All posts in Movies

Fantastic Fest 2016

  1. The Handmaiden – A masterpiece by Park Chan-wook.
  2. A Dark Song – A study in building atmosphere and suspense.
  3. A Monster Calls – An ent teaches a young boy about fairness and healing.
  4. Colossal – Two childhood friends hash out their differences. There are also giant monsters.
  5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – X-Men First Class with churlish British kids.
  6. Science Fiction Volume One: The Osiris Child – Extremely confident indie sci-fi with an unnecessarily precise title.
  7. Raw – Girl tries meat for the first time. Likes it a lot.
  8. The Autopsy of Jane Doe – Wait,  don’t cut open that corpse! Too late.
  9. My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea – Wes Anderson-y animated high school drama.
  10. Assassination Classroom: Graduation – Students are conflicted about whether or not to assassinate their teacher.
  11. Arrival – Scientists try to crack an alien language before the rest of the world does what it always does when aliens appear.
  12. Don’t Kill It – It Follows, but with guns.
  13. Age of Shadows – A police drama about shifting loyalties.
  14. Buster’s Mal Heart – Rami Malek marginally expands his acting range, which is still awesome.
  15. We are the Flesh – The Gom Jabbar and Voight-Kampff tests in one convenient package.
  16. Shin Godzilla – Neon Genesis Evangellion without the EVAs.
  17. The Void – Who let this Shoggoth into the hospital?
  18. Aloys – A portrait of loneliness.
  19. Salt and Fire – Michael Shannon talks crazy using a measured, reassuring tone.
  20. Re: Born – Metal Gear Solid fan film.
  21. The Girl with all the Gifts – The Last of Us the movie, but without Joel.
  22. Nova Seed – Heavy Metal-inspired animated sci-fi created by one dude over a span of four years.
  23. High Frontier – Father takes two sons to remote winter cabin for a bonding experience.
  24. Zoology – Woman grows a tail. Some people notice.
  25. Fashionista – British filmmaker tells Austin all about how it has changed in the last ten years.
  26. Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl – There’s a really hot girl in this one.
  27. The Red Turtle – Guy gets stranded on island. Finds red turtle. Decides to stay. The End.

Fantastic Fest 2015

  1. The Brand New Testament
  2. Love and Peace
  3. Too Late
  4. Anomalisa
  5. Liza the Fox Fairy
  6. April and the Extraordinary World
  7. High-Rise
  8. The Martian
  9. Crimson Peak
  10. Klovn Forever
  11. Men and Chicken
  12. The Devil’s Candy
  13. The Keeping Room
  14. The Club
  15. The Wave
  16. Assassination Classroom
  17. Zoom
  18. Green Room
  19. Lovemilla
  20. Bone Tomahawk
  21. The Witch
  22. Coz ov Moni 2: Fokn Revenge
  23. Doug Benson Movie Interruption: Roar
  24. Dangerous Men
  25. Victoria
  26. Tale of Tales
  27. Demon
  28. Camino
  29. Sensoria
  30. Belladonna of Sadness
  31. Gridlocked
  32. In Search of the Ultra-Sex

Fantastic Fest 2014

  1. Horns
  2. Free Fall
  3. It Follows
  4. Jacky in the Kingdom of Women
  5. Nightcrawler
  6. Horsehead
  7. John Wick
  8. Housebound
  9. Tale of The Princess Kaguya
  10. Duke of Burgundy
  11. Open Windows
  12. The Incident
  13. Goodnight, Mommy
  14. The Hive
  15. Babadook
  16. I Am Here
  17. V/H/S Viral
  18. Force Majeure
  19. Everly
  20. The Absent One
  21. Let Us Prey
  22. The Editor
  23. Redeemer
  24. Tusk
  25. The Town that Dreaded Sundown
  26. Realiti
  27. Wastelander Panda
  28. From the Dark
  29. Tokyo Tribe
  30. The Stranger
  31. Darkness by Day
  32. Norway
  33. Local God
  34. Tombville

Fantastic Fest 2013

Here’s what I saw at Fantastic Fest 2013, in order of how much I enjoyed the films. I really only disliked “Fatal.”

  1. Mood Indigo
  2. Coherence
  3. Afflicted
  4. The Dirties
  5. Machete Kills
  6. LFO
  7. A Field in England
  8. Why Don’t You Play in Hell
  9. Hentai Kamen
  10. Rigor Mortis
  11. Eega
  12. Proxy
  13. O’Apostolo
  14. Zero Theorem
  15. Borgman
  16. R100
  17. Witching & Bitching
  18. The Congress
  19. She Wolf
  20. Ragnarok
  21. Nothing Bad Can Happen
  22. The Fake
  23. Man of Tai Chi
  24. Grand Piano
  25. Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut
  26. Detective Downs
  27. Patrick
  28. Almost Human
  29. The Resurrection of a Bastard
  30. Gatchaman
  31. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
  32. We Gotta Get Out of this Place
  33. Fatal

Fantastic Fest 2012

  1. Cloud Atlas
  2. Holy Motors
  3. Antiviral
  4. American Mary
  5. Tower Block
  6. Wrong
  7. Black Out
  8. Aftershock
  9. Lee’s Adventure
  10. Flicker
  11. Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman
  12. The ABC’s of Death
  13. Fuck Up
  14. Outrage Beyond
  15. Tai Chi 0
  16. The Warped Forest
  17. Come Out and Play

Fantastic Fest 2011

As has become the tradition, I will be posting my list of films I saw at Fantastic Fest, roughly in order of most enjoyable to least enjoyable.

Melancholia – Lars Von Trier’s ode to depression. Absolutely gorgeous, populated with real characters. Left me haunted.

The Corridor – I think this movie struck a peculiar chord with me, so I can’t really look at it objectively. I love movies where extraordinary realities invade normal ones and there is no real explanation. But the story isn’t *about* the extraordinary reality.

Headhunters – The show Leverage wishes it could be as clever as this movie. Plus it has Jaime Lannister.

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Oscar-worthy performance by Tilda Swinton. Difficult subject matter perfectly rendered.

Clown – Hysterically funny Hangover-style comedy based on a TV show which I must now track down.

Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope – Morgan Spurlock’s wonderful documentary on Comic-Con. Joyful and inspiring. It restored my love of geekdom.

The Yellow Sea – Up there with Old Boy as far as crazy Korean action/crime dramas.

You Said What? – Inspired by Miike’s “Audition”, a bunch of guys make a movie so their friend can get the girl. Charming and fun.

Extraterrestrial – Once again, Nacho subverts audience expectations and turns an alien invasion film into a romantic comedy.

El Narco – Beautifully shot and plotted. The Mexican Godfather.

Manborg – Homage to awesome/terrible 80s films. A labor of love shot on green screen over several years. Very funny.

Haunters – Reminded me of Unbreakable.

Carre Blanc – Darkly humorous dystopian tale of corporate life.

Borderline – The French movie version of the show “Weeds”.

Revenge: A Love Story – Liked the twists and turns in this one. Plays with audience expectations.

Elite Squad 2 – Kind of ordinary cop drama.

Penumbra – Did not live up to the hype. Great set up that really doesn’t go anywhere.

The Day – Totally ordinary post-apocalyptic survivor tale.

Angels & Airwaves Presents “Love” – Had a few neat visuals, but it was kind of bland.

Livid – A gorgeous mess.

Beyond the Black Rainbow – Tedious.

Human Centipede 2 – Filth. A cinematic crime. Offensive and disgusting.

See more detailed information about all of the films at the festival.

An Embarrassment of Riches

I may have mentioned this before, but there are too many things. And by “things” I mean books, video games, movies, TV shows, board games, songs, apps, and any other media one might experience. Right now, today, there are probably more things that I’d like to have a look at than I have time remaining in my life to do so. And tomorrow, someone will add even more.

I don’t like to leave things unfinished, no loose ends. But now I have this frayed blanket of partially read books, half-watched shows, unfinished video games, barely messed with apps, and board games still in shrink wrap. At one point these things were rare and hard won. As a child I created an impromptu garage sale to fund the purchase of the BattleTech board game, shutting the sale down the moment I could afford to buy. And then I played BattleTech for ages. Now everything is so easy to obtain, effortlessly plucked from the ether. But I feel like it takes a greater force of will to slow down and appreciate a single thing, knowing there are thousands more awaiting my attention. It is like touring the Louvre in a formula one race car.

I’ve decided I need to shift my perception of all this media, or at least to try. I’m trying to see it as another planetary ecosystem, something vast and ever present. In the same way that I do not need to play with every breed of dog on the planet, I do not need to play every game. If I see one I like, I will pet it and enjoy that moment. I’m really happy just knowing that all those things are out there and that sometimes my path will intersect with some of them.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life is a meditation on God, family, growing, the meaning of life, a lot of things. I’m not going to review the film or go into my specific impressions of it as it is something you need to experience for yourself. The film is primarily a series of evocative visual scenes with little dialogue, so it would be like me describing Guernica when you ought to just go look at the painting.

During the pre-show, they showed clips from Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot.” One of his closing challenges was to examine the arrogance of claiming that the universe was created for humans or one particular religion or subgroup.

Asking “Is there a God?” is a very human-centric question that seems ridiculous in the context of a universe that is absolutely not human. Humanity comprises an incalculably tiny part of all existence. Why does it even make sense to ask such questions? We are part of something gigantic, not set above it.

From my point of view, belief or disbelief in God are both necessary. The impact of the belief in God is the equivalent of there being a God, just as the impact of disbelief in God is the equivalent of there being no God. The effects of these beliefs are real and measurable. The questions “Is there a God?” or “Is God real?” are irrelevant.

Origins of The Stork

When I went to see Pixar’s WALL-E, there was an animated short called Partly Cloudy before the film. It had to do with a stork who got stuck with delivering really challenging packages. It got me thinking of some shadowy agency which employed people called Storks to deliver metaphorical packages to people. Perhaps this guy shows up on your doorstep with a lost memory from childhood.

Then I thought maybe I could make a role playing game out of it. The players would play characters in this agency delivering packages as a way of working off a debt, kind of like the reapers in Dead Like Me.

But then it occurred to me it might be more interesting if it were a live action game like Killer or Capture the Flag, where teams of people had to make sure a package got delivered to its destination.

I’m not sure how it happened, but when I sat down to write down some notes for the rules to this potential game, I instead wrote the manual that became The Stork. It was one of those rare pieces of writing that I transcribe more than write. It just flowed out, almost fully formed. I made some tweaks to it, but the first draft ended up being really good as is.

Some part of me wants to create these shared experiences, these abstract dreamlike ideas. I’ve found the best way to communicate them is to squeeze them into the shape of a story or a game. The structure is just a handle or a frame, a label so that other people can (hopefully) understand what I’m trying to tell them.

Find out more about The Stork at Kickstarter

Netflix Gems of 2010

Netflix has been a huge part of my effort to declutter the media in my life. I have almost eliminated all physical DVDs from my “stuff”.

As you probably already know, Netflix Instant Watch is one of the greatest things ever. It’s how you know you’re in the 21st century. Each week it rises from an ocean of cinema and spreads a net of glittering gems recovered from the depths. Continue reading →