Sunday, September 8, 2019

Portrait of Dorian Grey (1945) directed by Albert lewin

A classic film from a classic novel that explores the obsession with youth and beauty and how they can hide evil, hideous interiors. Basically a horror story, Dorian grey is a young beautiful boy who, while having his portrait painter falls under the corrupting ideas of the artist and his friend. He realizes that youth is not forever and makes wish on an Egyptian cat statue that he will remain the same while the portrait ages and changes. This  wish is granted and as his desires and actions become more and more corrupt and terrible, he finds he must hide the image in a locked room so no one can see how he "really" looks. 

The films follow the books fairly faithfully and the cast, which includes a very young Angela Lansbury as Sybil Vane is great. Hurd hatfield as Dorian looks the part. Innocent, you, pretty and manages to give the impression that is all a mask as he becomes colder and callous as the decades pass by. 

The cinematography is decent but if you see this film, be sure to see the retired blu-ray version that has the technicolour insets. The first time we see the painting, it's a beautiful colour shot and when we see it later... let's say the portrait is much less beautiful but the image is stunning and shocking in colour. So shocking, in fact, I won't put an image of it here in case you have never seen the movie, it's really better to first see it context. 

I had not watched this movie in along while and it was surprising how much I had forgotten, not in plot details but how they worked themselves out. I like how we see the corrupted version of the painting long before the film ends so we have an idea of how "wicked" the lovely Dorian has been all these years. We don't see many of his deeds but his treatment of Sybil Vane is so devastating and cold, you can easily believe the painting is relflecting Mr. Gray's  soiled soul. 

This is the best of the adaptions of Oscar Wildes book that i have seen and it focuses on all the right things while later versions use the story as an excuse to show more explicit sex and violence, this film opts for letting the viewer imagine the corruption that can happen when you can place all your sins somewhere out of sight. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Podcast round up and odds and ends

It's been hard to make posts this summer, lots to do and no money to see movies. I have been keeping up with my podcasts and have a few recommendations.

Eager to Know
An old Boston friend moved to Chicago and started podcast about art, those who make it and their thoughts about it. It's very good, it has an NPR vibe to it in the best way possible and Ricky is really engaging as a host.

Max, Mike, Movies
Slammer alumni... released on good behaviour, Mike Love and his friend Max Levine talk about movies! They are pretty funny, sometimes drunk and group their discussions into series of related films.

The Projection Booth
The behemoth of film podcasts as far as I am concerned. Deep discussions, long interviews and varied opinions. One of those shows and can and should listen to the entire catalogue.

Monster Talk
The science show about monsters. The puns are terrible, and I do mean terrible but the show is really interesting as it discusses legends, monsters and cultural myths.

Kolchak Tapes
Are you as old as I am and watched "The Night Stalker" on TV in the 70s? Is the show as scary as you remember... or even good? Find out how this classic and influential show holds up to today's standards.

Twilight Zone Podcast
Really interesting takes on the classic series by Rod Serling. Reviews and synopsis of each show with trivia, history and the occasional reading of the original stories an episode was based on. They also did an excellent discussion of Serling's involvement in the film "Planet of the Apes".

Bone and Sickle
Part history, part weird visit with an eccentric millionaire collector of strange objects. From the man who literally wrote the book on the Krampus has a unique way to present folklore, really strange and sometimes gross history lessons and covers the bizarre spectrum of human beliefs and legends.

Anyone have any suggestions of their own to add? Let us know in the comment section!

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Twilight Zone (TV show) 2019 show runner: Jordan Peele

There have been a few attempts to recreate Rod Serling's Classic anthology show, The Twilight Zone. The original is a highlight in TV history and a monument to how good writing  and acting can produce truly remarkable and important art that can change how people think and feel. Those that followed were lesser shows, not always bad, but Serling is an act impossible to follow.

When the 2019 version as announced with Peele in charge I was reticent, but excited. He seemed a good choice. He was a Serling fan and had a sense of how to mix social commentary with great entertainment that made you think.

I won't be spring anything, just making a general comment of the show for his 10 episode run.

Overall: Pretty damn good. Great acting, actors, cinematography and the ideas were all solid. Does it live up to the original? Of course not, or not yet, anyway. It's a different show in a different time and Peele does not shy away from that while at the same time reminding us he knows he is treading on eggshells with fans and new viewers alike. Everyone has an idea what the Twilight Zone is - including those who have never seen even one episode. The entire season plays with the idea of recreating the original, then years off into its own thing, a smart move in my opinion.

Not every episode is successful but that can be said for the 60s version as well. We all know the classics stories over its 5 year run, but they weren't all classics. Some were pretty bad in fact, like every other show with 156 episodes and filmed on a time and money budget. The 2019 version looks fantastic and casting was amazing, but not every story will appeal to every viewer and I think most would have profited from a 30 minute over and hour format. There are plenty of Easter eggs to keep long time fans happy and it does not shy away from some biting social commentary. Sometimes it's way too on the nose for it's own good. There are connections from one episode to another and it seemed there was a theme beyond the stated "When the truth is not the truth - what dimension are you even in?". These connections and themes come around in the last episode which is totally meta commentary on the show itself and what it is trying to do.

One thing I wanted more of and didn't get were twists that hit me like they did in Serling's incarnation. Even knowing what the twist was, on repeated viewing they repeatedly shocked you. I had the opportunity to watch some Serling episodes with people who had somehow never seen the show and the look on their faces and how those twists suddenly opened them up to new ideas was amazing.

There is time for this show to do all that - it has been renewed and I have to say I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The legend of Leigh Bowery 2002 directed by Charles Atlas

Leigh Bowery was one of those 80s club and fashion legends whose name seems to have been, like too many others, lost because of time and the avalanche of death caused by the AIDS crisis. This movie goes a long way to remedy that and give the current generation a better idea of the world that allowed people like him to flourish, a world that is lost forever it seems.

The 80s were crazy in ways the 60s and 70s were not, they were self-aware and in your face - all things Bowery exemplified. He was outrageous, but his work was his art and he was a true artist. I would put him in the same drawer as Klaus Nomi as they were both outcasts with immense talent that were able to steer their eccentricities into a sort of fame. It's impossible to believe that if they came around today that they would succeed at all in their world of easy offence, nuance and context. Watching this documentary brought back memories of how subjects like Nazism, black face, gay sex and fashion were sometimes combined as a form a parody and the back lash was minimal because we at the time knew the context and intent of what was being presented, but not promoted.

He made the way for some current drag performers and fashionistas but was able to go much farther than they could dream of going.

Thanks to Michael Z. Keamy for finding this complete documentary online.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dog & Weasel: Occurrence at Lake Mess 2019 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

A new cartoon done! This time I tried to make the motion slightly smoother and avoid having too much movement, I sometimes get in the habit of making an action for each sentence spoken and that is just too hectic to be effective much of the time. Poor Mike Luce did 2 voices this time!

If you like it, let us know and pass it around. We are running out of money to feed the immates here at the slammer so maybe more exposure will get us more work and avoid a prison riot!

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Horrifically Real Virtuality

The Horrifically Real Virtuality is hard to categorize. It's a theatre piece mixed with a 3D movie mixed with audience participation in a virtual world. It when a small group (us) enters what looks like a cheap sound stage to witness Ed Wood filming a scene for his latest movie starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi, however, is only seen on the monitor screens as a 3D character, in the real world, he is played by an actor in virtual reality suit that transfers his movements to the 3D puppet. The audience is asked to help in the production which goes wrong, of course, while Wood enthusiastically declare it's all perfect and great. I began to think this was the experience the show was going to give me and was pretty disappointed. Not badly done, but hardly what I imagined a VR experience to be.

Then it all changed. We were escorted to a small hallway, suited up in VR gear with VR headsets and told to enter the cinema for the premiere of the film we just aided in the filming of. The world is now in black and white and appropriately suited up, the hallway is now the entry to the screening room, we walked through the virtual door, sat down and the film started. There were virtual spectators and real ones, we were all... aliens? ... basically we had very similar faces and costumes with our lower bodies replaces by floating flying saucers. You couldn't tell who those you came in with were anymore. The film titles stop and we then could walk directly into the film, a cemetery set with a strange box that had a reproduction of the set we filmed in inside of it. You can touch the box with your virtual hands... a very strange thing to see hand that you move but aren't your own. Then the house in the distance move forward and we enter it, into the set and Bela Lugosi exits the toilet and starts giving us instructions on how we can save his bring his wife, kidnapped by aliens back to him. You can sit on the couches, turn the TV on an off and interact with Lugosi. At the end, you take the headsets off and you are still in the hallway you put them on in.

What just happened? It was amazing and really disturbing and totally fun.

Critiques are minor. The writers obviously did a lot of research on Wood but ignored and managed to somehow miss the mark on the feel of his life and films, I thought. Much of that can be explained by the enormous task of bringing it to a live audience in a virtual set up I would guess. Still, I do think he should have been in an angora sweater at the end while reading the terrible reviews the film got as we exited the show. Despite that not happening we left feeling giddy, excited and unsure what was real or not.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Fox and the Whale (2018) directed by Robin Joseph

Many animations and short films are personal endeavours, but few come close to the beauty of the Fox and the Whale.  This 12-minute contemplative film is so full of amazing imagery that the only to show how beautiful it is to show the film to someone. A still shot doesn't come close to the refined compositions and the painterly look of every scene as they unfold.

If you want to learn more about the production,  Cartoon Brew has a great piece on it. Click the link, it's worth reading.

Not exactly a "one-man show" there is a surprisingly small list of people involved and it's clear that is the deeply persona work of animator Robin Joseph. It combines 2D and 3D animation techniques, lovely music and tells a story that has humour and melancholy combined in an original way.

It’s the sort of film every animator wishes they could make.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Comments are back!

Not sure what changed, but comments seem to be working again!  Feel free to leave one!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Dog &Weasel: Conquest from Space! 2019 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

A new little animatedseries. Mike Luce does the voices and it's a lighter fim from the Raven for sure. Jon Bellette (weasel) and Watson (dog) must fight off an invasion from a robot from space. The weasel's voice was inspried by Paul Lynde and the dog was inspired by my dog, Watson. I have the voices ofr a second one recorded so there will be at least two in this series!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Lion 2016 directed by Garth Davis

Based on the non-fiction book, The Long Way Home  by Luke Davies , this film is a tear jerker to be sure. Unlike some other films with multi-Oscar nominations, the tears are well-earned. As the story of 5-year-old boy in India who gets lost and eventually adopted by an Australian couple unfolds, the plight of young missing children from the country is made real for the viewer. You realize that where we are in life is pretty much completely by chance and you can't help but feeling for the main character. 20 years after his adoption, a random memory surfaces after having some food from his native country at  a party and he begins a journey to find his birth mother, whom he is convinced must be looking for him still.

I won't go into spoilers because if you haven't seen this film already, it's good to go into it fresh and let it unfold at it's own pace. The performances, especially by Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo. his performance is real and pulls you in. Nicole Kidman is also great as is everyone else.

On a critical level, there isn't much to say against this film. I would have liked to know more about Saroo's adopted brother with the behavorial issues and his adopted parents, though.  I understand time is limited in a movie but just a little more information would have gone a long way I think.

I would say this movie is somewhat a "feel-good" film... but not 100%. there is too much strategy in this life story and the ending is satisfying, but not completely uplifting. A good thing since while Saroo may have been lucky, there 80 000 young children missing every year in India who are not.