with the movie by idling.

The clincher that irrevocably destroyed any remaining hope of salvaging the movie is the final "climactic" death. What makes this one any different from the others? Nothing...except for a particularly trite stock sound effect that many folks ought to recognize by now. That single effect transformed this movie from "a good concept with potential" into "a pathetic waste of time."

The voice talent was impressive, but a lot of lines were delivered slowly. The sets and costumes (Clockwork Creature fursuits with medieval garb) were consistent and well-constructed.

The music, composed by Fox Amoore, was better than I expected it to be, considering his albums have been full of cliché and repetitive motifs, lacking any noticeable emotion. In Bitter Lake, his soundtrack helped dress up the scenes nicely and set the mood without being overbearing.

DVD cover/menu/poster artwork was well-done as well, and certainly nothing short of what can be expected from the fandom.

Bitter Lake can be described with one simple word: boring. The only thing that could make this DVD worth the money is the concept of a real furry film produced by the fandom, and the hope that it will inspire its creators – or anyone else – to move forward and put out some real quality video productions that can entertain and show the world something positive about our little fandom.

Still, I applaud the film's cast and crew for all of the effort they put into it, and for actually getting the job done. Many of the crew members wore several different hats behind the scenes. I hope this movie will inspire other furries to follow their path and put together some spectacular films further down the road, and that this is the first of many movies put out by the furry fandom! It should be really easy to raise the bar.

Comments

Your rating: None

I wouldn't be surprised if they overestimated how many minutes of story they'd get out of hours of shooting. Most good movies have significant cuts between the action, to the extent of removing all non-essential material from the storyline.

Readers seeking a second opinion should see what dronon wrote about the movie for Anthro.

Your rating: None

European movies in general tend to be a lot slower paced then American ones, even in the higher filming levels.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

That's... unfortunate :/

But I gotta say that I'll still probably pick it up. I mean how much was that ultra-short Kaze Ghost Warrior dvd that came out years ago? I've got that in my collection. I understand your points, and I probably will agree wholeheartedly and possibly regret buying such a dvd but... well failure is at least a start for these sorts of productions. I'm a huge fan of seeing fursuits, I'm willing to support at least a decent effort for making something like this. And hopefully some more attempts will be made - both by this fur and others. I can probably find worse ways to spend twenty bucks, hell that Phantom Menace reference you threw in - I have friends who have multiple copies of re-re-whatever released versions of that movie. Worse comes, I play it in the background with the mute button on at a furmeet - you usually can't hear what's going on anyways at a large enough gathering ;P

Twenty bucks is high for a fourty-five minute movie if we were talking Hollywood production, but we're not - and we all know that the furry niche market inflates prices outside what you'll find in any regular shopping location. Might place it out of the price range of others but I think I'd be willing to give it a shot.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

That is too bad, honestly. You have to consider, of course, that this movie was made by a bunch of fursuiters. It is all but impossible to achieve the same in-dept character analysis and connection as you would in say a Broadway production. Facial expressions that determine surprise or despair are lost behind the fursuit heads, and movements are significantly reduced due to the cumbersome costumes.

Still, I found the movie to be quite entertaining. I do agree that in order to make the film more entertaining, a few classic clichés would have been more than welcome. Yet, you have to look at it from the standpoint of the actors...There was not a whole lot they could do. That is why I enjoyed the film and went along for the ride rather than mentally tearing the production apart as I would say, "Transformers?"

For the fandom, by the fandom. Furry Journalists Forever.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

I pretty much agree with all of the comments so far. Yes, European movies are in general more slowly paced than American made movies. Yet considering that the majority of the video market so far is known to consist of American Furry fans -- I use the term to consist of the North American continental fans rather than the U.S.A. fans alone – rather than the European fans for whom this was ‘theatrically’ shown, then the filmmakers should have taken this into account.

It is encouraging to urge fans to buy this video to support future productions, but Furry fans had better realize that fursuited features cannot be expected to get much better, in terms of faster-paced action.

The fact is that this was about as quickly paced as a feature – 41 minutes is a feature, if barely so – made with fursuited actors can be expected to be. Fursuits put an unavoidable handicap to natural movement for just about everything more than standing around and slowly talking. If the audience wants a feature with realistic-looking anthropomorphic animals performing in normally-paced dramatic action, then the filmmakers had better learn how to employ C.G.I.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Feature length is 40 minutes, including credits. Anything shorter is a "short," according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Most people accept this rule; Jerry Beck's "animated feature list" follows the 40 minute rule, for example.

It's a bit different for TV movies, I think.

They just barely made it. Or just barely blew it, if they were going for a short.

Your rating: None Average: 1.5 (2 votes)

Honestly, to make this short, I was too good to be too and its over priced at 20 bucks that's food a mc donalds for me and maybe three four friends, and I'd rather spend my cash on mc donalds than buy this movie. Quality was honestly horrible and really, It was just way too hyped and the trailer showed signs of being way too good for a furry movie and if you look at the trailer that is practically the movie in itself, they took all these good scenes and put them together. I honestly, Had a better idea, why not make a furry action movie with CGi where they fight against humans or a barren and hostile planet of snow and ice making the furries the "natural species" and the humans the invaders :>

Your rating: None Average: 1.6 (5 votes)

You can get a lot of enjoyment out of the McDonalds' value menu.

My favourite is the McDouble, small fries and a parfait. Maybe add a four-piece Chickenn McNugget with hot mustard. McChicken is cheaper, but drier and breadier. Fudge sundae with nuts is also a good value, though not that good for you.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Your better idea is ridiculously expensive.

You could buy your own McDonald's restaurant for that kind of money.

Your rating: None Average: 1 (1 vote)

I recently watched the DVD, and I wholeheartedly agree with this review. The film is absolutely terrible. The pacing is maddeningly slow, even during action sequences, and every line of dialogue and camera angle are trite and derivative.

Also, I'm glad to see someone who also agrees with me about Fox Amoore's music. The only people who like his compositions are the people who haven't heard much classical music.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

I have probably heard more classical pieces than you can imagine, and I enjoy much of Fox Amoore's music. Just because it isn't at the same level as most classical composers doesn't make it bad music. He isn't going for "classical", if anything his music is more along the lines of theatrical soundtrack with classical influences. If you don't like his music, that's fine - everyone's tastes are different. But it's silly to say he's bad simply because he doesn't mirror the incredible complexities of classical compositions. That's not what he's aiming for.

Your rating: None

I love how, we talk about food in a discussion, it is relevant and yes mc donalds is good and yes if you did my idea yes you could buy mc donalds with my idea but that is kinda the only way to make a decent movie now adays >.>

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

In before the coning.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (13 votes)

Interesting how all you armchair coaches and quarter backs out there like to criticize amature production efforts. I'd love to see the results if you or I tried to produce even a 10 min short, funded out of our own pockets, using the finite time away from our day jobs. Now hold this up to ANY commercially produced film or video-- and we'd be laughed off and dismissed by the networks and studios for our lame attempt.

Come on, folks... view Bitter Lake for what it is: and amature production, and a darn good one at that, everthing considered. I bought the DVD, and enjoyed it.

...and it won't make you obese or give you a heart attack.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)

You mean like The Nostalgia Critic's film: "Suburban Knights", because that one was quite good.

I'd watch it myself before determining if Bitter Lake is any good, but money is not the point. Poor story telling is poor story telling whether you have no money or a crap ton.

Case in point Star Wars. It's best stories and most revered movies were the ones where they had a budget of 11 million. Its more denounced movie had a budget of 115 million.

Money doesn't make good story telling, and a lack of money doesn't excuse bad story telling.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

Just to note, $11 million back in 1975 was the equivalent of $35 million in 1999, and $46 million today. Not a blockbuster production, but no small potatoes, either.

Your rating: None Average: 1 (3 votes)

well, I made a 30 minute movie with no budget in three days and a hack fx program, so watch before you speak you dont know what people do and what they have created. Yeah sure I dont have 2200 dollar fursuits and hell I dont even have fursuits in the movie I created but for me and my three bros we did a good job, even if a couple of them are fat ^^ :P Not like there gonna read it here x3 and I would show you but that would be showing off my real face, and there one rule behind the creation of Dark.

Main Rule # 1: Don't Show your Real face unless instructed to do so from a legit source ^^

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

I'm european and it was boring as hell. It was a kind of commercial for the fursuit maker or a strange art movie... O_o

Your rating: None

This movie is more our Dark Star than our Star Wars.
Just as Dark Star had both production value problems (beach ball monster, frex), and seeds of greatness, so does this movie.
It is a start, not an end.
Also remember the production limitations: only 4 fursuits and a limited budget. They could not show a town scene, frex.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (2 votes)

I still say that even if it had a larger production budget, more fursuiters, etc., it could not have been a faster and more realistic-actioned movie. You would just have had a larger cast standing around talking, and moving slowly. That is due to the basic limitation of fursuits. No matter how good they may look, people simply cannot move at "normal" speeds for dramatic action in them.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

So film them at their reduced speed and then run the tape at 2x speed. You have to dub them anyway. :-)

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Or get Mangusu, I'm sure he can do some pretty fluid correlation in a suit.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

If Richard Linklater can make Slacker (people wandering around the streets of Austin, Texas doing nothing but talk) and Kevin Smith can make Clerks (people wandering around a convenience store doing nothing but talk), then the challenge, surely, is for a director to film lots and lots of fursuiters wandering around Anthrocon, then structure and contextualize this footage with separately-shot dramatic scenes, dubbing in as much dialogue as necessary.

Your rating: None

You're looking at the wrong break-out independent movie directors.

Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat, people.

You know, the movie who's first half contains a furry orgy? The highest grossing independent animated film ever?

Huh, so we're furries, and we have an artform inspired by cartoons ... live action seems like the way to go, definitely!

Your rating: None

Peter Jackson's ultra-schlocky, ultra-low-budget early films (Bad Taste, Braindead, etc) are something else to look at and study.

Mind you, could even furries top the relentless, inventive depravity of Jackson's muppety snuff movie Meet the Feebles?

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Yes.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

It's called a documentary. ;)

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Even from a distance, I see this and think "wow, someone just really wanted to show off their expensive fursuits." In the entire furry community there must be at least a handful of good screenplay writers (at least someone who's good with sculpting and paring down dialogue) and some VAs who could handle the voices (that fursuiters are good actors, both bodily -and- vocally is pretty unlikely in most cases). And those people could probably be hired on the cheap.

Those two things alone can take a boring vanity project and turn it into something that people are actually willing to blow $20 on. Remember that next time, fellas. The "we were on a budget!" excuse for a bad result does NOT fly in the real world of filmmaking. And if you want to charge $20 for your 40 minute film, be prepared to be held to those standards, because if it had been free online you probably wouldn't be hearing any of this.

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (4 votes)

I think the poster, website and trailer made Bitter Lake to look like a swashbuckling pirates-style epic, and that left a lot who bought it disappointed. We North Americans have become so used to lightning-paced animation and action movies crammed with tons of 3D CGI effects to appreciate a slower paced drama.

And I also felt $20 was too much for this DVD. With the way one can inexpensively manufacture DVD-R's now (Kunaki.com) $10 would have been more honest to what little video we bought.

Anyway, I enjoyed Bitter Lake and was entertained besides the hammy and silly dialog, stiff (or stuffed?) acting and the simplistic plot. The fursuits, Fox Amoore's score and the DSLR cinematography were excellent. The "making of" documentary was more interesting and entertaining than the movie itself.

Despite a lot of serious flaws in the scripting, acting and direction that drag it down "Bitter Lake" was more ambitious than anything anyone in our fandom has done so far in creating a serious video production beyond the usual furcon and furmeet videos. It's a courageous beginning for the fandom into serious filmmaking and I also hope it will inspire other furs to create something similar in the future with hopefully more entertaining results.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I'm just happy that some furs actually got together and produced a
fanfic dvd. Though the subject was not at a level we're use to seeing,
the effort is well appreciated. I bought the dvd to use as a study
aid for helping to do future furry projects. Right now, I'm building
up a workshop class for theater arts and videography. It would be nice to
offer a crash course in the basics of theater arts and videography, to any
group of furs who want to go for doing a similar level, or better movie project.

What is your thought?

Your rating: None

I think it would be a nice idea with one caveat: I don't think it should be a group of furries who "want to" maybe, someday, it would be nice, kinda, to sorta put something out, if anyone was interested.

I mean the group should pretty much say, "We'll have a full, feature-length movie out by the end of next year." If you don't have a specific goal, don't bother.

If the goal is nearly impossible, so much the better. It would be completely impossible to get anything done any other way.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Fanfic? I thought it was an original story?

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

A fanfic can be an original work. The thought that was being shared
was focussed on other fans being inspired by the effort of the group
of fans that produced Bitter Lake, to pull together and produce a feature
length presentation of their own to share.
Maybe start a furry film festival of sorts. It would continue to re-define
the furry fandom more, and help make it more formidable....Just a thought.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

A fanfic is only an original work in terms of what you do with it. The framework, and often characters and settings, are all lifted from another person's work, hence the 'fan' aspect, and are therefore not original. Furry is a fandom but that doesn't make furry work fanfiction because there is no original body of furry work that is used as a starting point, the fandom is for fans of a concept.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

Ok! Then I resend the term 'fanfic' for a more correct
term to be used in conveying my thought being made.

I'm just happy that some furs actually got together and produced an
original story dvd. Though the subject was not at a level we're use
to seeing, the effort is well appreciated. I bought the dvd to use
as a study aid for helping to do future furry projects. Right now, I'm
building up a workshop class for theater arts and videography. It would
be nice to offer a crash course in the basics of theater arts and videography,
to any group of furs who want to go for doing a similar level, or better movie
project.

What are your thoughts on this?

Your rating: None

Yes, "Bitter Lake" should make an excellent tutorial for future Furry movies. I consider it very well done considering its limited budget and production staff. As I said above, there are serious limitations to acting in fursuits -- the actors cannot move quickly, and it is difficult to register facial expressions. It is easy to either underact or overact body language, which "Bitter Lake" generally avoided. For a beginning workshop class, this is a fine example of what can be done with fursuits.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Agreed! As a building block for future dvd stories using fursuits, encouragement is
needed in the pre-production stages to workout what the working ranges are for suited
performers. The time needed for that is very important. This would help lay the pace
of the production and post-production, so when in the final stages of post-production,
if there are slow areas that need speeding up, those have been defined already...And,
visa-versa.
The fandom has enough dynamic talent in all areas of art and technical expertise, to
really crank out some masterpieces,...If the members of the furry community would tighten
up and support one another.

Just a thought.

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (3 votes)

Alas I saw the first showing of this at Eurofurence, whilst people where praising it like mad folk I didnt see the best part of it, the conversation part was unbareable to watch, as you expect something or someone to jump in to engage the viewer's attension instead your made to watch 15ish minutes of conversation...

However for people in the fandom some are just sold by the fact it's furry related so it's something to have.

This film needed a good writer and a director to ensure the movie pace entices the viewer so they are engaged with what is going on and with the story itself. The acting was ok but to be frank you cant really make a furry based movie, as with suits regardless of who made them, they need to show expression, which is important for movies, how else will be see the emotions of these characters

Real shame really...

Your rating: None

Quite a bit of money was put into this, probably where most of the budget went. Perhaps a remake or something similar with better scripting, acting or another factor will catch our attention and become praiseworthy. Who knows. Hmm?

Its good to see the fandom trying their best to make quality stuff.

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