Something to Watch: “Inherent Vice”

Standard

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: Thanksgiving Video Collection

Standard

It’s that time of the year. Turkey Day is tomorrow! Time to gather around with family and give thanks for the things we love most in life… Or we can just goof around in front of a computer and watch videos about turkeys and other food-related stuff. Shall we?

A Thanksgiving Pardon

Let’s begin with a five-second film from 5-Second Films.

Happy Thanksgiving, Turkey.

An amusing short film from the folks at Taste TestHappy Thanksgiving Turkey enters on an innocent turkey just going about his everyday suburban life, having forgotten that today is Thanksgiving. What follows is nothing short of goofy, in a good way. The crew behind this clearly had a lot of fun making this video, and that makes me enjoy it even more.

What’s that? You wanted something a little longer? All right…

Harvest

Continuing on our pilgrim-versus-turkey theme, Jonathan Soto provides a funny CG short involving a turkey running for his life. It may not be the most polished CGI I’ve ever seen, but it’s very well animated and a lot of fun to watch.

Gobbled

Another animation following turkeys trying to escape certain doom, this time from the animator Naz Ghodrati-Azadi. I’m very impressed with the art-direction, animation and voice-acting of this one.

What? You wanted something a little longer? All right…

TURKEY

And now for something completely different! Originally made for an animation showcase held by Oof Collective, Harvey Benschoter takes a ton of stock images and… does very strange things with them. It’s really weird, but I like really weird, so here we go!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’ll be taking a break on Friday, but don’t worry. I’ll be back on Monday with something new. Take care!

Something to Watch: “Too Many Cooks”

Standard

Well, there’s no use trying to deny it. Rolling Stone wrote about it. The Atlantic wrote about it. Other art sites like It’s Nice That have written about itToo Many Cooks is a thing, and I’m running just a tad late to the party.

See, from time to time, the comedy network [adult swim] produces eleven-minute shorts and airs them on the graveyard slot of 4am. A week later, they’ll often upload these shorts to their official YouTube channel. In a somewhat unusual case, their most recent effort has reached viral status, following it’s upload. I’ll go ahead and say ahead of time that Too Many Cooks is rather NSFW. I’d give reasons why but, as The Atlantic would tell you, the less you know about this short going in, the more likely you are to enjoy it.

That was really well done! The joke about a never-ending TV theme song is funny enough, but to then transcend the sitcom parody and lampoon cop shows, sci-fi shows and even G.I. Joe makes this video something else entirely. Clearly, a lot of thought went into this, and it’s paying off. To give credit where credit’s due, there aren’t a whole lot of networks that would invest money in weird, one-off projects like this. [adult swim] does so for seemingly little purpose other than showcasing them, and that says wonders about who they are and how they do businesses.

Now, as evidence of the short’s popularity, I leave you with a fan-made 8-bit rendition of the theme song from Too Many Cooks.

You can find more from [adult swim] by visiting their official site and YouTube channel.

Something To Play: “Jazzpunk”

Standard

So I’ve been looking over some of the indie stuff I’ve gotten my hands on in the months before I started this blog. I may be plunging into that archive a few times before this year is over. One particular thing that stuck out to me is a strange little game, developed independently by Necrophone Games and published to Steam by none other than the video game division of experimental comedy network [adult swim]. Welcome to the world of Jazzpunk.

Where do I even begin with this one? Well, the story (nonsensical as it is,) places you in the role of Polyblank, a secret agent running espionage missions in an alternate-reality Cold War era. But don’t be fooled. This is a absurdist comedy, first and foremost. You’ll be asked to perform completely insane tasks to achieve slightly less insane results.

Need to get into a room? Go collect a bunch of spiders in a jar and let them loose on the guard. Need to fool a security camera? Go the copy-machine, take a picture of your butt and show it to the camera. Get the idea?

Jazzpunk1

As you do these strange things, everything happening around you becomes even stranger. Suddenly, your boss’s office is becoming flooded with water and octopuses. Now you’re standing in a creepy land made of pizza. It’s best to just go with the flow.

Actually, the best thing to do (in my opinion,) is to follow the story straight through on your first go. Then, after the end credits have finished, play again and go as far off the beaten-path as possible to see what else you can do. There’s pigeons to smuggle, frogs-with-Mohawks to escort and references to other video games to find.

Jazzpunk2

Both playthroughs will only take you a couple of hours, but I think it’s worth the price of admission, anyway. It’s really funny and I don’t think you’re going to find a game with this sort of look and feel anywhere else. What else can I say? Jazzpunk is a game where you’re thrown into a weird little world and asked to go see what you can make happen. If that sounds like fun to you, then hop on board!

You can find Jazzpunk on Steam here.

Something to Watch: “Birdman”

Standard

Oscar season is officially upon us, and it’s time for some of the biggest names in the business to get in on the independent film game. Among these efforts, one of the most notable entries is an ambitious tragicomedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Enter the dizzying world of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a darkly-humorous satire of show business in the 21st century.

(Note: The clips embedded in this post contain some vulgar language. NSFW)

We’re introduced to Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton, of Batman fame), a washed-up actor once known for playing a popular superhero, the titular Birdman, in a series of Hollywood blockbusters. Having left the role quite some time ago, with a slow decline in fame ever since, Riggan hopes to get his career back on track by starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. In the days leading up to opening night, Riggan wrestles with a strained relationship with his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), the renegade actions of lead actor Mike (Edward Norton) and, above and beyond all else, his own ego.

The first thing you’ll notice about this film is the cinematography. There are only a couple of standard “cuts” in this movie, as every scene in the movie will go on for 10 to 20 minutes at a time on a single take. The camera bobs and weaves from room to room, always focusing on a close-up shot. And most of the scene transitions are handled so smoothly, you may not even notice when they happen. It all comes together to create an environment of blissful confusion and spiraling delirium.

(Note: The clips embedded in this post contain some vulgar language. NSFW)

That’s all to say nothing of the performances from the actors, which are all exemplary. The film employs an all-star cast which includes, in addition to the above listed, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan among others. Each turning in strong comedic and dramatic performances. In particular, Keaton provides one of the most fascinating and entertaining performances of his carer, balancing his ego and arrogance with the a genuine desire to impress and leave his mark on the world.

I was entranced by this movie from beginning to end. I enjoyed the laughs (and there are plenty), while contemplating the film’s questions about dramatic ambition, the importance of social media and the ideas of where you stand in the grand scheme of things. It’s a technical achievement filled with grade-A performances and challenging ideas. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot about this one, come February.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is now playing in select theaters. For more info, you can visit the official site at BirdmanTheMovie.com.