The Friday Afternoon Movie: Everything Will Be Ok

I cannot definitively say that, as the title suggests, everything will be ok. It is all together possible and, perhaps, probable — depending on your bent — that everything will not be ok. That’s not what this is about. No, this post is about Everything Will Be Ok, Don Hertzfeldt’s award-winning short, which celebrated its 5th Anniversary last month. The first of a planned trilogy (the last of which is set to be released this year), Everything Will Be Ok follows the story of a man named, simply, Bill. We see Bill awkwardly greet a man he recognizes on the street, Bill at home, Bill spending time with his ex-girlfriend, Bill having a dream about a giant fish head, eating away at his skull. Its a story that concerns itself mostly with pseudo-existential shoe-gazing, filtered through the twisted mind of the man who brought us Rejected, and it is wonderful.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Louis Theroux: America’s Most Hated Family In Crisis

Before we begin, can I just ask you to look at that title. Do you see it? See how it overflows its banks, cascading down onto a second, blissful line? Nadya recently changed the headers so that we can do that. Have you any understanding of how wondrous this is? Do you have any idea how difficult it was for a grandiloquent fuck like myself to pare down my excessive verbiage to fit on one line? My post titles are going to run a paragraph long for weeks I expect.

Alright, that’s enough. I can see that you are entirely too enthused about the little bit of web coding. It’s time to bring you down a few notches; somewhere closer to a normal state of hopelessness and despair. To that end, The FAM present America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis Louis Theroux’s hyperbolically titled follow up to The Most Hated Family in America, both done for the BBC. The titular family is that of Fred Phelps, alleged drug addled abusive husband and father, who heads the Westboro Baptist Church, the Evangelical church, and pop music parodists, infamous for their picketing of, among other events, the funerals of American soldiers. Theroux’s previous visit had taken place 4 years ago, and since then, a number of members had left the church, including one of Fred Phelps’s sons.

Both of these documentaries (I was unable to find the first in its entirety to link here) are stunning for the ignorance on display. Like Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp, Theroux presents a group of people whose bigotry is presented as devotion to divine scripture. Phelps and his ilk manage to out-crazy the participants in that film, if only because of how vociferous their dogma is, how naked their hatred for anything or anyone that differs from what they believe, and how complete and thorough its grip is on them. Perhaps the most disturbing scene in the entire hour is when Theroux interviews Grace, the youngest daughter of Shirley Phelps, accompanied by three other family members to make sure he doesn’t try to corrupt her with his words, speaking for her so that her answers may more closely align with the church’s teachings.

In the end, I suppose it winds up being more voyeuristic than anything, playing to a morbid fascination with just how far the depths of idiocy can go, just how awful people can be. Still, it serves to remind us that, yes, there are people who walk this Earth who really think this way and who, for the time being, are not going anywhere.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Grab Bag

Another week has come and gone, dear readers. Where the time went, I cannot say. And yet, here we are, on the cusp of another weekend. This week has been a blur; my ability to retain information seemingly non-existent. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m getting sick, or maybe Zo has been spiking my water again. Regardless of the cause, in the spirit of my hummingbird-like attention span, the FAM presents a grab bag of short stories on film. Continue, and be entertained!

Thursday by Mathias Hoegg. Sometime in the future there is a family of blackbirds and a young couple living in a vast metropolis. What will happen when their paths cross? CLICK TO FIND OUT.

Blinky™ by Ruairi Robinson, director of Fifty Percent Grey and The Silent City presents a tale that even my dessicated, pea-sized brain can wrap itself around. It’s the story of a robot gone bad, as robots are wont to do. Seriously, they’re evil.

Chernokids by Marion Petegnief, Matthieu Bernadat, Nils Boussuge, Florence Ciuccoli, and Clément Deltour tells the creepy, sad story of four, mutated children living in an un-named industrial zone and their devotion to a being they call Mother. At one point they turn into superheroes, but not really.

Jons and the Spider by Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits and Soyoung Hyun uses cutout animation (computer simulated or not I am unsure) to tell the story of a young boy, left in a cabin deep in the woods to make violins. This one is more about creating an atmosphere, perhaps, than telling an actual story. I think. I could be wrong. Again, tiny brain.

And that’s going to do it for the FAM. Have a good weekend everyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find somewhere quiet and collapse into a quivering heap.

The FAM: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring

It’s that time again, dear readers. Time for another episode of the internet’s most popular movie segment. (Editor’s Note: That is a lie. You, sir, are a liar.) Today, for your navel-gazing pleasure, we present Korean director Kim Ki Duk’s 2003 meditation, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring.

Taking place in and around a small temple, floating upon a remote mountain lake, it tells the story of a Buddhist monk and his young protege, neither of whom are ever named. Told in five vignettes, each corresponding to a season, we watch the cycle of these two lives, one enveloped in spiritual discipline, the other consumed by selfishness. The actors here give wonderfully understated performances, though the real star is no doubt the scenery in which they perform. Kim had the set built on Jusan Pond, a 200 year-old artificial pond in Cheongsong County, North Kyungsang Province in South Korea and it makes for a striking backdrop.

Critics have suggested that Kim made Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring to distance himself from a body of work that features extreme violence, animal cruelty, and heaping helpings of misogyny. In all fairness, his preoccupation with sex and violence are still present, though mostly off-screen. The arc of the boy’s life, beginning with his torture of animals and continuing through the murder of his adulterous wife, are tried and true territory for Kim, but here they enjoy a degree of subtlety. The cruelty to animals is still in full view, however, and while it serves a central purpose it may upset some viewers, so please be warned.

I’m a very big fan of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, however I know people who absolutely despise it, mostly for it’s snail-like pace and a feeling that the film is aware that it is Important Art. The former is most certainly true. It is a slow movie. The camera seems to linger, perhaps a little too long, on every scene but, of course, that is the point. That leads directly to the accusation of being too self-aware, and on that count I disagree. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring has big, sweeping things to say about life, but it arrives at those ideas as simplistically as possible, gilding itself in plainness. What emerges is a story honed imperceptibly by degrees, a sum of surprising and seemingly incongruous parts. It may be in that way that it best embodies the Buddhist traditions it so beautifully portrays.

The FAM: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Welcome one and all to the Friday Afternoon Movie for this, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, 2011. Exciting. Today the FAM presents Exit Through The Gift Shop the 2011 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary directed by street artist Banksy that is probably not a hoax but could be. Maybe. Who knows. It doesn’t really matter.

The film follows the exploits of one Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant who runs a vintage clothing store in Los Angeles. He also has a habit of filming everything and everyone he sees with his video camera. On a trip to France he discovers that his cousin is a fairly well-known street artist, who goes by Invader. Guetta falls in love with the medium and begins to film a vast network of artists, telling them he is making a documentary. This eventually leads to him meeting the enigmatic Banksy, which eventually leads to Guetta becoming an artist in his own right, calling himself Mr. Brainwash.

Exit Through The Gift Shop impressed me most in how it was able to change, almost effortlessly, my perception of it’s subject. The first three quarters of the film really felt laced with narcissism, which I admit may not be entirely fair. I often find it hard to separate the artist from his art, which is to say that, if in a film by Banksy, the narrator of said film refers to Banksy in some hyperbolic way in regards to his fame and acumen, I can’t help but think that Banksy knew that was going into the movie. He may have written it himself. That kind of thing rubs me the wrong way. It may not be true, it may not have been the intent, but it struck me that way.

Guetta’s overnight success, seemingly built on the works and words of the people he was filming, then eclipses any of that in the last quarter. He emerges from the other end of Exit… as a fraud and a con man, quite the journey from the likeable, if eccentric, man he starts out as. Banksy emerges as simultaneously bemused and distraught at what he has inadvertently created. It’s a trick that only works once perhaps, subsequent viewings appear littered with warning signs when forearmed with this knowledge, but I found it an extremely capable one nevertheless. Regardless of your feelings about his work, I found myself agreeing with Banksy’s opening remarks. It really is a fascinating story.

The Friday Afternoon (Short) Movie: The Lost Thing

Way too much going on today to put up a proper, full-length FAM. Instead, we present the 2011 Oscar winner for Best Animated Short: The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan, which tells the story of a young man who comes upon a giant, bio-mechanical “thing” on a beach and follows his efforts to help find a place for it in a world built on uniformity and order. It’s a beautiful 15 minutes with an unexpected dystopian streak. Give it a look while you can, for like all things posted in this feature, it may be pulled down at any moment by the powers that be.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: The Secret Of NIMH

I’m not sure how Hulu works in countries outside the US at this point. My apologies if you cannot watch this, it’s one of the reasons I try to avoid sites like Hulu.

It’s Friday, people, which means that there’s only a few more hours until you can stick a fork in another soul-crushing work week. Allow the FAM to help that time pass a little more quickly with this week’s presentation of Don Bluth’s 1982 classic The Secret of NIMH, starring, among others, Mary Elizabeth Hartman (in her last role before her suspected suicide), John Carradine, Dom DeLuise, Aldo Ray, and Wil Wheaton.

An adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1971 children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the movie tells the story of Mrs. Brisby, a widowed field mouse, whose son falls ill with pneumonia and cannot leave the house for three weeks. At this time, Spring plowing is set to begin on the farm the Brisbys live on and Mrs. Brisby, knowing she cannot stay where she is, visits the Great Owl who directs her to a group of mysterious rats who live in a rose bush and are led by a wizened old rat named Nicodemus. Brisby learns that the rats, along with her late husband Jonathan, were part of an experiment performed at the National Institute of Mental Health which boosted their intelligence to human levels at which point they made their escape.

The Secret of NIMH was a favorite of mine as a child and recent viewings have done little to dampen my enthusiasm for it. Bluth and his partners, most of who had defected from Disney with him, were fixated on what they perceived to be the decline of animation as an art form. The Secret of NIMH, then, was a collection of expensive and, even at the time, outdated animation techniques. The glowing eyes of Nicodemus, for example, were created by back-lighting colored gels. Characters had different color palettes for individual lighting situations (Mrs. Brisby alone had 46). It’s a veritable showcase of animation and it all makes for a beautiful film. Still, it came at a price, and the film came in so over the original budget that Bluth and his co-producers had to collectively mortgage their homes to finance some of it. There was even a problem with their diminutive protagonist’s name:

During the film’s production, Aurora contacted Wham-O, the manufacturers of Frisbee flying discs, with concerns about possible trademark infringements if the “Mrs. Frisby” name in O’Brien’s original book was used in the movie. Wham-O rejected Aurora’s request for waiver to use the same-sounding name to their “Frisbee”, in the movie. Aurora informed Bluth & company that Mrs. Frisby’s name would have to be altered. By then, the voice work had already been recorded for the film, so the name change to “Mrs. Brisby” necessitated a combination of re-recording some lines and, because John Carradine was unavailable for further recordings, careful sound editing had to be performed, taking the “B” sound of another word from Carradine’s recorded lines, and replace the “F” sound with the “B” sound, altering the name from “Frisby” to “Brisby”.

In the end, there are really two things that make NIMH stick out: its tone and its protagonist. The mood of the film is exceedingly foreboding, especially for a G-rated feature intended for children, without crossing into the historical seriousness of, say, Grave of the Fireflies or the political allegory of Watership Down. When I think of it, the images that come to my mind are bleak, eerie, and filled with fire. Likewise, its heroine is unlike anything one would have seen from Disney. Mrs. Brisby is no princess. She is a middle-aged mother and widow. Her quest is not an epic struggle between good and evil, it is to save her family. She doesn’t fall in love with a dashing male lead, she is not even looking for it, the love she had for another is in her past, before we are even introduced to her. Is she one of the great feminist characters in film? No. But she is a refreshing change from the typical Barbie doll pap most peddle.

Watching The Secret of NIMH it is perhaps most evident that it is a labor of love, both for its story and for the medium it is presented in. It is not a stretch to say that they don’t make them like this anymore. After all, who would be crazy enough to try?

The FAM: Animation Fun Time With David O’Reilly

Please Say Something from David OReilly on Vimeo.

Like Edgar Allan Poe, the FAM returns after a week’s absence, delirious and with no memory of its whereabouts. Who knows what trouble it got up to? Regardless of whether or not the FAM spent last week in a meth-fueled haze, the fact of the matter is that it is back, looking to put the deaths of all those Shriners behind it. So let us get to today’s films instead of dwelling on the fact that those tiny cars are not street legal and one cannot be blamed for driving through a parade if the route is not clearly marked.

Today it’s two short films by David O’Reilly: 2009’s Please Say Something and his most recent External World. Both feature his off-beat direction combined with a dark sense of humor. External World takes a page from Robot Chicken with stories told in bite-sized morsels stitched together with a thin, overarching tale while Please Say Something follows a cat and her mouse husband through their dysfunctional relationship. O’Reilly and his team do a spectacular job, using a bare minimum of detail to convey each scene. The characters are equally simple though they still manage to display a wide range of emotions. They are wonderful and delightfully weird, though your tolerance for acerbic wit will determine how well you take to them.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Let The Right One In

My apologies but I’m unable to embed today’s film. Above is the trailer. The playlist with the film is here.

The FAM is ever ephemeral, dear readers. It is the nature of finding films posted on the internet. Sooner or later they shall be found and, no doubt, taken down. That said this movie’s time may be shorter than some, so get it while it’s hot. Today the FAM presents 2008’s Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) the Swedish vampire masterpiece directed by Tomas Alfredson, based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist who also wrote the screenplay.

I’m posting this today mostly because I finally got around to reading the original novel so the details are still fresh in my mind and, thus, this will be more of an examination of some differences between the film and its source material (though by no means a thorough one.) For those who haven’t seen it, Let the Right One In takes place in 1982 and tells the story of 12 year old Oskar who lives with his mother Yvonne in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. He is a shy, meek boy who is tormented at school by bullies. One night he meets a young girl on the playground by his building. Her name is Eli and she has moved into the apartment next to his with an older man, Håkan, who Oskar assumes is her father. Oskar will soon learn, as you no doubt guessed, that Eli is not who she seems.

Spoiler Warning: I usually don’t do these as I assume that most people realize that these posts are bite-sized analyses and expect spoilers. However, I will also being discussing the book in some detail, and the thought of ruining two forms of media for the unsuspecting reader makes me feel that a warning is necessary.

The FAM: Star Trek TNG: Chain Of Command

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It’s Friday, dear readers, which means that it’s time for a dose of whatever I can find on YouTube. Today the FAM invites you to get your nerd on, because today we are showing “Chain of Command,” or episodes 10 and 11 of the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, recognized far and wide as the best Star Trek. Don’t you argue with me. Broadcast on WPIX New York beginning with its first episode until at least 7 or 8 years after its run ended, it still, to me, represents some of the finest sci-fi ever shown on television, and “Chain of Command” (more specifically the Part 2) is an especially outstanding episode.

Indeed, the first half of “Chain of Command” gives no indication that it will stray very far from the structures and motifs of that standard episode. It may seem strange at first to have Patrick Stewart’s Jean Luc Picard play commando and stranger still to see another captain on the bridge of the Enterprise but the writers do not stray too far out of the show’s comfort zone.

With the capture of Picard at the end of the first part, things take a decidedly darker turn. The second part of “Chain of Command” quickly becomes one of the more sinister chapters in the series as we are shown the interrogation of Picard by the Cardassian Gul Madred. Madred is played by David Warner, who shows, as he did in Time Bandits, that he absolutely relishes being the villain.

It also happens to be (both at the time and now) one of the more accurate portrayals of torture shown on television. Perhaps best known for it’s “How many lights are there?” homage to Nineteen Eighty-Four, the images of Picard stripped naked and hoisted into a stress position are perhaps more unsettling since the coinage of “enhanced interrogation techniques”. As Slate’s Juliet Lapidos noted while discussing J.J. Abrams’ Apple store inspired reboot, even the Cardassian’s reasoning for keeping the Enterprise captain seems prescient:

When Picard’s comrades on the Enterprise learn of Picard’s capture, they insist that the Cardassians abide by the terms of a Geneva-like “Solanis Convention.” The Cardassians rebuff the request: “The Solanis Convention applies to prisoners of war … [Picard] will be treated as a terrorist.”

All of this is wrapped up in the typical Star Trek cheesiness, which you either find wretched or endearing. I long ago trained myself to overlook these things. Watching Warner and Stewart go at it here is a treat and they do wonders with dialogue littered with references to alien delicacies and imaginary planets. The other half of the plot, aboard the Enterprise, is fairly standard and may not appeal to those who aren’t fans of the show. To be honest, I think I would have preferred the entirety of the story taking place in that room, excising any of the events taking place elsewhere until Warner was informed of his prisoner’s release, though two hours of that may have been expecting too much of its audience. Nevertheless it remains one of my favorite episodes from (I reiterate) the best Star Trek.

And that’s going to do it for this week’s Friday Afternoon Movie. We shall see you next week. You may now return to your normal levels of nerdery.