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.

I’ve been watching more shorts lately and posting then in thematic batches by director (Len Lye, Emile Cohl) and collection (Disney, Oscar-nominated) and time period (The Movies Begin, 1920’s & 1930’s). Here are some miscellaneous shorts that didn’t get their own thematic post.


False Aging (2008 Lewis Klahr)

Cut-out animation with a recurring yellow bird and a comic-book Adam & Eve. Looks charmingly handmade. Generally slow and dreamy but sometimes the objects flicker maniacally.

I think it’s about drugs. Soundtrack: clips from Valley of the Dolls, a Jefferson Airplane song, and John Cale reading Andy Warhol’s journals.

Klahr was ranked a top-five experimental filmmaker of the 2000’s by Film Comment, and is on the cover of this month’s Cinema Scope. “Klahr’s films construct archetypal narratives and mood trances out of the middle-class utopia we promised ourselves and never got” – M. Atkinson.


Lend/Flight (1973, Rein Raamat)

An ode to flight. Tiny red person rides some dandelion floof through the clouds, performs acrobatics up there, then comes plummetting down upon reaching the atmosphere’s edge. A series of new ideas for flying machines based on existing objects are proposed, scored by a groovy rock song, until finally a plane (and a rocket) is built, based instead on natural flying creatures. I love the color scheme and the multi-layered sky.

Raamat is known as the father of Estonian animation, founded his own animation studio in 1971. Writer Paul-Eerik Rummo was a poet who later became Minister of Culture. Music composer Rein Rannap is best known for judging Estonian Idol.


The Apple (1969, Kurt Weiler)

Whoa, this is amazing. Lively puppet stop-motion telling an anti-greed/ignorance parable – art vs. science vs. the state vs. religion – with rhyming (in German) narration. Kinda hard to explain, but involves rival scientists competing for attentions of the ruler, and trying not to get thrown in jail or burned at the stake for their ideas.

Oops:

One guy invents the drug “hormosexulin” which increases egg production from friendly bulbil creatures, and the ruler goes nuts with it, injects his henchmen, who also start laying eggs. Sometimes reminds me of Jirí Trnka’s The Hand, like when a traumatic scaffold collapse provokes genuinely disturbing cries of pain.

Placid Bulbil interrupts scientist face-off:


Riley’s First Date (2015, Josh Cooley)

Inside Out spinoff short, in which snotnosed boy (with Flea inside his head) comes to pick up Riley, sitting with her increasingly angry father while she gets ready. Mainly focused on the parents’ emotions, which according to one of the Inside Out reviews I read was the feature’s weak point, throwing out all the movie’s Riley-emotion lessons for easy retro-sitcom gender jokes. And there’s more of that here, but it’s still fun. Cooley has been in Pixar credits since The Incredibles, and taking over a spinoff short means he’s probably being groomed to codirect an upcoming feature sequel… yep, there’s his name on Toy Story 4.


Porter Springs 3 (1977, Henry Hills)

Distant trees swaying in the breeze for a minute… then what looks like a circular pan from the center of a lake sped up a hundred times. Then the trees, calmer, then the lake, crazier. If I’d known it was gonna be silent I’d have picked my own John Zorn track.


Gotham (1990, Henry Hills)

Shots of modern NYC mixed with clips from cop shows and set to a cartoony jazz track, awesome.


Goa Lawah (1992, Henry Hills)

Bats! A cave full of squeaking bats! They squabble when they get too close together while sleeping – just like our birds, who somehow didn’t respond to me playing four minutes of bat noises.


In an earlier post I reductively described actionism and watched Kurt Kren’s Leda and the Swan and Silver Action Brus. Checking out a few more from the Action Films disc.

6/64 Mama und Papa (Kurt Kren)

Hurling food and paint and dirt all over a naked woman, then Kren edits it all to pieces with no sound. He’s doing something wrong, because every time there’s an edit (so, 1-10 times per second) we see tape marks at the bottom of frame.


9/64 O Tannenbaum (Kurt Kren)

Naked man under a Christmas tree, naked woman in a shower, covered in food and paint and dirt. I’m sensing a pattern here. “Action” is by Otto Mühl in both films, and both feature men humping women with a balloon full of feathers between them.


16/67 20. September (Kurt Kren)

Remember Brus? Now he’s pissing and shitting in close-up, and now I realize why I didn’t watch the rest of this DVD last time I started it. Jesus, Kren. No screenshot for this one.


Hardwood Process (1996, David Gatten)

Flickering textures, crossfaded. Some Brakhagey slow/fast pattern-shifting. Some photographed action, slowed or sped, some filmstrip hacking. Texture fetish. Each section its own rhythm and style, separated with title cards:
“Day 203 – several hours in the library reading the history of”
“Day 296 – coming to terms with a new vocabulary, slowly”