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.)