Random Acts: send your three minute short films

If you make films you might want to have a look at the Random Acts section of the Channel 4 website (UK).

There’s a big variety of stuff from the pretty to the silly to the unsettling, here are a few I quite liked:

A ‘Dandy punk’ travels through fantastical worlds in The Alchemy of Light.

Warning: The Ting contains violence, inner city slang and daft humour.

A trippy nostalgic video dedicated to Margaret Thatcher, Maggie’s Last Party.

 

The oddest Asian films I’ve seen so far, plus baby shaped pears

Fancy seeing you here. No, I’m not following you, we just know the same people. Well maybe you’re following me, did you think of that?

OK so I’m going to assume you’ve seen the films of Takashi Miike, Chan-Wook Park, Tetsuo, Battle Royale and all those ‘girl with hair on face’ films.

Warning: Some of these trailers might have disturbing things in them. Others are just silly. Now let’s have a look.

1. Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People.This is a colourful and slightly campy 60s offering from Japan (and looks very much like the inside of my brain), though its not without its moments of tension. A group of holiday makers crash a ship on an island and find themselves without much food, but never fear: those mushrooms look tasty! Unfortunately they have some side effects.

2. Horrors of Malformed Men. There’s a mad scientist on an island! He’s made genetic freaks! He’s…doing Butoh on a rock?…He’s… telling a convoluted back story to someone about things I don’t quite understand…

3. The Forbidden Door. Indonesian outing which, even with a disappointing ending, was entertaining enough for me. An artist who makes sculptures of slightly too realistic pregnant women stumbles on a secret door in the house he shares with his girlfriend. Not only that but a friend introduces him to a very exclusive and very disturbing club. It’s not Fight Club.

4. Hansel and Gretel. Included because it’s so pretty (never fear, it’s more than a little odd), this is a Korean film about a man who gets lost in the woods. He stumbles on a beautiful house filled with a loving family, but the parents look worried…

5. House. 70s Japanese film about a group of friends who go on holiday (people just need to stop going on holiday) to a house in the country. A house of some seriously weird sh*t!

6. Dumplings. What’s in the dumplings that keeps everyone looking so young and beautiful? Let’s not ask…

OK that’s all I have time for but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more weirdness. In the meantime have a look at this news story about pears in China that have been “shaped during its initial stages of growth using special molds” to resemble babies. Yum.

From street to surreal: a mini bag of artistic joy

I don’t claim to be down with the hip cats daddio, you dig (what is with these outbreaks of Kerouacism?)? But during my occasional work as a life model I’m exposed to art from the old Masters to more recent fare like Jenny Saville, and I like to nudge the pickle jar of artistic interest now and then. Here are a few things that have aroused my eyes lately.

First off you should skip over to Slinkachu’s website. You may have seen his Little People before – he does do other things but Little People became quite popular and I love them; miniture vignettes of tiny plastic people left around cities such as this entitled “They’re not pets, Susan:” theyre-not-pets-susan_slinkachu

And this, Slinkachu-little-people-i-can't-actually-graffiti“I can’t actually graffiti:”

Next up blog Bizarro Central are continuing their countdown to Christmas with a new post on a different weird artist each month, today being Oleg Dou.

Finally (I said it was a mini bag, I got painkillers to take and The League of Gentlemen to watch Goddammit) are two films I recently saw of a surrealist or dada nature.

Dreams That Money Can Buy, directed by Hans Richter and featuring the visual work of artists such as Man Ray, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp, is a surprisingly sweet and very pretty journey through the dreams sold by a young man who just wants to pay the rent.

Finally is Luis Bunuel‘s The Exterminating Angel. The premise is so simple and the ending got him into quite a lot of trouble with the Vatican (you’ll have to watch it to find out why, I’m giving nothing away), and it’s fascinating. Guests at a lavish, upper class dinner party find themselves unable to leave, sinking into desperation and degredation as the days wear on.

Well, that’s it! I’m going to have a cup of tea now, have fun putting your eyes on all the art and that. Byee!

7 films about relationships that I actually like

Even if you hate unrealistic romantic comedies and ‘family movies,’ relationships intrigue us all because, for some reason, we keep choosing to go through them, and most people have some semblence of family even if they aquire them later.

Perhaps because the subject is so vital to our existence I not only class the following films as ones I love, but films that are amongst my favourites. Despite the surreal settings or situations in most of them, I feel they portray relationships of all kinds in a way that’s more honest than most.

Maybe surrealism allows the director to take a step back and look at things objectively. How do they differ from the ‘realistic’ films in the list? I don’t know, what do you think?

There are plenty of good ‘relationship’ films out there (such as Harold and Maude) but these are the ones I’ve chosen. Interestingly, most feature comedians and an eccentrically attired woman.

1. Annie Hall

Woody Allen has done many films that are not good, but the ones that are count as some of my favourites. Annie Hall is a truthful, funny look at all stages of a specific relationship which leaves us with the same bittersweet nostalgia from thinking on our own experiences:

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Another film where a particular relationship is broken down and studied by the director, this has so many moments where I think ‘Oh God, I do that’ that it’s quite painful at times. It’s genuine and heartfelt. Jim Carey is having ex girlfriend Kate Winslet erased from his memory, which allows him to wander through his thoughts as an outsider:

3. Stranger Than Fiction

This one’s about deconstructing storytelling itself rather than studying the relationship between Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I love her character and their interaction.

There’s something very old film, Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ about it that warms the cockles, it’s sweet and inventive in a way that’s rarely seen these days in a mainstream film and I urge all who haven’t seen it to do so. Will Ferrell is a character in Emma Thompson’s book, and has to stop her from killing him:

4. Love Me If You Dare

The game of dare between childhood friends, a boy and a girl, increasingly escalate along with their feelings for each other. This is a lovely, dark little story which is, for lack of a better description, very French:

5. Faces

I can see why some people might find this film relentlessly bleak, but I think it’s also oddly refreshing. The nosy side of me gets to watch the intimate problems between these people as well as watching how they live, it reminds me quite a lot of a stage performance. The scenes where drunken nights quickly turn unpleasant are very truthful, and I love the films of John Cassavetes in general.

6. Shortbus

Featuring real sex this is an entertaining journey through the sexual/relationship troubles of a dominatrix, a gay couple and a woman who’s never had an orgasm. Somewhere the answer lies in a late night club:

7. Pieces of April

I was quite pleasantly surprised by this one, especially since it contains Tom Cruise’s wife Katie Holmes. It’s a very simple story of a girl whose terminally ill mother is coming to visit her in New York for Thanksgiving. Her oven breaks and she has to knock on all the other apartment doors in the building.

However the mum is…kind of a bitch (well, I suppose she is dying), and April is the family black sheep. Her relationship with boyfriend Bobby appears to be central to her newfound stability. It’s just very sweet but not sickly, and sometimes you need that. Please ignore the cheesy trailer music, it is very misplaced:

5 disturbing children’s films

There are plenty of boundary nudging children’s films which may not be included here, but the ones added have had a particular impact on my life. Mostly they opened my eyes to an exciting new way of storytelling that didn’t include sappy bears sitting on clouds, but very occasionally they went a little too far (in my mind anyway).

Please add your own films and experiences in the comments.

1. The King and the Mockingbird (Le Roi et l’oiseau)

For years this French animation lay dormant in my mind. All I could remember were talking statues, a lonely robot and a vague sense of unease. I somehow found it again a few years later and enjoyed it much more than I did back then.

A cross-eyed tyrant king is taken on Revolution style by an angry bird and a chimney sweep. A giant robot assists leading to mass destruction.

It’s very French and very beautiful, just please make sure you don’t find the cut version or you might beat me up.

2. Return to Oz

While not especially disturbing overall, specific scenes stand out as exciting my tiny child’s mind and probably stored for later creative use. Examples include Dorothy being taken to an institute pioneering electro-shock therapy, the apparent destruction of Oz in her absence and the heads kept behind glass cases by Oz witch Mombi:

P.S. Dorothy was played by Fairuza Balk, the goth girl from The Craft.

3. The Plague Dogs

The follow up from the company which gave us Watership Down. Despite its PG rating this is not a children’s film in any way, shape or form.

I used to love Watership Down and oddly had no issue with watching fluffy bunnies being torn apart by each other and a dog. I did, however, have a problem with watching two dogs escape from a testing lab, almost starve to death and eventually drown.

4. The Adventures of Mark Twain

In this claymation film three stowaway children travel with Mark Twain in a weird, air-balloon type ship. They encounter animated versions of Twain’s stories which are mostly harmless fluff, but the most notable in my memory is The Mysterious Stranger segment.

Bear in mind I used to watch this again and again. For some reason the pointlessness of man and the destruction it warrants didn’t seem to concern me:

5. Coraline

Included just because I love it, this stop-motion film is from a novella by Neil Gaiman. It has circus mice, a scary lady who wants to sew buttons into Coraline’s eyes and a disturbing burlesque performance from two elderly ladies. What’s not to love?

5 Reasons a spooky creative brain prefers winter

It’s that time again (almost). When a headless coachman appears out of the mist to take you to the cursed castle, and charges you double time on Saturdays (“But you went the long way round those crumbling gravestones”).

Nothing like a cup of haunted tea to warm the cockles

The good thing about being a creative type is that you can do anything and claim it as research: “What do you mean you spent the day watching the Twilight Zone?” “Shut up it’s research.”

So here are a few small reasons winter is best for anyone who likes to dally in the darkened spaces of art or literature or…something else.

1. Halloween. Yes, yes, it’s all commercialised and it’s for children etc, but who cares? Just for one year try not to be a Halloween McScrooge and celebrate the Day of the Dead with everyone else. Dress up, even if its as ‘your best friend who wears the exact same clothes as you.’ I began my first proper short story at school on the day of Halloween and ever since then its had a special place in my disturbed heart. I guarantee you’ll find some kind of inspiration, even if its a story about murdering trick or treaters.

2. Staying indoors. Let’s face it, writing or doing anything work related during summer is difficult and unpleasant. Maybe I’m alone here but I like knowing that the world outside is furiously cold while I sit indoors drinking tea and working/watching The Twilight Zone. Which brings me onto my next point.

3. Spooky films get spookier. It’s a cliche certainly, but there’s really nothing like watching a spine-chiller while the wind and rain howls against your window. Sometimes for extra cosiness I like to pretend there are zombies stumbling around my driveway too. That way I can feel smug that they can’t get me. Or can they?

4. Your surroundings are inspiration. Whilst its obvious you need to be wary of writing/painting/whatever in cliches, its hard not to think of great ideas when wandering through a mist clouded field. Just remember, focusing on the idea rather than lengthy descriptions of nature might be best. Unless your main character is a lecturer of some kind. Even then, maybe not a good idea…

5. More time to think. Summer is filled with Gestapo-like orders to have fun, but time seems to slow down in winter. People tend to vegetate and grow moss which is perfect for ruminating on thoughts, or simply trying to occupy yourself. You can either spend your winter obsessing on why Cathy brought all the men cups of tea and not you or Sally, or you can send your brain to another place and make up somewhere better. Or much worse, depending on what you like to do to your main characters.

So this was my little thought bubble on winter. I wanted to include the wearing of fluffy socks and colourful coats but it didn’t seem relevant, so I’ll just mention them here. Happy winter!

Born Into Porn

This morning I stumbled across this interesting post from the blog of racey writer and columnist Violet Blue (have a look at her site if you’re not surprised by rude images, it’s genuinely informative).

Kickstarter (community type project which helps people finance their work) are currently hoping to raise money for a documentary on porn stars who are raising children, and as you can tell from some of the reactions of the people in the trailer it should be fascinating.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m fascinated by the history of porn as well as the performer’s outlook on life. Perhaps they intrigue me because they live so much on the outside of what is viewed as ‘acceptable.’ But why isn’t it viewed as acceptable? This is the interesting thing…

Anyway, here’s the trailer (its just interviews):

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/182987748/born-into-porn-a-documentary-film/widget/video.html

The original big screen twists

We’ve all seen them, the movie endings that have been done so many times they’re nothing more than a cliche. But imagine the first time it was seen, it would have been thought of as a stroke of genius.

Here are a few examples of classic films employing the twists we’ve come to know and love.

*warning* contains extreme spoilers.

1. “It was all a dream,” Dead of Night, 1945.

An architect arrives at a genteel British house party where he reveals to the guests he’s seen them all before in a dream. He then begins to predict events that will happen, leading to death.

This film boasts ‘the scariest moment in film,’ which many modern viewers may disagree with but is still rather creepy, especially if you don’t like ventriloquist dummies. Its also the picture that began the portmanteu, or several stories linked by one, format employed by Amicus films.

2. “I was making it all up,” Cabinet of Dr Caligari, 1920.

Two friends competing for the same woman visit a travelling carnival, where Dr Caligari announces that his somnambulist slave Cesare can predict the future. One of the friends asks him to predict his fortune, to which Cesare replies, “You will die before dawn tomorrow.”

Part of the German expressionist movement, this film by Robert Wiene includes trippy set designs and dreamlike performances, and has to be the first film with a twist ending full stop.

3. “I was dead all along,” Carnival of Souls, 1962.

Mary Henry is involved in a car accident but manages to crawl free. She begins a job in a new town as a church organist, but is plagued by strange visions and sounds. She finds herself drawn to an abandoned carnival, where the truth is revealed.

Many, many films are still doing this twist. In my humble opinion Donnie Darko is merely a convoluted version of this film. Despite its obvious low budget, Carnival of Souls is still quite entertaining.

4. “It was me all along,” Stage Fright, 1950

This Hitchcockian crime tale sees Jonathan, a young actor, confide in his friend Eve that the actress he’s been having an affair with, Marlene Dietrich, has committed murder. Eve and Jonathan investigate, leading to one of the now most overused endings of the movies (Switchblade Romance I’m looking at you).

When the film was released some people had a problem with the ‘lying flashback.’ The Jonathan character relays a story to Eve which turns out to be a lie. Nowadays incorrect flashback is acceptable as even CSI uses it to portray theories, but at the time flashback had only been employed to show the gospel truth. This led many viewers to have little sympathy for the Jonathan character.

Well, there we are! They’re the genius endings which became the cliches of the future, watch them and rejoice!

links to oddness for Easter

Merry easter one and all! Anyone after some peculiar, mostly zombie orientated arts and crafts ideas be sure to go here.

Just because that Jesus bloke has a new album out and is all over the telly doesn’t mean the world of the strange stops. Have a look at some of these jolly links:

Number one is a blog post featuring circus sideshow art. Who can resist?

Number two is a news story; apparently feotuses were found in someone’s luggage at Miami customs. Lets hope it wasn’t inspired by Fruit Chan’s film Dumplings.

Number three is a website dedicated to UK and Irish horror/supernaturalness, link here.

Just because I love you all, here is a link to News of the Weird for anyone curious about daily oddities out there, and here is a link to snopes.com, the go to site for all urban legend fanatics.

A lovely list of psychedelic movies

In order to celebrate the brilliant Mad Men’s entry into 1967, I decided to share with you some of my favourite psychedelic/hip/groovy movies.

Some good, some great, others just bizarre, feast your eyes on this list of eye-wateringly colourful (except for the black and white one) offerings. If there’s any I’ve forgotten, please add in the comments:

1. The Trip. Directed by Roger Corman, written by Jack Nicholson (I know?), Peter Fonda takes acid, is victimized by a man with a chair, drinks with a dwarf, watches painted boobs jiggle around and visits some seriously psychedelic houses. Dennis Hopper wins award for the amount of times he fits the word ‘man’ into one single speech:

2. More. Rather more downbeat, I like the European feel of this one; the director and main actor are German. He meets a lady in England and they go to Spain. She’s a hippie but she pulls him into heroin addiction. She also wears great clothes.

3. The Strawberry Statement. Rather sweet and funny film about a student slowly getting involved with the protests. Harold of Harold and Maude (Bud Cort) also makes an appearance.

4. Psych Out. Very silly romp through late sixties San Fransisco as Jack Nicholson (again?) helps a square deaf chick look for her brother and plays in a terrible band. Groovy:

5. Joe. Dark look at one man’s bitter take on the free love and drug scene. The screenplay was by Norman Wexler, the man reputed to be the insane Mr X in Bob Zmuda‘s biography on close friend Andy Kaufman.

6. Smoke and flesh. Nothing happens in this film. I really mean it. I think one of the main reasons I like it though is my endless nosiness for what people might get up to behind closed doors.

Basically, a bunch of groovy swingers have a party, wait for the weed to arrive, get stoned, talk about stuff and then complain about the bikers who arrive later. One of them spikes a biker with acid, which I think is a bit mean.

7. Performance. Part film part art installation, gangster James Fox goes on the run and finds himself staying with Mick Jagger and his two hippie girlfriends. Sex, drugs and identity crises ensue:

8. Magic Trip. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest author Ken Kesey went on a road trip in 1964 with The Merry Band of Pranksters, Neal Cassedy (inspiration for Dean Moriarty in On the Road) and a few attractive ladies, and this documentary was born.

Whether you like them and agree with them or not is irrelevant, this is a slice of life and history which also includes Kerouac, Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and the World’s Fair.

So there we are, my list is currently at an end though I’m sure there are more to be added. I shall leave you with a song, swinger-tastic nineties offering Mr Excitement by Tipsy: