The Eagleman Stag (2010)

Picture 8This strangely engaging short is a reflection on life, time, meaning, symbolism, science, relationships and cut-out pieces of foam.  Mikey Please’s stop-action The Eagleman Stag is a step or two beyond the standard animation film that relies on snappy visuals and moves into a more existential wasteland (or a richness), and draws unexpected, yet obvious connections.

This may not be the best way to wake up in the morning, or maybe it is.  Or maybe not.

More of Mikey Please’s (he’s apparently changed his middle name to Yes) work on his website:



I was always for the shark

jaws-movie As children grow up, the classics of Steven Spielberg usually fade into dated sentimentality.  After all, he was, along with John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis and a handful of others, a master at popularizing childhood wonder, fear and fantasy.  As I kid I was never really scared in Jaws, though. But I was still intrigued, and a little obsessed. There are times now, however, when I see scenes, with my adult eyes, usually as the shark is a vague menace in the background, and I’m fully wrapped up in tension and impending doom.  Many of the forceful emotion and human story is delivered from actor Robert Shaw, who characterizes the fatalistic meanness of an old salt.  The scene below is a classic moment, as captain Quint tells a war story as Dreyfuss’ eager biologist Hooper and Scheider’s hydrophobic Brody gaze in silence.  The second clip is arguably one of the most memorable scenes of any movie.

A Hijacking, and the real way to tell a story

63221_349270388512704_674928958_n  A Hijacking, written and directed by Dane Tobias Lindholm, is engaging and memorable because it pays attention to actual people in an extraordinary situation; a cargo ship, preparing to arrive at harbor in the Indian Ocean, is held captive by Somali pirates wielding machine guns and lots of frightening screaming. The characters don’t meander or whore themselves to whatever Hollywood happens to think its (perceived mindless) audience expects in a movie; they don’t just skim the top of the endless well of human diversity. And they don’t suddenly bloom in the face of crisis like quasi-superheroes before our eyes, dazzling an audience only to be later deflated with a vague sense of hollow betrayal.  The film’s story drives a true tension and a building sympathy, as well as frustration and a kind of hatred, all the while in a setting showing the banality and grit of everyday life on a cargo ship at sea.

Lindholm doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the pirates either; he refrains from showing that they are also human beings after all, and thereby soliciting sympathy for their desperation and plight.  Told from the points of view of the likeable cook aboard the ship and the embattled CEO of the shipping company, the gun-toting pirates come of as a confusing force of meanness, and the reasons for their violence are almost rendered irrelevant. They chatter in an unintelligible local tongue, and along with the cook and his fellow workers held at gunpoint, we are lost and desperate to understand what is happening, or at least to make the terror end.




Orson Welles, bitchy gossiper

orson wellesOrson Welles, even manifested in his protagonist in Citizen Kane, surely must have been a fantastic and often intolerable ass.  Seemingly fitted only for a small moment in history, his arrogance, and brilliance, worked vigorously to compensate for his failures. Apart from Citizen Kane topping many lists as the best film ever made, it is strange, or at least anachronistic, to think of Welles as alive and well in the 1970’s and early 80’s, and one can image what he often thought of it all, mixing with the 1980’s like oil in water. Peter Biskind has written My Lunches with Orson, on Welles’ ritual visits with friend and writer-director Henry Jaglom, undoubtedly chock-full of scandalous and outrageous judgements on Welles’ cinema contemporaries.  He says of Woody Allen, for example, that he “…has the Chaplin disease. That particular combination of arrogance and timidity sets my teeth on edge.”  I suspect I’d agree with that one.

Read here Vanity Fair’s cursory write up of Biskind’s book.

The Washington Post’s Charles Matthews writes a slightly more engaging synopsis.

.Click here for Pauline Kael‘s famous and exhausting New Yorker review of Citizen Kane.

Au Hasard Balthazar

Picture 4Robert Bresson’s classic Au Hasard Baltazar is about tragedy, objectivity, love, cruelty and fatalism; themes typified in the relationships between adults and children, humans and animals, between curious adolescents in love, and bullies and the weak.  Some are engrossed watching this film, many fall asleep. But for me, it strikes deep and rings true to how I have always seen the world; I’ve often been confused about feelings of love, and conflicted with the cruelty and utilitarianism of animals, which often extends to how people use and abuse each other.  Bresson uses natural sounds, the calmness of Schubert, and remarkably (almost uncomfortably) natural scene-making to tell a story that culminates in a way that would make even a baby seal clubber pause and allow a bit of empathy.

This film is the definition of timeless cinema.

(a bit of a SPOILER in the clip above)