Pardon the clipped, crass commentary but that’s what leapt from my mouth upon watching The Eagleman Stag, the 2011 BAFTA award-winning short film from Mikey Please. The stop-motion animation used here is incredible, with everything from the characters to the sets having been constructed using pure white foam, requiring a meticulous use of lighting to create shadows and, thereby, definition. The site for the film features a teaser of a behind the scenes look at how it was made. Even if the process underpinning the film isn’t something that usually gets you hot and bothered the film itself is still an utterly captivating, Existential study. Well worth eight minutes of your day, though Dr. Eagleman may disagree.
“I said anything I wanted because I don’t believe in children, I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation. ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that. You mustn’t tell them that.’ You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them.”
With this post I run the risk of turning the top of Coilhouse into a memorial to my youth, but there’s really no helping it, I suppose. More sad news then, as it has been reported that author and illustrator Maurice Sendak died today, at the age of 83 due to complications from a recent stroke. Sendak was perhaps best known for his 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are. The book not only made his career but earned him the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1964.
Mr. Sendak’s work was a staple of my childhood. I learned to read with the help of the Little Bear Books (written by Else Holmelund Minarik). My first exposure to Grimm’s fairy tales was through my mother’s copy of the collection he illustrated and I had a copy of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker which featured his artwork. His Mouse King terrified me.
And that is, above all, what I remember and respected most about his work, his willingness to scare the crap out of kids. There is a darkness and danger in his books, the same kind found in the stories of greats like Carroll and Baum, which seems mostly lacking from children’s literature now, something that Mr. Sendak seemed keenly aware of. Sendak wrote books that treated children like adults, like equals. Speaking to The Guardian last October, he said “I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.” This refusal to sugarcoat his work was, undoubtedly, his greatest asset. It will be missed.
I’m not going to claim to understand the process by which French duo Lucie & Simon captured these images of cities like Paris, Bejing, and New York without people (save for a single figure). It involves using a “neutral density filter that allows for extra-long exposures, which removes moving objects like people and cars.” How that works or what a “neutral density filter” is, I really cannot say, however, the images produced speak for themselves (and are of much higher resolution on their site.)
I lived in New York for a short time, years ago, and the effect of seeing it this empty is really stunning. The only time it ever came close to this when I was there was early in the morning, on my walk to work at 5:30 or so, and even then, it depended on the neighborhood I was walking through at the time and there were always a few cars. It’s eerie to see it looking so quiet.
A small sampling of work by Mexican illustrator and street artist Smithe. A small sampling because, were I not to limit myself I would, most likely, just wind up hoarding every piece of art on his blog and transposing it to this one, which is poor form, really, no matter how much you like someone’s portfolio.
The cartoonishness of his style works well with the subject matter, making sure that the exploded anatomy found in many of his pieces retain an air of playfulness so as not to overwhelm the viewer with grotesquerie. His newer illustrations (specifically the bio-mechanical heads) feature more of a comic book feel, with their dark shadows and copious hatching. This seems like a departure (though, no less successfully executed) from his previous work which features a looser, more animated style. Either way, I am a fan.
Welcome to the best worst thing you will see all week. Icelandic comedy troupe Midland, in a fit of horrible genius, has done what, no doubt, only a few severely stoned first year film students have thought of. That is, they have created the above trailer for a movie entitled Den Lille Grimme Aelling (The Ugly Duckling), a movie that interprets the world of Walt Disney’s barely comprehensible Donald Duck through the harsh, unforgiving lens of the Dogme 95 school of film making. What follows is nearly three minutes of childhood memories funneled through the unyielding, sadomasochistic vision of von Trier and Vinterberg (though, like von Trier and Vinterberg Midland winds up cheating a bit here and there.) So come along and follow Donald as he deals with his three children, a sizable drug debt, and the rich uncle who abused him as a child. Then maybe weep a little.
Above you’ll find the official video, directed by David Lynch, for the title track of his new album Crazy Clown Time. It is officially a thing that exists. In it, Lynch narrates a series of Lynchian events at a Lynchian backyard barbecue as they transpire on screen in a manner sort of like singing but not really. It’s as if a film student set to work to reconstruct a David Lynch movie as related to them by someone who had had a few too many drinks. It may be the best David Lynch parody ever made.
Deep in the desert of southern California sits one of the worst environmental sites in America—a former tourist destination that has turned into a toxic soup: the Salton Sea.
The sea was born by accident 100 years ago, when the Colorado River breached an irrigation canal; for the next two years the entire volume of the river flowed into the Salton Sink, one of the lowest places on Earth. The new lake became a major tourist attraction, with resort towns springing up along its shores. Yet with no outflow, and with agricultural runoff serving as its only inflow, the sea’s waters grew increasingly toxic. Farm chemicals and ever-increasing salinity caused massive fish and bird die-offs. Use of the sea for recreational activities plummeted, and by the 1980s its tourist towns were all but abandoned.
The skeletons of these structures are still there; ghost towns encrusted in salt. California officials acknowledge that if billions of dollars are not spent to save it, the sea could shrink another 60 percent in the next 20 years, exposing soil contaminated with arsenic and other cancerous chemicals to strong winds. Should that dust become airborne, it would blow across much of southern California, creating an environmental calamity.
Much of the footage is filmed in and around The Salton Riviera, a former resort built by entrepreneur M. Penn Phillips, old footage of which Scalzo expertly contrasts with images of the now dilapidated buildings and piles of dead fish. His eye for composition is the real star here, though, and he captures some stunningly haunting images of this increasingly barren wasteland.
Directed by Jimmy Marble and written by Marble and Doug Sacrison (who also wrote the original one-act play), Red Moon chronicles the sad, tortured life of famed submarine captain Alexei Ovechkin: hero of the former Soviet Union, and werewolf.
What follows is 15 minutes of amazing, cardboard and plywood sets, fantastic facial hair, werewolf suits, and terrible, terrible Russian accents. I loved every single second of it.
Showtime returns with the second season of Short Stories, their series of short, animated films. They also brought back PES and his stop-motion wizardry to follow up last season’s beautiful “Deep”. This time around it’s Fresh Guacamole, a simple recipe for the ever popular, grenade-based party dip.
Winner of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore tells the story of a young man whisked away (along with the rest of his town) by a great wind. In a desolate, gray landscape he is lead to a library full of living, flying books and becomes its caretaker, all the while writing a book of his own.
Beautifully told without words, the Lessmore has both the look and mannerisms of a Keaton-esque silent film star. The books, too, are imbued with a fantastic sense of life, despite their limited ability to emote. Lessmore’s main, Humpty Dumpty-like companion is especially well done, the flipping of illustrated pages allowing it to portray more complex emotions. Along with an understated score, it’s a lovely, sweet story. I had meant to watch this before the Oscars, and seeing it now, I find it most deserving of its honors.