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

Standard

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)

banner-birdman-film_page_np

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 

download

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

You're_Dead! (1)

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

header (1)

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!

Spooky Things: Halloween Video Collection

Standard

Well, would you look at that. Halloween is here! Every Friday for the last three weeks, I’ve been taking a look at some creepy pieces of art (a graphic novel, a video game and a music band), that are perfect to look into for the holiday. And I thought I’d wind this series down with a handful of fun little short films and animations from around the internet.

Happy Halloween – Amador Valenzuela 

Starting us off is a trippy blend of live-action and animation, as we see a man swallow some candy and, uh… Well, let’s just say he has a really good time.

Pumpkin Scrap – Graham Annable 

A quick little treat from the animator know as grickle, this animation gives us a glimpse at a new method of neighborhood rivalry.

MEOW! – Cyriak Harris and Sarah Brown

This one’s a few years old, but it’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet. Animator Cyriak and illustrator Sarah Brown take us to a city overrun by the cutest little zombie kittens you’ve ever seen. By the by, if you’re looking for more twisted and disturbing animations, Cyriak’s channel is pretty much all about that.

(Warning: Don’t let the cuteness fool you! There is plenty of blood, brains, intestines and other gruesome stuff in this video. So, you know, NSFW, and all that jazz.)

Invasion – Olivier Patté

Seemingly using the technique of redrawing and animating a series of real photographs, this animation sees civilization crumbling in the presence of some kind of demonic force… from space! Hey, it’s dark, unnerving and it looks cool. That’s all I need.

(Warning: this video does contain a brief sex scene in the middle. Barely anything is shown, but this is probably NSFW, anyway.)

Ready Err Not – Flying Lotus and David Firth

This one was released just today! Some of you may remember that I had talked about Flying Lotus’ new album You’re Dead! a little over a week ago. Well, now David Firth has directed an insane music video for the track from the album, “Ready Err Not”. It’s a very twisted, intricately detailed and creative video, however…

(WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!: This is, far and away, the most violent, disturbing, gross and DEFINITELY NSFW video in this post. Honestly, as cool as the video is, I had to seriously question whether or not I should show something like this in a blog post. But, for this Halloween, I chose to make an exception. Again, this is Not Safe For Work! Watch at your own risk!)

Halloween! – Daniel Cordero

And finally, as a palate cleanser for the nightmare you may have just witnessed, a brief and adorable animation primed and ready for e-card status.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Whether you’re partying, looting for candy, or sitting at home watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, make sure you have a good one!

Something to Listen To: “You’re Dead!” by Flying Lotus

Standard

One of the more prominent names in the indie music landscape at the moment is Steven Ellison, better known by his stage name: Flying Lotus. His experimental, genre-blending style has attracted a large number of fans since he first hit the scene back in 2006. So, of course, I had to check out his most recent studio album: You’re Dead!.

(Note: I’ve embedded the trailer below, but be aware that it contains some very violent, NSFW, imagery.)

As you can probably deduce from the title, You’re Dead! explores a number of dark ideas. Chief among them, the concept of death and the discovery of what comes next. These ideas are most apparent in songs such as “Decent Into Madness” or “The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep”. And while the album ventures into a broad range of emotions, feelings of confusion, uncertainty, or dread can be sensed throughout.

You’re Dead! collects and mixes together the sounds of electronic, industrial hip-hop and jazz, among others. But the focus shifts from track to track. One moment, you’re listening to a multi-layered rap, the next, an intricately executed jazz session. But the shift between styles is so seamless and subtle, you might not notice the change until after it happens.

In fact, one of the best things about this album is FlyLo’s sense of continuance. While each of the 19 tracks are distinctive and stand on their own quite nicely, they all flow in and out of each other in such a way that the album works as one engaging 40-mintue ride. This is one album you’ll want to listen to from begging to end in one go.

All in all, this is an incredible album. It’s the work of a master of his craft, at the top of his game. And by year’s end, it will probably remain my favorite album of 2014.

You’re Dead! by Flying Lotus is available at Bleep, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

 

You know, I thought about talking about talking about this as part of my “Spooky Things” series. But I think I’ve got planned for this Friday is a bit more appropriate for Halloween… Stay tuned!