“Teenagers in Space” (Отроки во Вселенной) is a 1974 Soviet children’s sci-fi film about evil robots. In the film, a group of clean-cut teenage “pioneers” embark to a distant planet in the Cassiopeia constellation. There, they discover that robots have taken over the planet and enslaved the humans with one intention – to make their masters happy, as the robots understood happiness.
In one memorable scene, stylish robots offer to give the young cosmonauts a “Happiness Makeover.” In the futuristic operating room, sleek white sarcofagi encase the teens while robots calibrate the machine to erase their feelings of love, sorrow, shame and self-doubt. It turns out that their robots’ understanding of happiness is the satisfactions of basic needs, and the elimination of all ”disturbing” emotions.
The teens learn that a small group of humans had escaped from the “Great Enhappening” and that their descendants have been orbiting the planet for generations. Together, they figure out a way to bring down the robots’ oppressive regime.
The film is available in its entirety on YouTube, but perhaps the best way for an English-speaking audience to experience the film is through the video below, which combines footage of the film with Kraftwerk’s “Robots.” See below.
Wrong Cops is exactly what one would expect from the director of a film about a killer tire, which is to say it is bat-shit crazy. Coming off of the aforementioned Rubber, Quentin Dupieux (also known by his stage name, Mr Oizo) is back with a short film starring Marilyn Manson, Grace Zabriskie, and Mark Dunham as Officer Duke, the titular cop, which he premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Duke begins his day selling marijuana stuffed into dead rats and listening to techno music. Making his rounds he comes upon Manson’s David Dolores Frank in a park. After a tense discussion about music, Duke escorts the young man to the house he lives in with his mother in order to educate the boy further. That, I think, is about as detailed a synopsis as I wish to give. As intimated previously, it’s a bizarre thirteen minutes which, apparently, Dupieux is looking to extend into a ninety minute feature, which may be the outer limit of what I could bear. This little taste is almost more than enough.
The following embed of a notorious 1987 indie film called Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story comes to us courtesy of New Zealand-based comic book writer and artist Dylan Horrocks, who says “I remember seeing it at the Auckland Film Festival and being disconcerted, impressed, and powerfully moved. [...] The audience laughed a lot at the beginning. But by the end, we watched in stunned silence. I’ve never forgotten it.”
Two years after graduating with an MFA from Bard College, Superstar director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine,Far from Heaven,Safe) shocked and moved unprepared audiences with the now-infamous and nigh-impossible-to-track down 43 minute film. “Seizing upon the inspired gimmick of using Barbie and Ken dolls to sympathetically recount the story of the pop star’s death from anorexia, he spent months making miniature dishes, chairs, costumes, Kleenex and Ex-Lax boxes, and Carpenters’ records to create the film’s intricate, doll-size mise-en-scene. The result was both audacious and accomplished as the dolls seemingly ceased to be dolls leaving the audience weeping for the tragic singer.” (via)
Richard Carpenter, upon viewing the film, was apparently enraged at its depiction of his family– especially by Haynes’ insinuations that Richard was gay. In 1989, after confirming with A&M Records that Haynes had never obtained proper music licensing for numerous Carpenters songs used in the film, Richard Carpenter served Haynes with a cease-and-desist order and sued him for failing to obtain proper clearance. Haynes offered “to only show the film in clinics and schools, with all money going to the Karen Carpenter Memorial Fund for anorexia research”, but Carpenter was unrelenting, and eventually won his lawsuit against Haynes. All copies of Superstar were recalled and destroyed. (According to Wiki, the Museum of Modern Art retains a print of the film, but has consented to never screen or exhibit it at the Carpenter estate’s request.)
More than two full decades after it was made, copies of Superstar still remain very difficult to track down. Except, of course (somewhat dubiously), on YouTube.
Black Mirror is a grim, satirical dystopian horror miniseries that aired on Channel 4 in the UK last year. Consisting of three one-hour episodes, the show, created by Charlie Brooker, is a “a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected which taps into our contemporary unease about our modern world”, with the stories having a “techno-paranoia” feel. From the program description on Channel 4′s site:
Over the last ten years, technology has transformed almost every aspect of our lives before we’ve had time to stop and question it. In every home; on every desk; in every palm – a plasma screen; a monitor; a smartphone – a black mirror of our 21st Century existence.
Our grip on reality is shifting. We worship at the altars of Google and Apple. Facebook algorithms know us more intimately than our own parents. We have access to all the information in the world, but no brain space left to absorb anything longer than a 140-character tweet.
Black Mirror taps into the collective unease about our modern world.
The writing is smart, the plots just plausible enough to send a chill down your spine. In the first (and arguably best) episode, “National Anthem,” a video of the kidnapped Princess Susannah, a beloved member of the Royal Family, is uploaded to YouTube with a ransom demand that would do 4chan proud. “15 Million Merits” shows us a dehumanizing world in which green energy, gamification and reality TV intersect. Finally, “The Entire History of You” shows us a near-future in which all memories can be recorded, replayed, stolen and shared.
As piracy continues to be a service problem, there’s no easy way to purchase/view this show outside the UK. Below are the links to streams of each episode. Watch the episodes here, before they’re gone. You won’t regret it:
Candice Guttmann at Tokyo Blade Runner. Photo by Gabi Porter.
Today, Ridley Scott announced that his upcoming Blade Runner film will be a sequel, with original screenwriter Hampton Fancher joining the project. The storyline is shrouded in secrecy: “the filmmakers would reveal only that the new story will take place some years after the first film concluded,” a press release stated today. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Scott announced that the film will “definitely” feature a female protagonist.
It’s likely that filming won’t begin until 2013, so in the meantime, check out this montage from the Dances of Vice Tokyo Blade Runner party, which took place in New York last fall. The future-noir burlesque performances and fashion show are so ornate and inspired, you’d think you were getting a sneak peek of the sequel’s trailer.
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.
In addition to providing an overview of both the documentary and vogue ball culture (both past and present) the NPR feature includes testimonies from Big Freedia, Light Asylum, Zebra Katz, Del Marquis, and many others. A quick, great read. It’s also exciting to discover that the documentary –which has been, for decades, fairly difficult to track down a decent copy of– is now readily available on iTunes and Netflix Streaming.
The realm of Paris Is Burning: resonant and radiant as it ever was.
There’s never been a voice or a soul quite like Helm’s in popular music, and there never will be again. (He was, of course, a very generous and intuitive drummer, too.) Here’s a transcript excerpt from The Band’s concert film The Last Waltz, directed by Scorcese –a film which Helm later famously decried (though, comfortingly, his longstanding feud with bandmate Robbie Robertson appears to have been put to rest shortly before Helm’s death)– but the quote’s just too perfect:
LEVON HELM: Bluegrass and country music … if it comes down into that area and if it mixes there with the rhythm and if it dances, then you’ve got a combination of all that music …
MARTIN SCORSESE: What’s it called?
LEVON HELM: Rock and roll.
Pure and good and true. Thank you for that, Levon Helm. Rest in peace.
For the past two years, Kevin McTurk –a world-renowned cinematic effects artist– has been hard at work on a breathtaking personal project called The Narrative of Victor Karloch. McTurk describes it as a ”Victorian ghost story puppet film”.
Featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd, Elijah Wood, and Maurice LaMarche, Karloch combines bunraku style rod puppets, shadow puppetry, and an array of traditional in-camera effects to present a tale from from the journal pages of one Victor Karloch: weatherbeaten alchemist, scholar, and ghost hunter. This film, very much a labor of love for McTurk and his crew, was made possible by grants from Heather Henson’s Handmade Puppet Dreams Film Series and from The Jim Henson Foundation.
Photo provided by Kevin KcTurk.
As you can see from the above preview, it’s a stunning piece of work. And did I mention that the film’s score was provided by Zoe Keating, Lustmord, and… our very own Meredith Yayanos? Yes!
This Thursday, April 19, at Meltdown Comics/NerdMelt Theater in Los Angeles, McTurk will be holding a sneak peek/wrap party reception. There will be a live marionette performance by Eli Presser (one of the film’s key puppeteers) and limited edition Narrative of Victor Karloch t-shirts (designed by comics legend Mike Mignola!) available for sale.
Congrats to all involved! Attendees of the wrap party are enthusiastically encouraged to report back in comments.
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.