Sunday, March 29, 2020

J'ai perdu mon corps (I lost My Body) 2019 Directed by Jeremey Clapin

This traditionally animated film (2D with some digital elements) is an odd one to be sure and some attention for its originality and skilled animation, all well deserved.

The story is that of a young man who loses his hand in an accident and the detached hand's attempt to be reunited with him. Along the way we are treated to his tragic life story from his childhood up to the point where the accident happened and slightly beyond. It's at time macabre, humorous and touching. My father had a similar accident a few years back and I found that aspect hard to watch personally, but discomfort aside, as strange as this movie is it does captivate and draw you in. The characters are relatable and real feeling, even the hand has a personality of its own.

The poetry of the story and its presentation keep it from seeming campy or gory. Its pace is fairly slow, but deliberate and it never drags. I guess the subject alone says this isn't a movie for everyone but I think many more people than one might think would get something from it if given a chance.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Godzilla Raids Again (1955) directed by Motoyoshi Oda

This is the second Godzilla film, coming only months after the first was released and it already gave us a signal of what was to come next for series in the next decades. While the first was a moody, political tale of the atom bomb, this one goes in the simple "giant monsters fighting"  direction pretty much immediately.

A plane is down on an isolated island and the pilot's best friend has flown there to save him. They immediately run into Godzilla, who has inexplicably survived dying in the first film, fighting Anguirus who resembles a porcupine/dinosaur hybrid. They fall into the ocean and soon are taking their personal issues to the coast of Japan. At first Godzilla arrives and is lead away from the sure by "light bombs" but that plan falls short when escaped convicts crash a truck into some sort of oil refinery causing a much bigger sours of attention for Godzilla to latch onto. Anguirus arrives and they go on a rampage, destroying everything in their paths.

There is a love story of sorts where the bridegroom gets killed trying to stop Godzilla and a big company relocates as a result of the monster damage so we get to hear about that... but who cares about the human parts? Unlike the first outing where human interactions actually meant something, this movie created the path all others would follow... threadbare human story to pad out the master battles. And there are plenty of monster bottles in this one! Known for "man in a monster suit" effects this film seems to have its share of that mixed with equal amounts of hand puppets. I would not say it is ineffective, however. The effects overall are pretty good for such a quickly produced, low budget production.

In the end Anguirus is defeated and kill by the king of the monsters and the king himself is buried in a mountain of ice. Never to return again, Well until 1962 when Godzilla VS King Kong came out.

I had to confess this was the first time I saw this film. I grew up seeing the Godzilla series at the local Everett Park theatre just outside of Boston and on TV when we got a TV in the side 70s but I somehow missed this gem. I think the local movie house limited itself to colour films and this is black and white and this might have somehow fallen through the cracks in the TV creature double feature distribution deal.

If you like Godzilla films... you'll love this one. It is not to be taken seriously but it's a lot of fun and doesn't disappoint for monster on monster action.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Won't You Be My Neighbour? (2018) directed by Morgan Neville

It would be easy to dismiss the work of Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers as he more commonly known as frivolous children's TV fair, but as this documentary shows , his work was so or important and cutting edge than many remember.  Fred Rogers was a TV icon and trailblazer for children's entertainment.  His understand and unflinching dedication to the needs of the young people of the nation was nothing short of amazing.

We all have memories of the show, the puppets, the sweater, him taking off his shoes and putting on his sneakers when entering the set - but the show, as this documentary shows, he went far beyond anything we have today in terms of what subject matter is acceptable for those youngest minds among us. Rogers tackled discrimination because of race like no one else could. He invited his black mailman to share his kiddie pool with him, going as far as to dry the man's feet when they were taken out of the water. This was at a time public pools were throwing bleach on black people who dared to cool off with white folk on hot days. He discussed the assignation of Robert Kennedy... what kiddie show could even attempt to tackle that now? Mister Rogers was often the subject of parody (which he found often funny) and the work he did was often overlooked but the impact he had on generations is unmistakable. He was a tireless advocate for fairness and accepting people as they are, Oddly he shared many philosophical traits of the Satanists in the film "Hail Satan" I just reviewed here at the Slammer. His way of getting his point across was MUCH less aggressive, however.

The film goes farther into his life than the recent Tom Hanks film does and even covers his conflict over the actor playing the policeman being gay which isn't really covered in the Hollywood version of his life. As you can imagine, Rogers walked the walk and talked the talk when it came to accepting people as they are. Sadly, there weren't and certainly aren't many like him out there and I would say none like him in the present media landscape. How many of them would you want to have as neighbour?

Did I mention the Fred Rogers pretty much saved PBS single-handed by appearing before congress? Seriously you owe it to yourself to see how wonderful this man was, flaws and all. It will make you want to be a better person and that was all Mister Rogers would ask for as his legacy.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

25 Years Later (2020) directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

This took a while and a lot out of me. Lots of sad memories and a few happy ones thrown in for good measure. Thanks again to Mike Luce for his wicked laugh, and he didn't even ask what it was for!

This is sort of more "epic" as well as personal for me in animation. 15 locations that all had to be designed and made and then populated with two real-ish looking humans.

This is not a documentary. I wish I was still in shape like the cyclist in the animation is 25 years later after taking care of my friend but many of the events did happen. I won't bike to Boston as I planned but I will go there this spring/summer. A bike tour would take almost a week and I don't have the funds for a week in hotels, then time in Boston and then find a way to get back home with my bike. In a way this is my attempt to come to terms with the events all those years back, it was a very tough time and I though I helped out one friend for six years, there were  others for shorter periods and some of that is reflected in this as well.

Some of you might recognize certain locations... like my office, street, the bridge and several locations in Boston. Nothing is slavishly reproduced but even the biking scenes are based on several trips from Boston to Montreal.

If you see this and have opinions, tell me and watch it on You Tube, give it likes etc. I would like it to be seen and promoted somehow so please refer others to it if you think it's appropriate.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Divided by One ()2020 directed by Jacob Kafka

This short film was made by a developer of the app "rough animator" which I own but haven't used yet. It has a lot to recommend about it.  T

he short poignant and very done and since we always encourage these one man bad sort of projects here in the Slammer, I thought it would be nice to share it here.

If you have even a passing desire to try out 2D animation... BUY IT! It's only 5$ and well worth many times that!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Behemoth media demo reel 2020

Update for 2020, includes some unfinished projects I thought might be interesting. 
Hire me !

Saturday, February 1, 2020

28 Young Men (2020) directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese, narrated by Michael Z. Keamy

28 Young Men, a short poem by Walt whiman read by Michael Z. Keamy and animated by me (Behemoth media).

The project has been several years in the making. Originally we wanted to do live action and scouted and filmed several locations. As time went on, it became clear that getting 28 make men to splash around on a beach for free was not really a realistic option. We needed a secluded place and no trouble from local authorities. So animation was the voice in the end.

The men barely move, (and no there are not really 28 of them but I am not exactly Pixar so we never see them all at once), the idea being they are frozen in the woman's fantasy as she imagines herself moving amongst them. The beach and house are loose representations of Newburyport where Keamy are up and had specific locations in mind. So the advanced filming came in handy when it came to making the sets.

The water effects were done with X-particles for Cinema 4D and look pretty good to me. they are not meant to look like real water and match the cartoon look of the ocean waves.

Warning, I guess... cartoon nudity.

Hail Satan (2019) Directed by Penny Lane

When you hear the word Satanism, what do you think? Since the ridiculous "Satanic Panic" in the 1970s, the word has brought to mine child abuse, murder, demons from board games and  variety of other things that - to be clear - have NO basis in fact.  So promoting the Satanic Temple as positive force in the world seems like an uphill battle, to say the least. Penny lane's excellent documentary does just that, however.

Started more or less a joke, the temple has expanded by leaps and bounds, mostly due to their work in promoting religious freedom in the USA. In some sense they are the ultimate trolls, when a city or state decides it needs a 10 Commandments monument or giant cross on state property, something that is 100% illegal and against the constitution, the Satanic Temple steps in with a massive, beautifully done Baphomet statues to go beside the Christian symbols. It is an effective way to get the point across that one religion should not be promoted over all others.

The spokesperson for the Temple is Lucien Graves and while he looks the part, talks the talk and walks the walk, you get a clear impression he does not like the role or the attention on him personally.   "Are you excited about the protest today?"the interviewer will ask. "No" is the one word response from Graves. He does, nevertheless make an effective spokesperson for the movement and handles hostile interviewers with a reasonable calm I am not sure many other people could.

Well paced and not one sided, in the sense that is covers schisms in the Satanist movement and goes over it's often spotty history, the film give the viewer a solid sense of what the actual beliefs of Satanism are and what they are trying to achieve in a country the reads of christian religious privilege. Satanists are not perfect as a religion by any means but their rules to live by are more than reasonable, fair and based in the real world. If you read them without knowing they were the rules of the Satanic Temple, you might think all religions should adopt them immediately.

Satanist as promoters of justice and equality might seem like a strange idea after decades of misinformation, but you will likely be convinced by the end of the 95 minute run time. You may not want to run out and join your local Satanist Temple chapter, but you will more likely than not agree with most of things that are trying to accomplish.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Dracula (2020) Netflix series by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss

Spoilers galore.

This version of Dracula can be lauded for playing with all the tropes and original story elements in new and surprising ways. As a three part series, each 90 minutes, there is plenty of time to horrify, shock and surprise even someone like me who is sort of a fan of Vampire lore. What the show does best is it takes some barely touched on sections of the Stoker Novel and expands them into a new main story. The first past takes place in the convent where Johnathan Harker is recovering... well recovering is not the right word in this version. In the novel he just spends some time there and then goes home to his fiancĂ©. In this version, he is basically dead and turning into a vampire after having been feasted non by Dracula and then "killing himself" but jumping off the castle tower and into the river below. The set up is very much like the original story and then takes this turn into batshit craziness. He does not survive the first episode.  Sister Agatha, Agatha VanHelsing we find out is questioning him until Mina stakes him and Dracula arrives to collect Johnathan? It's not really clear why he is there but it works.

The second part starts with the good sister and Dracula playing chess and him explain to her how he survived on so few people while travelling from his home to Britain on the ship "The Demeter" which before a bloody game of "ten little Indians"  as the passengers and crew are quickly used for food and become suspicious, not of Dracula, but of the mysterious guest in room 9 who no one sees. As it turns out, it's Agatha who's chess game with the count is in their minds as he uses her for a steady food source. She does get the better of him as they try and hang her killing the missing crew when she spit blood at the vampire and his true nature is exposed. The episode is not fast moving but I thought it was effective and again, it's turned a detail in the novel into a main story. It ends in the most crazy way possible. The ship is blown up, Agatha drowns and Dracula hides in a remaining coffin on the ocean floor until he walks to shore where he is met by a helicopter, military looking personnel and... Agatha?

So now in modern day the end of the series pits Dracula against the ancestor of VanHelsing who has him imprisoned in a high security vampire facility. Well not all that secure, and thesis where the series starts to fall apart, as Dracula is somehow allowed to go free because... the law? Plus Zowie the new VanHelsing manages to just take a vile of vampire blood and drink it for... reasons. She is dying of cancer, but it doesn't help with that. It does let her communicate with the count in some sort of dreamworld. Meanwhile the Count Dracula falls for an egotistical millennial chick who let him feed of her for the eventual gift of eternal life. She gets her wish in the worst way as when she dies and is laid to rest... she get cremated, something Dracula didn't know was a "thing" in this new era and she escape, but is quite the gory mess. Up to this point the story is getting messier but it is still interesting and it remains that way, mostly due the excellent performances of Claes Bang (Dracula) and Dolly Wells (VanHelsing). The ending, to me a least, was a big letdown. Dracula throughout has been an unfeeling monster. Cold, cruel, inhuman. Seriously, he deserved to go out with bang and be punished for his actions, but instead he drinks the blood of Zowie which is poisonous to him after she reveals he ashamed of his immortal existence and most of his mutation, including being burnt by the sun are mostly self imposed.  It's a let down. When VanHelsing tears down the curtains in the vampires penthouse exposing him to the light he should have exploded in the rays of the sun, or suffered in some way that punished centuries of unforgivable behaviour. Nope, they lie in each other's dying arms in the light of the sun.... WTF?

Should you see it? I would say yes because it's pretty great until the last five minutes. there is much to recommend about the the majority of it. It is a shame the ending just doesn't live up to lead up.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Klaus (2019) Directed by Sergio Pablos

This Christmas story produced for Netflix and featuring a leap forward in 2D animation might just be the thing that gets studios back into 2D animated movies. Disney's last attempt was "The Princess and the Frog" and while that film was AMAZING, it just couldn't push the ball to the top of the hill and beat the slew of 3D animated films that were taking over animation everywhere. Well, not quite everywhere. TV and independent filmmakers still were and are harnessing the magic that hand drawn animation can bring to a movie and I think while not wildly promoted like Pixar and Disney films, they lurked in the background reminding us that animation is more than one thing.

In comes Klaus, a sort of re-imagining of the Santa Claus legend with stupendous visuals and a story that really walks the line between light and dark in a way I haven't seen in a "children's" film before. It even give the late Jim Henson a run for his money in that regard. the story of never-do-well rich kid who is shipped the worst place on earth to teach him a lesson is fairly standard the stuff. It's the details that make this story stand out.

This project first released a teaser trailer in April 2015, 4 year's before it's release and all those years of work show in the final product. the backgrounds are beautiful and the characters have a depth to them not seen in even the most famous of Disney productions. Things changed from the teaser and previews, including the lead character's voice and the cutting of a series of gags where the postman keeps getting snow dumped on him while trying to make his rounds to the less than friendly population. Those cuts were a shame because they were fully animated and quite funny but I won't second guess the writer/director's choices in the final edit because the finished movie works so damn well.

This is one of the best and innovative animated films to be released in a long time. For an animator like myself, it's inspiring.