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.

Not an exceptionally good-looking movie thirty years later, and not usually fun enough to justify the dull dialogue and tired plotting (amnesia leads to mistaken identity) but it comes alive whenever Madonna is onscreen. It was on Linklater’s list of the best 1980’s movies, and has been appearing on lists of women-directed films lately, but the thing that stuck in my mind and always made me want to see it was hearing it was inspired by Celine & Julie Go Boating. Apparent Rivette influence – one woman (Rosanna Arquette of Crash and After Hours) starts following another (Madonna in her first major film role), identities get mixed up, and a magic show is involved. There’s no Fiction House, sadly.

Roberta is married to spa king Mark Blum, wears appalling 80’s clothes and big glasses, follows the hookups of the cool and mysterious Susan and her man Jim (Robert Joy of Atlantic City, a mutant in The Hills Have Eyes Remake) in the classifieds, builds up the nerve to follow Susan around and buy her pawned jacket. Roberta’s knocked on the head and mistaken for a prostitute by NYPD, then rescued by Jim’s projectionist friend Dez (Aidan Quinn of Benny & Joon, The Handmaid’s Tale) who thinks she must be Susan.

A neighbor plays saxophone, seen backlit through a window, and I thought “1980’s, New York, saxophone, it’s probably John Lurie” and was right! Also appearing: Richard Hell (Madonna’s boyfriend who gets killed in prologue, setting off the chase), Steven Wright (dating Roberta’s sister[?] Laurie Metcalf) and John Turturro (manager of the magic club). Writer Leora Barish also did a Chantal Akerman movie and Basic Instinct 2, a weird career. Seidelman also made Smithereens and a movie about a robot John Malkovich, and directed some Electric Company reboot episodes which means I’m technically her collaborator and shouldn’t be talking smack about her most famous movie. Good acting and a pleasantly goofball flick, I’ve got no hard feelings.

Kazakh teenager becomes the first female eagle hunter in the region. She tells her dad she wants to eagle-hunt, so he checks with grandpa then takes her to kidnap her own baby eagle, walks her through training then leads her to the competition (where her bird sets a record) and her first wild fox capture. It’s a family-friendly feel-good feminist true story (complete with awful disney-uplift closing pop song) that’s doubly pleasurable for those of us who love birds, sweet fur hats and crisp photography. Lead girl Aisholpan is great fun, and fortunately she has a family who cares more about letting her achieve her own destiny than about what the neighbors might think.

The adventures of:
Heen, a coughing laryngytic dog
Markl, child with a fake beard
Turnip, a scarecrow

And also:
Sophie, a cursed girl
Howl, a bird-demon

And also:
Witch of the Waste, melty-faced after losing her powers
Calcifer, a fire-demon

Katy says large parts of the source novel were omitted in the movie version, which would explain why the war and dealings with evil queen Suliman seem underdeveloped. But as far as visuals and unique characters go, this movie is unsurpassed.

Dory starts to remember things about her home and family, goes on an adventure, discovering she was born at an aquatic park. The others follow, and all are assisted by a couple whales and an Ed O’Neill octopus.

I told Katy it felt good, but not necessary – Matt Singer nails why:

Like so many of the studio’s previous features, Dory is a story about the unbreakable bonds between parents and children, mismatched partners bonding over the course of a long adventure, and the pleasures of a team working together to achieve a common goal. After 21 years, that formula is still very satisfying. But it also feels more like a formula than ever before.


Piper (2016, Alan Barillaro)

Dory and The Good Dinosaur have started an upsetting trend where the opening short is better than the feature. I’m probably biased because I love birds, and especially love watching sandpipers, but this story of a baby sandpiper learning to deal with the surf is the greatest film of all time. Director Barillaro has been a Pixar animator since A Bug’s Life.

A Gentle Spirit (1985)

Morphy, smeary animation beneath a crosshatched texture overlay. Time is ticking away and people appear still and sad, a slow-motion human drama with insect cameos, until music ramps up to a climactic chase scene. I couldn’t figure out the story, but I think Dumala assumed no viewer would be so uncultured as to be unfamiliar with the source Dostoevsky novel. Will have to watch this again after seeing the Bresson version (Une Femme Douce, “a young woman kills herself, leaving no explanation to her grief-stricken pawnbroker husband”), which sounds like a barrel of laughs. Some very cool effects in this, including a table transforming into a bed.


Walls (1988)

A man is trapped within some walls. Sometimes things (drawers, insects) appear on their featureless surfaces. I guess he goes mad from sensory deprivation, since his senses start freaking out, his eyes and ears transforming. I liked it better than the previous movie.

This would seem to be an inspiration for both Tool’s Prison Sex video and the movie Symbol. Dumala would further explore his interest in insects with Franz Kafka before returning to Dostoevsky for his half-hour opus.


Crime and Punishment (2000)

I don’t think it’s all drawing, looks like there are layers of filmed objects in there, though in standard-def it’s hard to tell. Of course there are insects – buzzing flies in every scene – and I recognize the basic Crime (with an axe, killing the pawnbroker and a witness), but the crime is finished with only seven minutes to go in the film, so there’s little Punishment. The killer sits at home feeling bad for a minute before Dumala goes outside to play with animals in the rain. Perhaps a mute witness to the crime kills himself at the end? There are some cool effects – I liked the liquid glimmer of nervous eyes in extreme close-up – but it’s so static it loses my attention repeatedly over the thirty minutes.

Raptor in the rain, a drop falling from its beak:

I watched Raamat’s Lend a couple months ago, just getting to the rest of the disc.

Kutt / Hunter (1976)

More cross-fading animation. Whale-hunters dodge icebergs while tracking their prey. The whale wins. Nice water and Northern Lights effects.


Pold / Field (1978)

A black/white world, slow heavy labor, each frame crossfaded into next. Work horse dreams of a better life, escapes. I think he returns to the farm after getting hungry.


Varvilind / Colorful Bird (1974)

Bored future society starts to come alive with the addition of primary colors, as their world gradually becomes a groovy hippy paradise. A black cat threatens to make everything square and gray again, but the cool kids intervene, ending in a psychotic color trip. Maybe Estonia didn’t have the color green – the movie shows yellow and blue combining to make… blue. I like the silent-film opening titles, and how each of the Raamat shorts is so different-looking than the last.


Kilplased / Simpletons (1974)

White-suited loggers discover that logs roll downhill. A farmer tries to befriend some birds while his horse is eaten by wolves (he doesn’t see the wolves, so a cat is blamed). The men burn down their structure (silo?) and destroy their own fields while chasing a pig. At least they get to eat the pig. The cartooniest Raamat I’ve seen.

I like the way he draws bird feet:


Tyll the Giant (1980)

Tyll helps the puny humans rebuild after their towns are destroyed by demons, rescues them when rough seas overturn their boat and participates in brutal battles against their enemies. This doesn’t go over well with the devil lord who shoots boulders from his eyeballs, so he destroys Tyll’s home and murders his wife. In a final horrific battle (this is the most bloodshed I’ve seen in a cartoon since Metalocalypse), Tyll is beheaded, then a voiceover I didn’t understand (because I lack subtitles) gives an epilogue. A tremendous end to the Raamat party.

Quotes below are from Marilyn Brakhage’s program notes.

The Process (1972)

Flashing colors. Negative silhouettes of human figures (wearing hats). Increasingly recognizable scraps of home movies, but yeah, mostly it’s flashing colors. Listened to “Cosmetics (Secret Chiefs 3 Remix)” by Foetus, which had some nice moments of synchronicity, mostly served to make the film seem more sinister than was probably intended.

“Brakhage again addresses the interaction of internal and external sources of imagery, but in this case, as the sole subject of the film. Here, slightly displaced positive and negative versions of the same image create a feeling of insubstantiality.”


Burial Path (1978)

Opens with a dead robin in a box, so I took the title literally and assumed a funeral tone to all the defocused light that proceeds from there. The bird does get buried towards the end, and he intercuts scenes of live birds (not robins) feeding outside. Played the end of Brian Eno & Harold Budd’s “Ambient 2” album, a pleasant change from the previous soundtrack.

Burial Path “graphs the process of forgetfulness.” But Burial Path is also about death, and was sometimes referred to (by Brakhage) as the third part of a trilogy, with Sirius Remembered (1959) and The Dead (1960). (The “path” is also the route taken to visit Brakhage’s friend, the then-ailing literary scholar Donald Sutherland, to whom the film is dedicated.)


Duplicity III (1980)

All crossfades, all the time. The kids are going trick-or-treating, doing house work, playing with cards and toy guns, enacting satanic rituals, performing in school plays which involve ghosts, robots and an Indian chief. Deers and dogs towards the end. Played tracks 2-4 of Coil’s “The Angelic Conversation” which sometimes made the film seem doom-laden, sometimes gave the impression that it was taking place near the ocean.

Halloween: Fire Walk With Me


The Domain of the Moment (1977)

Liked this one a lot because it’s full of critters: baby bird, guinea pig, dog, raccoon, mouse, snake, all double-exposed and playfully filmed, with painted mothlight sections in between animal blocks. Played tracks 4-6 of Secret Chiefs 3’s “Book M”, which was inappopriately energetic at the beginning but worked rather well in the middle.

“A consideration of the consciousness of other life forms.”


Murder Psalm (1980)

Whenever Brakhage films a television it looks like the end of the world. One of his most music-video-looking films, full of increasingly sinister-seeming juxtapositions – pure texture interspersed with stock footage from a strange movie, an education film about brains, leftover autopsy footage from The Act of Seeing, war footage from 23rd Psalm Branch, reversal film of a highway at night. Played the end of Autechre’s “Exai”, which was a great idea.

“A collage of found footage of monstrous implications.”

M. Keller in Film Quarterly:

The most striking imagery comes from an educational film on epilepsy, and Brakhage’s film is structured around that preexisting narrative … Brakhage makes visual relationships between the ball, water in the birdbath, the girl’s hand, a scale model of the brain, a half of a wagon wheel, a covered wagon, and a semicircular tunnel. Circular imagery is cut in half by the frame to make semicircles or hemispheres. The material about epilepsy is transformed into a meditation on the social and cultural circumstances of childhood trauma via a visual string of semicircular imagery. By substituting one image for another – e.g., the model of the brain for the covered wagon – Brakhage links their meanings and implication. The girl’s seizure is made part of the social organism through visual rhyme.


Arabic 12 (1982)

Light asterisks: a film of reddish, star-shaped light artifacts. Wonder if this is what ashtray epic The Text of Light is like – hopefully not, since I lost patience in this 17-minute movie towards the end. Felt like Autechre’s “spl9” was trying to give me a panic attack, but the next track slowed things down for the film’s more diffuse second half.

Part one, featuring Richard Kiel, a Scooby-Doo mystery, a rooster-beast, Ida Lupino, Barré Lyndon (not Barry Lyndon), a mannequin museum, John Ireland and a voodoo cult can be found here. I watched those four years ago, so at this rate I’ll be through season one in the year 2054. Thriller paired well with Black Sabbath, which also had three episodes hosted by Boris Karloff.

The Twisted Image

First episode of the show started off with a bang. Leslie Nielsen (post-Forbidden Planet and Tammy and the Bachelor) plays bland but successful executive and family man Alan, and not one but two people are insanely obsessed with him. Secretary Lily (Natalie Trundy of the Planet of the Apes series) wants to marry him and Mailroom Merle (George Grizzard of Happy Birthday, Wanda June) wants to be him. Lily stalks Alan and writes letters to his wife (Dianne Foster of Drive a Crooked Road). Merle is more dangerous, steals Alan’s watch, wallet, car and daughter, and murders Lily when she says he’s no Alan.

Typical plot-contrivance follows. Alan goes to Lily’s apartment (because if your wife suspects you’re having an affair, you should definitely go to the girl’s apartment alone at night), finds her dead, is spotted at the scene, then goes looking for Merle alone.

Wife: “Why can’t you call the police?”
Alan: “Judy, you don’t understand. I can’t go into details now, just take it easy.”

Happy ending, family values are upheld, etc. Lot of good close-ups of Lily with confident, creepy eyes. Also featuring Constance Ford (the 1962 The Cabinet of Caligari) as Merle’s abusive sister and Virginia Christine (Becky’s cousin in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as his annoyed boss. Arthur Hiller later made See No Evil, Hear No Evil, which is not a horror movie, though quite horrible in its own way.

Pigeons From Hell

“Those were no ordinary pigeons – they were the pigeons from hell” says Karloff without even smiling. Maybe Thriller was trying to distance itself from the smartass introductions on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Too bad the intro proved to be the most amusing part of this talky, boring episode.

Two doofus college-age brothers get stuck in a swamp, immediately blame it on the South, then camp out in an abandoned house, where one brother appears from upstairs all bloody attempting to axe-murder the other. Survivor Tim (Brandon De Wilde of Hud and Shane) flees, interrupts a redneck sheriff (Crahan Denton, a huge racist in Bunuel’s The Young One) who was drinking with his buddies, tells the crazy story and is accused of killing his brother, the end.

But wait, it’s not the end! The most fantastic part of this episode isn’t the house full of haunted pigeons or the zombie remnants of the family that owned it, but the rural cop deciding to investigate this city kid’s story, consider the evidence and finally believe him and try to discover what really happened. From a story by Robert Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

Rose’s Last Summer

Drunken nuisance ex-movie star Rose French (played by actual movie star Mary Astor, princess in The Palm Beach Story) goes on a trip, is found dead in a random suburb. Her friend Frank and ex-husband Haley (Jack “brother of Roger” Livesey) are more suspicious than the cops were, investigate the family whose yard Rose died in.

Mary!

Turns out Rose has been hired by the family to be their dying mother, who needs to stay alive a few more weeks to claim inheritance from eccentric relative (a genius doll inventor!), after which they’d planned to dispose of Rose to protect their secret before Frank rescued her.

Real mom, fake mom: