Something to Watch/Listen to: “We Were Young” by SRTW

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Yeah, I know. It’s a little cheap to have both of this week’s posts be about animated music videos. But I really like the look and feel of this one, so let’s talk about it.

Trunk Animation brings us a stylish music video for SRTW’s single “We Were Young”. It’s a dance track, so the lyrics are relatively few and come around in circle. The video responds to this by showing animated cycle of everyday activities repeated multiple times.

It’s got a great minimalist art style and a great color scheme. When set to a soothing track like this, you’ve got a great gem to watch. Take a look!

For more music from SRTW, you can check them out on SoundCloud. For more from Trunk Animation, check out their official site.

Something to Watch: “HENRi” & “Atropa”

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The very nature of the independent, low-budget films that I like to talk about means that the concepts are usually pretty grounded. A lot of the more fantastical settings and stories that catch my geeky eye, such as science-fiction, fantasy, or superheroes, tend to go unexplored. It’s a wonder, then, that I’m only now finding out about the works of filmmaker Eli Sasich. It’s not often I get to talk about space-based films, so here we go!

Atropa

Let’s start off with Sasich’s latest project, a proof-of-concept short film released just a few days ago. Inspired by such sci-fi films as Alien and Blade Runner, Atropa takes a look at a detective investigating the disappearance of a research vessel. With some nice performances and a lot of really impressive effects, this is a fascinating watch.

HENRi

Consider the last video a pre-show to the feature presentation. This twenty-minute short film received it’s funding through a Kickstarter campaign back in 2010. After two years of production and a year of touring the festivals, it’s finally been released online.

HENRi uses a combination of small-scale sets, puppetry and live-action to tell the tragic but heartwarming story of a lonely robot left to ponder the meaning of human nature. Some beautiful cinematography, heartbreaking performances and a passionate score allow this film to really shine. Whether you’re a sci-fi nut like me or a philosophical enthusiast, this is a must-watch.

Click the link below to watch on Vimeo.

For those of you who still want something you can play in this post, I’ve got something extra for you. Before the release of HENRi, the short video I Dream Electric was released. Seeming to be the sort of prototype to HENRiElectric contains some of the opening fottage from the last short, and acts as a great music video for “Everything Speaks” by Diamond Rings.

When all is said and done, this is one filmmaker to keep an eye on.

For more on Eli Sasich’s work, you can visit his Vimeo page.

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.

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.

Something to Watch: “HitRECord on TV: Season 1”

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Before we start, a disclaimer: I’m very biased about this one. See, I actually appear, for a quarter-of-a-second, in three episodes of this TV show. Because of this, I initially didn’t think it would be a good idea to write about this one. But I legitimately believe that, if you’ve been interested in anything I’ve talked about on this blog, you’re very likely to enjoy this show. Just be aware that this is a project that I’m, in a small part, a part of.

Anyhow, have you ever heard of HitRecord? Well, it’s a production company, founded by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, that’s a little bit different than other companies. HitRecord works with an online community of artists who work together on projects of all kinds Whenever a project becomes commercially viable, the company looks to find ways to distribute it, sharing the profits with the artists that worked on it. They’ve published everything from books, to albums, to short films.

Earlier this year, they made a TV show.

Consisting of eight episodes for it’s first season and airing on cable network PivotHitRecord on TV premiered last January and has recently been made available as a box set. It’s a variety show, hosted by Gordon-Levitt, that showcases short films, animations, music videos and documentaries made by the community. Each episode also has a theme, including examples such as space, money and patterns among others.

I would talk more about my opinions on the show but, again, I don’t exactly have a lot of credibility on this subject. Suffice to say, I’ve really enjoyed the show, whether I was in the episode or not, and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. However, HitRecord has put the first episode of the show “Re: The Number One” up on their YouTube page, so you can take a look for yourself and see what you think.

If you liked it as much as I did, there are several ways to watch the rest of the season. Pivot still airs the show on several occasions and you can also download every episode on iTunes and Amazon. Most recently, the show has become available as a box set, which includes collectible books about the show and downloads for the season’s episodes. You can find that here.

Oh, and if you want to see what I do on the HitRecord site, you can visit my profile, JustCallMeRyan.

Something to Watch: “The Theory of Everything”

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Oscar season is well underway and some of the most interesting movies of the year are gracing the screens. Case in point: The Theory of Everything. A biopic about Stephen Hawking? Where do i sign up?

Based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s novel Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the James Marsh-directed picture tells the decades-long tale of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne), his relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), his fight with motor neuron disease and his rise to fame as a theoretical physicist. The film has several fascinating visual sequences that represent Hawking’s thought process. And though the relationships receive the most attention and the science is simplified for us everyday people, It’s still a very well thought out film.

The whole cast gives heartfelt performances throughout, but the single most impressive performance in the movie is Redmayne’s take on Hawking himself. As Hawking’s muscle control slowly deteriorates over the coarse of the film, Redmayne spares no expense in his interpretation. Every muscle in his body is actively at work showing every once of Hawking’s physical struggle, making his path to figuring out how to live with his condition all the more satisfying.

Those who have studied Hawking’s work might not find any new insight in his brilliant mind. But as a piece about love and the will to live conquering the darkest of fates, The Theory of Everything is a well-executed experience. One that’s definitely worth checking out.

By the by, a fun side-note: the theater I went to see this at decided the best coarse of action is to show Intersteller in the screen next door. Imagine this, a very loud movie with lots of rocket ships, right on the other side of the wall from a very quiet movie with lots of talking. Needless to say, that made for a few entertaining moments.

You can find out more about The Theory of Everything by visiting the official site.