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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Claydream

Director – Marq Evans – 2021 – US – 96m

****

The rise and fall of stop-frame Claymation pioneer Will Vinton and the Portland, Oregon animation studio that bore his name – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Special Screenings – Annecy Classics section

Will Vinton, founder of Will Vinton Studios and the man who made Claymation a US household name, is in the middle of legal proceedings between himself and Phil Knight, founder of multimillion shoe company Nike. How could these two very different individuals have come into contact with one another? Well, they had a number of things in common. Both were residents of Portland, Oregon who had built up businesses there based on a successful brand name.

In the sixties, while studying architecture at Berkeley, Vinton discovered Gaudi’s organic sculptured shapes which were to influence his animation work. Borrowing his dad’s 16mm camera, he started shooting anything and everything going on around campus. At an experimental film community he set up tabletop clay animation sessions, which would often turn out pornographic footage. He became fascinated by the magical process which imbued this material with life.

Closed Mondays

He built a studio in his house where in collaboration with artist and sculptor Bob Gardiner he made the short film Closed Mondays (1974) as an excuse to show off the techniques developed by the pair.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nomadland

Director – Chloé Zhao – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 107m

****1/2

A poor widow drives around the US in her van picking up casual work where she can get it, meeting and making friends with other vandwellers – on VoD, in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

There’s a restlessness about Nomadland. In most films, the characters live in fixed abodes – houses or flats. Perhaps parts of villages, towns or cities. Not so here.

“I’m not homeless”, explains Fern (Frances McDormand) at one point to a daughter of a friend she’s not seen for years and runs into in a hardware store, ” I’m houseless. There’s a difference.” Indeed there is. 

Following the rapid economic collapse of Empire, the town where she lived, explained in a throwaway introductory title at the start, and the death of her husband, Fern has taken off in an RV and now moves from place to place, getting paid work where she can find it, meeting people and, frankly, enjoying the freedom this mobile and rootless lifestyle affords her. 

The property was originally a non-fiction book by journalist Jessica Bruder who documented the lives of so-called vandwellers living on the road following the US economic depression of 2007-2009.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Sound Of Metal

Director – Darius Marder – 2019 – US – Cert. 15 – 120m

****1/2

A drummer must come to terms with a sudden loss of hearing which threatens everything he has worked to achieve – already out on Amazon Prime, in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

This is a triptych about the onset of hearing loss in the context of rock and roll, a redemptive rehabilitation to the world of deafness in an isolated rural community run by and for deaf people and an attempt after recovering one’s hearing to some extent via surgical implants to come to terms with the fact that life following hearing loss can never be quite the same again. The two hour film splits roughly into three very different sections along these three lines.

Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) are touring the States in their RV as a two person metal band, she on guitar and vocals, he on drums. Performances on stage are loud and energetic to enthusiastic crowds. In complete contrast to those moments of adrenaline rush, Ruben’s days are comparatively quiet. His morning routine consists of getting up early while Lou is asleep, doing some push-ups, putting on the coffee, dusting the mixing console while listening to 1930s jazz, making two smoothies.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

If Anything Happens I Love You

Directors – Will McCormack, Michael Govier – 2020 – US – 12m

*****

A couple and their spirit selves are haunted by a tragic loss from their family’s past in this beautifully economic, drawn animated short about grief and loss – on Netflix and winner of Best Animated Short at the 2020 / 2021 (93rd) Oscars

Drawn animation. A couple eat at home. Meatballs and spaghetti. Silently. Drawn in stark, gloomy black and white lines. Behind them, in sharply outlined areas of black smudge, the shadows of their spirit selves or perhaps their memories argue. This relationship is in trouble.

They go about the business of everyday living, in empty black and white, trying to snatch moments of individual joy where they can. He wanders round the outside of the house, noticing once again that bit of plasterwork he really should get fixed. She tends the potted plants and takes the laundry out of the machine, picking up the child-sized blue t-shirt. He sits watching the TV with a can of drink. She wanders into the bedroom with the empty bed and somehow the record player and a pop song gets turned on.

Happier times, playing football with their daughter (10) in the garden, the ball taking off a chuck of the wall cladding.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru, 朝が来る)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 140m

*****

An unmarried mum hands her child over to adoptive parents only to later decide that she wants the child back – Japan’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars is screening on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, April 16th

Naomi Kawase’s new film True Mothers deals with the interface between unwanted teen pregnancy and infertility among married couples and was Japan’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Sadly, it didn’t make the Academy’s shortlist. However, UK audiences up and down the land will now be able to see it on Curzon Home Cinema. It had a brief UK big screen outing late last year at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), which, after several months of touch-and-go somewhat incredibly went ahead days before the UK went back into total lockdown.

Former documentarian Kawase has been getting a lot of exposure in the UK in recent years with both Sweet Bean (2015) and The Mourning Forest (2007) released here on Eureka! Video and Still the Water (2014) currently available on MUBI and BFI Player. I like Kawase but I must admit True Mothers sounded like it might be terrible.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Better Days (Shaonian De Ni, 少年的你)

Director – Derek Tsang – 2019 – China – 12A – 135m

***1/2

A bullied exam student is protected from her tormentors by and seeks solace in the company of a small time street criminal – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now, and Hong Kong’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars

The combination of impending exams and bullying by her peers causes student Hu to throw herself off the rooftop of a school building. Feeling guilty because she never stood up for the girl, fellow student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) covers the dead girl’s face to protect it from prying eyes and smartphone cameras. The next thing Chen knows, the late girl’s three bullies, led by the well-heeled and vindictive Wei Lai (Zhou Ye) have it in for her.

Not that Chen is having an easy time of it anyway. In the short term she’s being questioned by police about Hu’s death and like everyone else there’s the huge pressure of impending Gaokao university entrance exams, doing well in which is packaged in school rally chants as not failing the country or your parents. Her single parent mum (Wu Yue), beset with parental inadequacy as she tries to scrape a living from selling illegal goods away from home, has successfully convinced Chen that studying hard and getting excellent exam results is a way out of the poverty trap in which the family find themselves.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Parasite (Gisaengchung, 기생충) (Black & White Edition)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 132m

*****

Opens in UK Cinemas (hooray!) exclusively for a week at Curzon Mayfair from Friday, July 24th. Also available on Curzon Home Cinema.

Read my reviews of the colour version of Parasite in All The Anime and Reform too.

It’s a safe bet that as anyone going to see the black & white edition of Parasite has already seen the colour version. Possibly several times, as it seems to be a movie in which you see new things with each viewing. In my case, I’ve already reviewed it twice (for two different publications). This review assumes you’ve already seen the colour version. If you haven’t, start with one of those reviews then see the colour version first.

So the big question is, is the black & white edition a waste of space where you’re watching the film drained of its colour and wondering why you bothered? Or does it add something to viewing the film?

The answer happily is the latter. 

I must admit I struggled with the opening scenes in the Kims’ basement flat. The street seen through the window seemed to emphasise length and distance more, but somehow watching black & white takes you back to an earlier period, say film noir in the fifties, and to see the son Kim Ki-woo hunting around for a hackable wi-fi signal with his mobile held aloft jarred with that.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Big Snit

Director – Richard Condie – 1985 – Canada – 10 mins

*****

Both sweet and funny. The first five minutes look like exactly where we are now under the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s basically the story of an old married couple who not only love each other dearly but also get on one another’s nerves. He looks at her Scrabble tiles while she’s out of the room. He is obsessed with sawing and tunes in to the TV Show, ‘Sawing For Teens’. She, meanwhile, compulsively removes her eyes from her face and shakes them.

Five minutes in, neither of them are watching when an emergency announcement interrupts regular TV programming. If the first five minutes are about a couple isolated in their home, the second five are an end of the world scenario with nuclear missiles flying through the sky and people panicking outside in the streets. Our central couple are, however, blissfully unaware of this, caught up as they are in their own domestic squabble. Richard Condie’s drawings, colour and overall visual sense are an absolute delight and the film is hilarious. Ten minutes well spent.

Nominated for Best Animated Short at the 1985 (58th) Oscars.

Free to watch on the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) channel.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Parasite (Gisaengchung, 기생충)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 132m

*****

With Parasite (Black & White Edition) due out, I reviewed the colour version for All The Anime. Read my Reform review too.

Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) strikes it lucky when he hears of the rich Park family, whose teenage daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso) needs extra tuition. Sensing Mrs Park (Jo Yeo-jeong) will be a push-over, he convinces her he is the man for the job, thanks to credentials forged by his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam). Having successfully nailed down this position, Ki-woo sets about securing similarly lucrative openings for his family, without letting on that they are blood relatives.

He first recommends his sister as the perfect tutor for the tormented and allegedly artistic Park son (Jung Hyun-jun), a job she secures by inventing bogus pop psychology theories to establish her academic credentials. Before long, the cunning Kims have framed the chauffeur and the house-keeper to nab jobs for themselves, unaware of other secrets harboured by the Parks.

With Parasite (Black & White Edition) due out, I reviewed the colour version for All The Anime. Read my Reform review too.… Read the rest