Dear Basketball (2017, Glen Keane)

The most beautiful hand-drawn animation, illustrating Kobe Bryant’s motivational(?) essay about loving basketball all his life. The animation >>>> the words. My writeup is late as usual, so the winners are in, and now Kobe Bryant has more competitive oscars than Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Sam Fuller, Howard Hawks, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, Terrence Malick, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Bresson and Agnès Varda combined.


Negative Space (2017, Ru Kuwahata & Max Porter)

Poem about a guy who only knew his dad through helping him pack for trips, with a stinger joke at dad’s funeral. Poem > animation > movie. French short with a weak English voiceover… even though this didn’t work for me, the directors have three other shorts which I’m tempted to seek out.


Lou (2017, Dave Mullins)

Pixar’s entry – it must’ve played in front of Cars 3. “Lou” is a sentient lost-and-found box which sets out to reform the schoolyard bully. Funny that we got two lost-and-found shorts in the same program this year. The first writer/director credit for Mullins, who is credited on features dating back to Monsters, Inc. (and Bjork’s Hunter video!).


Revolting Rhymes, Part 1 (2016, Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer)

The long one – first half of a sixty-minute fairy-tale mashup TV-movie from the team behind Room on the Broom, so I dunno why it technically counts as a short. The animation is more functional than the Pixar, but I got into it – these two probably tie as my faves. Interweaving stories of Red Riding Hood and Snow White with some Three Little Pigs at the end, as narrated by a vengeful big bad wolf. The credits went by too quickly so I don’t know who Dominic West played, but this is already the second movie I’ve seen with him at The Ross this year.


Garden Party (2017, MOPA)

Beautiful 3D work of frogs in a garden, gradually revealing the sordid scene around them – a trashed mansion with a body in the pool. Made as a final project by six French animation students.


Lost Property Office (2017, Daniel Agdag)

Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’. Cityscape in lovely stop-motion reminds of More with its sepia-toned conformity. Guy at the Lost Property Office has spent the last eighteen years constructing wonderful things out of the lost property instead of making any attempt to return it to original owners, and after a suicide fakeout when he’s fired, he breaks out to glorious freedom. Writer/director/animator/DP/designer/editor Agdag is best known for making wonderful sculptures out of cardboard.


Weeds (2017, Kevin Hudson)

Dandelions on dry ground seek a better life for their children. It’s a metaphor! One nice shot of a dandelion head exploding into fluffy seeds, otherwise a clunky time-filler. The director has done effects for movies from Darkman and Cast a Deadly Spell to John Carter.


Achoo (2018, ESMA)

Another one by six different French people. There should be more cartoons about flying dragons, at least, but this was a groaner of a cartoon leading to “and that’s how fireworks were invented”. At least this was better than the interstitial pieces in between the main shorts about a hungry little guy and the oaf who keeps trying to help him. I hated these, but they cracked up my fellow moviegoers.

Winnie-the-Pooh (1969 Fyodor Khitruk)

The A.A. Milne books made it to Russia, but the Disney film versions did not, so Khitruk’s team removed Christopher Robin and imagined their own versions of Pooh and Piglet for a series of shorts. In this first one, Pooh fails to score some honey by masquerading as a small black cloud, all against charmingly hand-drawn backgrounds with lots of singing.


Winnie-the-Pooh Pays a Visit (1971 Fyodor Khitruk)

I love the voices so much in these. Pooh and Piglet visit their friend Rabbit to scam some food off him. Rabbit has exceedingly good manners, so keeps feeding his guests until Pooh can’t fit through the doorway to leave.


Curses (2016 Jodie Mack)

First light confetti blows across a white background, then it gets ever more complex, introducing different swirl patterns, until finally the last section is a rotoscoped dance swirl animation against color-strobe backgrounds. This is all a music video to an upbeat piano-rock song by Roommate (“I sing my curses in reverse and what’s worse, no one notices”). Happy flashbacks to Jeff Scher.


Blanket Statement No. 1: Home Is Where The Heart Is (2012, Jodie Mack)

Blankets, I guess… rapid stop-motion shots of fabric panels, swirling about. Only three minutes, but with more colors and patterns per second than any other film. The chirpy bloop ‘n crackle audio sounds like when I hit fast-forward on the minidisc player. Katy disapproved, said they’re not even blankets.


Blanket Statement No. 2 (2013, Jodie Mack)

Knit rows of varying colors, washing past the camera in patterns that look like abstract computer graphics, then flickering gradually to black, and back into colorful rows, the audio like the road noise in an 8-bit motorcycle racing game.


Lost Camel Intentions (1988, Lewis Klahr)

Transformation journey of a guy from skeleton airplane pilot to male silhouette balloonist to his final form: a photo of a Monty-Python-looking mustache dude against a series of automobiles. I suppose if you’re Lewis Klahr, people bring up Monty Python to you an awful lot. This was the first part of a series called Tales of the Forgotten Future which I’m not finishing right now because it kinda looks like low-detail VHS and I can find better-looking Klahr works elsewhere.


A Wish for Monsters (2012)

Forgot I’d done this… I ran the trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and the first few minutes of A Wish for Wings That Work on top of each other, setting one semi-transparent, and submitted it for Shorts Club one month.

The first film by Studio Ponoc is also Yonebayashi’s third feature based on British children’s lit, with much of the familiar visual style and same crew members as Ghibli, so it’s more a continuation than anything bold and new. We’d also just watched Castle in the Sky, another movie where a girl with unexplained powers is chased from a floating castle. We played spot-the-reference as Mary finds a flower that turns her into a super-powerful witch, rides to witch school, then gets pursued by the schoolmasters who want to harness the flower’s power to crossbreed animals, or do some Captain America kinda thing, I dunno. It’s all very attractive, and impressive on the big screen, but like its witchy predecessor, it started to feel like we were just watching a kids movie.

We didn’t want Downsizing to be our official final film of 2017, so we rewatched Inside Out on new year’s eve, then after a couple of attempts, managed to make this early Ghibli feature our first movie of 2018. The early ones are cool, but we’re more taken by their later works (Mononoke and everything after).

Pirates:

A couple of orphan kids from different backgrounds meet and end up saving the world by teaming with pirates to stop a power-mad government agent from harnessing the destructive power of an ancient and abandoned floating city called Laputa. The boy Pazu (pronounced POT-sue in the Disney dub) is from a factory town, and the girl Sheetah is descended from Laputa royalty, and that’s about all we learn about them before the movie erupts into battles, pirate humor, and tons of flying machines.

Every Miyazaki movie has a standout piece of character or vehicle design – in this one it’s long-armed bird-loving robots.

Emily Prime, a year older than last time, is visited by an incomplete backup copy of her third generation clone, who is using time travel to visit her own inherited memories. The clone hopes to copy Emily’s consciousness over her own, a process which somewhat succeeds, after some memory tourism, personality glitches, future history lessons, and of course, philosophizing on the meaning of life and our individual place within the universe.

The computer-animated mindscapes and off-world dystopian future visions are as great as in the previous film, which I’ve been known to call the best animated short of all time. So I had absurdly high expectations, and Episode 2 met them, feeling like a perfectly natural continuation of the first film. Not as many mindblowing new ideas in this one since he set up so much previously, but the writing (based around conversations with a six-year-old) is probably better, circling back to each idea and conversation in a self-conscious loop while expanding the ideas about memories and identity.

Cute mouse Dinki runs away from her fake family (her “dad” is a guy wearing mouse ears and her “brother” is a dog) with a boy and her creepy girlfriend who hears murder-voices. Birdboy himself spends most of the movie a useless junkie, having nightmares and reminiscing about life with his late father in a lighthouse, but briefly he turns into a giant enraged bird-beast and kills all the dump rats who threaten his friends.

It doesn’t feel like an adult animation so much as a kids’ animation that has been isolated and deprived of light or hope for decades until all the happy furry creatures have turned to despair. Also featuring a living piggybank and living alarm clock, the opposite of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast trinkets, showing the cruel horrors we inflict on the objects that are just doing their jobs for us. Played with a short…

Decorado (2016, Alberto Vásquez)

From one of Birdboy‘s directors, a handful of truly awful animal-characters interact in short sketches, while one of them (the guy whose best friend is a ghost and is married to a robot-voiced woman whose secret admirer is a horrible monster) starts to realize that he’s in a Truman Show situation with artificial scenery. Some crude gags striving towards profundity, not quite making it.

This was better than it looked from posters/trailers/hype. I am gonna need to watch again ASAP. The Back to the Future disappearing-hand trick is employed, I guessed early on that lead kid Miguel’s real great-grandpa is the desperate loser and not the famous crooner, and the big dramatic goal is to right a historical wrong and unite loved ones in the afterlife before one of them is forgotten by the living. Some beautiful stuff, giving me nice flashbacks to Kubo.

Veep season 4 (2015)

I’d planned to watch this right after Girls season 4, then wasn’t in the mood to hear anything about politics for a while, so postponed with more than a few seasons of Archer. Finally I returned to Veep, and you know it’s sorta about politics, but mostly just 30-minute episodes of nonstop insult humor, and I love it. Meyer has become president, and during her re-election campaign almost everyone resigns or is fired over scandals and personality conflicts.


Rick & Morty season 3 (2017)

It’s hard to love Rick & Morty while trying not to be one of those people who loves Rick & Morty, but it’s also impossible for me not to love Rick & Morty. This is like my TV Tarantino.

1. A series of mind transfers and brutal killings lets Rick escape from insect jail, rejoining Morty in a mad quest for fast-food szechuan sauce.

2. Dad moves out, Summer is alienated, Rick takes the kids to a Mad Max dimension, Morty gets a super-arm.

3. Pickle Rick nearly avoids going to family therapy with Beth and the kids.

4. R&M join the Vindicators, an Avengers knockoff, for an adventure in which Drunk Rick is the master villain.

5. “Rick & Jerry episode!” Rick takes Jerry on an adventure, admits to breaking up the family, Summer has body image issues.

6. R&M are addicted to adventures, while on vacation Toxic Rick and Ideal Rick get separated.

7. Set on the Citadel of Ricks, a sort of Godfather, Chinatown, Willy Wonka mash-up.

8. Morty’s Mindblowers is the new Intergalactic Cable.

9. Beth revisits the world Rick created for her as a kid, finds a friend who disappeared there, while Jerry is dating a warrior alien.

10. While Rick duels the President of the United States, the rest of the family reunites.


Superjail season 2 (2011)

I watched this entire season (under two hours long) whilst scanning book pages and probably drinking, and can’t recall any of it to mind. But it was great, and I took some screenshots. A+, would watch again.


Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (2017)

A satisfying conclusion, if that’s what it turns out to be, with the ex-campers grown up (sort of) and employed (somewhat), reuniting in 1991 among current campers to save the camp from an evil and somewhat confusing Presidents Bush & Reagan nuclear plot. Nearly everyone from the series and movie returned, in one way or another, plus Adam Scott, Alyssa Milano as a suspicious nanny, Sarah Burns (Enlightened) and Dax Shepard (Idiocracy).


Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014, Carl Tibbetts)

Snowed into a cabin at the end of the world: chatty Jon Hamm and another dude who has barely spoken in years (Rafe Spall, Life of Pi, an Andy in Hot Fuzz), so Hamm tries to draw him out by sharing his own backstory, being paid to give live social/dating advice to awkward people while others watch on a shared party line, until one call ends in a client’s death. Since this was a longer, special episode, we get a second technology, demonstrated by Oona Chaplin of The Hour: the ability to copy your own consciousness into a “cookie,” like an Alexa or Echo run by a second self instead of a computer program – but the copied self considers itself the Original and its spirit has to be broken by manipulating time in the cookie, making it sit idle for years with no stimulation until it’s happy to perform menial tasks. This being Black Mirror I’ve now caught on that Hamm and the quiet guy are in some kinda interrogation device, which is why the circumstances of their years trapped in a cabin together have never been explained, and Rafe finally tells his story, of how he got “blocked” by his wife, who moved away and had another man’s child, and after the wife died in an accident, Rafe busted her dad’s head with a snowglobe. After a job well-done, Hamm is pulled out of the simulator, and a cop spontaneously speeds up the cookie clock, sentencing Spall to a near-eternity alone in the cabin.

Jon Hamm controls the cookie:

Mouseover to block Rafe Spall:
image


One Punch Man (2015)

Saitama is a young bald guy who enjoys acting like a superhero in his spare time, and is incidentally the most powerful man in the world. He attracts an android sidekick named Genos and they sign up to the league of heroes, the jokes being that the league members are mostly interested in themselves and their press and official hero positions, and that Saitama just wants a good fight but ends up defeating all foes with a single punch. A great assortment of heroes and villains which recalls The Tick, and a damned good opening theme song.

Genos vs. Mosquito Queen:


Currently stalled or proceeding slowly: The Deuce, The Knick, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Atlanta, The Thick of It, Blackish, Key & Peele, Futurama, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Enlightened, Review, Documentary Now, Lady Dynamite, Louie (yikes), Assy McGee and Steven Universe.

En levande själ (A Living Soul, 2014, Henry Moore Selder)

A living brain, with ear and eyeball, awakens in a fishtank and eventually succeeds in psychically communicating with its nurse Emma. Happy birthday to me – thanks, Trevor!

Based on a novel by a physician. Ypsilon and Emma and nearly everyone else in Sweden acted in the TV series The Bridge, and the briefly-appearing inkblot psychiatrist (the “ink” was on an ipad, nice touch) was in Fanny & Alexander.


Sarah Winchester, opéra fantôme (2016, Bertrand Bonello)

“Dance but don’t move. Do the solo in your head.”

Symphony and dance, spooky old drawings and accusing ghosts, and the story of Sarah, inheritor of the Winchester rifle fortune, who became a crazy recluse after losing her family. I liked this even more than Nocturama. Similarities include doom music, seclusion in abandoned buildings, mannequins, guilt.


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984, Quay Bros.)

A child visits Master Svankmajer, who removes the fluff and toys from the child’s head and teaches him stop-motion filmmaking. This makes a lot more sense than it did when I watched in the 1990’s, now that I know who Jan Svankmajer is. The cluster of mobile pins still reminds me of Edward Gorey (“Death and Distraction, said the Pins and Needles”)


Stille Nacht I, Dramolet (1988, Quay Bros.)

Extremely short and amazing, dollman watches as his spoon-world grows moldy with magnetized metal filings.


Stille Nacht II, Are We Still Married? (1992, Quay Bros.)

A motion-blur paddleball confounds a toe-stretching girl’s pet bunny


Stille Nacht III, Tales from Vienna Woods (1994, Quay Bros.)

Somebody died in 1892? Spinning smoke bullet, disembodied hand, hovering desk and extra-long spoon. I liked the His Name Is Alive song in the previous film – this one sounds like a buzzing TV from the next room.


Stille Nacht IV, Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1994, Quay Bros.)

The heroes of part two return, the tiptoe girl now quietly bleeding as the rabbit uses his antigravity powers to protect his eggs from a keyhole-peeping Death.


An Eastern Westerner (1920, Hal Roach)

At a hotel we saw this Harold Lloyd short on TCM, and since I watched it, I am duty-bound to put it on the blog somewhere, even though I was entirely focused on being aggravated about the picture being squished and don’t remember anything that happened in the movie itself. I guess it’s the one with the famous still of all the guns pointing at Harold’s head?


Three Monks (1982 Jingda Xu)

Short, flatheaded Red Monk, tall skinny Blue Monk, and fat Yellow Monk arrive separately at a mountaintop shrine and spend their days guzzling water and trying to make the other monk(s) bring up more water from the lake. Eventually they’re all angry, and are stealing water from the shrine’s flowerpot, when a mouse almost burns the place down and they have to cooperate to bring up plenty of water in a hurry. The catchy tunes and musical-instrument sound effects were the best part.


Feeling Good (2010, Pierre Etaix)

A 1965 outtake scene from As Long As You’ve Got Your Health. Etaix goes camping with a campfire and electric coffee pot. Confusion and bad coffee ensues. Then he’s in a military tent camp and I get lost as to what’s happening, because between bird songs and people whistling and blowing whistles, my birds got quite agitated.


Pas a Deux (1988 Renault & Van Dijk)

A couple is dancing, looks maybe like rotoscoped with colored pencil, then he transforms into Popeye the Sailor complete with voice clip, then they each transform (pretty seamlessly) into different famous characters. Cool effect, but feels like they’re just screwing around. Katy called it a precursor to Logorama.

Made by a couple of Dutch animators. Gerrit’s final film was based on a Burroughs story and featured the voice of Rutger Hauer. Monique has a whole bunch of films on vimeo


The Northleach Horror (2016, David Cairns)

Apocalyptic story of a mad scientist doing Frankenstein experiments in an underground bunker, the movie casually killing off characters (and resurrecting them) for laughs. I meant to watch this again and note character names, but my link has gone dead. Fun while it lasted. From the creator of the also-great Cry For Bobo.


Seances: The Disputed Honours (May 31, 2016)

Some familiar footage from The Forbidden Room, with changes. When Jacques Nolot is hired as a gardener, does he usually steal a magnifying glass? Whole new sequence with a man retrieving a key while two women (Camille and her sister?) cower in the night, only to be sucked into a vortex. Color and tinting changes mid-shot. All new intertitles! “O to quench the thirst of my wheat with the blood of slain mail coachmen.”

I wanted to watch When The Broken Toilets Cry but didn’t figure out the website in time. Can’t tell what to make of interruptions like the one below. It looked like typical streaming glitching at first until I realized the shots emerging through the glitch aren’t part of the scene I’m in.

And since I have nowhere else to mention these, I also watched and enjoyed a pile of Netflix’s comedy specials from this year… Joe Mande… Amy Schumer’s The Leather Special (all the fat jokes and poop stories get old, but I admit I laughed at ’em)… Sarah Silverman (more poop stories)… Louis CK “2017” (this has now replaced my memory of his Omaha show – I should’ve taken notes after each)… Dave Chappelle’s Spin and Texas specials (some bits set off my political-correctness alarm, but they’re perfectly constructed/paced hours)… Norm MacDonald’s Hitler’s Dog… three we burned for the drive to Atlanta: Trevor Noah (who we also saw in person a few weeks ago), Hari Kondabolu “Mainstream American Comic”, and the great Hasan Minhaj… and probably a couple I’m forgetting.