Tuesday, 31 December 2013

(37) Short Film Sunday #22: Tom Waits: A Day in Vienna (1978)

Tom Waits: A Day in Vienna (1978).
It has come to that, this year is over, last few hours of 2013, when a door closes, a window opens, so get ready for 2014! Don't look back, only look ahead, get ready for your next year's adventures, remarkable achievements and exciting short and longer films! It will be fabulous.
I have decided to finish off Short Film Sunday this year with some great and captivating stories and an excellent soundtrack, tuck in, grab your glass of champagne/wine/fizzy something and enjoy Tom Waits: A Day in Vienna (1978).
Filmed in April, 1978/1979, there are still some discussions about the timeline of the film, however at the end of the film, in the titles it is written that it was 1978. The films starts with Tom Waits leaning against a pump in a gas station, while smoking a cigarette, and opens up with his story, how he once worked in a place like this... When in 1978/1979 Tom Waits was touring in Europe two Austrian filmmakers, Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher, approached him in Vienna, asking whether Waits would agree to do an interview. As Rossacher said, Waits "didn't want to do a proper interview, but instead he wanted to tell stories". Hope you enjoy!
So, my dear reader, live next year in a way that you have a handful of stories to tell while sitting down by a glass of champagne at the end of 2014.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

(36) Short Film Sunday #21: The Snowman (1982)

The Snowman (1982).

Who is there up in the air? Close your eyes and imagine. Never ever limit your imagination, let it fly free.
Only two nights left till Christmas Eve, and three till Christmas day, we should all remember that this is a magical time not only for kids, but for all of us. This should be time when to read folk tales, fairy tales, your own tales, it is a time to add a bit of magic to everyday life. Raymond Briggs' animated picture book without words "The Snowman", published in 1978, brings to its readers or shall I say viewers, a bit of magic, that there is something more than our eyes can see. In 1982 the book was brought to the screen in a 26 minute short film The Snowman, and for the first time it was screened on December 26, 1982, on Channel 4. Immediately it was nominated for an Academy Award. The short film, same as the book, is wordless, with an exception of the song "Walking in the Air", performed by St Paul's Cathedral's choirboy Peter Auty, who was not credited in the original version, so many think that the song was performed by Aled Jones.
The Snowman is an exceptional work of art, it was made using traditional animation techniques, pastels, pencils and other colouring tools, which were used on pieces of celluloid  and then traced over hand drawn frames. The film tells a story of a young boy James, who discovers Christmas and its magic, during Christmas night James learns about fragility of life, importance of imagination and above all he learns about the importance of friendship.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Snowman, last year a sequel was made The Snowman and The Snowdog (2012).
The Snowman will bring to your home a white, happy and magical Christmas. Enjoy, my dear readers, and have a miraculous Christmas!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

(35) Short Film Sunday #20: What Do You Want for Christmas? (2009)

What Do You Want for Christmas? (2009).

Only nine days left till Christmas Eve. Excitement and hidden secrets in the wrapping paper! This is my favourite holiday time of the year, not only because Christmas is all about family, mountains of gingerbread cookies, clementines, candle light, snow and gifts, but also because of the fact, that my holiday time usually is prolonged, because my birthday is right after Christmas. Getting double as many gifts is always great! A bit selfish, but who doesn't enjoy getting gifts?
Many of us ask ourselves and our loved ones also, "What do you want for Christmas?" or "What do you need for Christmas?" And this slight change between "want" and "need" restricts our imagination of what we are going to get for our loved ones. Whether it is going to be something practical, something fun or sweet, or something that they are longing to get or something that they desperately need. I always try to keep it on the silver lining, I don't like to get things that will be sitting on the shelf and gathering dust, but at the same time I don't like to get every day things. The most important thing is to put a smile on the other person's face, that's what Christmas is all about!
This weeks short film asks you one simple question "What do you want for Christmas?" In the short you can get the whole spectrum of answers, going from a simple pair of gloves to a Lamborghini to peace on Earth, snow and having family home for Christmas. Selfish or giving, what do you really want for Christmas?
Enjoy, my dear reader!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

(34) Short Film Sunday #19: Le voyage dans la lune (1902)

Le voyage dans la lune (1902).

On December 8, 1861, in Paris, was born Georges Méliès, a great and important man in the history of moving pictures. By many he is considered "the father of the narrative film", Charlie Chaplin regarded him as "the alchemist of light", D.W. Griffith said "I owe him everything". To add to this, the first film that Riga, Latvia, born director Sergei Eisenstein saw, was a piece made by Méliès in Paris, in 1906.
Between 1896 and 1906 Méliès created Star Film company made around 500 films, from which less than 140 have survived. Méliès was a producer, director, writer, designer, cameraman and actor, he was the first to use dissolves, superimposition, time-lapse photography, art direction and artificial lighting effects. He showed that the camera can lie, Méliès used many optical effects. He was accused of producing kitsch and "genteel pornography", however Méliès main failing was "a paucity of imagination, which prevented him from exploiting fully the cinematic techniques he had devised".
Méliès was inspired by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, during his military service he visited the home of Robert-Houdin, who, although retired, once had been the leading stage magician in France. In 1888 Méliès purchased Robert-Houdin theater, from the great magician's widow. Above Robert-Houdin theater was Antoine Lumière's shop. Méliès realised that with the photograph one can alter the perception of reality, it was "the essence of magic". So, no surprise that on December 28, 1895, at 14 Boulevard des Capucines Méliès attended the first ever professional screening of movies with a projector, organised by none other than the Lumière brothers. Afterwards, Méliès bought a camera, "what followed is one of the outstanding early careers in film".
To celebrate his birthday, turn off the lights, light a candle and enjoy a science fiction adventure made by Méliès, Le voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902).

And if you want to go even further, watch Hugo (2011), and allow Martin Scorsese take you on an adventure in Paris with Méliès. If you want to grasp even more magic, watch Paul Merton's Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema. Enjoy!

P.S. I must admit I am proud that I was born on December 28, 1988, 93 years later after the first ever film screening took place. Planned trip to France on my 25th birthday, to visit the place where this wonder happened, but Scotland and mountains somehow won.

"History of Film. Second Edition." by David Parkinson.
"The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us" by David Thomson.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

(33) Short Film Sunday #18: How to Sharpen Pencils (2013)

How to Sharpen Pencils (2013).
Light and merry First Advent to everyone!
With Christmas around the corner comes warning about consumerism, don't be a victim to adverts and shopping centers, don't buy loads of stuff, instead, make your own gifts or at least put a little bit of your own work into gifts, it will be much appreciated by your friends and family, and me.
Pricefilms How to Sharpen Pencils is an enchanting short documentary about the almost lost and gone trade: pencil sharpening by hand. The short is practical and will teach you a trick or two about pencil sharpening, and there is a lot to learn, especially if you love drawing and want to treat your pencils with a respect.
The short has won several awards, including Sidewalk Film Festival award for the Best Documentary Short. Tune in, let the smile appear on your face and learn all about this artisan craft from David Rees.

Till next Sunday, my dear readers.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

(32) Short Film Sunday #17: White Noise (2012)

White Noise (2012).
This Short Film Sunday will be a little step aside from traditional cinema and shorts, that are usually posted here, nevertheless, it will offer you the same enjoyment and satisfaction. White Noise is more of a documentary/adventure type of film, so enjoy the scenic views and get inspired.
Winter is just around the corner or might be already in your backyard or on top of the mountain. Well, I heard that in Snowdonia, Wales, winter is already at hand, might be a destination for the Christmas trip. While I am planning my winter mountaineering trip to Scotland, to Cairngorms mountain range, thanks to Conville Memorial Trust (I will get to use ice axe! All excited and giddy.), I would suggest you, my dear readers, to plan something amazing for your winter. So this Short Film Sunday is for your inspiration and I challenge you all to do something this winter, that you have not done before.
White Noise (2012) from TimeLine films, featuring talented, admirable and regarded as the best big mountain rider, Xavier De La Rue, is a fantastic starting point in the search of inspiration. It will take you through snow, on top of the mountains, deep down in valleys and out in the sun, it is a fantastic trip to start your winter with. So wrap up, grab a glass of hot whiskey and enjoy the film! See you all out in the snow!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

(31) Short Film Sunday #16: Castello Cavalcanti (2013)

Castello Cavalcanti (2013).
Take one part Hollywood, one part fashion house, pick a European city, add some colour and... ACTION! A second collaboration between Prada and Wes Anderson (the first collaboration was advertisements for the fragrance Candy L'Eau, watch it here)  has resulted into a peculiar, quirky, colourful and charming  short film Castello Cavalcanti, which was released earlier this week. If it seems too long of a wait for The Grand Budapest Hotel (watch the trailer here), which will be released in March next year, or you just want to add some spice and colour to your otherwise bland and wet autumn evening, then this is for you.
Castello Cavalcanti is a short film indicatively set in Molte Miglia (translation: Many Miles), Italy in September, 1955, where an idyllic evening in the town is disturbed, when a race car crashes into a town center. Jed Cavalcanti, played by none other than Jason Schwartzman, emerges from the wrecked car and smoke. After his anger about the crash has reduced, he soon finds out that he has returned home, and friendly villagers actually are his ancestors.
The short film is vivid, performances are great and filming technique lets you stare right into the turmoil of adventure. Enjoy!

Monday, 11 November 2013

(30) Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977).

Three years after working on their first film Panthesilea: Queen of the Amazons in 1974, Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen decided to join forces once again and film what is now known as one of the most significant examples of British avant-garde cinema, Riddles of the Sphinx.

Mulvey and Wollen, before their collaboration in filmmaking, were distinguished film critics and theorists. They not only collaborated creatively, but they were also husband and wife. Both of their theoretical backgrounds influenced their filmmaking, Wollen has written several essays on Jean-Luc Godard and avant-garde cinema, Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” discussed film theory in combination with psychoanalysis and feminism. Mulvey in her essay, that is a special feature of BFI’s Riddles of the Sphinx edition, notes that Panthesilea: Queen of the Amazons works in some way as a prologue to Riddles of the Sphinx. Furthermore, both films question and discuss women’s place within society, and the politics of motherhood and womanhood, and both films put down their roots in Greek mythology. After Riddles of the Sphinx they continued their collaboration on four more films, their final collaborative feature was The Bad Sister (1983). It is worthy of note that the cinematographer involved with Riddles of the Sphinx was Diane Tammes, whose innovative approach made it possible to deliver Riddles of the Sphinx in the expected aesthetic strategy. In addition, Tammes was the first woman cinematographer in the UK, who got accredited by the Union, the ACTT.

Riddles of the Sphinx is broken into seven chapters to break up continuity, long 360 degree pan shots to create a sense of continuity, Mulvey and Wollen use various techniques to create a de-dramatized drama and a riddle of womanhood, motherhood and its representation and role within society. As noted, Riddles of the Sphinx puts down its roots in Greek mythology, and discusses the role of the Sphinx/female in the story about Oedipus from the facet of psychoanalysis; moreover, Freud’s Oedipus complex. The exclusion of women is already portrayed in the aforementioned story about Oedipus and the Sphinx, where the Sphinx is standing outside the Greek city gates of Thebes, not inside. The Sphinx was guarding the city gates, and every traveller needed to answer a riddle to gain access into the city. However, Oedipus was the only one who answered the Sphinx or the monster’s riddle correctly, in that way defeating her. In the same way, as the Sphinx was asking riddles to the travellers, Riddles of the Sphinx is asking riddles to the viewer about the origins of women’s oppression. Moreover, in its narrative the film itself becomes a riddle.
The film’s story evolves from Gertrude Stein’s lines: “A narrative of what wishes what it wishes it to be.” Stein was an established American modernist writer, who broke the forms of traditional and conventional writing. In the same way as Mulvey and Wollen have replaced conventional narrative of the film and have broken it up into seven chapters, so creating intermittent narrative. Seven chapters give the film a certain pattern and builds up symmetry. Accordingly, the first chapter echoes the seventh, whereas, in the second chapter Mulvey reads a piece about the Sphinx, which is written by Wollen, and then in the sixth chapter she rewinds the tape recorder and listens to its playback. In the third chapter grainy photographs of the Sphinx and close ups of its lips are shown, even more, close ups of the celluloid film are portrayed, which emphasises that the film itself is aware of it being a film, it echoes with the fifth chapter, which portrays female acrobats on tinted film. Hence, the pattern is 1-7, 2-6, 3-5, where the middle chapter, chapter 4, tells a story of the protagonist, Louise, it represents inequalities and problems which Louise needs to face after the separation from her husband. Louise is left alone to take care of her daughter, while working as a telephone operator. Each section of chapter four, altogether thirteen, represents a scene from her life, underlining the main changes in her life.
The end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s was an important time for women’s liberation movements, second wave feminism, upspring of psychoanalysis and in general it was a time when various disciplines, especially the arts, tried to break away from old and dusted established norms, forms and views, in order to create it all anew. 1974 was the height of women’s movement, also in the same year British psychoanalyst and socialist feminist, Juliet Mitchell, published her seminal work “Psychoanalysis and Feminism”, in which she notes, that in order to understand oppression and domestication of women one must first understand psychoanalysis. Even more, rejection of phallic and patriarchal psychiatry can end fatalistic for feminism. During the 1970s, Mulvey herself was attending women’s liberation movements meetings, which has also influenced Riddles of the Sphinx.
Moreover, on May 4, 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister. Hence, by the end of the 1970s, there was a noticeable wind of change regarding women’s rights. In much the same way as in the last three sequences of chapter four in Riddles of the Sphinx, pan shots change direction, instead of going from left to right, they move from right to left, to signal the change of mood in the film, as noted by Mulvey in the director’s commentary. The same change and progression of Louise’s life is marked by the use of colours in different sections during chapter four. Take for example, the first section in chapter four – kitchen – the main colours used are blues and yellows, no reds, whereas in the section – at Maxine’s – the set is infused with redness. Also Louise’s questions during the film changes, starting from domestic life in the kitchen section to asking questions about women’s oppression and rights in the playground section. Riddles of the Sphinx may be seen as a documentation of the women’s liberation movement, thus it could be categorized as an essay film. By including the story of Louise, Mulvey and Wollen takes the essay film form and fictionalises it, as noted by Mulvey in director’s the commentary, they did that to bring emotions into the film.
To conclude, the main change in Louise’s life is marked by her relationship with her daughter, by the end of chapter four, Louise isn’t anymore carrying her child, but is walking in the museum holding Anna by her hand. Riddles of the Sphinx starts with shots of the Sphinx, excluded woman, but ends with women as acrobats, the old idea of the woman juxtaposed to the new. The film ends with a spatial riddle, the maze, leading to the suggestion that the problems and riddles that the film tried to answer and solve are just a tip of the iceberg in the women’s liberation movements.

This review was originally written for zombiehamster.com.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

(29) Short Film Sunday #15: Out of a Forest (2010)

Out of a Forest (2010).

Out of a Forest (2010) is a little stop motion animated gem masterfully directed by Tobias Gundorff Boesen as his Bachelor degree film from  The Animation Workshop, it has deservedly won several awards and has been screened in quite a few film festivals.
Set in the woods surrounding Viborg (that makes me want to return to Denmark), Denmark and accompanied The National's song "Slow Show", it is a fantastic combination of a dark dreamlike story with a twist and happy out of a hat ending. The little hare family reminds me of bed time stories from my childhood, as well as, of my stuffed toy hare.
Have a nice cup of tea, sit back, enjoy and see for yourself what happens with the hare family!

P.S. Also give a listen to the new The National album "Trouble Will Find Me", a superb album.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

(28) Short Film Sunday #14: I'm Here (2010)

I'm Here (2010).

Spike Jonze is better known for such films as, Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), Where the Wild Thing Are (2009) or Scenes from the Suburbs (2011), which is a short film inspired by Arcade Fire's Grammy award winning album "The Suburbs", and is available as part of "The Suburbs" deluxe release. (Watch it, if you can hunt it down, whether you are Arcade Fire fan or not. I strongly recommend.)
The short film I'm Here is a nontraditional, poignant and heart-breaking love story. As bizarre as it may seem, it is about robots, only machines... Yet, Jonze has made it so, that you fall in love with the protagonist Sheldon in the first minutes of the film. One of the reasons for that could be that his voice belongs to none other than Amazing Spider-man, Andrew Garfield. Or it could be also because, be it machine or not, once human created, it may arise humane feelings, and if you have heart you will warm to Sheldon. All in all, why would we think that humans are the only ones capable of loving someone? Sheldon falls in love with music, a girl and a starry night. With that he opens a door to a different world, a world more fulfilled, a world of emotions and dreams.
Jonze in his short portrays a world, which is cohabited by humans and robots. A sci-fi love story, where combination of numbers (binary code) is equated to humans, their identities and feelings. However, it is not portrayed in a negative way, instead, the short portrays Sheldon and Francesca's (played by Sienna Guillory) love in a very intimate way, where outer image or money don't play any part. Their love will endure anything, even falling apart...
In some ways it gives hope, if the two man-made machines can fall in love in a fictional world, then I would like to think that human civilisation isn't completely lost to consumerism, yet.
Enjoy, my dear readers.

Good night!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

(27) Short Film Sunday #13: Red Shirley (2010)

Lou Reed (1942-2013)
All morning I was doodling around, then I watched Roman Polanski's Tess and started to think about preparations, in case a promised storm comes to Cardiff. I had my short films set aside, that I want to write about. Well... The storm came. But not the storm in its conventional meaning. I came back from a walk, started cooking dinner and my partner said: "Lou Reed is dead." In an hour I was gone, the storm of silence to remember and commemorate the great and legendary Lou Reed has started. Dangerousminds and OpenCulture posted it, nothing on BBC, still in disbelief till BBC posted it. The great and influential musician is gone, however, his work will always live on.
So, the course for this Sunday's Short Film Sunday has changed... Enough with words, enjoy Lou Reed's art.
Thus, here is a short film/documentary Red Shirley directed by the great Lou Reed. The trailer is below, the full film you can watch here.

A really moving and emotional piece. Enjoy and before you go to sleep, listen to one of the greatest live performances and one of the best Lou Reed's albums "Animal Serenade":

Lou Reed was a man who will be remembered and his art will never be forgotten. RIP.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

(26) Short Film Sunday #12: Cukurvate (Candyfloss) (2012)

Cukurvate (2012).
For a week I have enjoyed the lovely autumn in Latvia, chilled air, red, yellow and green leaves, which flicker in the sunshine, Indian summer, autumn harvest, falling leaves embellish your path, while you stroll through the park, a far far away smell of snow in the air and crisp grass in the mornings and misty meadows in the evenings, that for me is autumn. I will always need in my life four seasons, hot summers, freezing cold winters, awakening spring and colourful and rich autumn, full of harvest, and for that I love Latvia, it has it all!
So this week I offer you  a little glimpse into one of Latvia's cities, a city where I spent three years in school, that is Kuldīga. Yeah, with that weird line above the "i", that for you is Latvian.
The aim of the short film is to capture the old and romantic style of Kuldīga, with its wooden houses, charming little streets, an old bridge with a picturesque view of Ventas rapid, the widest rapid in Europe. As the director Oskars Morozs said, the short is made in the style of Federico Fellini and, especially, La Dolce Vita. It is made in black and white, in order to emphasise the antique value of the city. Candyfloss tells a story about the city of Kuldīga through kids playing hide and seek, saving a goose and enjoying one of the biggest treats of the childhood - candyfloss. Enough said, enjoy and founder away in your childhood memories!

And here are some scenic views Latvian autumn:

Sunday, 6 October 2013

(25) Short Film Sunday #11: Alma (2009)

Alma (2009).
Alma (2009) is  a brilliant little short film, creepy and scary, especially if all your childhood you had been scared of dolls. Well, I was and still am... And after this short I know why. The short is written and directed by Rodrigo Blaas, a former Pixar animator, who has worked on such beloved animations as, Wall-E, Up, Ratatouille, as well as La Luna (read my post on La Luna here), which are also my four favourite Pixar animations.
The animation is set in Barcelona during winter time and in concentrates around a little girl named Alma (in translation from Spanish it means "soul", which actually gives quite a deep subtext to the story), who gets tricked into an enchanted toy store, after in its window she sees a doll who looks like her. However, she doesn't know what awaits her in the spooky world of dolls...
The story is very well crafted, the animation is marvelous, and although the imagery of the short is sweet and adorable, as you can see from the picture above, despite that, there is quite a bit of underlying spookiness and creepiness. The short has won Animacor, International Animation Festival in Spain, award for the Best Andalusian Short, in 2009, it has also won an award for the Best Short in L.A. Shorts Fest in 2009. In 2010 it was announced that DreamWorks has made a deal with Rodrigo Blaas to adapt his short film Alma into a full length feature film, he himself will be directing it, with Guillermo del Toro executive producing it. According to this Variety article in June, 2012, the film was in visual development stage. So if you enjoy the short keep your eyes open, when the full length feature hits the big screens.
Now I will keep quiet and let you enjoy this adorable little piece! Have a good night's sleep!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

(24) Short Film Sunday #10: The Last Bookshop (2012)

The Last Bookshop (2012).
The Last Bookshop (2012) is a short film set in the future, where digital holographic entertainment has taken over physical and actual entertainment, like, books. The short film portrays this, in my opinion, dreaded future, where real books have died out. One day, the holographic computer/device fails, and a young boy is left with nothing to do, so he wanders around the streets and stumbles upon this long forgotten bookshop. In fact, as the shopkeeper states, he had his last customer 25 years ago. So, of course, the shopkeeper is excited and happily gives a pile of books to the young lad and tells him the stories of the old world, times when things were real and you could touch and smell them. The old shopkeeper even tells about one of his adventures, when he "queued up at midnight for a book about a wizard. It was the vogue.".
It is delightful little story, that reminds us, how important is physical communication with people, having first hand experience of everything (what also Whitman emphasised in his poetry), so lets not forget about it. So, pick up a book and have a reading hour with a nice cup of cocoa and go and visit some of your friends tomorrow or just smile to the stranger. Because, I certainly don't want to end up in the world where there is only one bookshop left, and even that is taken over by a mean villain named Gamazone. See for yourself how it would look!

Remember, the book can never show you an error message, it will never fail you...

Friday, 27 September 2013

(23) Encounters: Film Industry Road Map, Panel Discussion

Watershed. Bristol, UK. (Picture from: http://bristoltimes.com)
From September 17 till September 22 Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival took place in Bristol, UK. This year I didn't have a chance to attend any of the screenings, however thanks to the IdeasTap I had an opportunity to attend "The Business: Film Industry Road Map Panel Discussion" on September 18, at  the Watershed, Bristol. This was the first of that kind of discussion that I have attended, and being a skeptical person, my hopes weren't high. Obviously, they won't give you a magical formula how to break your way into the film industry, but I must admit they gave some darn good advises, and I am glad that I had a chance to attend this discussion. Therefore, I decided to share some of these advises.

But first things first, who were the panellists you are asking? The panel consisted of four very talented and hard working people and it was hosted by two members of the IdeasTap. The first and the youngest one of panellists was Rob Savage, "multi-award winning writer/director", who recently with his feature film Strings won a British Independent Film Award. One of his latest works include a music video for Dear Reader's "Took Them Away", you can watch it here. The second was Henry Beattie, who is an Acquisitions Consultant at Transmission Films, he also works in a creative development role at London based production company Montebello Productions. The third was Madeleine Probst, who is a Programme Producer at the Watershed, where the event took place. And the last, but not the least, was Gavin Humphries, who is a Producer at Quark Films. The panel discussion was hosted by Will Davies, responsible for the IdeasTap Spa (Spa as in career advice and events), and Laura McFarlane, partnership manager at the IdeasTap. They all come from different walks of life and it amazed me how many different jobs and things they have done before they got the jobs in which they are working now. Well except for Rob, who already at the age of 18 wrote, directed, shot, co-produced and edited feature film Strings, which is quite an admirable achievement.

One of the first tips they gave to the filmmakers was [#1] do your research. As in, before you approach someone with your CV, or ask to screen or distribute your film, do research and see whether the company you are getting in touch with will be interested in your product. For example, if I don't like chocolate with nuts, don't come offering me chocolate with nuts, because I will turn you down without thinking twice about it. Next, and it might seem the most obvious advice, although I would say that it is the hardest one and most time consuming of all advises: [#2] build your network. And when you meet someone somewhere and you get his or her card, don't forget about the [#3] follow up. Remind them who you are, that you are the person from the last day's party, conference or whatever. If you have aroused their interest once, don't let them forget about you. Most probably thanks to your network and connections, you will also get your first experience in your desired occupation. Remember, [#4] experience is more important than education. When watching a film and enjoying its soundtrack, script or the way it was directed, write it down, try and get in touch accordingly with the author of the script or composer or director, [#5] find your mentor. Mentors usually will help you also with building your network and gain some experience. [#6] Deliver your work on time. Don't start making up excuses why you are late, why you couldn't finish your work, just finish it, deliver it, go through with it, don't half arsed do something, do it. If somebody isn't fully happy with your idea, try and adjust it to what they want. Adjusting doesn't mean losing your own idea, it's just means being flexible and showing how creative you can be. Last but not least, [#7] always keep at least two other ideas in your pocket, if they don't like one, offer the next one.

Remember, as Madeleine Probst noted, instead of calling mistakes mistakes, call them breakthroughs. Even with a mistake you have achieved something, you have learned something new.

Finally, at the end of the discussion I asked: "How do you joggle between a full time job and get your first experience in film industry (which usually is unpaid, but it is necessary to eat and pay bills)?" The answer being: work hard, and if you are doing that, work even harder. So go out there and start working hard to prove yourself! Nothing comes easy, and the only way to get something you desire is hard work.

Good luck!

*This is the author's of the article interpretation/perception of the panel discussion, the panellists or attendees aren't directly quoted.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

(22) Short Film Sunday #9: Slow Derek (2011)

Slow Derek (2011).
Today is the last day of Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, to mark that I am presenting to you the short that received the Grand Prix, Animated Encounters, in 2011: Slow Derek. However, that is not the only award that film has won. The stop motion animation Slow Derek is directed by Dan Ojari, who is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, with an MA in Animation, he has won several awards both as a director and as an animator.
Slow Derek is an epic and fascinating tale of an office worker Derek, who "struggles with the true speed of planet Earth". The short ties together Derek's slow and mundane life with the dizzying rotation of planet Earth. It is clever and, I would dare to say, a scientific short, which leaves you thinking, how we all still hold onto this world?
Ojari described the plot of Slow Derek to shortoftheweek.com as:
"very much about relativity and the contrast between the mundane and the colossal. The starting point was after I became particularly fascinated with how fast the earth is travelling, especially because we don’t feel this speed. We are literally hurtling through space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour and yet don’t feel a thing. I felt this was, aside from being an amazing actual fact, also was an interesting metaphor for modern day life."

Hope you enjoyed this little spellbinding short that deals with such big issues, and stop by in couple of days to read my piece on the IdeasTap organised panel discussion that was a part of this years Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival: Film Industry Road Map.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

(21) Short Film Sunday #8: The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling (2011)

The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling (2011).
The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling is a little sweet stop-motion animation about an old man and his fear. Nevertheless it is an ambitious and well carried out graduation project of Joseph Wallace, director and writer, and Emma-Rose Dade, cinematographer, from Newport Film School. The film was made in the period of eight months, everything you see in it is hand made, even the little flowers, everything that moves in the film, is moved by hand, and that makes this film even more charming. The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling has received several awards, including Best Up and Coming Talent Award at Canterbury Anifest, and it has been nominated for several more, including BAFTA Cymru Short Form and Animation Award.
I stumbled upon this gem through Future Shorts page on Youtube, after making a little research on it, I realised that it has been made almost in my neighborhood, that is Newport, since now I am living in Cardiff. So on my list of things to do, I now have a visit to Newport Film School, to see whether I can stumble upon other gems that are being created there.
Back to The Man Who Was Afraid of Falling, it tells a story about Ivor, whose "life is turned upside down after a falling plant pot sparks a series of paranoid reactions". It's sweet, charming, inspiring, enjoyable, admirably well done and touching, after all we all are afraid of something. See for yourself how this story goes:

Here is a short interview with Joseph Wallace and a little peak into the making of the animation:

Have a lovely Sunday afternoon!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

(20) Short Film Sunday #7: The Longest Daycare (2012)

The Longest Daycare (2012).
David Silverman the main director of The Simpsons Movie (2007) and the supervising director for The Simpsons series presents to us a short 3D animation film The Longest Daycare starring Maggie Simpson. I must admit I haven't seen all the seasons of The Simpsons, however it was refreshing to watch something that concentrates on Maggie. Executive producer Al Jean said to Entertainment Weekly, that it is "hard to do a 20-minute Maggie episode, but in four minutes it’s great. She’s like Charlie Chaplin." So it is, the animation is funny, sweet and charming, and it has no dialogue. But for a story with no dialogue and only 4 minutes in length, it has enough twists and turns. Doesn't matter if you are or if you are not the fan of The Simpsons, you will still enjoy this whimsical gem.
The short was originally screened on the big screen before Ice Age: Continental Drift, it was nominated for Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2013, but lost it to Paperman.
Sit back and enjoy!

Because it is father's day today in Latvia, here is something special for all the fathers. Never forget how special you are in your child's life.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

(19) Short Film Sunday #6: Destino (2003)

Destino (2003).

Destino (2003) is collaborative work between Salvador Dalí, Walt Disney and Disney Studio artist John Hench. Although the project started in 1946 (a year after Dalí and Hitchcock's collaboration on Spellbound (1945)) it only saw daylight in 2003. Some say that Disney approached the famous surrealist Dalí because of criticism that Disney Studio received, that it sacrificed art and inventiveness over marketability, that is, Disney Studio preferred a safer way of doing things. There was no convincing needed on Dalí's side, he quickly started to sketch, draw and make the first storyboards. However, 8 months into producing, the project was cancelled due to financial problems, nevertheless, Dalí and Disney stayed lifelong friends. From their short collaboration only a 17 second long demo reel survives alongside several sketches, drawings and storyboards. 
Destino was forgotten until the Disney Studio started their work on Fantasia (1940) sequel Fantasia/2000 (1999), both of which are richly inspired by surrealism. Fantasia/2000 inspired Roy Edward Disney to re-start and finish Dalí and Disney's project. By using Dalí's notes and storyboards and a little bit of help from Hench himself, the six minute animation was brought to life and finally saw daylight being premiered at the New York Film Festival in 2003. Although, they tried to keep it as close as possible to the original Dalí work, using some  original methods of animation, there is a sense of modernity and modern animation techniques, so in the end it is a Disney Studio work inspired by Dalí, Hench and Disney's collaboration back in 1946. However, the 17 seconds long original footage is a part of the final project, it is the bit where two turtles moves towards each other. Destino won several awards and was also nominated for the Academy Awards as the Best Animated Short Film. The musical score of the animation is composed by Armando Dominguez and performed by Dora Luz.
"Destino" from Spanish means "destiny", and so Destino tells a tragic love story of Chronos (the personification of time) who falls in love with a mortal woman and as in love stories there is a complication, that being, they cannot be together. The animation depicts different transformations as they dance over the surrealistic landscapes of Dalí's paintings.
Dalí described Destino as, "A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time." In juxtaposition to that, Disney described it as, "A simple story about a young girl in search of true love."
No matter, it is a masterpiece, which more than half a century ago was born in the minds of two geniuses, and an enjoyable treat for a Sunday evening.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

(18) Short Film Sunday #5: Vincent (1982)

Vincent (1982).
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Tim Burton, happy birthday to you!

Tim Burton, for me one of the most peculiar and extraordinary directors working today, was born on this day in 1958. In order to mark this special day, I want to share one of his early works and my favourite Burton film Vincent (1982).
Vincent is an adaptation of Burton's poem of the same title. The making of this horror stop motion picture took around two months, it was shot in black and white, and with spooky shadows on the walls, it resembles the style of German expressionist films. It tells the story of a 7-year-old boy Vincent Malloy, who wants to be just like Vincent Price, who is actually the narrator of the film and Burton's childhood idol. Vincent dreams/imagines himself in varying situations, such as a tortured artist who has lost his wife and is banished to the tower of doom. In his imagined world Vincent lives through the stories written by Edgar Allan Poe and through different situations that Vincent Price would have experienced. From time to time he is reminded of the real world that is outside his room, nevertheless, at the end, to free himself from his torturous doom, he falls on the ground and [imagines that he] dies, while quoting lines from Poe's "The Raven":

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Did you notice Jack Skellington's cameos? If not watch again, if you did, then you shall continue and watch this brilliant "The Raven" reading by Vincent Price.

Have a lovely Sunday evening, my dear reader!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

(17) Short Film Sunday #4: Luminaris (2011)

Luminaris (2011).

Sunday is here, which means it's time for Short Film Sunday. For this week I have picked an animated stop-motion Luminaris directed by Argentinian director Juan Pablo Zaramella. The film is made using a technique called pixilation, it is a form of animation, where live actors are animated frame by frame. Pixilation is a slow and laborious process, since every single frame needs to be composed and then shot separately. Because of the weather changes, the movement of the sun, hereof also shadows would change the position every day of filming, it took more than two years for Juan Pablo Zaramella to make this 6 min long short film.
Luminaris is set in Buenos Aires, but revisited from somehow a surrealistic point of view, and it tells a story of a city in which sunlight is a magnetic and controlling force. In the morning, as the sun rises, all the light bulb factory workers are drawn to their work. Within the factory they are all in their little cubicles making light bulbs, however one of these cubicles is different, because in it a young man is determined to change something about his otherwise predictable life.
The short has received many awards and honors, and in 2011 it was shortlisted for Academy Awards as Best Animated Short Film.

It is one of my favourite shorts and stop-motion has always fascinated me, I hope you enjoy!

Friday, 16 August 2013

(16) Bates Motel (2013-) for sleepless nights

Bates Motel, TV show (2013).
If you are not looking forward to a good night's sleep, but instead, seek for some sleepless nights, then stop by and read on.
New, successful and captivating TV show Bates Motel is already confirmed for a second season and if you missed the first season on your TV screens, go and get the first season's box set. You have to watch it, you have to see it! It is not a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho or Robert Bloch's novel Psycho it is a prequel to Psycho set in modern times, which occasionally pays homage to "the good old films" from Hitchcock's Psycho era. It is a story of how Norman Bates became Hitchcock's iconic psycho.

Many thought that this show would not work, that it should not work, that Bates Motel shouldn't exist, but the executive producer from Lost, Carlton Cuse, and the writer of Friday Night Lights, Kerry Ehrin, somehow succeeded, even so much that it makes you wonder why TV producers didn't come up with this idea sooner?
Freddie Highmore from Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and August Rush (2007), the little chocolate loving and guitar playing boy has grown up and becomes Norman Bates, alongside the exceptional Vera Farmiga starring as Norman's all loving mother, Norma Louise Bates. A lovely addition to both of them is Norman's half-brother Dylan, played by Max Thieriot. The cast is fantastic for this show, Highmore fearlessly steps into Anthony Perkins' shoes and captures the essence of Norman Bates, the chemistry between Farmiga and Highmore is so deep and indisputable, that sometimes it tricks the viewer into believe that the relationship between Norman and Norma is normal and perfectly sane. However Thieriot's character Dylan is there to remind us how insane and wrong it all is. I would say that out of all the characters, Dylan is the only rational one, but despite this fact, it is still quite easy to relate to all of the characters, there is nothing paranormal about them, nothing that would alienate them from the viewer, despite all the horror they go through and inflict.
The picturesque village and lovely landscape shots reminds me of David Lynch's created TV show Twin Peaks. Both shows inhabit a little picturesque village full of dark secrets, weirdoes and, obviously, high crime rate. I just hope that Bates Motel won't go down the path of extra-terrestrial creatures, the spiritual world and backwards speaking midgets (don't get me wrong, I love Twin Peaks), I just hope that Bates Motel will strongly hold its foot in this world. Although, from Hitchcock's Psycho you know who is the psycho, still after every episode you want to see the next one and the next one... Suspense and horror is there to keep you awake for few nights and to keep you coming back for the next episode.


Burns: But all she really ever wanted was home.
Bruce: Well, I'll try to give her one.
Burns: I know you will, Bruce. Are you going to live with your mother?
Bruce: Just for the first year,
Burns: That'll be nice. A home with mother. A real honeymoon.

The opening dialogue of Bates Motel is from His Girl Friday (1940) (read about it on my blog here), and with these lines opens up the world of Norman and Norma Bates and the line "That'll be nice. A home with mother.", will stay and echo in the viewer's mind all throughout the first season.
The story immediately sets off, mother and her son moves to the house that overlooks the notorious motel in the beautiful village of White Pine Bay. All the craziness starts, threats, attack, a rape scene, murder, a manga book, Asian sex slaves, a mysterious man from room number 9, a murdered police officer, fields of pot, a burned man in a car, a burned man hung, an eye for an eye and a hand for a hand... A lot happened in the first season, almost too much. If the first episodes kept a bit of mystery with controlled pace, in which the viewer could keep a track on who is involved in what story line, then starting from episode 3 or 4 it just all started to boil over, it seemed a bit too much. However by the end of the season the show found its footing again, and luckily, also found conclusions for a few cases, at least the Asian sex slave case, although we never get to know what happened to the girl after she ran into the woods.
In spite of the quick pace and many twists and turns, Bates Motel still delivers engrossing tales, for example, the viewer gets to know how and when Norman's black outs start to appear, we all know, that Norman's black outs don't lead to anything good. Furthermore we get to know how and why Norman fell in love with taxidermy. After all, there are loads of stuffed birds in Psycho (watch the short clip from Psycho below). In Bates Motel, when Norman's dog Juno gets hit by a car, he says that it feels disrespectful to bury Juno, so he goes to Emma's father to learn taxidermy, so in some ways he can keep Juno.

Furthermore, we get to know Norman's infamous mother better. Despite all the burned men and severed arms, Norma's rape scene, in my mind, will stay as the most horrific scene of all. Norma's rape scene aroused a weird mix of feelings, fear, shock, sympathy, disgust, repulsion, and somewhere far, far back in my head a tiny voice was saying that she deserved it, because of what she is doing and will do to Norman. Then, in the last few episodes of the season we get to know that Norma's brother raped her during her childhood, then the rape scene starts making more sense, her need to be in control of everything and to know everything makes sense and all of a sudden, she doesn't seem as such a monster who is ruining Norman's life, instead she becomes more human. Norma is simply a ruined human being. Because she doesn't know how to exist in this world, she also doesn't know how to let Norman live in this world. 
So in the end, despite all their wrong doings, you feel sympathy for the characters, you understand them, you still know that what they are doing is wrong, even evil, but somehow it seems the only way they can exist.
I loved it! I loved the first season, it had its pros and cons, but I am positively surprised how well it all turned out.

P.S. To answer the question whether Norman killed his teacher or not, I am on the side of the argument that says he did. He has his black out, we hear the key phrase: "You know what you have to do, don't you?". And the next thing he is running away and she is on the floor dead.
Well, I might be terribly wrong, but we won't know till the second season, will we?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

(15) Short Film Sunday #3: Tuileries (Paris, je t'aime) (2006)

Tuileries (2006).

Planning your next trip? Well how about a trip to Paris? Everyone wants to go to Paris at least once in their life! Keep on reading and watching and you will find out a few useful tips about Paris, and especially its metro.

This is kind of a half way cheating short film, since it is a short film within a feature length film, nevertheless it is brilliant. One of 18 segments from the film Paris, je t'aime (2006)Tuileries directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, who are now adapting their own big screen Fargo (1996) to everyone's living room via TV.

Tuileries tells a story of a tourist, played by Steve Buscemi, in Paris' metro station. As a diligent tourist he pulls out his guide book on Paris, and everything that he is reading in the book the Coen brother's place in front of his eyes, "Paris is a city for lovers... lovers of... love", and who is there on the other side of the railroad, of course, two lovers. Instead of using dialogue, evidently the tourist doesn't know French, the Coen brothers use camera to tell the story. Through use of close ups and medium shots, the combination of the tourist's thoughts, the text from the guide book and back to the tourist's thoughts, the story is told. One eye contact and the tourist is pulled into the whirlpool of two lovers fighting, in the whirlpool of Paris, the city of love. And let's not forget the little boy and his spit balls, which made me smile every time. Enjoy!

This video has no English subtitles, feel as the tourist does. If you want to watch with English subtitles, go here, however video quality isn't as good.

I know I said one short film per Sunday, but because I fear that you are all having a slight dread of Parisians after watching the Coen brothers' short, I feel responsible to relieve your fears. So before I leave you all to your Sunday duties, please, take your time and fall in love with Paris.

14e Arrondissement directed by Alexander Payne, in my opinion, is the most moving short out of all in Paris, je t'aime. Beautiful in its simplicity!

Now, who is up for catching the next train London - Paris?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

(14) Short Film Sunday #2: Six Shooter (2004)

Six Shooter (2004).
Previous Sunday I wrote about a marvelous little short film La Luna (2011), you can read the post and watch it here.
Well, this week I return with something that would not be advisable for the kids under 16. It is Martin McDonagh's short film Six Shooter (2004). If you enjoyed McDonagh's latest film Seven Psychopaths (2012), you will also enjoy this, well in this one you don't have Tom Waits with a white rabbit, but you do have Brendan Gleeson with a white rabbit.
Six Shooter is a black Irish comedy, with blood, several deaths, funny/sad accidents, where you are not sure whether to laugh or cry or your face just freezes out of shock. It has it all, even a lad who won't shut up for a second in the whole film. In the end all is grand.
Hop on the train and enjoy Martin McDonagh's several award winning short, including Academy Award for Live Action Short Film, with Brendan Gleeson and never quiet lad Rúaidhrí Conroy.

If you still have free time on your hands this Sunday and you enjoyed this dark comedy, then head to the library and borrow Martin McDonagh's excellent play "The Cripple of Inishmaan" or head to London and watch it at Noel Coward Theatre, starring Daniel Radcliffe. (P.S. You can give me two tickets as a gift, would love that.)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

(13) Short Film Sunday #1: La luna (2011)

To get myself more disciplined and return back in the rhythm of watching and writing about films I came up with an idea for Short Film Sunday. So, from now on every Sunday I will shortly discuss one short film. All in all, Sunday's are lazy days, so what can be more delightful than watching a short film while having a lovely cup of afternoon tea and then taking a nap.

La luna (2011).
As an opening short film for my Short Film Sunday I chose La luna (2011). It is one of my absolute favourite short films and Pixar films. It is directed and written by Enrico Casarosa (now working on the upcoming Pixar feature The Good Dinosaur).
When I went to see the new hit from Pixar Brave (2012) last autumn, beforehand they showed a sweet little animation La luna (The Moon), which, in my opinion, was the highlight of the whole screening. It is a story about 3 generations, a grandfather, a father and a son, about their different ways of perceiving life and doing things, about one family's very special and most unusual line of work.

It is a captivating piece of animation, food for grown ups imagination and a marvellous little tale for kids to tell about the making of the crescent moon. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!
Have a lovely Sunday!

Monday, 10 June 2013

(12) Breathless (1960): Godard's first full breath

It might be because soon enough I am moving and I am looking at all the lasts I will do and see, last time when I walk down the prom, last time when I will have a cup of coffee in this coffee shop, last time when I will go for a swim here, last... And on and on... However I am trying to look at all the firsts that await me as it awaited Alfred Hitchcock with his FIRST Technicolor film Rope (read my previous blog post on it here) and Breathless is Jean-Luc Godard's phenomenally successful FIRST feature.

Breathless (1960)
Breathless is directed by Jean-Luc Godard who established the French New Wave, it is a jazzy story set in Paris, there is a femme fatale played by Jean Seberg (for which Godard spent a quarter of the film's total budget) and there is a perfect gangster played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, and behind all the crime and games there is a French New Wave kind of love story. It is a mix of truth and beauty, and yet it leaves a feeling that you have just set your foot in Wonderland, where the border between real and unreal has vanished, that is full of unhappiness and ends in madness and tragedy. Yet Breathless is a moment of hope and joy. Breathless brought a breeze of energy and inventiveness into the industry of cinema, with its jagged and unpredictable style the film gaining worldwide acclaim even to this day.

Interestingly, starting with and since Breathless (original title: À bout de souffle) (1960) Godard has been making his own film trailers, Vinzenz Hediger (For Ever Godard, you can also read his piece here) writes:
The trailer for À bout de souffle gives us and idea of what a good classical trailer essentially is: a cinematic list poem about a film.
Please, take your time and before you continue to read, watch Godard's poem about Breathless here.
It is not unusual that a director make trailers for his own films, as Hediger marks, it is more unusual that most of Godard's trailers have been actually used to introduce his films. Making a good film trailer asks for a detachment from the film, which director's usually lack, but as a former film critic for Cahiers du cinéma and an alumnus of Fox's publicity department in Paris, Godard was well aware of what a good film trailer needs. In the trailer for Breathless, a female's voice simply names the things we see, also indicating protagonists and their characteristics ("The pretty girl, The bad boy ... The nice man, The bad woman"), while a man's voice, which is Godard's voice, steps in to inform us, the viewers, that the author of the screenplay is François Truffaut, then names the technical advisor, before going on to name the director and who is starring in the film. Godard's trailers then aren't as much an advertisement for the film, but more serves as an introduction to the film, as Hediger writes, "Trailers, then, let the film begin before it actually begins." In comparison to mainstream trailers, Hediger argues that:
While mainstream trailers often contain all the best scenes from the movie, Godard's films contain all the best scenes that make up the trailer, because in them, as in so many cinematic realisations of Novali's infinite novel, the film never entirely begins, and the trailer certainly never ends.
So it should be, a trailer should introduce the film to the viewer without revealing what is going to happen. The trailer for Breathless portrays the film being in the film noir style, it even pays homage to Howard Hawks' classic Scarface. However, after watching the film, although there are film noir elements - a stolen car, a shooting, a murder - it still somehow feels too light and airy for film noir, though it still leaves a taste of sadness. Godard himself after releasing the film realised, that it is not as realistic as he intended it to be, as David Serrit writes:
[Godard] intended the seminal Breathless to be realistic, but realized soon afterward that it was closer to Alice in Wonderland than to the hard-boiled film noir tradition that he wanted to emulate.
Breathless (1960)
Although the characters are as real as the film allows, the film itself seems somehow unreal, an almost surrealistic world. The protagonists, Patricia and Michel, are both care free, casual, young and beautiful, and full of dreams. That is the lightness that Breathless leaves, that hope for change and blithe life. Breathless is regarded as the seminal film of the French New Wave, nevertheless it still, after more than 50 years, seems revolutionary and innovative, fresh and new, seductively dangerous. It is the camera work, that brings the film to a new level, it is the camera that innovates. Godard valued his own personal expression in cinema, significantly Godard used caméra-stylo or "camera pen", embracing that a film should be an intimate act. As Godard marks "In my early days I never asked myself whether the audience would understand what I was doing", for him the importance of the film was hidden in his relationship with the film. In Breathless, Godard enjoyed doing things for the first time, being innovative, trying something that no one has done before, something that would be more interesting, because the first time is fascinating, when it is done a second time it is less interesting, as Godard puts it "Pictures are made to make seen the unseen."

Godard sees that all three moments in making a film are equally important: before, during and after. In contrast, Godard notes about Hitchcock, "With somebody like Hitchcock everything is calculated down to the last second, so editing is less important. À bout de souffle owes a great deal to the montage. It is a film in three movements, the first half-hour fast, the second moderato and the third allegro vivace again".

"Films are the only things by which to look inside of people,
and that's why people are so fond of movies and why they'll never die."
/Jean-Luc Godard/

P.S. After his successful debut and screening of Breathless at the Cannes film festival (it didn't take a part in the competition) in 1960, Godard gave a somehow sad interview, which leaves us with a feeling that he has lost something, because his first film was so successful.

"We have to fight the audience."