Kind of a Crane Wife / Tales from the Darkside gargoyle variant with a turtle twist. Man washes up on a bamboo forest island, and is thwarted by a giant red turtle whenever he tries to build an escape boat. One day the turtle waddles ashore and the angry man flips it over. Then it becomes a human woman, they have a kid together, avoid natural disasters, the kid grows up and goes off into the ocean, the man gets old and dies, and finally she turns back into a turtle and leaves. Turtle/human spawning / cycle-of-life business, done with very attractive (wordless) animation. Some cute sand crabs, too. I also rewatched Father and Daughter and The Monk and the Fish with Katy, finally available in HD.

Chuck Bowen:

The man’s one murderous impulse begets a life of empathy — of balance. A heartbreaking, astonishingly poetic ending further challenges our human-centric absorption, suggesting that this rhapsodic life of paradise wasn’t the man’s dream, but the turtle’s.

Isabel Stevens in BFI:

Pictures are the film’s currency and they are, without exaggeration, sublime … The attention to detail shown to the sky (its magic-hour glow tinging the whole island), water (grey and angry one moment, an azure palimpsest the next), even the sand (at times you can see the grains in what looks like a smudge of charcoal) is quite extraordinary. The film is a masterclass in chiaroscuro: shadows are just as intricately sketched as the life forms that cause them. Even from a distance, a bottle washed up on the beach has a lighter shadow than a human’s. A lot of digital animation, with its blocks of colour, can feel flat. But the depth and texture on show here – conjured from a surge of pencil marks and watercolour washes – is remarkable.

Owen is graduating soon, getting his own place, in a relationship, finding employment. He’s also got autism, and didn’t speak for years as a kid until his parents figured out that he’d memorized all the Disney movies they had on video, and learned to speak to him in character with Disney dialogue. So the movie follows Owen now, and through photos and home videos from the past, drawings and cartoons by French effects company Mac Guff, and editing of Disney emotions into real events. Owen and his dad do decent character voices, and someone on letterboxd writes “This is the happiest you’ll ever be to see Gilbert Gottfried.”

Moana’s island is dying because demigod Maui desecrated a statue, and the villagers are strictly forbidden from sailing beyond the island, but Moana’s grandma doesn’t care about these men and their dumb rules, urges Moana to do whatever the hell she wants, then dies. Helped out by ocean magic (which is why the water rises and twists on the poster) and accompanied by an idiot chicken, Moana appeals to Maui to retrieve his magic-wand fishhook from a greedy Jemaine-voiced crab and help her return a magic stone to the volcanic lava beast, returning harmony to the land. Good songs and beautiful water and fire effects (the characters were okay – I’ll take the chicken over Moana or Maui). Directors Clements & Musker also made lost classic The Great Mouse Detective. Of the Disney animated features I’ve watched most recently, this trounces Big Hero 6 and Frozen and Mulan, but I still prefer Wreck-It Ralph over all. Looks like The Princess and the Frog should be next to watch.

Pearl (Patrick Osborne)

Machinima/cutscene clip about a girl growing up with her dad with a car and music then getting too old for dad and hanging out with friends with the car and music then remembering poor dad and going back to visit. It felt kinda like an extended commercial, but not as good, surprising from the guy who made Feast. Ah, it was created with VR software, how cutting edge.

Borrowed Time (Coats & Hamou-Lhadj)

Bummer cowboy story, sad man goes to cliff edge where he accidentally killed his dad whom he was trying to help up with the use of a shotgun. It doesn’t feel like 3D animation is best suited for this sort of thing. The codirectors are seasoned Pixar animators.

Blind Vaysha (Theodore Ushev)

Girl is born with a left eye that only sees the past and a right eye that only sees the future, sometimes by a few hours and sometimes by thousands of years. Maybe you could do some cool things with this concept, but the movie’s only concerned with grabbing the viewer and saying look, wouldn’t this be terrible? Imagine if you had to live like this. Wouldn’t it be just awful? Wouldn’t it? Huh? The end. Ushev is a prolific shorts director and this is the first I’ve seen.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Robert Valley)

Long story of the narrator’s troubled friend Techno who gets rich then needs a liver transplant. At least this one has cooler visual style and music than the others, though it’s another sadness drama, and all women be sexy-ass bitches. The director was an Aeon Flux artist!

Piper (Alan Barillaro)

Still the best. Sandpipers rule.

The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel)

Wrenching doc about self-appointed post-bombing rescuers in Syria, mostly set during a training session in Turkey. It would also turn out to be a really useful movie to use when looking for IMDB or Letterboxd users with terrible opinions to block, if either of those sites allowed me to block users with terrible opinions.

A first-person semi-documentary by Nance about his uneven love life, which also contains a second-person semi-documentary by Nance (How Would You Feel?) about his uneven love life, plus fragments of a first-person documentary by Nance’s ex Namik, plus drawn animation and stop-motion and other things. The presentation is great fun, and though all the navel-gazing relationship talk gets to be a bit much, it’s not an overlong movie and all the shape-shifting kept me happy.

Not the first documentary I’ve seen to contain its own test screening. I thought Nance had a new movie in Sundance last month, but I guess it was a live performance of his project where he googles phrases about black kids and follows the results down a wormhole, then posts the results on his vimeo page. I watched for a few minutes, but the online version seems to be missing essential narration.

Flying Lotus did the music for this and LoveTrue which I saw a few weeks later. And I tried to look up articles or interviews about the film but instead got caught up in a highly entertaining essay Nance wrote about Exodus: Gods and Kings in which he convincingly labels Ridley Scott a white supremacist. Ah no wait, here’s a Filmmaker interview in which Nance claims he was playing “the type of guy she wouldn’t like” on camera so the story would make sense, which complicates things even more.

I thought I heard that this was the kid-friendliest of the post-Mononoke Ghibli movies, and maybe so, but it’s also one of the most unexpectedly bizarre. A magic fish-princess flees her underwater bubble-hatted environmentalist mad-scientist Liam Neeson-sounding dad and befriends a five-year-old boy, turning herself human to stay with him on land during a major flood.

After the flood, octopi and trilobites and eels and jellyfish waste no time moving in:

Most of Neeson’s activities are never explained:

Ponyo running on watery waves of blue fishes is some magical animation:

Human boy Sosuke and his mom meet Ponyo’s ocean-goddess mom:

The first roundup of misc shorts since the last one.


Tome of the Unknown: Harvest Melody (2013, Patrick McHale)

Wirt and Greg are heading somewhere, manage to get a ride with pumpkin-man John Crops to vegetable city, where they accidentally unleash the fury of the crows. Would play as a deleted scene from Over The Garden Wall if not for bluebird Beatrice’s different voice and some more cartoonish facial expressions. I’m guessing with the Harvest Melody subtitle that he’d planned to make more standalone shorts like this, but then they made the full series.


The Umbrella Man (2011, Errol Morris)

A web mini-doc on a single detail of the Zapruder film: a single man with an umbrella on the cloudless day Kennedy was shot. Interview with JFK assassination expert Tink Thompson, who sets up the mystery, then explains it was discovered that the man was making an obscure visual protest against a policy by JFK’s father.


Demon in the Freezer (2016, Errol Morris)

“Why is it so important to make the monkeys sick?”

The argument over preserved samples of smallpox virus – whether they should be kept, and for what purpose? Floated: vaccines and biological warfare with the Russians. I don’t know a whole lot about smallpox but it sounds horrible.


Dog (2002, Suzie Templeton)

A sick/dying/dead dog, a father, a boy, a murder, a patch of either blood or mold upon a wall, and the most disturbing stop-motion I’ve seen this side of Robert Morgan.


Oskar Kulicke and the Pacifist (1952, Kurt Weiler)

I loved The Apple, so watched some more puppet shorts by Weiler. Bricklayer Oskar endures the whining of a pansy pacifist then sets him straight, asking how the pacifist will like it when he’s conscripted after a U.S. invasion. No, pacifism is dumb and learning proper use of arms is essential, Oskar concludes.

The U.S. military elite:


Heinrich The Dysfunctional: A German Elegy (1965, Kurt Weiler)

Surprising to watch this right after the other, since it’s about a failed German invasion of Poland in 1472 due to misfortune and royal idiocy. King of Libnitz attacks Cracow in order to obtain liquor and a young bride. After recruiting a traitorous young goat farmer, the king makes it to the enemy castle, only to be pissed on by the local kids and sent home on a manure cart, all his cannons destroyed. “The fatal flaw of the heroic German character: thirst trumps wisdom.”

Last-minute reprieve for the goat farmer:

Ceremonial welcome:


Nörgel & Söhne (1968-70, Kurt Weiler)

Three-part story of how the nomadic Nörgel clan developed tools and farming, then trade, then currency. Character-based stop-motion with some fun material tricks with liquids, animals and the heavens. Nörgel becomes more of a brutal slavemaster the closer he gets to modern capitalism, and in the end he retires and reads Marx’s Das Capital (historical chronology is shifty in these movies) and regrets the awful thing he’s done.

Barter calculations:


Street of Crocodiles (1986, Quays)

Live-action man spits into the machinery, activating it, and releases stop-motion man who creeps into a dusty world of pulleys and screws populated by hollow-headed dolls. Wonderful string music. I still don’t know what it all means, been meaning to get the Bruno Schulz book forever now, but it’s all so dusty and textural and mesmerizing in its mysterious movements.


Quay (2015, Christopher Nolan)

Eight-minute trip to the Quays’ workshop featuring some Street of Crocodiles puppets and commentary on their methods. I suppose splashing Nolan’s name across the blu-ray package was meant to get new people interested in their work, kinda like “JJ Abrams presents Phantasm: Remastered“. I hope it’s working.


Esperalia (1983, Jerzy Kalina)

A guy goes slow-mo crawling through the forest overlaid by patterns and rotoscope lines, seeing visions and phantoms, with an increasingly disturbed soundtrack.


The Public Voice (1988 Lejf Marcussen)

Magnifying glass reveals the blueprints beneath paintings, the lines behind the lines behind the lines. Slow zooms in and out as patterns and figures slowly prove to be details within other works, a visual art history folded into itself. I didn’t recognize most of the work, but there’s some Dali and Bosch in there.

Last left off with the Master of None spring roundup, and besides the shows below I’ve also watched a couple miniseries, some Black Mirror and all of Neon Genesis Evangelion since then. It’s been a televisiony year.


Archer seasons 1-4 (2009-2013)

Addictive escapist comedy. I watched season one for two weeks this summer, then the next three seasons in just a few days after the election. Kinda crazy about the show, and it helps that some of my former coworkers helped make it. Nice bookending Bob’s Burgers and Sealab references in season 4.

I knew Archer (Jon Benjamin) and his mom (Jessica Walter of Arrested Development) and Cyril (Chris “Dr. Leo Spaceman” Parnell). Cheryl is Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Jurassic World, Tomorrowland), Pam is Amber Nash (Frisky Dingo), Lana is Aisha Tyler (kickstart-directing a movie called Axis), Ray is show creator Adam Reed. Dave “Meatwad” Willis plays Barry and Other Barry. R.I.P. George Coe, who played Woodhouse.

Most of the cast:

Standoff:


BoJack Horseman season 1 (2014)

It takes a lot for me to start watching a new comedy show: years of increasing acclaim and/or recommendations from an unusual source like Cinema Scope. I finally, grudgingly, checked out the show about the former sitcom star who is a horse and the wreck of his current life, and it’s good.

I skipped the last season of Arrested Development then watched all the shows by its former cast members, so Will Arnett plays BoJack. With Amy Sedaris as an agent/cat, Paul F. Tompkins as an actor/rival/dog, Alison Brie (Community) as the dog’s/horse’s shared human love interest, which sounds gross out of context, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as BoJack’s roommate and Kristen Schaal as his TV daughter.

And Patton Oswalt as a publisher:


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2 (2016)

A bit too much Tina Fey – is it okay to say that? And sometimes Tituss can be overwhelming. These are minor gripes about a nearly perfect show. This year Jacqueline dates David Cross, Lillian fights against gentrification, Kimmy’s bunker-mates make regular appearances, and Tituss dates construction worker Mikey.


Horace & Pete (2016)

I appreciate the concept very much, taking old fashioned ideas of television and making them brand new, and embracing silence and stillness in a unique way. And Louis has lined up a dream-come-true cast, so the acting is always a pleasure to watch. He has also written a relentlessly grim show that ends with his character’s murder at the hands of his psychotic brother, with some suicide and cancer and cheating and abandoned children and drunkenness and depression along the way. For every weirdly wonderful scene, like David Blaine being berated and thrown out for doing magic tricks, or Steven Wright quip, there’s fifteen minutes of everyone feeling lousy. Complaints aside, I’ll buy anything Louis sells, and more promptly next time.


Delocated season 2 (2010)

Yay, Jerry Minor. But for the most part, this show is juuust barely maintaining my interest, and I think I’ll probably check out a bunch of other things instead of continuing. For instance, the guy from Review was in a few episodes – I wonder if season two of his show is online anywhere.

Eugene Mirman works on becoming a stand-up comic whose jokes revolve around vodka so his big brother Sergei (Steve Cirbus, 89th billed in Bridge of Spies) takes over the threats and the killing. Zoe Lister-Jones has the thankless girlfriend role, Mather Zickel takes over as bodyguard, and Todd Barry plays himself.


Girls season 4 (2015)

I’ve become more ambivalent about watching this show about aggressively self-involved young white people… still into it, but I’m also reading The Brooklyn Wars and can’t pretend I’m not noticing the problems. But hey, Ray is joining the city council so there’s hope for more socially-aware content in the future, and I heard season five is really good, though I might take a break.

What else is happening? Hannah’s writer’s retreat thing didn’t work out, she becomes a teacher and dates a coworker, Marnie breaks up Desi’s engagement, Caroline gives birth, everyone seems frustrated with everyone else (or maybe that’s me?).


W/ Bob and David season 1 (2015)

Well, after expectations so absurdly high that I couldn’t bear to even watch this for almost a year, that was… not bad. Wish I’d known that the fifth “episode” was an hour-long behind-the-scenes thing – I kept thinking it was a self-reflexive joke and would turn into more comedy. Special guests Key & Adsit are a nice touch, and Tom Kenny’s appearances are always highlights. More episodes now, please.


Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (2016)

One of the few things keeping us sane these days.


Also watched some standup comedy:

David Cross – Making America Great Again
Ali Wong – Baby Cobra
Michael Ian Black – Noted Expert
Todd Barry – Crowd Work Tour
Barry Crimmins – Whatever Threatens You
Brian Posehn – Criminally Posehn
Doug Stanhope – Beer Hall Putsch

And saw Louis CK live in Omaha.

Didn’t take notes on any of these, but enjoyed ’em all.

I think we watched four episodes of Key & Peele, so that’s half of season one. Haven’t fully invested yet in Enlightened, Lady Dynamite, Documentary Now or Steven Universe. Abandoned Shameless and probably a couple others.

Finally watched this Laika movie. I love love loved the look, beautiful stop-motion with ghostly effects. A total visual triumph, and I wish we’d caught it in theaters. Didn’t expect the screenplay to suck, though. Overall story is fine, weird kid in town can see ghosts, has to use his powers to save the town from a vindictive witch, but most of the plot points and dialogue were boring and obvious, led by a veritable who-cares of voice acting. Maybe it’s just because we watched it on Halloween (Katy’s sole SHOCKtober film) and treaters interrupted the movie every five minutes so I couldn’t get sucked into its particular atmosphere.

The cast:

The crew: