Blu-Ray Review: The Creeping Garden

Directors: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp
Starring: Mark Pagnell, Heather Barnett, Bryn Dentinger
Country: UK
Running Time: 84 min
Year: 2014
BBFC Certificate: E

Although they’re both documentaries, I couldn’t have picked a more different film than The Creeping Garden to follow up Gleeson to watch and review. Where the latter was a moving, very human film made up from raw, home movie style footage, The Creeping Garden is an unusual, cerebral and stylish affair. As such it was a bit of a shock to the system, and I still haven’t quite settled my thoughts on it in my mind. I’ll give it a go here though as I write my review.

Co-directed by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp (who I’ve met a couple of times through a festival I help organise), The Creeping Garden is a documentary that explores the study of plasmodial slime mould. It sounds like an unusual and dull subject for a feature length documentary, but although I’d agree that it’s unusual, there’s more to slime moulds than you might imagine. Although they look like and were originally classified as fungi, they are in fact organisms which can move, eat and have a surprising level of intelligence for their appearance.

The film interviews and looks at the work of a number of scientists, amateur enthusiasts, musicians and artists who all deal with or take inspiration from slime moulds. As such, the film is almost about them as much as it is about slime moulds. A little like Room 237, part of the hook of the film is how unusual the work is from this incredibly niche group of people and how deeply they delve into it. The studies here are less crackpot than those of Room 237 though of course, so the filmmakers are in no way poking fun at or exploiting the strange habits of these slime mould experts. In fact Grabham and Sharp seem as interested and obsessed as they are, as the camera thrives on shots of the organisms.

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Fantasia 2015 Review: Miss Hokusai


Prolific animation house Production I.G. subtly captures the rhythms of mood of the art and publishing community in 19th century Edo, Japan. Miss Hokusai is simultaneously misleadingly quiet, and furiously idiosyncratic. Blending the magical realism sensibility of Studio Ghibli with Yasujirô Ozu-like framing (and unfortunately an occasionally distracting rock ‘n roll score), it is a film that you get so deeply lost in that it is difficult to discern beginning, middle or end. While there is a story of sorts, it is in the vein of something similar to My Neighbour Totoro or Only Yesterday insofar as any notion of a three-act-plot is rendered meaningless in the face of life and the living of it.

Famed artist Tetsuzo, a.k.a. Katsushika Hokusai, and his (eponymous) grown daughter O-Ei, live in poverty, neither cooking nor cleaning, but living and creating with Tetsuzo’s would-be students and hangers on. She often finishes the detailing on her work while simultaneously venting her rage on a drunken ex-Samurai, Zenjirô, who hangs around with a bottle and a brush. One day on a vibrant and bustling bridge she has a kind of meet-cute (involving of all things, dog poop) with a talented artist on the rise, Utagawa Kuninao, who eventually also becomes one of Hokusai’s pupils.

This den of ink and crumpled bals up paper, left-over street food, and the kindest dog outside of an Mamoru Oshii film because a place to discuss art, and technique, and the ineffable qualities that distinguish mere drawings from great and lasting art. O-Ei is discovering her voice in this setting, although is often left at the wayside as the three men, master and pupils go off to the Geisha houses and other street shenanigans.

Instead O-Ei spends time with her mother and younger sister, the latter of which is blind. It is these outings where the film eschews the verbal (which is strange to say, considering O-Ei spends much time describing the drawings to her sibling), in favour of embracing the feel of nature and sights and smells of nascent Tokyo; which is what Edo would become after the end of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Clumps of snow on a child’s clothing after a tree sheds its frozen powdery bounty; the drip drip drip of raindrops from an umbrella into the fabric of a robe during a rainy walk; a smudge of ink on the face of a beautiful, strong woman; the sound of fire-bells and luminous drift of deadly fireflies as a brigade furiously fights a blaze on a crowded street. These are many of the images that reconciles nature and human endeavour, both furiously beautiful, if only for their fragility. The urge to dangle my feet off a bridge, into cool moving water, with my own children at my side, in comfortable silence (with a hint of far-off birdsong) was palpable during these evocations. The animation has that kind of power.

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Trailer: Effie Gray


Funny how these things happen.

Before last week I’d never heard of John Ruskin and then his name came up in a conversation regarding Mike Leigh’s excellent Mr. Turner and here we are, only a few days later, with a trailer for a movie about Ruskin and his marriage to his young wife, the titular Effie Gray.

Directed by long time British TV director Richard Laxton, Effie Gray is written by the wonderful Emma Thompson who also stars in a supporting role but this is the Dakota Fanning show as the talented young actress stars as Effie opposite Greg Wise’s John Ruskin. Julie Walters, Tom Sturridge and Robbie Coltrane also star.

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Mondays Suck Less in the Third Row

Check out these links:
Michael Slovis to direct “Game of Thrones” (s5e1)
First glimpse at Horrible Bosses 2 (villains: Chris Pine/Christoph Waltz)
A few great Anime films you might’ve missed
@scottEweinberg list of horror now streaming on Netflix
Great explanation of the spacetime continuum
First footage with Phantom Flex4K (1000fps at 4k resolution)
Treasury of Fiction Concession Stand Promos (EAT!)
“Blue” continues on the wrong path?
Help Lt. Cmdr. Data get off the Enterprise (maze game)
To get rid of the PG-13 Rating or not to get rid of the PG-13 rating. That is the question.

Glorious Cinema “papers” by atipo

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Friday One Sheet: Rewind This Nostalgia

For those quite familiar with hand-drawn VHS sleeves, and many movie posters of the 1980s, this poster for Rewind This, a documentary on the impact of VHS technology, will be familiar, if somewhat misleading. At first glance I thought this film was a goofy genre film, a la The Exterminator or Terror Vision, but it’s actually a talking head piece with Atom Egoyan, Mamoru Oshii, Charles Band, Frank Henenlotter and Jason Eisener. There you go.

Trailer: Trance

Slick editing rhythms. Complicated heist gone awry. Underworld supplying the beats. This is Danny Boyle in his comfort zone, most definitely, but it also looks like he is still aiming to amp up the visual style (note the Sunshine / 127 Hours up-close camera work) and hall of mirrors pacing to make for an pretty entertaining little con-artist gambit that aims to mess with your head.

James McAvoy plays the mastermind behind bold bit of art thievery, that is until his partner, played by Vincent Cassel, turns on him but fails to acquire the artwork. McAvoy ends up with a memory wiping head injury, who goes to a hypnotist to recover the location of the art out of his head, but the therapist, played by Rosario Dawson is working for Cassel. Lots of twists and turns ensue. Fluff? Probably. Will it be good? I’m betting it will be. (Any movie that gives McAvoy a head injury is good in my book.)

Check Out Awesome G-Rated Artwork from Justin White

What if movies and TV shows that are decidedly not G-rated were rethought as cartoons? That’s exactly what this set of illustrations from artist Justin White explores, with some pretty awesome results. The range of films (and a few TV shows) included is staggering – everything from Reservoir Dogs and Drive (technically maybe not quite G-rated) to Psycho and Creature from the Black Lagoon…with time for Troll 2 and The Room along the way. And of course, the art itself is pretty great as well – I especially like the Fleischer-type look he’s given the older films.

The artwork will be on display starting tonight (November 16th) at Gallery 1988 on Melrose Ave in Los Angeles, and will be available for sale there. After the gallery opening, any unsold pieces will be posted on Gallery 1988’s site for sale. In the meantime, you can check out a few of my favorites after the jump, and a WHOLE LOT more at Justin White G-Rated.

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Hot Docs 2012: Indie Game – The Movie Review

BThere is a lot of passion, soul baring, and white-knuckle anxiety on display in Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky’s documentary on the world of independent games and their micro-sized design teams. Instead of hundreds of people working on all aspects of a top tier title, in the two case-studies delved into in Indie Game: The Movie the entire team is two people. A mere duo, responsible for doing every aspect of the game, including programming, art design, level construction and managing the business side. Eating well (or shaving) does not factor high on the priority scale. Financially these guys are operating with little safety network other than generously patient parents or girlfriends. Even if the game is actually finished in a relatively bug-free state to allow for release (challenge enough!) it still has to hit traction in the X-Box Arcade (or WiiWare or Steam), direct digital distribution platforms managed by the big boys (Microsoft, Nintendo and Valve) Failure means that two to four years (or more) just went by with no monetary compensation. As one of the designers of Super Meat Boy succinctly puts it, “No Pressure!” Combine the ever present financial pit of spikes with the designers’ passion for making their games fresh, personal and ultimately a form of artistic expression and communication with the eventual gamer and the stakes for soul-crushing failure or triumphant success become even higher. The filmmakers impart a heightened awareness of this by crafting one of the emotionally draining dramas of the year. An eight dollar video game may be trivial in the grand scheme of things, but dig deep enough and there is a well-spring of dramatic tension and suspense. When, Phil Fish, the designer of the novel multi-dimensional platform jumper, Fez, stares into the camera and declares that if he cannot finish or release this game he will kill himself, it is easy to suspend disbelief to the hyperbole, because the dude is indeed on the edge. These guys are committed to their craft as much as the filmmakers are to documenting it.

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Hot Docs 2012: Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry Review

A common phrase on the internet, particularly in social media circles is “Pictures, or it didn’t happen.” This certainly treads close enough to the general ethos of documentary film-making to make Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry about the most appropriate film to kick off a documentary film festival in some time. Maybe of all time. And It certainly does not hurt that the film is quite excellent.

Artist cum political activist Ai Wei Wei has been giving the middle figure (both figuratively and literally) to the Chinese government for many years, and is considered by many to be the most blunt (and maybe the most effective) artist/intellectual ‘actively working’ – a euphemism for not incarcerated by the state – in modern China. His high international reputation is perhaps acting as a shield. Ai Wei Wei played a large role in the design of the 2008 Olympic Beijing National Stadium (“The Birds Nest”) before actively coming out against the Olympics in China on the grounds of hypocrisy of the government for forcibly evicting the poor out of the area to put on a face for the rest of the world during the games. Wei Wei looks like a big cuddly teddy bear, and carries himself in a humble, slightly aloof yet completely engaging, fashion that can hyper-shift to emboldened critic if the subject of the transparency of the Government of the People’s Republic of China is raised. And it is always raised, here. He is never without a concise sound-bite (“There is no sport more graceful than throwing stones at authority.”) and his political art is both interesting and easily accessible.

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DVD Review: This Our Still Life

Director: Andrew Kötting
Starring: Andrew Kötting, Eden Kötting
Producer: Andrew Kötting
Country: UK
Running Time: 57 min
Year: 2011
BBFC Certificate: U

I‘m going to get it out there straight away, I really didn’t like This Our Still Life. However, I’m going to go easy on it. This is mainly because this isn’t really a ‘film’ as such and not even a documentary as it’s labelled on IMDB. It’s more of an art-piece, so giving it a star-rating seems wrong and I can appreciate that those more inclined to experimental lo-fi work might get more from it. OK, so all films can be classed as art in some way or another – even churned out blockbusters have been crafted with some level of artistry. Something like this though has a whole different approach to the medium and doesn’t feel like the same experience even watching quite surreal films such as David Lynch’s gives, let alone your run of the mill Hollywood output. So instead I’m going to express my problems with This Our Still Life, but try not to just label it as ‘crap’.

I actually thought the central idea of the film was great and that’s mainly why I didn’t like it, as it didn’t really make the most of it in my mind. The film consists of the director (and camera op, editor, producer etc.) Andrew Kötting filming excerpts of his life in the Pyrenese with his wife Leila and his 23 year old daughter Eden, who was born with a rare neurological disease. We observe their life over a year, living very basically, seemingly miles from any sort of ‘civilisation’ as we’d know it.

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Friday One Sheet: Ghana take on Tom Cruise = Pudgy

It is fun to see how big Hollywood blockbusters are marketed around the world, and this series of hand-drawn posters from Ghana, are not sanctioned by the big American Corporations running the movie business, yet are insightful in how the particular artists sees the product. I am not even sure if that scene is in the Brian DePalma Mission Impossible; it looks a lot more like a scene from the John Woo sequel. The MI:2 poster has Tom Cruise looking like Corey Feldman. Click for lots more of these.