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even as a fan of experimental film...
Even as a fan of experimental film, I couldn't stand this short. The infamous three minute scene in which the lady vomits was unpleasant but not in a way that takes cinematic talent, it's just that watching a handheld shot of someone puking for a prolonged amount of time inherently makes me feel a little queasy. Everything surrounding this is not particularly memorable, but it is better. It feels very amateurish but not in a charming way. Instead of trying to compensate for obvious budgetary limitations with creativity, entertainment value, philosophical depth, etc., the director chooses to focus more on shock value while also posing this as an art film. I have heard some of his features are good and mean to watch them, I hope they're much better than this mess.
Fateful Findings (2013)
Neil Breen is a beloved filmmaker due to the unbelievably low quality of his movies. Almost every aspect of this film is just wrong, and not intentionally so. It's absurd and surreal by accident. A lot of what David Lynch would do on purpose, Breen does incidentally. And it's truly a spectacle to behold. This has so many of the best Breen moments. Some of this dialogue is beyond exquisite, and the performances are like straight up insane. Almost all of the actors are turning in performances that are what would happen if humans tried to make a movie by aliens about humans. And seeing the not-particularly-attractive fiftysomething Neil Breen caress a couple of gorgeous, decades-younger women is amusingly awkward and cringe inducing.
Love, Death & Robots: The Witness (2019)
my favourite episode thus far
By no means a masterpiece, 'The Witness' is still my favourite episode of this series so far. The animation is even better than that of its beautifully animated predecessors, the story is so simple that it's perfect for the short format, and the anxious atmosphere is conveyed compellingly through the episode's extraordinary visuals. It's also a surreal trip with gratuitous sexual content that is at once uncomfortable and erotic. There's not much substance here, but the style is a whole lot of fun and it's a visual spectacle!
an entertaining follow-up
With this second episode, the show has clearly established its anthological concept, shifting radically in tone, setting, character, story, and style. A large part of why this episode works at all is because it sets up the eclectic style the show itself is going for, although there are a few factors at play here that are successful on their own. The episode itself is a slightly dark sci-fi comedy unafraid of vulgarity or silliness so much of its quality relies on whether or not it is funny. Is it funny? I would say it is alternately hilarious and just sort of stupid/try-hard, but luckily the majority of the episode is the former. The extremely deadpan automated-female-voiced robot is a genuinely funny character and got the most laughs by far out of me. I also got a few laughs out of the overly-enthusiastic bot played by Josh Brener. The other robot, played by Gary Anthony Williams, was a largely likable character but got the least laughs by far, though this is at least partially because he seemed to be serving as the "straight man" character of the bunch, even if he was the subject of a lot of overt humor throughout. Generally, this episode worked but, like I said, the humor is sort of hit-or-miss, even if there are more hits than misses there are still plenty of misses.
a decent first episode
I liked this for sure but cannot see why it's so highly rated. I felt that the story and execution of said story were lacking despite the entertainment value inherent in the whole spectacle of the episode, with it's beautiful animation and relentless violence. I appreciate the major shift in direction that occurs in the final scene, and I do think that this was clearly the product of many extremely talented people, but for the most part I was not engaged. Perhaps the seventeen minute runtime diminished the potentially stronger effect the story could have had on me. I honestly did not care for the characters and was actually rooting for the villains at a certain point just to see if things got more interesting. So, this episode makes me hope that the show improves over its course while still leaving me largely satisfied from a purely technical point of view.
Bimbo's Initiation (1931)
the bizarre joys of classic cartoons
The Fleischer-produced-and-directed cartoons of the 1930's are tremendously trippy feats of classic animation. 'Bimbo's Initiation,' with its endless creativity and absurdist comedy, is emblematic of these free-spirited films, unafraid to be suggestive, violent, and, most excessively of all, balls-to-the-walls weird and wacky. It's practically unpredictable in its madness, one looney laugh after another assaulting the viewer. Its reputation as one of the most surreal cartoons of its time is well-earned, there is little sense to be had: a spark of fire can dance, a sharp blade can lick its lips, creepy cult members can tear off their skin revealing multiple clones of the stereotypically alluring Betty Boop, etc.
Black Flag Live (1984)
one of the sweatiest things I've ever seen
Having spent the better part of my day yesterday listening to Black Flag and then reading the chapter on Black Flag from the (so far really great) book 'Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground,1981-1991,' I was pleased to see this on Amazon Prime Instant Video and immediately started watching it. Once my viewing began, I was bombarded with all the fury and excitement one could expect from what may have been the quintessential Hardcore Punk band of the 80's. Henry Rollins' insane, energetic performance sticks out like a sore thumb among all else in the video. Our bassist, guitarist, and drummer are all playing with lightening-like intensity, but they all seem relatively reserved in comparison to the unhinged Rollins who bobs his long hair with more strength I can imagine mustering, his furiously sweating body glistening in the artificial light above, his vocals ranging from loud to literal screaming. It's an incredible performance. The video and audio quality are both mixed at best, but it adds to the whole charm of it. If this were some slick, perfectly produced video, it would not at all represent the spirit of hardcore; as the video is, it embodies the hardcore spirit better than any other film out there.
an underrated absurdist comedy gem!
Much of this movie is utter nonsense punctuated by constant gags of both the visual and verbal varieties. Many people absolutely hated this film, most of them probably not being Tim and Eric fans who were unpleasantly baffled by this bizarre comic mess, others being Tim and Eric fans who were disappointed by the film for whatever reason, whether it be because of the admittedly mixed gross-out content or its awkward incorporation of a plot which contradicts the sketch/variety show-ish format of 'Tim and Eric's Awesome Show,' but, honestly, I was super entertained and amused by this movie and find it to be super underrated. From the ridiculous opening with "Chef Goldblum" to the weird fatherly attachment Tim feels towards a random young boy to so much more, I was laughing some big laughs throughout. It's super quotable, the cameos are all funny even if they aren't necessarily well executed, the satire and aplenty, and everything is so over-the-top and zany that it's hard for me not to be extremely amused by such a work of senseless, absurdist comedy.
subtle, visceral, beautiful
I have so far seen four of this year's Best Picture nominees, and there is no doubt that 'Roma' is the very best of the bunch. It is the only of the four nominees I have seen that is able to reach true greatness, and it is able to do so through subtlety and atmosphere. I'll admit that I am a fan of melodramatic films when they are done well, but there is really something special about a film like 'Roma' that is able to incorporate some scenes of such emotional intensity and impact in what often boils down to a slice of life look at the setting of director Cuarón's childhood. Every scene has a quiet nature to it, making the few sequences that depart from ordinary life and instead burst with action all the more impactful while still remaining tonally consistent with the rest of the film. Add on to this a clear central arc and you have yourself what, in many ways, borders on being a masterpiece. Not to mention, the cinematography is some of the most gorgeous I have ever seen. In stunning black and white, most of the film consists of extremely wide shots, the mis en scene often filled with characters and props, making even the most mundane of things take on greater power, greater beauty. The sound design immerses the viewer even further into this nostalgic and cinematic world, often bursting with the surprisingly meaningful sounds of daily life. On a technical level, the film looks, sounds, and feels like an epic on a grand scale, but, at its core, it is an extremely intimate and slow moving drama. Even when historical events interfere with the central storyline, they serve as something of a backdrop helping further express the main character's internal conflicts. It does not seek to make some grand statement about the historical or political, and it does not need to. Sometimes, merely observing the lives of seemingly ordinary, "unimportant" people is more than enough, and the way 'Roma' contrasts with many of this year's award-winning films proves this.
style over substance, but the style is brilliant
A series of scenes depicting acts of sudden violence absent of character and plot. A premise so repetitive sounds like it would be a bore to watch but Alan Clarke's cinematic eye helps make the 1989 short film 'Elephant' almost hypnotic. Using a wide lens and constant stedicam shots following anonymous killers, Clarke sculpts a vision that is unique and, in many ways, powerful. Clarke's visual style makes almost every shot, aside from the brief closeups of gunfire found in each scene, feel as if it is depicting something from afar. The audience is always made to feel somewhat distant from the cryptic figures at the center of the sequences. Almost everything about Clarke's approach makes the film feel cold and, in a way, brutally nihilistic. The differences of each scene's location, actors, etc. become more notable than the careless murders said scenes depict. There is a point somewhere in the middle of the film in which a character actually says a line or two of dialogue and it is legitimately more shocking than the violence that inevitably follows. Alan Clarke makes you numb and coats the viewer with an unnerving deadpan atmosphere. It's a miserable film that almost certainly goes on for longer than it needs to, but it is also fascinating and, in a way, oddly investing.
Madeline's Madeline (2018)
difficult to process, but often greatly rewarding and amazingly made
During the first few minutes of this film, I found myself ready to be disappointed, thinking it was going to essentially be "Theatre Kids: The Movie", which it really isn't. About ten minutes in, I got more used to the film and started to kind of see what parts of it were going for and it became a much more enjoyable experience. Throughout my time watching this movie, there was both very much and very little for me to say. 'Madeline's Madeline' is a very challenging film on multiple levels, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. My time watching it was certainly mostly positive, but whether or not it achieves true greatness is totally lost on me. It is especially difficult for me to pinpoint my exact feelings on the film's ending, which may or may not be both lacking and overflowing with ambiguity.
However, there are a few things about this film that are for certain. For starters, it is (in my opinion delightfully) weird, oozing with absurd humour, surrealistic imagery, and an ever increasingly uncomfortable atmosphere. The editing and camerawork go hand in hand to make this a visually fascinating and impressive work. The psychological depths explored in the film are perfectly portrayed thanks to director Josephine Decker's incredible vision and talent for realizing said vision. Equally impressive is the acting. Miranda July is surprisingly intimidating and unsurprisingly awkward and Molly Parker is able to juggle likability with a strange undercurrent of suspicion on the part of the viewer extremely well. However, the real highlight of the film's performances comes from Madeline herself, played by newcomer Helena Howard. If the visionary visuals, editing, and score aren't enough to convince you to watch this film, her performance should. There is a particular sequence towards the end that was legitimately breathtaking due to her emotive and powerful performance. In many ways, it is an extremely pronounced performance, and in many other ways it is extremely subtle. To see such a young actor display so much incredible talent makes me excited to see her future career, and makes this film all the better.
interesting but overlong
There is a lot I can say is good, even great, about this odd arthouse film. The cinematography is often beautiful, the slower pace makes way for a few genuinely hypnotizing sequences, and, if you don't mind Black Metal, the music is really good. However, there were some setbacks...the main one probably being that I felt the film went on a bit too long. The entire first third of the movie honestly shouldn't be here, it really belongs to another project entirely, and that's not always a problem with me, but I don't find the first third to be all that interesting anyway. There are some fascinating moments here and there, but if only the final 2/3rds made up the entirety of the film, there's no doubt my rating would be higher. The second third follows a hermit as he pretty much goes through his daily life. Not much at all happens, it's extremely slow, but the entire ambient feel of it is beautiful, calming, and visually interesting. Eventually, the hermit goes under a transformation and goes off to perform in a Black Metal band, leading to the film's finale being one half hour long shot of a concert. It's enjoyable to some extent, but it does get mildly dull at some point in its midst; however, by the end of the shot, things start picking up speed and, in the end, the film is mostly effective.
A Field in England (2013)
one of the greatest (and strangest) films of the decade
Many people may highly disagree with this sentiment, but I believe 'A Field in England' to be a masterpiece. It is a mind-blowing wartime odyssey that pushes the boundaries of narrative cinema, filled with shocks and surprises at nearly every turn. Experimenting with editing and filmmaking techniques to the point of psychedelic madness, Ben Wheatley crafts one of the most successfully surreal works of cinema I have thus far seen. Everything from the often hilarious writing to the hypnotic score is finely injected with intense talent and, in my opinion, enormous entertainment value. The amount of thrills and laughs in this movie totally subverts the idea that art house cinema is often "boring." This film is so alive and free and refuses to surrender to most cinematic norms, and yet it still follows a coherent narrative with memorable and enjoyable characters and genuine suspense; it nearly reaches the heights of a David Lynch masterpiece in terms of its ability to mix radical experimentation and surrealism with an engaging and cohesive story. Since Lynch is by far my favourite filmmaker, that is high praise. Anyone who is willing to be confused, appalled, and oddly amused owes it to his or herself to see this insane work of cinematic psychedelia.
Bu san (2003)
the ghostly majesty of cinema
I am an oddly big fan of Slow Cinema. With an effective enough atmosphere, a work of Slow Cinema can be an immersive, absorbent experience for me, and 'Goodbye, Dragon Inn' almost perfectly fits this bill. While you could say a couple of shots run for a bit too long and the film occasionally borders on tedium, I feel that its overall impact is unexpectedly exciting in a way. A meditation on cinema and the passage of time, the film uses sparse dialogue, beautiful cinematography, subtilely lush sound design, and the setting of a haunted movie theatre to chilling effects. Not to mention, 'Goodbye, Dragon Inn' is also a very funny movie. Its dry sense of humour is able to break the possible entry into boredom by providing quite a few genuine laughs. Much of the comedy perfectly captures the subtle, awkward tensions that every so often casually pop up in the average person's daily life. At the same time, the film also gives off a rather melancholic vibe interspersed with genuinely unsettling moments. By the end of the film, I even feel vaguely uplifted, and I'm not even sure why exactly, there's just something about it all that provokes unexpectedly strong emotional responses. All of these feelings miraculously bloom from many extremely long, drawn out shots that sometimes feel almost painfully mundane, and yet it continuously draws my attention throughout, finally ending with one of the most enigmatically hypnotic and gorgeous final shots in cinema history.
Mr. Freedom (1968)
a fun, stylish satire of American nationalism
'Mr Freedom' is a film as relevant as ever in our current political climate. With some far right factions expanding throughout the country, the issues of nationalism and fascism are getting evermore disturbingly pertinent to American society. Luckily, films like 'Mr. Freedom' show that artists have been willing to subvert and parody these harmful societal and political forces in entertaining and humorous ways. 'Mr. Freedom' is a film that can be enjoyed as more than just some dry, drab political statement: it is a very alive, entertaining, and visually appealing movie. The humour ranges from the pitch black to the amusingly absurd, and the scenery is filled with eye candy. Naturally, the film's color palate is painted with many reds, whites, and blues, always to an over-the-top extent, creating an atmosphere to the set and costume design that is funny, satirical, and borderline surreal.
The film's escalation into further absurdity is one of its finest attributes. Watching everything crumble into a great ball of bizarre comedy helps even further cement this film's status as a feast for the eyes and mind. Towards the end, many of the action sequences are so bafflingly insane that they become ridiculously fun. When I can't tell what exactly is even going on, I get all the more intrigued.
While it is not a perfect film, or any sort of "masterpiece" at all (there are a lot of weird audio decisions William Klein made, much of the dialogue is obviously dubbed and it is very distracting) , 'Mr. Freedom' is certainly a worthwhile experience for almost anyone looking for a good satire. It's as entertaining and absurd as a film of this kind ought to be.
Perversion for Profit (1965)
weird, ridiculous propaganda
A plea for even further repression, 'Perversion for Profit' is an unintentionally hilarious and horrifying piece of propaganda. In the 1960's, the obsessively conformist values of the 50's were shapeshifting into a confused world forced to face with very progressive countercultural movements, and 'Perversion for Profit' is a perfect example of the hysteria some extreme conservatives must have found themselves in. The script is comically over-the-top and just plain foolish, and the delivery of George Putnam (who the credits call the "outstanding news reporter") is perfectly melodramatic. This entire short is the bizarre ramblings of a paranoid and hateful old man refusing to come to terms with natural sexual desire, and to look at the film through such a lens makes it even more fascinating. The unintentional comedy and entertainment value one can get out of this fear mongering and blatantly anti-free-speech short film makes it worth watching for those who can enjoy the campy quality of awfully unsuccessful and dated propaganda.
Antoine et Colette (1962)
Antoine Doniel returns
While it is a sequel to 'The 400 Blows', I would consider 'Antoine et Colette' to be the first Antoine Doniel centered film to really establish the overall series. 'The 400 Blows' really feels like a stand alone movie, while its follow ups feel somewhat separate from it, but still focus on the same main character and do reference the previous film. Regardless, 'Antoine et Colette' is a very fun, charming, and grounded short film that takes on a much more comic and lighthearted tone than its predecessor while still remaining at least somewhat mature. It doesn't come close to reaching the masterful heights of 'The 400 Blows'; however, it's still great and just as entertaining and doesn't really deserve all this constant comparing I'm doing.
Particularly successful in this short are its characters. Not only is the central character of Antoine Doniel as fascinating as ever, but so are those around him. Colette and even Colette's parents are likable and charming people and seeing them all get into this simple-yet-complicated situation is really engaging. Both Antoine and Colette are sympathetic, and both of their sides of the story are simultaneously understandable and (at times) somewhat pathetic. Truffaut gives us plenty of moments over the course of the film's half hour runtime to cringe at Antoine's awkward obsession with this girl, and, especially towards the end, the girl's own flaws come more into light, making for a compelling, yet extremely mild, central conflict.
Woozy, artful editing combined with unsettling sexual imagery make up the content of '6/64: Mama und Papa', a short film even stranger than its name. As someone who has seen possibly hundreds of experimental films, I can say that I am impressed with how much this one seems to stick out. This is likely almost solely because of the weird erotic content and how it matches the chaotic editing style. None of the shots last for over two seconds or so, there is constant rapid cutting from one image to the next, and nothing is ever exactly clear. You see bodies and strange substances being dumped on the bodies, mainly one woman's body, at some point you see her kissing another as both of them are covered in some disgusting material. It's difficult to describe with words that aren't just synonymous to "gross" or "creepy" or "sexual". Many people will hate the film because of its disgusting body-horror-esque sexual content, but I think that that is honestly the main thing the film has going for it. Among so many avant garde films that are edited and presented in such a similar way, this one is able to stand out due to its particularly graphic and scary imagery, and I respect that.
The Haunted Hotel (1907)
the charming magic of early cinema
In the tradition of the trick films of Georges Melies, 'The Haunted Hotel' is an awesome display of clever special effects and entertaining playfulness. It is very comic and cartoonish, and, while the style of humour is pretty dated, it has a certain charm that I couldn't help but adore. It mixes so many different techniques and creates one of the most purely fun movies to be made during this time period. Its employment of animation is particularly enjoyable, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the stop motion sequence somewhere around the middle of the film. The stop motion is of genuine high quality to this very day, and adds even more to this film's wonderful world of visual trickery and movie and magic.
Shaye & Kiki (2004)
I NEED WIRE THERAPY
Many films spiral into insanity, but 'Shaye Saint John: The Triggers Compilation' has already fully spiraled from its first frame. Anybody looking for something weird will not be disappointed with this bizarre, disturbing underground oddity that features strange animation, amateurish puppetry, unsettling sex and violence, and, most prominently, some of the most insane editing in any film...ever.
Much of the overall impact of the film is due to the psychedelic and stylistic editing choices, making it somewhat comparable to 'Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!' in this regard, though it is, obviously, much much darker. However, it is still rather funny throughout. There's an underlying humour in almost every one of the thirty "triggers" that make up this film, whether the comedy be pitch black or flat out absurd (feeding a cat cheerios and calling it "kitty candy", sudden references to celebrities that trigger images of said celebrities to pop on the screen that are noticeably edited in a comically weird fashion, etc.) it is always present, whether it be above or below the tonal surface.
In 'Shaye Saint John: The Triggers Compilation', there is also always horror where there is humour. Many people are only aware of this film solely because some of the Shaye Saint John videos went viral online due to their creepiness. While much of the creepiness may derive from the uncanny valley effect derived from the central character's design, most of what I found genuinely unsettling dealt with some of the underlying themes of sexual abuse and obsession, and how these themes are so unusually and chaotically presented. There also seems to be some undercurrent of child abuse running through many of the scenes, as well as a more obvious satirical commentary on fame and desperation for stardom. The film certainly isn't some insightful masterpiece due to the presence of these themes, but they do certainly add a lot to its overall impact and power.
Most people would probably be unable to actually finish this ninety minute collection of surreal, abstract, and experimental "sketches"; this is inaccessibility at its most inaccessible (as far as films with actual scenes and things happening in them go anyway (this may seem like a weird thing to add for those who aren't particularly well versed in the existence of some non narrative slow cinema)), and yet there is entertainment value for those who can appreciate its shocking, disturbing, trashy, and oddly artful underground nature.
Mean Creek (2004)
a disturbing, sad, psychological drama about a difficult situation
There aren't really villains or heroes in this film. It's challenging to say which side of the situation is more in the right or more in the wrong, and, in this sense, it is both highly realistic and engaging. The first half of the film is rather flawed, if still to an extent entertaining and very well made (and does introduce the characters and set up very well), but, by the second half, this really becomes something great. It brings up many moral and ethical questions, and is able to do so in a surprisingly subtle and smooth way. It's smart, but subtly so. We are immediately confronted with conflict and a general situation, but it is not until we get deeper into the film does it really hit. And when it does hit...it hits hard. The ending remains largely ambiguous, but it's genuinely satisfying and makes the film feel as complete as it can. 'Mean Creek' is, in some respects, a brilliant movie and a great meditation on some difficult and universal issues.
Adam Elliot's childhood was certainly shrouded in darkness, his entire family seems to have been prone to some misfortune, and yet, in all of this darkness, Elliot is able to find plenty of absurdity, humour, and heart. 'Brother' is the third installment in his autobiographical trilogy. A deadpan narrator tells us of his brother and recounts scattered events and memories and details over the course of seven strange, engaging, and emotional minutes. Bordering on tears, I finished this short film. The ending is greatly disquieting, while the majority of the film, while extremely dark and even morbid in parts, is rather humourous (it's definitely the most consistently funny of the trilogy, though the other two parts are filled with plenty of humour as well). Such an ending gives this film even further strength than it already had, and what is left unsaid is really where its power lies.
sad, beautiful, and funny short from Adam Elliot
The second installment in animator Adam Elliot's autobiographical trilogy, 'Cousin' just about matches the mastery of the film preceding it. In only four minutes, Elliot tells a story infused with humour, absurdity, sadness, and beauty. The animation is strongly stylized, but fitting; the short itself is highly realistic, and yet also contains visuals of an almost surreal nature. Something feels off about the whole thing, but that's okay, because that's how it should be. Something SHOULD be feeling off.
"life can only be understood backwards"
Adam Elliot's style and approach to filmmaking is something that I find particularly powerful. His means of telling a story can be both simplistic and complex, riddled with jokes and genuinely impactful ruminations on life, love, death, and various other complicated philosophical and quintessentially human topics. And, although this was his very first film, Elliot really nails every aspect of both his personal stylistic approach to filmmaking and the art of the animated short in general. It's mild humour and heavy drama make 'Uncle' a brief but brilliant work of stop motion animation, and a generally excellent, funny, heartbreaking, and evocative work of art.
Oddly overrated, kind of preachy music video with both good and bad qualities.
The Good: The animation is quite lovely, and the general visual ideas presented are quite appealing. There are some very interesting concepts and moments buried within the loose story this short has going for it, and is even, in the end, somewhat powerful to whatever extent. I mean, the final lines of dialogue are halfway between a pro or con in the context of this short. They are super cheesy and eye rolling and unneeded, a more artful, less "mainstream" work would certainly not include such an obvious explanation of the message at the end, but, on a purely emotional level, part of these final lines did sort of touch me.
The Bad: Aspects of the video do feel like something a self deprecating self described weeaboo teenager would call deep and cry about, and since it's so easy for me to just create an entire stereotype out of thin air because of these aspects, I'm sure they must take away some Good Anime Points from the general presentation. The music the music video goes to is overly upbeat for the video itself I thought. There were elements to the electronic soundscape created that I found very sonically pleasing, but, generally, it was kind of a lame, generic song that some hipster would blast at a night club he goes to white knight ugly feminist women for a few hours a week that a bunch of cool, epic younger people would raise their red plastic cups full of Underaged Drinking Juice in the air to. This is not a compliment. The lyrics are also kind of really bad and generic. Yeah.
Overall, the video is okay go watch it if you want.