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The Brothers Quay

We cannot discuss creepy puppets and dolls without discussing the modern masters of creepy dolls: The Brother Quay and Jan Svankmajer. We shall touch upon the great Jan Svankmajer at a later date, perhaps even tomorrow. For today let us look at the genius of the the Brothers Quay.

I know countless film makers who list them as a major inspiration. They’re two brother from Pennsylvania who do stop motion animation. Very… creepy stop motion animation, inspired by a Polish film makers Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica  whose most well known work was in the 50s through the 70s.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Stephen and Timothy Quay are twins, born in 1947 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. During their 20s, beginning in 1969, they lived and studied in England and the Netherlands and finally in 1979 settled in South London, hooked up with  Keith Griffiths, who would  go on to produce all of their films, and got down to their bizarre and unorthodox film career.

This is one of their more well known examples. Like i said, creepy dolls? They’ve got the trademark on creepy dolls.

Their films almost never have spoken dialogue. Well, no meaningful spoken dialogue. Weird, grating, high pitched noises don’t exactly count as dialogue. Their influence is astounding. They have dominated film festivals and avante garde film circuits. They’ve even done theatrical set design. In 1998 their Tony-nominated set designs for The Chairs was well lauded on Broadway.They’re still quite active and have even done a number of music videos. They don’t have a website or i would send you there, but a good resource page is here.

YouTube is a great place to start watching their work and of course you can buy collections of their work (which i recommend. Everyone’s got to eat!)

I leave you now with a personal favorite of mine. The design for this is just gorgeous. It’s a delight to view, although, you know, in a delightful creepy way. The Quay Brothers: The Comb.

 

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The 10 Best Dieselpunk Movies

Dieselpunk is a fantastic reimagining of the period from about 1920 through the 40s. Dieselpunk tends to be darker than its steampunk cousin. It’s flexible in that it can incorporate stories which do NOT take place in that time period but are heavily permeated with that period’s feel and flare. A noir style detective piece set on the planet Zamboozala 6 for instance would be dieselpunk if the feel were indeed central to the piece. Stories set around the technology level of the period most certainly count too.

Thus it is that we list the 10 best Dieselpunk movies made, even though in almost all cases the film makers did not set out to make their films be “Dieselpunk” or indeed were even aware of the term.

10. Captain America

The most recent on this list, and while not the jaw dropping classic some of the others ones are, it’s a very, very fun film.

9. Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain is utterly and completely Dieselpunk. It’s pretty much written to encapsulate the definition. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous movie and rather than the dark side of Dieselpunk, it’s quite light and pleasant. I present here the original short the theatrical version was based off of.

8. Sucker Punch

This move never got the props it deserved. Critics were divided but personally, i loved this film. It’s no epic oscar winner, but it was insanely mind blowing as a visual feast. It’s the kind of movie you voice your enjoyment of with profanity while watching. (“DUDE! HOLY FFFFFFF….”)

7. Mad Max: The Road Warrior

Surprised by this one? An action classic it is definitely dieselpunk. Everyone’s obsessed with diesel for one. Post apocalyptic, the societal tech is diesel era and that fact does permeate the film. Plus, it’s one of the best action movies ever. It was made back when there were no CGI and stunts had to be real. A far away and madcap time called… the 80s.

6. Sin City

Hot damn was this movie fun. I had some issues with it vs the graphic novels, which is strange because they were almost shot to shot perfect, but never the less this film is extremely fun and well done.

5. City Of Lost Children

Now we get to the films which are… actually great films. The films before this are “awesome” but past the fanboy excitement, most of these next films actually possess true, deep cinematic greatness. City of Lost Children for instance. It is truly like a dark, dieselpunk fairy tales, utterly otherworldly and moving.

4. Dark City

Sky Captain may be utterly dieselpunk, but Dark City practically invents it. This scores so high on the list because if there was one movie i’d point to in order to explain what dieselpunk really is, it’s Dark City. It’s also a flat out fantastic fantastical flick.

3. Brazil

Terry Gillian’s masterpiece.  It’s… a dystopian satire? The film that invented retro futurism? A staggeringly effective and moving portrayal of the classic indivicual being drowned by the state and society story? This film is greatness. And kind of weird.

2. Eraserhead

This film is not kind of weird. It ate weird for breakfest and then two girls one cupped it. David Lynch’s first film. It’s beyond a classic. It’s one of those films that as ridiculously fucked up as it is, you have to have watched it simply because… it’s fucking Eraserhead. You simply have to have watched it at some point otherwise you fail at life.

1. Blade Runner

Sci fi? Check. Film noir? Check? A classic? Check. Jaw dropping to watch? Check. Moving to the point of leaving you in a different state of reality when over? Check. Masterful attention to detail? Check. Blade Runner. It doesn’t get much better. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a better sci fi film. It might seem hardly dieselpunk, but although set firmly in the future the 40s noir feeling permeates every shot, every minute of the movie. It’s gritty, and the tech is not shiny, it’s kind of gritty and messy too. A masterpiece of film making by any standard.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Primer

For our last post on sci fi movies made on the cheap, we must, MUST i tell you bring up by far the best of them. It’s not just that this is by far the greatest sci fi film ever made for next to nothing, and at $7,000 it really is made for basically nothing, but it’s a truly great sci fi film, one of the most original and challenging by ANY standard.

Primer.

In any list of films that utterly mess with your head, films that are jaw dropping mindfucks, Primer consistently tops the list. Go ahead, Google away if you don’t  believe me. You think Inception was all deep and complex? Primer mindfucks it out of the park.

It is one of the best puzzle/mess with your mind movies ever made. Yes, it’s that good.

I will warn you, it is one complicated movie. It is NOT nonsensical. It makes perfect sense, but boy, you have GOT to pay attention. Seriously, it will test you. It requires patience. Most people find that only on a second veiwing do they fully grok it all.

Lest i sound like a gushing fanboy, let me flat out say this film is downright brilliant, utterly, utterly original and i repeat, is quite challenging. It is a testimony to what you can do with simply an idea and motivation. Seriously, we’ve been discssing some films in the past few days made with low budgets and big vision, but this is the winner. This is actually a truly great science fiction film, ranking up there with the best head trips in film history. Donnie Darko, Momento, Mulholland Dr… This move stands up with any of them.

It is made with no budget,. It is the first time out for the writer/director Shane Carruth. It is not coddling and friendly, but unlike a lot of purposely confusing films like The Holy Mountain and Inland Empire it is logical and sensible. This is not just a matter of “If you had $7,000 and a camera what would you do?”, i feel strongly the film transcends its limitations to stand in place with any other great sci-fi head twister. I even find the low tech to eventually help with the charm, once you get used it and the initial geek tech dialogue.

Seriously, go watch this movie. The whole thing is online. Here:

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Lunopolis

In discussing sci fi movies made on basically no budget whatsoever (and watchable and enjoyable), two movies especially come to mind: Primer and Lunopolis. Today we shall deal with Lunopolis.

Lunopolis is a documentary style movie about conspiracies and cults. One in particualr with odd beliefs about life on the moon. I don’t want to say much more as the process of revelation is  a key enjoyment to the movie.

The moon i figures in quite a few conspiracy theories, beginning with the idea that the moon landing was faked. Prior to the 20th century the moon factored into wild theories a bit more, but with knowledge comes the need to make the horizon more distant. As the moon became more observed and more known its ability to hold races of aliens or gods lessened and planets that could do such a thing became far off places in other solar systems. Sirius emerged as a major player in such theories.

Or is media manipulated? Public conscious subtley encouraged to look elsewhere, anywhere but the moon which we can now leave alone. it’s dead. Don’t worry about it. Nothing to see here….

Oh, this move goes there and WAY beyond that and it is an excellent ride.

Sadly, if you don’t live in the US good ******** luck watching this. It’s available online on Hulu, but f****** Hulu doesn’t work outside the states. M***** *******. US Netflix has it also.

If you can, well worth seeing with a couple of film makers with no budget and an excellent idea can do.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Iron Sky: Cinema 2.0

Just bear with me for a minute here. So, we have a new movie coming out, Iron Sky. Iron Sky is an upcoming dark sci-fi comedy about Nazis returning from the moon where they fled after WWII, with a soundtrack by Laibach, and produced by production companies in Finnland, Germany and Australia.

Sounds fun, right? Could be ridiculous, could be awesome. But what makes the film even more interesting is that it is a product of Wreckamovie. Wreckamovie is an online collaborative film production platform. It is invested in what it calls Cinema 2.0 where films are made and produced using internet group collaboration.

For instance, an example are Swarm Of Angels, where an attempt was made to get 50,000 people to chip in 25 pounds each to fund the shooting or movie footage that would then be freely available to all to download and edit and create as they saw fit.

Wreckamovie was born during the production of 2005’s Finnish Star Trek dark sci fi comedy parody Star Wreck: In The Perkinning. (It has a Stark Trek vs. Babylon 5 thing going on) The movie  was thought up by 5 guys in a two room flat. During production one room was used as the blue screen and the other the render room. The cast and crew was eventually comprised of numerous volunteers, many aquired online. Due to the immense amount of special effects needed and the severly limited budget, various special effects were farmed out to interested film enthusiasts across the world. In fact, although the movie took 7 years to make since the first 5 was a learning experience (all the footage from the first 5 years was ditched and reshot), Wreckamoive discovered that large amounts of the movie making process could be collaborated upon by an international community of film enthusiasts.

Thus Star Wreck was completed and the online reception resulted in more downloads than the most popular Finnish film has box office attendance (2.9 million).  Wreckamovie was thus born with the concept that anyone can build a community for a movie or any audiovisual project, and ask for assistance in desired tasks for the production. The service makes it possible to produce films together with the community, and thus to create a real interaction with the audience from the development stage.

Iron Sky is this very team’s next project and the film has been made using the same methods of online group collaboration, although this time the process has been much smoother.

So, web 2.0 has come to cinema. Repsonsibility for productions and shooting locations were shared across 3 countries. Directed by the Finnish team, shot in Germany and Australia, soundtrack by the Slovenian band Laibach, with various tasks performed by an international online community. It’s marvelous. And truly, when the world comes together, what it wants most is to kick the shit out of space Nazis. I mean, who doesn’t?

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A Trip To The Moon, With Music By Air

In 1902, the very first science fiction film was made, A Trip To The Moon.

It was made in France, written and directed by Georges Melies with help from his brother Gaston. Being science fiction it is also therefore the first film to ever employ the concept of “special effects.” That’s right, this film not only invented the sci-fi film, but also invented special effects.

George Melies

It’s short, running about 15 minutes all told and was a huge hit in its day. It inspired countless film makers afterwards. The director however,went bankrupt despite the film’s huge success. One reason for this is that he lost the American market. How?

Remember our last post about the victrola and how the phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison? Well, Thomas Edison had his film technicians secretly make copies of Melies’ film and then distributed it all across America where it was a huge hit. Did Edison pay Melies, who actually made the film? No. Not a penny.

What a dick. We’ll into the Edison/Tesla drama some other day, but… man, Edison was truly a genius if ever there was one, but damn that guy was a dick. Anyway, like any great artist, Melies never stopped and he continued to make visionary and influential fantastical films. He is credited not only with beginning the art of science fiction film making, but of the horror movie also, with his 1896 three minute film The Haunted Castle. He even opened an office in New York to see that his films could be distributed without being pirated. All this a hundred years ago. And you think that anything ever changes.

Naturally, with A Trip To The Moon, movie making was in its infancy. The idea of editing hadn’t even been thought of yet. All film makers had to draw on was stage techniques. But Melies was one of the first to look far beyond theater and treat film narrative as a whole new universe. He was the first filmmaker to use multiple exposures, time lapse photography, dissolves and hand painted colour.

A Trip To The Moon used hand painted colour, however all copies were lost until in 1993, when in a barn in Barcelona a copy was found after 70 years. Despite being in a state of almost total decomposition, a 10 year, frame by frame restoration project managed to save it. On May 11, 2011, 109 years after its original release, a newly restored version was aired at the 2011 Cannes Film festival with a soundtrack written especially for it by the band Air.

You like Air, right? I mean, who doesn’t like Air? Is it even possible to not like Air? Okay, maybe you like heavy metal and Air’s not your favorite thing, but you still kinda LIKE them, right?

Anyway, without further ado, i present to you A Trip To The Moon, with music by Air. I really recommend it. It’s 15 minutes and honestly is surprisingly watchable and immensely fun.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Silhouette Animation of Lotte Reiniger

One of the most iconic works to come out of steampunk culture has been the short film Jasper Morello, which uses silhouette puppetry as its style. Recently we just showed a very lovely short film ‘The Invention Of Love‘ which also uses the same technique.

It is only fitting therefore that we take a look at the undisputed master of the silhouette puppet movie: Lotte Reiniger.

Ms. Reiniger was born in Berlin in 1899. As a child she fell in love with Chinese silhouette puppetry, but then as a teenager with the German Expressionism film explosion. Her combination of these two forms defines her work.

She began making her mark in the 20s during the great and astonishing Weimar Era of Germany. She made a feature length animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1923, which is a conglomeration of tales from 1001 Arabian Nights. It is also worth mentioning that anyone who tells you Walt Disney made the first feature length animated film, with Snow White in 1937, they are wrong. Ms. Reiniger did it first 14 years earlier. (Disney made the first feature animated film using cels. You can say that.)

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the oldest animated film which has surviving fragments. In its entirety however, it did not survive WWII. Here’s a snippet from the 1923 film:

WWII was brutal for Ms. Reiniger and her husband Carl Koch. They were involved in leftist politics and in 1933 decided to get out of Germany to escape the Nazi Party. However, no country would have them as permanent residents, so for 6 years they went from country to country staying only as long as their visitor visa would permit. Finally they had no choice but to go back to Germany to wait out the worst of the war.

In 1949 she and her husband finally moved to London. The 50s are where she left her permanent mark on the world. She was commissioned by an American company to make a series of fairy tales based on the Grimm stories. These became instant classics and anyone you talk to today who saw them as children will swoon with adoration.

Nowadays of course the silhouette puppet style is achieved using computers,. but interestingly it does live on and as Jasper Morello shows, continues to dazzle and inspire. Lotte Reiniger is of course responsible for this style having a cinematic life in the west, not to mention the absolute brilliance of her work remains awe inspiring.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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