WATCH—> Take Shelter …..

I have a list of films ….. 2011’s best of the best according to the local newspaper….I’m putting their list to the test.

I started with The Tree of Life and could only manage to get half way through….I’ll try again later….with more coffee and renewed interest.  It was beautiful but nothing caught me.

So the next up was Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter.

This film is worth watching.   Twice.   I plan on watching it again this evening.  I’m telling all of my friends about it.  I didn’t expect to need a tissue, but if you have a couple handy….it’s better than using your sleeve.   Don’t worry, this is no sob story drama but instead, the film provides raw insight into the world of fear….fear of one’s mind and the fear of what’s coming.

Here’s a review by Mike McCahill from Seven Magazine because I’m out of time and why not leave the film review writing to the writers?

The tall, wiry, reliably compelling actor Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) lands a plum role in Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter as Curtis LaForche, an Ohioan construction worker suddenly plagued by apocalyptic visions. A practical man, Curtis’s instinct is not to reach out – his loving wife (Jessica Chastain) remains a helpless onlooker – but to retreat: first into himself, then into an abandoned storm shelter.

Crucially, Curtis is no loon. Even as he obsessively refashions the shelter, we gather he’s still well-adjusted enough to question why he’s been led to these extremes. Latent schizophrenia? Or is it some vague primal duty, as his family’s protector?

Part CGI-enhanced horror pic, part American art-movie, this film displays fascinatingly diverse influences. Nichols, a graduate of the Terrence Malick school, gives stupendous, screen-filling sky, but he also spots those niggling quotidian concerns – reddening budget sheets, layoffs – presently driving many on the ground to derangement. There’s clear metaphorical value in Curtis’s predicament, and the film hardly reassures us in forecasting worse weather to come.

Nichols and Shannon burrow further into the darkness, leading us to wonder how we’re ever going to emerge. That Take Shelter eventually finds an exit without short-changing either its scenario or its audience makes it one of 2011’s great cinematic achievements.

 

 

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REBLOG —-> Sundance Online Shorts via shortstack

REBLOG –> shortstack.wordpress.com

 

Managing Cynicism: This Year’s Great Crop of Sundance Online Shorts

25JAN

Maybe I’m a bit cynical. That’s not true. I’m excessively cynical. I could claim it comes naturally once you’ve seen too many movies, but that doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse. And the 2012 Sundance Film Festival’s online shorts are a perfectly illustrative example of why any exhausted approach to new movies is a bad idea.

American independent film has arguably hit a point of stylistic ferment. There’s a ton of exciting and innovative new work produced every year, but there’s also a growing list of aggravating indie film trends. Documentaries about cute old people doing something unexpected en masse, raucous banter-heavy family comedies, quirky teenagers that talk like cynical 30-somethings. It’s true that each of these styles initially caught on because of some genuinely excellent films, but that doesn’t make the inferior ones any less irritating. If I were to say “oh, it was just another bad Sundance movie” a lot of people would have a pretty clear stereotypical image, though it might vary based on the individual.

All of that drives the cynicism. You can sense a dreadful movie in its first few minutes; it’s so easy to put it into a box. Yet take heed! Apparently it doesn’t always work that way (I know, duh). Sometimes that instant recognition is right (see Jesus Henry Christ). But often it’s totally wrong. Seven of the nine Sundance online short films had me convinced for a good 1-3 minutes that they were going to be predictable and frustrating. Each one of them proved me wrong.

Click on the images to go watch the shorts!

Una Hora por Favora, by Jill Soloway

I got pretty invested in the apparent genre of this short film rather quickly. The set-up is as follows: a single woman inCalifornia, constantly harassed by her mother, ends up hiring a day laborer to come fix her shower. Lonely and neurotic, it becomes inevitable that she’s going to hit on him. Movies about middle-class white urbanites having a roll in the hay with the help, without any effort to resolve the whole objectification-exoticizing thing, are really irritating. Mercifully, this turns into a satire and by the end has supplied enough ridiculous neurotic behavior that I’m confident it knows what it’s doing. I think.

Henley, by Craig Macneill

Sometimes a short film can be a bit too long. It sounds silly, but it’s actually a lot easier for a short to overstay its welcome than a feature. Shorts need to validate every second. Henley just takes too much time to wind up. Ted is nine years old and has an unsettling hobby, like many of his Sundance-y brethren. He collects dead animals from off the road by his father’s motel. For most of the short he just keeps gathering and experimenting. Director Craig Macneill is very deliberate in slowing down the kid’s process of inspiration. Yet the last half is redemptive, and the final moments of the short show that Macneill really does know what’s up.

Odysseus’ Gambit, by Àlex Lora Cercos

Documentaries about the really entertaining and socially excluded person hanging out in the park (or any other public place) often come from a genuinely selfless place and turn out to be impressively self-indulgent. I worried aboutOdysseus’ Gambit from the beginning, but that was mostly because I really need to get my cynicism checked out by a doctor. Admittedly the intertitles aren’t the best device and the audience could easily build a story without them (they could certainly be in a better font). But once Saravuth gets around to telling his story things lift off. Sometimes a human life gets caught in the mess of a filmmaker desperately trying to tell it. By the end of this short, its subject’s fascinating character absolutely gets through.

’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card, by Todd Sklar

Bros acting ridiculous can get really tiring, whether or not they are actually brothers. Adults acting like adolescents, especially in some recent “homecoming of age” movies (™ Christopher Campbell), behave badly and only learn once the plot forces them into obligatory heartwarming Act III. Todd Sklar miraculously doesn’t let that happen, despite some early warning signs: comically large diner orders, inexplicable childish costume choices and other irritating antics. Yet the relationship between these brothers feels genuine by the end, and somehow you end up liking both of them. It does feel top heavy in structure but there’s enough humor to keep you going for the very empathetically written last few minutes.

The Arm, by Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos and Jessie Ennis

Children talking like adults, if those adults were disaffected 30-somethings, are arguably Diablo Cody’s fault (and I’m not even one of the bitter Juno haters.) Texting jokes can easily go the route of terrible New Yorker cartoons. When you put the two together, failure is practically guaranteed. Jessie Ennis, Sarah Ramos and Brie Larson (who may have picked up the teenager-speak thing on the set ofThe United States of Tara) pull this off with flying colors. Two teens have a relationship that consists entirely of text messages. One of them dies, while texting. What’s the emotional impact? Is there an emotional impact? Whimsically metaphorical instead of moralizing and oblivious, The Arm asks some questions without presuming to know all the answers. That’s why it keeps both funny and intriguing throughout.

Aquadettes, by Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari

Old women synchronized swimming is not, at core, enough for a movie. Not even a ten minute movie. Thankfully, these two filmmakers are much less concerned with making us awwww for the duration of their project à la Young@Heart than they are with telling a single story. Margo is getting older, and uses the swimming pool and medical marijuana as a way to cope. We learn about her life from a simple one-to-one perspective, seeing her truth instead of (only) how cute she is. It’s refreshing and delightful.

Dol (First Birthday), by Andrew Ahn

I have seen this film too many times: A single cultural event brings a family together, but the gay protagonist is left isolated either internally or explicitly and it becomes an opportunity for conflict, growth and a heart-warming conclusion. Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet is excellent. Many other films are not. The one biggest weakness they have is their inability to let loose the reins and give the audience an opportunity to gather up emotions independently. Writer/director Andrew Ahn gives us a little space. There’s no open conflict but there’s also no painfully obvious guilt. There is only the basic element of longing, a wish for the real traditional values of family that might not be open to some because of the so-called “traditional values” that stand in the way. With an unexpected closing shot that oddly enough recalls last year’s Sundance hit Like Crazy¸ Dol shows us the ambiguity of a gay Korean American’s life without needing a thematic cudgel.

And then, there are the horses.

Horses and typewriters.  To say both of these words in the same sentence gives me a thrill.  Because I love them both.  I have dreams of owning a horse someday and will stop on the side of the road to sweet talk and pet any horse that will allow me to.  I collect typewriters.  I love old abandoned pianos.  The list could go on.

So when I stumbled onto the work of Andre Petterson, my jaw dropped.  It was as if I had stepped into a dream made just for me.  But I’m sure that’s not the case.  I’m not the one and only admirer.

Andre Petterson combines photography and painting to create some powerfully original and archetypal images.  His ability to produce images of such high contrast and dynamic compositions is impressive.  And you don’t feel like he’s cheated by mixing the two.

Man made objects such as bicycles, typewriters and fans unravel and spit out whips of paint, lines that build upon lines forming nest-like masses that hover above like spectres.  You believe that he has learned how to stop time.

And then, there are the horses.

Though I missed this show, read what Alissa Sexton, from Bau-Xi gallery in Vancouver, had to say —-> here

this man’s a mapping savant!

A long while back I had come across something magical.  A cartographer’s dream.  And then I forgot.

Until the other day when I was looking for a road map.  The name of the photographer had been on the tip of my tongue until I finally just gave up on my mind’s ability to remember and did an extremely intensive google search.

The result ……Erik Fischer.

Now we have all seen those maps of traffic activity and photographic activity  but to be honest….those images just aren’t very fetching.  And we must have fetching images.

Fischer came up with the brilliant idea to use the geotags of photos uploaded to Flickr and Picasa, creating maps of 50 different cities around the world.

I’ll take an enormous print of each, please.

San Francisco

New York

My personal favorite….London

For these two Fischer MAGICALLY managed to produce maps that showed which images were taken by tourists and which were taken by locals.  I would really like to know how.  Are there tracking devices on cameras now?  Does he have access to the FBI database?  Hidden video recorders?  I wouldn’t think that he would sit for hours perusing through photographs making the distinction between the two groups…..would he?

New York

San Francisco

And then, to top it all off, he produced this next series.

These maps actually show the spread of Flickr and Twitter around the globe.  Flickr is in orange.  Twitter is Blue  These are not images taken from space.  Don’t be fooled.

Tokyo

United States

San Francisco

New York

Europe

These are just a few images.  To really have yourself a good oooh and ahhhh ….

locals and tourists 

geo taggers world atlas 

racial segregation in cities

I have never been able to say that I enjoy prog rock. This is not Yoko Ono.

Ruby Kato Attwood and Alaska B
Photo by MATTHEW MAASKANT

I’ve been searching for new music.  I’ve scoured through “the best” of 2011. Most of it includes bearded boy bands (though I still like ya Bon Iver, beard or no beard, and yes I still have a soft spot for Iron and Wine) and woe stricken 20 something girls with a lot of make up and great hair and of course a variety of one hit wonder bands that I find boring as all hell.  I don’t remember how I stumbled upon Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Psychic Handshake…but my ears are happy.  I have never been able to say that I enjoy prog rock.  Now I can.

You can listen to the whole album —> here   (thank you Grooveshark for being so great).

“Thanks to smart, brisk sequencing, the seven disparate songs presented here hang together as a seamless piece, even if the thematic devices linking them aren’t so easy to discern: The tribal-ceremonial scene setter “Queens” offers references to ravens, snakes, hounds, and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surrealist-horror classic The Holy Mountain, but it proves to be the only lyrically legible song on the album, as Ruby and Alaska become increasingly reliant on words of indeterminate language and ghostly harmonies. However, inscrutably titled songs like the funhouse-mirrored acid-pop of “Reverse Crystal//Murder of a Spider” and the space-age stomper “Hoshi Neko” nonetheless display an insidiously melodic quality that suggests Stereolab on steroids. And where these songs foreground YT//ST’s eccentric side, the nightmarish, seven-minute colossus “A Star Over Pureland” showcases their command of brute physicality, pitting the ladies’ echo-drenched shrieks against a relentless, jackhammered fuzz-metal assault, like Fly-era Yoko Ono waging war with Lightning Bolt. Yamantaka//Sonic Titan may still aspire to the sort of conceptual grandeur that requires an Olympic Stadium to contain it, but right now, what they’re really good at is putting the “raw” in prog”.    -Stuart Berman, Pitchfork Magazine

See the full Pitchfork article —–> here   

There is drawing and then there is ….. drawing. This is the latter.

I recently subscribed to a Mongolian blog.  I like to say that.   This Mongolian blog is called hi.lite.head.  And thanks to this blog I discovered this Toronto artist….Amanda Nedham. In today’s world of  everybody-and-their-uncle-is-an-illustrator-illustration saturation, this work brings about a deep sigh of relief.  (I’m sure I produced some major grammatical error back there……forgive me).

Taking a peak at her curriculum vitae you realize this is a no joke artist.  One year in Florence studying drawing and a year internship at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice with a hefty number of exhibitions under her belt…she’s well on her way.  But wouldn’t you realize that from seeing her incredible skills with mere paper and pencil?  Not only is her work extremely detailed but it is also large, at times gigantic.   The time and patience it must take in order to create a single piece is impressive.

There is drawing and then there is ….. drawing.  This is the latter.

This has heart and blood and skin and bones.  Fur flies from the page.  Snarls can be heard.   Horses give up the struggle.  Puppies sooth dying pandas.  The victory of man’s domestication over animals is witnessed.  Her drawings are of a painful hovering reality and revealing dreams.  They are perfect.

Here are some images from her 2010 series Like Milk and Blood.  

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas

I did a bit more scouring around on the web for more information and found an interview from 2008 which also links to more images.  Take a look at this Toronto blog here —-> blogto

her site —> amanda nedham