There are three identities that come to mind when I think of Iceland. One is of the vast and breathtaking landscape, which is so obscenely grand it is almost supernatural. The second is the capital of Reykjavík that carried the country’s dark financial gloom not so long ago. The last, slides far down the scale of grandiose into the quaint peaceful life of the villages that surround the country’s perimeter. This is where Nói albino takes place. Far away from civilization, green grass and warm sun. First released in 2003 by Director Dagur Kari, what Nói albino does, is the incredible job of merging the immense and humbling Icelandic landscape with the day to day life of inhabitants who reside in a small fishing village on the west side of the country.
It’s impossible to celebrate Iceland on #MusicMonday without mentioning Sigur Rós. Arguably the country’s biggest musical export (next to Björk), the band continues to astonish and inspire with their epic brand of atmospheric rock. At times subtle using spare instrumentation and ambient emotion, and other times crescendoing into a cacophony of guitars, their music is singular, innovative, and utterly captivating. The same can be said for their music videos and concert films, too.
I first found Fawns while I was busy looking for something else, and it has since proved to be a lesson for me on managing my expectations. Ironically, I had impatiently been waiting for The Fourth Dimension to be released, the collection of short films from different directors curated by Harmony Korine of which Fawns is the last. The longer I waited the taller my expectations on what Korine would deliver grew to mountain heights. To my surprise, when it was released I was disappointed with most of it, until Jan Kwiecinski’s 30-minute adventure Fawns blew me away.
Admittedly, there have been moments in my life when I have lead a causal game of “Would You Rather” in a politically incorrect and permissive environment. My invented questions lump implausible on top absurd and usually force the person on the other end to choose some type of excruciating embarrassment as their out. I have come to terms with the possibility that there may be others out there who probably play as dirty as me. What I never would have assumed is that this concept could be translated on film into a story so powerful and moving. Martin Rosete (Director) and Luiso Berdejo (Screenplay) uses a type of “Would You Rather” approach in their award winning short film, Voice Over.
As I mentioned before in a post about movie poster design, I think it would be exciting if film companies started partnering with independent artists to create better visual marketing for their movies. Thus, it was thrilling to see Jonathan Burton’s BAFTA Film Awards programs showcased on Creative Review’s blog this week. Commissioned to illustrate the ceremony’s programs with images from the five films nominated for Best Film (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, and Lincoln), Burton worked to capture the feeling of each movie as a whole rather than recreate any particular scene. The results are stunning with each story aptly summed up in a single image that you’re drawn into even with the absence of a title.
Though most of us will be unable to attend the BAFTA’s in the UK this Sunday, all prints from the programs are currently available for purchase here. Are you reading this, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences?
Baltimore band, Beach House, recently released a short film called Forever Still, which captures the beauty of live performance in a magical setting. I should preface this post—because it’s brimming with enthusiasm—with the fact that the film was shot in and around my hometown of El Paso, Texas, as well as where the band recorded their latest album, Bloom.
Starting at sunset and ending at sunrise, we follow the band to four different desert locations where they perform to sweeping vistas, a gang of cars, and darkness punctuated by a lone wolf. It’s slow and epic, which is what the band was going for when teaming up with Pitchfork.TV to collaborate on a project that would represent the spirit of their music. They recorded Bloom in Tornillo, Texas, at the legendary Sonic Ranch studio, a desert oasis dotted with lazy kittens, positive energy, and an otherworldly mysticism that cannot be captured in words. I’m wild about the place (evidence here), and Beach House captures its dark magic brilliantly in this film.
Directed by the band with Max Goldman, I suggest you take a moment in your day to sit back, relax, and let it take you somewhere mysterious where the dust seems alive and time moves with the crickets.
Years ago, I read an article about a handful of artists and entrepreneurs, who had re-appropriated industrial squat space and neglected mansions into studios and art galleries. The ‘who’ and ‘when’ bit of the article escaped me soon after reading, but I never forgot the “where”. Detroit, and its deserted imagery, has been on my mind ever since.
Forgotten by industry, the abandoned metropolis, formerly known as the “Paris of the West” for its grand urban landscape and Art Deco design, now suffers from deplorable neglect. Once the fastest growing city in the world, today, Detroit holds on to 40, 000 abandoned houses, of which some can be purchased for less than $6, 000. It is home to architectural gems such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s modernist Lafayette Park, and the neoclassical Michigan Central Train Station, yet it is not uncommon to have only one house inhabited within a three block radius. Teetering on bankruptcy, last year the city was forced to shut off half its street lights in order to save a buck.
Although almost impossible to believe, this is the reality of an American city. Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Detropia, Detroit’s symphonic distress call to the rest of the world, will shock you with its statistics and haunting imagery of what once was.
Chronicling the pre-depression era rise and the post-nineteen eighties demise of the Motor City, the sad tale Detropia tells is affective, with a sensibility not commonly associated with vacant lots and forsaken automotive plants. The crux of Detropia lies with its narrators and the interviewed citizens of Detroit who in the face of a population consolidation refuse to leave their city’s dying side.
Not all is lost, though. There is a light at the end of Detropia’s dark tunnel, and it belongs to art. The shocking fact that one family every twenty minutes moves out of Detroit is counteracted by the calibre of a population moving in. Visionaries, artists, and young professionals seeking to rebuild such as organizations like Ponyride and Loveland Technologies will lead Detroit to its Hollywood ending. Where there is crisis, there is opportunity, and where there is hope, there is determination.
Earlier today Disney released the beautiful short film Paperman onto YouTube for us all to enjoy. It was directed by John Kars who up until recently was an animator, though it’s pretty remarkable that this is his first directing effort. The story is about a man who serendipitously runs into a woman, they share a short interaction around a piece of paper… and the they she gets on a train and leaves. This adorable story of finding love is told with a new in-house technology called Meander which combines the best of 3D modeling and traditional animation.
I sadly missed Wreck-It Ralph so I wasn’t able to see Paperman originally, it played before the film. I think this such a beautiful effort, I’d love to see an entire film made in this way. It truly brings that magic back to the screen. I should probably also note that I work for Disney, but I’m posting this only because I love it so much.