pass the popcorn

Hominid from Brian Andrews.

Hominid is an animated teaser based on the Hominid series of photo composites by Brian Andrews, described as “photo composites made from human and veterinary images”.


A weekly movie night has sprung up in the homeless-yet-have-a-place dichotomy I’ve been inhabiting. Challenging films, insistent and smart, things I haven’t seen before, but have dearly wanted to. An exquisite corpse of connections from week to week.

It started with Fassbinder’s Macbeth, a faithful and brutal retelling of Shakespeare drenched in colour, shouting, and death, then moved to Far Side of the Moon, written, directed, produced, designed, and starring Robert LePage. Based on his visually striking theater production of the same name, he plays two Quebecois brothers awash in tides of their mother’s recent death, set in the context of the USSR-United States Space Race of the 1960s.

The loss of a parent, the small kingdom of the stage, brothers, strife. Small threads, alike in dignity.

LePage is known in Canada as a national treasure, the intellectual French-Canadian prince of visual delights. The transitions in his films are especially beautiful, as the round door of a coin laundry becomes the port of a space capsule or the green screen background of a weather channel becomes the wall of someone’s apartment. They are playful and unexpected, much like the films of Michel Gondry, the French-Parisian master of surprise and whimsy, who directed the next choice, Mood Indigo.

Based on a book written in 1947 and set in a blur between an imaginative retro-future of when the book was written and the modern day, it concerns a joyful couple who meet, fall in love, and marry, but the wife, played by Audrey Tatou, falls ill with a flower in her lung. What was bright, grows dark.

Next, pivoting on the love story, the toxic flower, the here and now, we showed Upstream Color, written, directed, produced, edited, composed, designed, cast by and starring Shane Carruth, the man responsible for Primer, which details the path of a man and a woman who fall in love after being poisoned by a parasite from a specific flower. From darkness, comes light.

It ends with an unconventional family, isolated in the country, like the subjects of Dogtooth, a Greek film by Yorgos Lanthimos we’re showing this week.

do you want to watch a movie?

7:35 DE LA MAÑANA from Morituri.

7:35 in the Morning is a short from 2004 that I think Andrew found through StumbleUpon before it was nominated for an Oscar. We used to have little Found Media nights where people would bring DVD’s or drives with videos they had liked and downloaded from the internet, like YouTube parties before the social networks caught up with our habits and everything was given over to the cloud, and I remember this one making quite the impression when we put it up on the screen. A bit like when we found The Hire BMW films in early 2002. (Called The Hire, we found them stripped of their context and named them The Driver series and loved them all the same.)

The internet is interestingly timeless, insomuch that what is old can be new again, as new waves of people discover old art. It’s strange to think that 7:35 in the Morning is from a decade ago. I haven’t seen Andrew in months, I couldn’t name more than five people who used to come to those parties, but here I am, tracking it down and posting it to my LiveJournal, just like I did ten years ago when I was twenty:two.

It came up this evening because I’m sending some of my favourite short films to a dear friend who’s at home with anxiety. It’s not the hair-dye girly party we planned, but I’m still managing to help her with her gluey, uncomfortable head-yuck, so I’m a little disappointed, but not as much as I would be if I couldn’t find a way to help.

Other films I’m sending her that you might like as well:

Johnny Express, by Kyungmin Woo – A slightly shady delivery gone terribly wrong. Animated with a nod to disaster blockbuster tropes, it’s a sweet yet efficient bit of ha-ha ouch sort of slapstick.

Hotel Chevalier, by Wes Anderson – Partner short to The Darljeeling Limited, Jason Schwartzman plays the same character, but before he got his emo heart all ker-smashed by his ex-lover, played by Natalie Portman. More atmosphere than plot, but nice.

Marilyn Myller, by Mikey Please – From the description, “A year in the making, the full six minute stopmotion short features the voice of Josie Long, one zillion hand carved tiny things, literally tens of carved foam puppets, two eye fulls of in-camera, long-exposure light trickery and a pair of tiny dolphins, smooching.” It also pointedly makes fun of high art while being, at it’s heart, high art.

The Centrifuge Brain Project – Lies, damned lies, and mock documentaries about scientific experiments. Contains nearly believable amusement park rides and a touch of death.

This Is a Generic Brand Video, written by Kendra Eash for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency – Made entirely of stock footage, (excepting the custom narration), this short gleefully skewers the poisoned well of advertising conceits it draws from so successfully.

Oktapodi, by gobelins school of animation students – Two octopi in love. One is captured, meant for a dinner table, the other must get it free. Chaos, of course, ensues just as ridiculously it should.

Trois petits points, by gobelins school of animation students – Supremely stylish, a seamstress sews things back together during and after a war, while her husband is resentful. Thick with myth, this one, and darkness.

C’est la vie, by Simone Rovellini – Attractive and bewitching, this working girl is especially charming if you’re a fan of Amélie. Similar whimsy and cinematic style, though very different plot. I will love this one until I die.

Drive: one of the only films ever to make me cry

“Have you seen Drive yet? You should.” I keep saying this, sometimes to strangers. It has become my sleeper hit, the film that sank into my skin and stayed there, an invisible tattoo just under the surface, built of silence, violence, and those terrifying, honest moments when you realize just how much you can mean to someone.

The plot is nearly forgettable, yet there were moments in the film that felt so honest that I can’t properly express why they were important, except to say that I miss some people, the same way all of us do. They’re far away or they’re dead or they don’t talk to you anymore and that’s just how it is. And this movie, Drive, a silly heist-gone-wrong movie with guns and blood and broken teeth, captured that completely.

He shyly smiles at her, then she looks out the window of the car as they drive through night-time L.A., (as you do if you live there, it’s just part of the experience, part of the mythology, as essential to the city’s identity as the palm trees that line every block), and he looks away and then, in that moment where they are both looking away and both of them are silent, only the radio plays, she reaches out and puts her hand on his on the gear-shift and it’s a revelation. He laces his fingers with hers and yes, I’ve been there, that precise feeling, I know it exactly, oh my chest hurts, this entire thing hurts, I want to cry, and the music swells up again and everything is just right.

Meanwhile the entire thing ticks on as calmly as it can, fueled by a killer, dreamy soundtrack, a quiet and efficient character piece dipped in low-rent Hollywood action. I’m a sucker for lovingly evocative images of downtown Los Angeles, but the true power of the film rests in how subtle the real story is, how intense its raw poetry. As far as I’m concerned, the title isn’t Drive for the expected reasons, but after the main character’s will and motivations, impeccably brought to life by Ryan Gosling. It’s a very fine trick for a revenge film, given how limiting the heavy narrative structure of a crime drama generally is, to have such a sincere respect for the complexity of human relationships, but underneath the cliché bag-of-money device and the scathing mob bosses, (played beautifully by Albert Brooks and an almost shockingly foul mouthed Ron Perlman), there runs an incredible focus on intimacy, interaction stylistically pared down to the basics. The film unfolds scene after scene like vivisection lessons on how much it’s possible to communicate without words. Even the clockwork-plot murders seem to be legitimate, less fiction than a memory that someone has chosen to share.

Some people don’t like it, you might not, (one friend of mine went so far as to say it was like watching unlikeable robots), but the fact remains that you should see it anyway. If only for the soundtrack. Or the bit in the elevator. I’d marry that scene.

a lot of cliches, but still awesomely impressive

ROSA from Jesús Orellana.

Via Wired, “Bunkered for months in his Barcelona basement, equipped only with computers and a vivid imagination, DIY filmmaker Jesús Orellana emerged after a year of solitary labor to deliver 2011’s most dazzling sci-fi short. […] The lush setting brings to mind Avatar’s Pandora, but instead of spending several million bucks on visual effects, 29-year-old comic book artist Orellana made the entire film for a grand total of $99.”

required watching: perfect for late night

The Backwater Gospel, an unmissable Bachelor film project (2011) from The Animation Workshop.

Some other stunning shorts from the same school: Out of the Forest, (a long held personal favourite), The Lumberjack, (a very NFB tinted short), The Saga of Biorn, (funny even before the nuns), Mighty Antlers, (intense), Last Fall, (elegant steampunk horror), Pig Me, (fairly cute), and Dharma Dreameater, (entirely adorbz).

finally the desaturated sky has blown away

100 X 100: 100 rooms, each 100 square feet in size – photographs of residents in their flats in Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate.

Nicole rented a documentary on human created spaces, called Manufactured Landscapes, that we watched over at Andrew’s with Brett. It opens with a long slow pan through an immense Chinese factory that never seems to end, as if it’s a trick result of careful editing instead of a simple uncut dolly shot. When seen from above, the factory floor looks like an illusion – it is impossible to see the other end. The distance closes down into a perfect figure of perspective, the rows of workers shutting down into a single horizon line, as if the curvature of the earth might be trapped inside with them. The next shot reels you on as the opening sequence, an outdoor file of all the company’s employees, each in a hot yellow shirt, lining up in boxes, twenty people square, stretches for as far as the eye can see. Again it doesn’t look real, there’s simply too many people, too much uniformity. Our first instinct was almost denial.

A Canadian film, inspired by the surreal visuals that mining inflicts into the earth, it presents a silently analytical framework for assessing the awe-threatening disparities that people are capable of spreading across countries, (or even regions), without care for the environment. It combines, without saying so, both economic and social variables, and refers in particular to the marked differences in consumption that mark developing countries. China and India especially, where the economic attributes create living standards unthinkable here, where industry is being created haphazardly, in situations almost bronze age, with computer chips being recycled by grandmothers who separate the precious flakes of metal from their plastic components by beating them with rocks or where barefoot men dismember gigantic ships using hand-woven rope and swim laughing through the raw oil sludge left in the bottom of the tanks. It was inspiring, terrifying, and close enough to touch. I have never been a “scared for our children” sort, but I felt, somehow, that a lot of the people pictured should be.

Has anyone heard of a follow-up to Robert Newman’s History of Oil? It seemed so important when it came out, but I haven’t heard anything. I would rather it weren’t swallowed by apathy.

EDIT: I’ve just created a syndication feed for his site: robnewman

everyone I talk to says they had troubled dreams last night

Watched Tideland with Ryan and Eva last night. A strange journey following a little girl, Jeliza Rose, and her exploration of life, it left me with an unclean feeling, as if we had been witness to a curse. Do not mistake me, the film was excellent, but it worked very hard at making the audience uncomfortable. It whispered of things better left unsaid, the modern abuses of very old stories, of bad things that inevitably happen to the best of good girls and the sad hidden loves buried within the wicked witch of the west. It was very counter-intuitive, though it made perfect sense, (even through the scenes of magic realism), much like watching someone remove a cork that’s fallen into a bottle by inflating a plastic bag. I found myself desperately wanting certain things to not be fact, to have them exist only in the wonderful mythical architecture of Jeliza Rose’s imagination, though knowing, finally, that the true enemy, if there was one, was only the psychotic banality of life.

I’m not sure if I recommend it, only that you should not let young children see it. As a double-feature with Pan’s Labyrinth, it might cause nightmares, insects crawling under skin, (the classic of the gentleman junkie, wrapped in a red stolen cloak, high on life and wetly muttering dirty stories into a gutter awash with dark fairy-tale glitz). However, everyone should have their kids watch this.

what I get up instead of sleeping properly

Johnny Rotton on Judge Judy.

Sanex has created a beautiful film that transforms over 100 naked strangers into living skin cells for their new brand campaign. A UK exclusive, it just went live this week. The mesmerizing advert, built to sell how Sanex different from other skincare products because it works with your skin’s natural processes to “keep it at its healthy best”, was made in only three days by Director Lucy Blaksted, with a crew of 45, which included four skin airbrush artists.

This style seems to be part of a trend. Vaseline did two shorts this year that also featured astonishingly nice use of naked people – Sea, which has beautifully placed people in enchanting situations I wish I could have been part of, it sparks of a seriously fantastic art director, someone who could maybe make me cry, and Locked, which is lighter in tone and only uses hands.

Dolphin’s leap crushes woman in freak accident.

Stuck is a nice piece of work too. A two minute viral spot promoting a Canadian Becel Margarine contest, it uses the idea of an escalator break-down to play nicely on public assumptions of transportation. The type-casting is a little strong, but I think it works well. Apparently it’s based on a short film created back in 2003 by the writer/director that I’ve been unable to track down. The cute 30 second TV version is available on, (appropriately, as it’s a margarine ad, a contender for “slimmest website”).

Heavy snow falls in Jerusalem; dozens injured due to bad weather.

While we’re on the topic of art tied to the hand of advertising, V&A and Playstation® sponsored something interesting this season, ‘Volume’ – an array of columns that respond to movement set in the centre of the V&A’s John Madejski Garden in London. A luminous interactive sculpture, the columns have been programmed to respond to movement with startling audio-visual displays that ripple complexity. On the surface this sounds hokey, a science-centre trick from the 80’s that’s been done countless times before, but the photos by John Adrian are unexpectedly lovely. The striking placement of the pillars and the obvious depth of the patterns mix so nicely with everyone’s obvious delight that it makes me wish I could hear the project as well as see it. It seems like such a perfect thing to stave off the darkness of winter.

(mcstrick, who put up the Volume pictures I linked to, also posted about Jeongmee Yoon, the artist behind the eerie Pink & Blue Project, a collection of photographs wherein children are almost lost in the vast mono-colour array of their blandly gender-coded belongings.)