Something to Watch: “Inherent Vice”

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It’s probably best for me to state my overall opinion of Inherent Vice upfront: I don’t know what to make of this one. It’s got a great visual style, a charmingly incoherent plot and some great performances. But then… Well, I’ll get to that.

The story of this film adaptation of the acclaimed novel concerns a stoner private investigator named Larry “Doc” Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Doc is asked by his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) to look into the disappearance of her boyfriend. What follows is an intentionally disjointed journey, as Doc stumbles into a series of bizarre predicaments and strange coincidences that all have virtually nothing to do with each other.

The movie does a great job of staying true to the 1970’s, the decade in which the story takes place. The soundtrack is littered with licensed music from the era and all of the costumes and set designs feel authentic. The film itself is fed through a grainy filter that subtly and expertly maintains the illusion that your local theater hasn’t gone digital yet.

The film plays out like a hazy memory of a crazy drunken night out. Surreal scenes fade in and out leaving you simultaneously entertained and confused. Phoenix’s disconnected portrayal of Doc also helps with the audience’s sense of confusion.

So what’s my problem with this film? Well, it all boils down to one flaw: the movie is way too long for the material it has, stretching to two-and-a-half hours. In addition to becoming an endurance test for my bladder (by the by, I’d reconsider buying a drink from the concession stand), everything that I found entertaining or charming about this film became very tiresome about an hour before the end credits arrived. The plot never really comes together in any coherent or satisfying way, completely removing any reason for me to care about any of the characters as they reach any semblance of resolution.

Regardless, if you can find your way past that flaw, there’s a lot to like about this movie. At the very least, I’d recommend it for the sole reason that it’s interesting. Go see it if you’re looking for something a little more off-beat and unique.

You can find out more about Inherent Vice at it’s official site.

Something to Watch: “Gabriel in the Dreamscape”

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“Gabriel is a cartoon character living in the real world”, reads the video description of Eric Lerner’s latest project, Gabriel in the Dreamscape. The short film gives a a brief glimpse at a fusion of CG animation and live-action, with well choreographed skateboarding animation and a gritty documentary film style. At the very least, here is a cool little video to start off your day, so take a look!

The rest of the description gives one the impression that this is intended as a sort of proof-of-concept video and that, with enough support, Lerner will be more likely to secure funding for more Gabriel videos. With that in mind, even though I don’t get much of a story out of this, I’d love to see what this can develop into. So if you want to see more of this, make sure to share and make your voice heard.

To find more of Eric Lerner’s work, you can check out his Vimeo page, or visit his official site.

A Few of My Favorite Things: A Look Back At 2014

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Well, look at that. The year of 2014 has come to a close. Was it a good one for you? Looking back, some really cool stuff came out this year. Here are a few of my favorites.

Favorite Movie: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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This is, by far, one of the coolest movie experiences I’ve had in a while. The story of a washed-out actor struggling to find relevancy is intriguing enough, but every part of this movie helps to make this an extremely enjoyable couple of hours.

The visual style alone will leave you mesmerized. The whole movie is filmed to look like one continuous take and the camera is almost constantly kept at a close-up shot, providing a sense of profound confusion and delirium. Those visuals, combined with a soundtrack made up of the hypnotizing drums provided by jazz artist Antonio Sánchez, created an environment I never wanted to leave. Throw in stand-out performances from the entire ensemble (which includes the likes of Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone,) and you’ve got one engaging ride.

Favorite Book: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley 

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The Scott Pilgrim series was a godsend for me back when I was in High School, and I found Lost at Sea to be a very enjoyable character study. So I didn’t need any convincing when Bryan Lee O’Malley’s latest graphic novel, Seconds, was published last summer. The concept is a perfectly ordinary one: A young chef’s life starts to fall apart, so she uses magical mushrooms that she receives from a mystical spirit to rewrite history and fix her mistakes. Simple, right?

Well, get past the quirkiness of it all and you find a cast of charming and relatable characters, gorgeous art and a wonderful story. A story that manages to be funny, poignant and enlightening simultaneously. I loved my time reading this one and I recommend you give it a read.

Favorite Album: You’re Dead! by Flying Lotus

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Man, am I glad to have listened to this one. You’re Dead! is the latest studio album from experimental producer Flying Lotus. An album that tackles dark themes such as insanity, addiction and, above all else, death itself.

It’s also one of those albums that you’d probably enjoy much better by not paying attention to the track list and listening to the whole thing in one go. Each track flows in and out of one another in such a way that it all becomes one mesmerizing ride, mixing in large amounts of jazz, hip-hop and electronic music to create FlyLo’s signature sound. For my own tastes, this album did a lot to push me outside of my love of electronic music and start taking a look at the jazz scene, so it’s certainly had an impact on me.

Favorite Indie Game: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

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Yeah, I had my problems with this one. I didn’t get to spend much time with the game, due to it’s short length, and I haven’t gotten to see the ending yet because I’m too much of a wimp to tackle the game’s only jump-scare section. But there’s still so much about this game that there is to love.

Ethan Carter is an atmospheric first-person exploration game where you play a supernatural detective, who can communicate with the dead in his search to find out what happened to a missing child. As you solve puzzles and murder mysteries, more and more of this wonderfully creepy story comes to light. All while exploring one of the most gorgeous game worlds I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, if nothing else, pick this one up for it’s atmosphere. Throw on a good pair of headphones and turn out the lights. You’ll be in for a treat.

As we wrap up 2014 tonight, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have taken an interest in my ramblings. I certainly don’t have plans to stop yet. There’s more to discover out there, so I’d better get to it!

Something to Watch: “Wild” Review

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“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

The above quote might as well be the tagline for Wild, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. It’s an adaptation of Wild: From Lost to Found, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. It’s also the most emotionally powerful film I’ve seen this year.

In the film, Cheryl (played on-screen by Reese Witherspoon,) finds her life in shambles and as a result, has been on a streak of self-destructive behavior. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Cheryl chooses to go on an 1,100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. What follows is a long and dif9:Ificult journey of self-discovery, as Cheryl searches to heal from the various traumatic events in her life. Said traumatic events are explored in a series of flashbacks, which are given about as much screentime as the hike itself.

The first thing that struck me about this movie is the cinematography. Vallée takes full advantage of the story’s setting to capture some beautiful landscapes of many kinds from an up-close, personal perspective. A near-constant combination of medium and close-up shots allows the film to maintain a poignant and breathtakingly intimate atmosphere.

That atmosphere is helped immensely by great performances from all involved, most notably from Witherspoon herself. With so much of the movie being spent with Witherspoon alone, it’s a great thing that her determined-yet-vulnerable performance kept me completely engaged throughout. By the end of the movie, I felt a very particular emotion I hadn’t yet felt in a theater. That’s an accomplishment.

When all is said and done, I would definitely recommend that you go see Wild. The powerful lead performance and intimate atmosphere make for one of the most moving cinematic experiences I’ve seen in a long time. Another contender for best picture, for sure.

You can learn more about Wild at it’s official site.

Jingle Things: Christmas Video Collection

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Have you seen Me and My Moulton, yet? It’s a charming, animated, autobiographical short film from Oscar-winning director Torill Kove, about living as a daughter of two modernist architects. If you haven’t seen it, you should go look it up. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

…You back? Okay, Here we go. So, for my final holiday-related entry this year, I recommend you check out this spin-off short, Redesigning Christmas, starring the characters from Moulton.

Again, it’s charming. The notebook-style art fits the fun take on a family holiday, and I actually want to try some of the unconventional ideas. Not enough for you? Alright, how’s this.

I found another animation on Vimeo from motion designer and video editor , who whipped up this animated greeting for his clients. It’s funny and it has a nice look to it. Take a look!

Need one more? Okay, here’s an oldie but a goody. Previously featured on Adult Swim’s Off the Air, animator and sound designer Randy Knott provides a brief glimpse at a winter night in the woods

It may not be directly Christmas-related, but I love taking a look at this one during this time of the year. To me, it’s the perfect soundtrack to coming in during a freezing winter night and cuddling with a significant other as you watch the snow fall. Here’s The Ghostly Voices Once Said!.

So there you go. Three videos to get you in the Christmas spirit. Have a very merry Holiday Season, and have a happy New Year!

Something to Watch/Listen To: “Latin Boys”

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I, uh… I don’t know what to make of this.

This new music video comes straight out of Panda Bear’s upcoming album Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. The video for “Boys Latin” is definitely an awesome one, combining CGI animation with a mild cel-shading technique and a watercolor-like color pallet. It’s also pretty weird, in a good way. Take a look!

Once I sit through the whole thing, it looks to me like a neat visual interpretation of finding a soul-mate and starting a family. I’ve also seen others interpret the infecting plant life as a traumatic event that one must emotionally deal with. Either way, making sense of this one requires a fair amount of interpretive thinking, and that’s pretty cool.

The music is also a joy to listen to. A hypnotic beat plays background to some wonderful synths and haunting vocals. I haven’t yet listened to much of Panda Bear or his group, Animal Collective, but this has definitely made me interested.

You can pre-order Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper on itunes here. 

Something to Watch: “Fear of Flying”

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As I said in my last post, I have been combing through the interwebs for short films based on the holiday season and winter in general. In my quest, I’ve found this fun, award-winning short film about what happens when the birds fly south for winter. It’s two years old and didn’t have enough to do with the holidays to make my “Jingle Things” series. But if you haven’t seen it already, you should definitely watch Fear of Flying.

I love this one! I love the simple-but-clever premise. I love the combination of puppetry and animation. I love the character designs and the coloring. It’s a very pretty looking piece.

If you’re looking for a little more, there’s also this brief behind-the-scenes clip below. You can also check out animator Conor Finnegan’s other work on Vimeo, here. He’s a talented guy and his work is very much worth checking out.

You can find Conor Finnegan on Tumblr, here.