Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oh Dear (2004

Nicolas Provost's minute long film about a bunch of kids go cart racing is an absolute delight.

This glorious short film, with amped up colors and a very intentional look perfectly expresses the joy I find in short films in that it takes small moments and then gets off.  I love that it takes you to a perfect cathartic moment and then is done. Short films don't get much better than this.

The film was commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam and can be found on Provost's website here. Take the time, the film is only a minute and it will make you smile.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

To Be Takei (2014)

The first thing I learned about George Takei was that the name name is pronounced Tak “A” not Tak “I”. I’ve been wrong for almost 50 years.

The other thing I learned was that the man best known for playing Sulu on the original Star Trek is funny guy. I know if you’ve been following him on social media over the last few years that’s apparent, but seeing him in action it’s clear , he’s the sort of guy you want to hang out with.

To those of you who aren’t long time Star Trek fans, that may not have been something readily apparent. I remember going to a Star Trek Convention in the mid 1970’s with my brother and a friend and seeing Takei speak. It was one of the dullest most pompous things I’ve ever seen. All he did was talk about San Francisco politics and his attempt at running for office. It instantly turned me off to Takei since it colored my perception of him for decades. It wasn’t until things like his Howard Stern appearances and his coming out that I really thawed toward him.

To Be Takei is a loving and frankly hagiographic look at George Takei and his life. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing since Takei and his husband are great guys. The film covers his whole life from his birth through the Japanese internment camps on through Star Trek and on to now. All the while we see how he largely refused to go the stereotypical Asian route (two Jerry Lewis films being the regretted exception) and influenced generations of Asian (and non-Asian) actors.

This film is a lot of fun. It has interviews with everyone who matters, his family, the Star Trek crew, Howard Stern, the actors he influenced, friends and of course the man himself. It’s blast.

Blast or no it’s not without some flaws, it’s clear that the time in the internment camps left their scars and sequences concerning them, while informative are bit too rigid and they grate against the jovialness of the rest of the film. The other problem is that the film kind of runs out of steam in the second half. It’s nothing serious, it’s just that the film feels like its got a double curse of too much of a good thing and running on a couple of minutes longer than it needs to be. I’m a fan. But there is a point where its too much ass kissing.

Too much or no- this is definitely worth your time. The film hits theaters Friday and is available on Direct TV VOD now.

Walk in the Flesh (2013)

Seven minute condensation of David Cronenberg's Scanners with electronic sound track and melty visuals.

If you thought Scanners was off-this is weirder- i mean real f-ing weird.This is morphing images changing and shifting and melting together in weird ways. The whole process is extremely strange and creates a weird headscape that kind of one ups the plot of the films.

And thats the trouble with Walk in the Flesh, a wonderfully weird and trippy as it is, I'm not sure this is going to play all that well if you haven't seen, and know, the Cronenberg original. How the the images melt  and what the images are are not explained in this short so if you have no knowledge or memory of the source this could be very annoying.

On the other hand if you know Cronenberg 's film this is an incredible trip.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Winter in the Blood (2013)

I was caught in the in-between space-my body was vulnerable to the spirits

The easiest thing I can say is see this movie. This is a stunner. Its a quiet gem of a film that surprised the hell out of me and is so good that I can wait until I can't to sit down and see it a second time.

By all rights I should not have bothered to see this film. I swore up and down that I was not going to see any film for review until the New York Film Festival  unless I really wanted to see it. It was going to have to be one of those big blockbusters or high profile films. And then I got an invitation from the PR people and I did what any rational person would have done I filed it away-only to come back to it three days later and go, "you know I should see that." I have no idea why, just a change of heart, but I decided to wing it... and all I can say is I'm absolutely thrilled I did.

Being dead ain't so bad once you get used to it

Based on a a 1974 novel Winter in the Blood tells the story of a Native American named Virgil. Waking up one morning in a ditch her returns home to find that his wife has left him taking his rifle and his electric razor. He doesn't care about the razor but the rifle is very important to him. Setting off to recover the gun Virgil finds that he is in-between, that it's not only now, but the past and that mixed in with all of that the spirits are appearing to him

I don't know if this film is going to work for everyone. This is a very deliberate film. Scenes can seem long. The narration and some of the dialog is very literary, and I'm guessing because it was lifted from the novel. The result is a film that is as close an approximation to a novel on film as we are likely to get. Words form pictures, images blend together to create something greater, time blurs and we are in the head and heart of our hero.

Watching the film I felt more like I was reading a novel then seeing a film. There is a weight to everything. There is an importance to each image and word as if directors Andrew and Alex Smith measured out each sequence precisely so that it's effect would be perfect both with in the short term for the scene it self but for the overall picture of the film itself. Its rare that any sort of film is this perfectly constructed, especially to the point where you can admire the design and yet lose yourself completely in the tale.

I am in awe.

If you read my reviews with any regularity you know I can nitpick, you know I can say "well it was good but...", but I really can't do that here. Yes there are things that didn't work in the moment, but the whole is so good, so wonderful that I can't in good conscious mention them. Sitting here staring at my notes I'm like yea I see a problem, but the over riding feeling is it doesn't make difference.

That doesn't mean some of you won't like it. The literary quality of the dialog and narration may annoy some of you, others by the fragmented structure, still others by the pacing. On the other hand if you can click with it, if you can give yourself over to this film then you'll have a wonderful experience.

I loved it.

This best sort of literary adaption opens Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York and a platformed roll out will follow. Do yourself a favor and make an effort to see it. Trust me, even if you don't like it I'm guessing you'll at the very least realize that the film is something special.

In the Woods(2013)

Very short short, it runs about 4 minutes  that plays like some sort of dark nightmare as a person traveling through the woods sees strange figures.

The danger of writing up a short that is not fully story driven and plays out more on a deeply psychological and visceral level rears its ugly head is saying too much. How do I write up a film that were you watching it in a darkened room or theater might very well kick you to the curb?

You can't do it without spoiling it for everyone. If I could embed  the short so you could see it before discussing it I would, but I can't. All I can say is  this is a wonderfully brick to the side of the head sort of film. Its one of those that make you want to see it again right away because it's like- Oh Shit what was that and why do I feel beaten up. I don't know but I'd like to investigate why.

If you get a chance to taste this demonic little blotter paper I highly suggest you do so since it will mess you up.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nightcap 8/17/14 On the passings of Robin WIlliams, Lauren Bacall, Your Radio Adventure and Burbage at The Fringe plus links

I am heart broken by the death of Robin Williams.

I will not argue for or against what he did. It was his choice.

I have no real words-All I can say is thank you for the laughs, thanks for the tears, and perhaps I'll get to hang with you on the flip side, hopefully with Mr Winters as well.

Robin Williams says goodbye (to his wife) in WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
The great ballsy Lauren Bacall has passed.

She was a great lady who was classy all the way. She was always a beacon of strength.

My best memory of her was when I saw her on Broadway doing WAITING IN THE WINGS. I sat in the fourth or fifth row and I had Elaine Stritch behind me.
Yesterday a friend and I went to two shows at New York's Fringe Festival

Your Radio Adventure was staged like an old time radio show where over the course of  90 minutes two stories were performed in the style of the choose your own adventure books. The first story was a hard boiled detective story that involved a missing scientist who was involved in space research. It was okay but suffered from too frequent endings so much of the first half was spent replaying the set up sequences.

The second radio adventure was Road Trip of Doom and involved 4 friends going to Niagra falls and ending up in deep supernatural trouble. This one played much better and smoother.

The second show of the day was Burbage: The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous. A brilliant play this needs to go somewhere say Broadway. This is a one man show that has Burbage talking to a boy who wants to be an actor on the eve before setting off on a summer tour. Its as good a play as you're likely to see....there is only one problem the show's listed running time was 90 minutes it actually rant 45 to 50.  If there is a way to make this longer this could be a huge hit in Broadway or Off Broadway house
This is going to be another busy week here at Unseen. Not only are we going to get the films of the day, but there is a slew of new releases being reviewed and then toward the end of the week there are a few films playing at the Lincoln Center Strange Lands, International Science Fiction series. Look for things to get busier over the next few weeks since despite my plan not to do anything extra, things keep popping up
And now Randi's links

Usagi Yojimbo - "The Last Request"
The models and behind the scenes of Last Request
Grand Budapest Hotel on Trip Advisor
Left to freeze on K2

Orphan and the Polar Bear (2013)

Wanna know the power of stories? Look no further.

Holy Moly was I moved.

Legend of an orphan who was being raised by community. However when ever he was taken out hunting by the hunters of the group he was picked on and left to find his own way back. One day as he began his long walk home he found that a polar bear had come up behind him. The bear was a spirit who took pity on the young boy and took him away...

I have no idea what to say.

There is something about the telling of an old story, that, when the telling is dead nuts perfect is truly magical. This is the perfect story perfectly told. A simple tale that has greater resonance and deeper meaning.


When the film ended I just sat there staring at the screen of my laptop with tears rolling down my cheeks. Why I have no idea- there was something about the image and the voice and the music that just all came together to create one of the most magical movies I've seen in 2014.

Its films like this that make me wonder why people bother with features since little bits of magic like this can be so much more potent.

Track this down

Saturday, August 16, 2014


GEOGRAPHICALLY DESIRABLE tells the story of Nicole, a young woman who is a behind the scenes whiz at DC television ‘s news bureau. Working the overnight she puts in long hours and gets very little sleep. When her Uncle Eddie dies and leaves her his house and his dog in a small town in the middle of nowhere Nicole‘s life is thrown into turmoil. Not only is she away from the hustle and bustle world of TV news she also has a chance at to catch up on her sleep…and she has her eyes opened up to the possibility of romance with someone who isn’t in the business.

The promotional material slants the film as being a romcom, but the reality is that the film is more a portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of her life more than a romance. Yes there is romance and comedy but it’s part of the arc of Nicole‘s life, it’s not the primary focus. What we get is something better and more interesting than the promised genre film. This really is the course of one woman’s life and not a real genre film.

I like this film. I like that it’s a film that isn’t genre. I like that the film tries to do something more and be realistic. This is a really good film.

At the same time there are a two things that bothered me. One kind of a big deal and the other asmall niggling thing that will make you go he can't be serious. I am and I just can't get it out of my head. I'm sorry, its not fair to bring them up but they really bothered me

First the small niggling thing- the film’s look is too perfect. What I mean by this is that many sets are spot less and perfect. Nicole's desk at the beginning of the film is dressed to look like a desk, but it doesn’t feel like anyone actually works there. The office, and numerous sets, feel like they are Ikea displays and not places that people real inhabit. Taking it a step farther everyone's wardrobe is perfect. Everyone looks as if they just put on their clothes instead of wandering in from somewhere else. There are no wrinkles or signs of wear. Watch the clothing, say at the beginning because we’re given a time frame as to how long the people have been there-many many hours, none of the clothes are wrinkled, everything is freshly pressed. Also driving me up the wall was Nicole working in her jacket- no woman I know works in her jacket unless it’s for a very short bit of time and even then they’ll take it off after a minute or two so as not to wrinkle it. For a film that strives to get so much right in the story, the relationships, the portrayal of TV news, it mess up a lot of details.

The other thing is I’m mixed on the performances, especially in the early part of the film. Blair Bowers as Nicole is good but occassionally a tad too stiff. Yes I understand she’s supposed to be a kind of rigid soul who can get things done, but there are times where she seem uncomfortable to be in front of the camera.  I didn't really notice it until she starts spending time in her Uncle's house and the people around her felt more real and grounded. As the film goes on the cast gets more consistently good, and pretty much once she gets to the funeral things pick up and people didn't seem to be acting.

Yes I’m nitpicking. If you read Unseen with any regularity you know I do that, I’m sorry. I’m saying I’m sorry because this is a good little film, I shouldn’t be picking on it especially since the film is trying, and succeeding to do more than your typical inde film.

The film is currently on the festival circuit and a regular run is being planned for some time after that. If you get a chance to see GEOGRAPHICALLY DESIRABLE give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised.

The Smortlybacks (2013)

This played at this years New York International Children's FIlm festival and I was kind of bummed that I didn't see it. Fate would see I wasn't denied and I was granted with a chance to see it.

What a blast and a half this is.

The film follows as some sort of tamer  (see above) leads a bunch of Smortlybacks around a high plateau area making sure that they don't fall or get separated. The Smortlybacks are these weird elephant like creatures which run around and stick to each other.

I have no idea what it means, and I don't think it means a blessed thing. All I know is that I laughed myself silly for six minutes as these little guys went careening around trying hard not to fall and as a result doing some amazing acrobatics.

I think the best term to describe this is WAY COOL!!!! with a few more exclamation points depending upon your age.

Definitely a short you'll want to track down. since for me it was one of the best uses of six minutes all year.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pandas (2014)

What if John K who made Ren and Stimpy made a bleakly cynical film about pandas?

Never mind that what would you get if you showed the evolution of pandas from the dawn of time into space and in the middle of it you included the most biting and damning condemnation of zoos, animal breeding programs and simply human intervention in the lives of animals?

All hail Matus Vizar, who has concocted one hell of a twistedly funny catch in your throat social commentary about man and animals. I love animals and I see the need for zoos, but after seeing this stab in the eye take on the abuse of animals in the name of the masses I have second thoughts,

Done in a gross, kind of low brow or underground style Vizar has made a film that is going to thrill those with a love for the truly grotesque and gross out everyone else. Its got sex and violence and other fun things all turned in such away to make you feel truly uncomfortable.

I can't praise this film enough.

The film is a masterpiece and the sort of thing that will win him friends even as it makes studio bosses wonder if they can turn him loose to do something more. I hope to hell he does more and he sends it my way since his black rose colored glasses are a welcome respite from the forced Disney sweetness we are forced to deal with in our animation.

Search this one out.