Friday, August 27, 2010

Unseen Stand-Up Comedy

So in the week leading up to Independence Day this year, I did a half-dozen write-ups of DVD's by stand-up comedians, all of whom are from either the United Kingdom or Australia (irony, folks...). Since I'm not sure if I'm gonna get to an actual blog entry here soon (lotsa editing to be done for Unseen Films, plus I need to write a couple more pieces of my own up for that as well), I present the next installment in my previous writings for Unseen Films; my write-up of Monster, a 2004 show by the hilarious and brilliant Dylan Moran.

At the beginning of Dylan Moran's Monster DVD, there is footage of an "interview" being shot in his dressing room. Before the "interview" starts, he asks, off camera, "Why do people buy DVD's? Don't they have lives?" Well, yes, but we prefer they be enriched by the witty social commentary of someone such as...well, Dylan Moran.

Moran comes across as a regular guy at a party that is holding court. Since he's holding a microphone in one hand, he has to alternate between holding his glass of wine or a cigarette in the other, but he'd be holding both at the same time at the party sans microphone. One of his better lines in the early part of the program is "Your potential is like your bank's always a lot less than you think it is." But much of his material doesn't come across as...material. His delivery is so seemingly random and natural that it feels like he's just talking to you at that party, making all of this stuff up as the conversation goes along.

He spends the first half of the show tackling the subjects of drinking, children, and the generational gap. He makes keen observations on each, and peppers them with oftentimes bizarre analogies that come so out of left field that he does seem to have just said the first thing he thought of at that moment. It is probably scripted, but again, his delivery and demeanor are so relaxed that it comes across as completely natural, and it makes you really want to hear what he has to say next. It doesn't hurt that the Irishman is just a few months younger than I, so I can completely relate to many of his cultural and psychological references.

The topics attacked after the interval include politics and religion, and don't ask how, but he somehow logically gets to a wonderful portrayal of a French couple shouting at each other in their house in between the aforementioned subjects. It's probably the only moment in the show where he maintains a character for more than just a moment, and it's a bit of a shame, because he does it very well. But as funny as everything has been up until now, it isn't until the topic of conversation turns to men and women that Moran really hits full stride. While the comments on life have been astute up until now, they border on genius in this section...particularly his claim that men are more romantic creatures than women.

The nearly 90 minute show, filmed in Dublin, is well worth getting the DVD for, despite what Moran says about people who do.

Blog Post Soundtrack; The Roots, Public Enemy, Pearl Jam (live), The Beatles, The White Stripes, and whatever I would have been listening to when I originally wrote the piece for Unseen, which obviously would have included Monster by Dylan Moran...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mental Projector

It's been a while, but I finally changed the picture at the top of this blog to another of my many travel shots. This one I haven't even posted on Panoramio (yet...), but I realized it would work well for the look of the blog. It was taken back in January of 2009 on my Southern Utah/Northern Arizona driving vacation that encompassed me seeing things like the magnificent Horseshoe Bend, a 180 degree turn of the Colorado River near Page, Arizona. The river has cut thru the earth at such an angle that as it makes it's turn at this point, it resembles a horseshoe (when viewed from above). It has also eroded the earth to a point that the surrounding cliffs are roughly 1,000 feet high, making for quite a spectacular view when you are standing there in person. As with many things in life, while there are nice pictures of it, no mere photograph can truly do it justice. I felt a true sense of awe standing there gazing over the chasm...every once in a while you are slapped in the face with your true insignificance, yet at the same time you are left marvelling at the beauty that surrounds you.

The picture at the top of the blog, however, was taken near the southern entrance of Zion National Park, just a little bit north of the "sleepy little resort town" (one is required to describe places of this nature with that phrase) of Springdale, Utah. Traversing along a winding path called Floor Of The Valley Road, you are surrounded by beautiful outcroppings of rock, and when the sun hits them just right, they look even more amazing. I purposely did this trip in January, because I figured it would look even more beautiful with a decent amount of snow around. It was also nice to quite often be pretty much the only person around for miles. Having grown up in New York, I'm not afraid of a little inclement weather, but as you can see, really all Mother Nature did was enhance some of it's beauty.

Bryce Canyon National Park was another portion of this journey, and again, there were plenty of moments when I put the camera down and just stood there soaking in the imagery with nothing but my eyes, and my soul. It's possible to get lost behind a lens and just click away and not entirely enjoy the experience of being where you are; I try not to let that happen. And with places like this, you really can't. The pictures are nice, but every time I look at them, they mainly serve as a spark for the mental photographs I have which are far more breathtaking. A truly stunning place, which will definitely be visited again before I'm finished on this plane of existence.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park was the other main destination on this extensive driving trip. Located in the northeast corner of Artizona, you actually enter the park from the southern portion of Utah. If you've ever seen a Western film directed by John Ford, you've seen part of Monument Valley. And the picture to the left is the typical image of the area, but there is so much more to it than that...not that it isn't stunning in it's own right. Another truly jaw-dropping experience, seeing these incredible rock formations reminds you of just how small your place in the universe really is. There is a 17 mile dirt road that loops thru the area, and you can't drive too fast on it...but why would you want to? These destinations are in the middle of nowhere, and it takes lots of driving time to get there, so since all this time has already been invested, you make damn sure to leisurely meander around, absorbing the natural beauty that encompasses your field of vision. I had truly beautiful weather the day I was there, and got some amazing pictures, but still the best ones play on the projector in my head...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Alice In Chains, Louis Prima, Pink Floyd (live), Joy Division, Medeski Martin & Wood, International Noise Conspiracy, Motorhead, Bjork (live), Louis Jordan, Fear Factory, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam (live), Samhain, Chemical Brothers, Primus, Misfits (live), Mr. Bungle, Rolling Stones, Dead Milkmen (live)...(and yes, I see the irony in that), Tomoyasu Hotei

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Of My Unseen Films Writing, & Twitter Stuff

So as I sit here about to embark on some more editing of upcoming posts on Unseen Films, I figure I'll post here another of my contributions to that site, which appeared there in late April, 2010. It concerns a short film collection by a favorite artist of mine, Dave McKean, who I'm really hoping to meet someday. I just found out earlier today that a Twitter friend who lives in the same county of England as McKean will be attending a symposium in which he will "explain his working practices and processes", which I really hope is being filmed for a DVD or iTunes U release.

And on a nearly unrelated note, I found out today that Trace Beaulieu, original member of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and now co-conspirator in Cinematic Titanic (both of which will be featured in upcoming posts on Unseen Films), is now following my Tweets on Twitter! That came as quite a shock, but definitely an honor, as his work on both of those projects, along with his cohorts on each, has had me laughing for 20 years now. Really was quite thrilled to see that e-mail saying he was following me, very cool!

Anyway, enough rambling, here is my write-up of Dave McKean's Keanoshow;

The opening of the 15 minute short film “Kodak: Take Pictures Further“ contains the following lines written across the screen; “My head hurts. I’ve got too many images in my brain. Quick, somebody get me some more film before my head explodes.” Welcome to the world of Dave McKean.

The visual work of McKean, particularly his motion picture work, requires that you pay attention at all times. Being a visual artist first, his films are filled with bizarre imagery that may or may not be representative of anything, but are still a treat to look at. For those unfamiliar, McKean was the cover artist on the entire run of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comic book series, and also was the director, designer, and co-storywriter of the film “MirrorMask” (Gaiman was the other storyteller). One of the things that is consistent about McKean’s work is that you can never be quite certain of just exactly what it is you’re looking at. Even if you think you do know what you’re seeing, quite often it will metamorphose into something else in a graceful and oftentimes surprising way. He also tends to combine images in a way that juxtaposes them wonderfully. He will alternate between a fixed camera position, with interesting images literally unfolding before the eyes, to giant sweeping arcs in and around computer creations seemingly floating in the ether. McKean never fails to visually dazzle the viewer. Some of the short films on “Keanoshow” don’t even center around a narrative per se, as much as they are just about stunning visuals.

As far as narratives, my personal favorite film on the disc is “The Week Before“, about the seven days leading up to the week in which God created the world. Featuring the music of Django Reinhardt (which is apparently the reason for the unavailability of “Keanoshow” in the US), we follow God (portrayed by Dean Harris wearing one of McKean’s trademark masks) as he works his way thru seemingly ordinary days of naming objects, fishing, and playing cards with his neighbor (who, since the world hasn’t been created yet, is The Devil, played by Eamonn Collinge in another of McKean‘s beautiful masks). It’s a lighthearted look into a life, made rather dazzling by the combination of live actors wearing some of McKean’s art, existing in worlds that are part physical set and part McKean’s computer art. It always seems interesting to me to see McKean’s paintings come to life, and that is in a nutshell what “The Week Before” is, more so than any of the other shorts on “Keanoshow“. “The Week Before” is also probably closest of anything on the disc visually to “MirrorMask“, and the excellent choice of Reinhardt tracks to accompany the days of the week makes for a truly engaging 23 minute film. It was actually the music of Reinhardt that inspired McKean to write many of the scenes for the film.

“n[eon]” contains a line that is very appropriate. Although the lead character, voiced by narrator John Cale, is talking about Venice, Italy (which is where McKean wrote the short) when he utters the line, he could well be talking about McKean’s work in any medium when he says “(It) rewards those who pay attention. The more you look, the more you see.” This is perhaps the most surreal, dream-like piece on the disc, which is saying something considering it’s context. It may also be the best piece on the disc. A seemingly somber short, you find your self thinking, a lot, as the film unfolds. A man searching for where he belongs wanders Venice and sees a ghost, as he wonders about his place in the universe. Obviously, there’s much more to it than that, but the 28 minute film has to be seen, not explained.

“Whack!” is a 14 minute live-action adaptation of the Punch & Judy puppet shows; just as violent, and perhaps more disturbing, in real life. The entire film takes place inside the tent that the puppet shows would be presented from, so the overly close perspective adds a bizarre quality to the visuals, making everything, even though comedic, seem more intense (no pun intended). The actors are members of Forced Entertainment, an experimental theater group in England.

“Dawn” is a 9 minute film made in 3 days because McKean wanted to remember that making films was fun, after spending 2 years making “MirrorMask” where it had become a tremendous amount of work. It stars his daughter Yolanda and is based on “conversations with (his) worrisome daughter”, and, while not featuring the look of his artwork, is visually unique in that it was shot on video thru glass bottles to add a sort of dream-like quality.

“Displacements” seems to exist solely for the pleasure of being able to create interesting images on computer for the camera, interspersed with snippets of an interview with Michael Moorcock that are layered and looped in to become another visual element of bizarreness. McKean is fond of distorting audio, leaving in scratchy noises that sound like a German Expressionist film looks.

There are also a dozen more short films included, varying in length from 1 to 15 minutes. These include music videos for artists as diverse as guitarist Buckethead (featuring Les Claypool on bass & vocals), opera singer Izzy, and a live performance at a jazz club by Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen, which McKean later added visual effects to. The music video seems to be a perfect format for McKean; I personally would love to see him add to his repertoire in this genre. He’s done well over 150 CD covers, it seems only natural that he would progress to this medium. Of the rest of the films, an especially interesting one is “A Short Film For Adobe“, in which the company’s Photoshop program is demonstrated within the context of a photo shoot in a rather clever way. Also of note is a short adaptation of part of “Signal To Noise“, originally done as a series for Face magazine, and then collected into a graphic novel, written by Gaiman and released back in 1992. A conversation shot in a living room from a single camera angle is transferred into a visually arresting image with the collage of images coming together to form the whole. Much like a lot of McKean’s work, in any medium, it needs to be seen, as it is rather difficult to explain…however, it is all very much worth it indeed.

It is also worth noting that much of the music for many of the films on “Keanoshow” is written and performed by McKean himself. Even the basic DVD menus are done in McKean’s style, making the entire disc a treat for fans of his work. There is an interview with him in which he discusses some of the work seen on the disc, and even that is infused with some of his artistic sense. McKean is a very talented visual artist in whatever medium he chooses to work in, having a very distinctive style which is on full display in this collection of short films directed and designed by him spanning a nearly 10 year period. As mentioned earlier, the copyright issue over Reinhardt’s music currently prohibits a release in the US, but it looks to be getting a release in Europe from Darkside in the next few months (this information direct from McKean himself via his Twitter account…well worth following, as his taste in film mirrors much of what appears on this site, and he often reports on his family‘s choice of film the night before). “Keanoshow” was very briefly available on Amazon in the US in late July, 2008, which is how I got my copy, but quickly became unavailable from them when the copyright issues arose. You can find it on eBay and things like that, and for those with a taste for visual flair who are willing to try something a bit different, you shouldn’t be disappointed…as long as you pay attention.

Special thanks to Dave McKean for the info and the images, and for being a pretty cool guy, as well as a helluva artist.

Blog Post Soundtrack; much of Tomahawk's self-titled debut album...for those who don't know, this was Mike Patton's first major post-Faith No More project, excellent stuff...and of course, whatever I was listening to as I was originally writing the piece for Unseen Films, but I bet there was some Django Reinhardt in there...

Monday, August 16, 2010

What Is This Thing You Call Sleep?

So on Saturday night I went to see the band Rush on their Time Machine tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here in Las Vegas. I don't own any of their music, but I know they are very talented, and I enjoy some of their songs. I think my biggest problem with the band is Geddy Lee's voice. It just doesn't do it for me. I like a lot of their songs right up until the point when he sings, as the music is terrific. I just have a hard time with his high pitch. Fortunately they have quite an array of instrumental tracks, and they really are accomplished musicians, so I really like those pieces. Rush is the very favorite band of a friend from work, and he wanted me to go with him, his wife and daughter, so that's why I wound up being at this show.

Tickets weren't cheap, but my friend got them thru Rush's fan club, so at least we were seated close to the stage, about 25 rows up off to the right side as you faced the stage. It was nice to be able to watch Lee playing bass & synthesizer, and I was able to get a good view of Neil Peart pounding away furiously on the drums...and the giant video screens helped too...

Now the Rush show was scheduled to begin at 8PM. This being on a Saturday, I had to work that day. I started at 7AM, which is a half-hour earlier than normal, but I had put in a change-of-schedule so that I could only work 8 hours that day. I also did a no-lunch, so I was out at 3PM. The reason for all this was not so much for the Rush show, but for the fact that I would also be attending another concert that evening AFTER the Rush show.

I've been a big fan of the band Primus since around late 1991. Where Rush is a power trio of pretty much straight forward rock music, Primus is a power trio that is quite a bit different. Frontman Les Claypool has made the bass into the dominant instrument in that band, and they have a sound all their own. When people ask me to describe what Primus sounds like, the best answer I can give is, "They sound like Primus." They are incredibly unique, and nothing else sounds like them at all. The only possible similarity I could give you is that Les Claypool has a potentially off-turning vocal style as well...not that he sounds like Lee in any way, it's just that the biggest reason many people find not to like Primus is Claypool's singing. I think it's quirky in a good way, so it doesn't bother me.

Now Primus are huge fans of Rush, and with both bands touring, and both being in Las Vegas the same night, Primus decided they wanted to go see the Rush show. Consequently, they pushed the start time of their own show back to midnight. This being a Saturday, that's fine for most folks, but with me working for the Post Office, Saturday isn't a day off, so this was gonna be a LONG day.

I got home from work, showered, and a friend who I'd be meeting later at the Primus show later stopped by and dropped off my tickets for Primus. I then made the half-hour journey to my Rush friend's house, and we all headed out to eat. Leaving Pizzeria Enzo at a little after 7PM, we headed over to park near the MGM, and managed to get to our seats at just about 8PM. Part of my daily routine has me exercising for a bit in the morning, so I'd already been awake since 4AM. What with working and now having had a very filling (and good) meal, I took an Excedrin simply for the caffeine. Since I don't drink coffee or soda, a little bit of caffeine goes a long way for me...

At about 8:10PM a short film came on, and Rush hit the stage about 8:20PM. They played for about an hour, took a 15 minute or so intermission, then another short film played, then they played their 1981 album Moving Pictures in it's entirety. Following this up with a few more songs, they then left, returned for a few more encore songs, and left the stage for good...followed by another short film. It was about 11:25PM when we were able to finally start filing out of the Grand Garden Arena, having to head a short distance northeast to get to the Hard Rock Hotel, site of the venue for the Primus show.

Knowing we had a whole nother concert to get thru, we made a quick stop at the bathroom on the way out of the MGM. Once we made it to our vehicles, my friend's wife and daughter parted ways with us, as the older of the two wasn't a Primus fan, and the younger had to work at 8AM the next morning, so she wasn't going to be able to go. My friend (who didn't have to work on Saturday...bastard...) and I made the short drive to the Hard Rock, parked, traipsed thru the casino, and literally set foot inside The Joint just as Primus were about to hit the stage. We made it with all of 15 seconds to spare, and as this is a general admission, standing only venue, spent most of the first song looking for a good space to make our vantage point for the evening. We wound up about halfway back, situated just to the left of the soundboard, with a good sightline. Neither of this evening's concerts had an opening act, they were both "An Evening With..." shows, so there were no boring bands to sit thru...but it also meant a tight schedule, which actually worked out really well.

My Rush friend had never seen, or I believe even heard, Primus before, but since the tickets were VERY reasonably priced (t-shirts at the Rush show cost more than the tickets for Primus), and he used to play bass years ago, he was interested enough to want to go to this too. He came out of the evening very impressed, having really enjoyed the show, which I was very happy about. And it was a terrific show, what with Primus playing a nice healty mix from probably all of their albums. They even played a few songs I didn't know, which must have been from their more recent efforts. They were still excellent offerings, and I may have to go search them out. They only took maybe a 2 minute break a little over an hour into the set, and finally left the stage for good just before 2AM. In case you're wondering, I had taken another Excedrin on the short drive over to see Primus...

I met up with my friend who had dropped off the Primus tickets many hours earlier (we had been texting each other prior to and during the Primus show), so we got to talk for a bit while we checked out the merchandise table, and each of us wound up buying a shirt. I haven't bought a shirt at a show for years, simply because they just charge too damn much money, but since these were reasonably (enough) priced, I figured what the hell. There was a nice blue one with a couple astronauts floating in space on it, and what with 2 giant (maybe 12 feet high each) inflatable astronauts having been on stage thru the set, having moving images flashed on their helmet visors all evening, it made for a nice choice.

By the time we finished getting shirts and walking back to our respective vehicles, it was about 2:20AM. I now drove my buddy home, and by the time I finished the trek back to my house, it was 3:15AM. I was still a little wired from the evening's events, so it wasn't until 4AM, a full 24 hours after this day had started, that I got into bed. I think I made it as far as 4:01...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Deftones, Prong, White Zombie, Pearl Jam, Parannoyd, White Stripes (live), Doors (live), Refused, The Centurians, John Lee Hooker, S.O.D. (live), Eagles Of Death Metal, Clutch, Anthrax, Corrosion Of Conformity

Friday, August 13, 2010

How To Fill A Large Amount Of Space In A Small Amount Of Time

I'm still really busy, working many, many hours. I don't have a life, but with all of the money I've been making working all of this overtime, I plan on buying myself a really nice one eventually. So, in an effort to keep this blog contributed to on something approaching the semi-regular basis as proclaimed in the title, I've decided I'm going to cut-and-paste my contributions to my buddy's blog Unseen Films over to here. These are all things that I've written this calendar year, so well within the time frame of starting this blog. I wouldn't mind these pieces getting a little more exposure, and I certainly wouldn't mind helping to plug my friend's blog as well. He's insane; his blog has been going for 6 months with a MINIMUM of one entry PER DAY, giving small write-ups to films that deserve a little more attention than they are receiving. When he finds time to work and/or sleep I have no idea, what with him watching all of these movies, then writing about them as well. He's a true film devotee, really loving the medium, always willing to watch anything in the endless search for things worthwhile. Which, unfortunately, also means that he spends countless hours watching drek and garbage as part of that quest for film gold. You know those crappy movies they make fun of on Mystery Science Theater 3000? He owns many of the uncut originals...

So, that's my rather long-winded way of introducing the first of my Unseen Films contributions, posted back in April, 2010 about MirrorMask, a beautiful little film by Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman, a favorite artist and author pairing of mine. My write-up is preceded by an introduction about McKean by the Overlord Of Unseen Films, dbborroughs. The introduction also has a brief explanation about myself, as this was my first published contribution to Unseen Films.

On with the show!

This weekend Unseen Films is going to take a look at a feature film and a collection of short ones by artist and filmmaker Dave McKean. McKean is probably best known for his comic work with Neil Gaiman. However McKean doesn't limit himself to any one medium and has produced amazing work in a variety of fields. One of the fields he works in is the realm of the moving image on film and video. Today we'll be looking at the feature film he created with Neil Gaiman and the Jim Henson Company called MirrorMask. Tomorrow we'll be looking at a compilation of his short films called Keanoshow.

McKean is one of the few filmmakers working today who's use of computer generated imagery makes sense. Here is a man who has been using the medium probably since the beginning and he knows how to make images that truly look real. Most Hollywood super productions spend millions of dollars on expensive graphics and when you look at them, and I mean if you really look at them, you can see that what you are seeing isn't real. Worse if it does look real it never integrates into the live action portions of the film.
That doesn't happen with McKean.

What I love about McKean's work is that he doesn't use just movie tricks. He is a filmmaker who will use anything at his disposal. If one looks at his film you'll see a variety of styles and methods used. There are puppets and image collages and masks and costumes and props and computer generated gizmos. There isn't a limit to what he will use. He is very similar to true cinema masters like Jan Svankmajer or Hans-J├╝rgen Syberberg, who use a variety of techniques to get their stories told. I'm sure that the use of a variety of techniques comes from a lack of funds but at the same time it forces the artist to be much more clever and inventive.

McKean's visuals are works of art.
To be able to truly speak about Dave McKean's work seemed a bit beyond me. Honestly I didn't feel I could do them justice, so I've asked a good friend of mine and Unseen Films contributor Ken Fries to take over control for this weekend and really explain why McKean's work is so special. He is much better suited to get at the meat of the material than I am, since he's been a fan of McKean for longer than I have.

Before we get to the review itself I want to explain why not only I asked Ken to come aboard here at Unseen Films but also why he's the perfect person to review this weekend's films. Ken is a man of many interests, chief among them are film and art. With film he's the sort of person you can make an off the cuff reference to a film to only to find you end up in a two hour conversation about a variety of related films and subjects. It's never one thing its everything all at once. Not so long ago, before a few detours, Ken wrote regularly on comics and comic art for several publications. He was responsible for some of the earliest extended and meatiest interviews with people like Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. And when I say meaty, I mean meaty. He once interviewed illustrator Charles Vess for Comics Journal but the interview was so long and detailed that the magazine sent some one else to interview him because the act of transcribing it and getting it ready for publication was going to have the issue whiz past deadline. (The still unpublished interview is one of the best and most detailed you're ever likely to see on an artist.) Ken loves to make sure he's right on every detail which is what makes reading him so much fun. He's a guy who knows what he's talking about, and knows so much that odds are that even if you know a subject you're going to learn something from him.

With that in mind I'm going to pass control of Unseen Films over to Ken for his take on the works of Dave McKean.

Watching MirrorMask is like watching someone’s dreamscape gently drift across the screen. In this case, the someone happens to be the very talented artist Dave McKean, and the dreamscape, however bizarre, has a narrative, courtesy of Neil Gaiman. McKean has the ability to take the world of his dreams and visually transform it into something tangible for the screen, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Have you ever tried describing your dreams to someone? While it may make sense to you, the look on the face of the person you’re describing it to says something to the effect of “Why are you continuing to babble on about whatever meaningless nonsense this is? Please stop…” In this case, you wish for this world to continue endlessly.

The story is co-credited to Gaiman, who also gets screenplay credit. And while Stephanie Leonidas, who wonderfully plays the young girl Helena, along with Jason Barry and Rob Brydon, receive top billing, truth be told, it’s the visual unreality designed & directed by McKean that is the real star of the film. Helena is a mid-teen whose family owns & operates a small time one-ring traveling circus, and she wishes to run away and join real life. The colorful world she unhappily inhabits is disrupted by an argument with her mother in which harsh words are exchanged, followed almost instantly by the mother collapsing, being hospitalized, and in need of surgery. We are suddenly transported to a cold antiseptic grey block of flats where Helena lives, as she feels guilt over the exchange with her mother. She visits her Mum in an equally cold antiseptic grey hospital. All color and life has been removed from the visuals to a very great effect.

As Helena goes to sleep on the night of her mother’s operation, she awakens to McKean’s dream world, the visual cacophony that brings the film back to a vivid Technicolor life. The dream world she inhabits is a metaphor for what’s going on in her life, much like someone’s actual dreams are. It’s just a treat to see it translated so beautifully to the screen. Books are used as transportation devices, not in a metaphorical but a literal sense. Schools of fish swim by in mid-air, alongside people walking around who all wear masks, and look oddly at Helena for she doesn’t have a “proper face”, as she’s not wearing a mask. Talking winged cats with human faces threaten her. The entire dream world is a manifestation of Helena’s artwork (which is the art of McKean), which she draws to amuse herself, as well as to give to her Mum when she visits her in hospital as homemade get-well cards. All of these elements are presented in a stunning visual world that is a CGI transformation of McKean’s artwork, while the masks are also McKean creations.

The rest of the story concerns Helena's quest for the film's title, as it can be used to awaken the Queen of the City Of Light, and in turn return Helena to her real world. While the quest aspect of the story isn't exactly breaking any new ground, it's the visually exciting and beautiful way in which it's presented that makes the film so interesting to watch.

The DVD is packed with extras, including an extremely interesting and informative feature-length commentary by both Gaiman & McKean, sitting in the same room at the same time, so it’s a conversation, not just a mere recitation of facts. Made on an insanely modest budget of roughly four million dollars, this is an obvious labor of love that is an absolute treat for anyone who is already a fan of McKean’s artwork. For those who aren’t familiar with his work, but like things like Labyrinth (which in part inspired this film), this will be a delight as well. If you have an appreciation for a fascinating visual world, and always wanted to know what dreams would look like if they were brought to the screen (and would also like to see a librarian made partially out of books and voiced by Stephen Fry), this will be an enjoyable film. Just see if your dreams become any more interesting after watching this film.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Sly & The Family Stone, Mother Love Bone, Cavalera Conspiracy, Parannoyd, Metallica (live), The White Stripes (live), ZZ Top, Sid Vicious (live), Foo Fighters, Infectious Grooves, Tool, MirrorMask by Dave McKean, and whatever may have been playing at the time when I was writing up the review many months ago...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What I've Been Up To


That's pretty much it. This is the first time I've had a day off other than Sunday since late June, so I spent most of Friday exercising and sleeping. Today, in addition to those two tasks, I've also done laundry, and written up a couple of things for my friend's site, Unseen Films. He's got a Be-Labored Day Week coming up in early September where films that are highly praised will be knocked down a peg or two, because they aren't REALLY as good as everyone seems to think they are, if you really look at them. I'm picking apart the original Star Wars Trilogy from the 1970's, because as much FUN as they are, they really aren't that good as far as films go.

Besides the Star Wars demolition, I also wrote up a review of the Cinematic Titanic Live version of East Meets Watts. CT is the current incarnation of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, the masters of taking bad movies and making them FAR more entertaining then they ever were before they sat there and made fun of them as they played. Here's a film that was terrible to begin with, but by having the 5 CT members sitting there on stage in front of a live audience making comments on JUST how bad the movie is, it becomes immensely entertaining, and I was laughing thru the entire 90 minutes. Having been into MST3K for about 20 years now, it's nice to see them still doing what they do best, and I might even try to make it to one of their live shows sooner or later.

Had a couple other interesting things go on recently as well, but that's just so in-depth and lengthy that I just don't feel like going into it right now...but I will eventually...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Primus, The Who, Lily Allen, Metallica