12.30.2012

favorite films of 2012


FAVORITE FILMS
1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
2. This Must Be the Place
3. Rust and Bone
4. Magic Mike
5. Silver Linings Playbook
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild
7. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Perks of Being a Wallflower
9. The Master
10. (tie) The Avengers & Jack Reacher

Also: Your Brother, Remember? & any scene with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

For me, all other films of 2012 were towered over by Nuri Bilge Ceylan's epic masterpiece Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Immensely haunting and achingly beautiful, this could very well be the best film of this young decade.

FAVORITE FILM SCREENING
Porco Rosso. The Lagoon Cinema's Studio Ghibli retrospective was my favorite film series in the local area this year, and the highlight was Hayao Miyazaki's underrated Casablanca-with-a-pig classic.

FAVORITE VIDEO ART
Minouk Lim at the Walker Art Center. In particular, the Korean video artist's three-channel video installation S.O.S. - Adoptive Dissensus.

FAVORITE TRAILER
Man of Steel teaser (w/ Kevin Costner voice-over).

FAVORITE SHORT FILM
Paperman.

FAVORITE VIDEO RELEASE
GodzillaThe greatest film ever made finally gets the well-deserved Criterion treatment, complete with fascinating commentary by David Kalat.

FAVORITE TELEVISION
1. Sherlock - "Scandal in Belgravia"
2. Louie - "Late Show" & "New Year's Eve"
3. New Girl
4. An Idiot Abroad season 2
5. Gravity Falls

12.29.2012

favorite music videos of 2012

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - "I See a Darkness"


Cloud Nothings - "No Future/No Past"


High Highs - "Once Around the House"


Lana Del Rey - "Ride"


Major Lazer - "Get Free"


Psy - "Gungnam Style"


Sebastian Schuller - "Nightlife"


Symmetry - "Over the Edge"


I no longer follow music videos nearly as close as I did during Switchblade Comb, so I failed at finding ten that I thoroughly enjoyed this year. So instead, here are eight, in alphabetical order.

1/4/13 UPDATE: I found two more for an even ten. Here they are.

Complexes - "Doublemint"


Tori Y Moi - "So Many Details"

12.20.2012

joseph larsen collection



A collection of my three feature films (tonight we stay indoors, When the Sidewalk Ends, Cosmic Dissonance) along with one short film (They Found Her Body This Morning) is now on sale thanks to the folks over at the Sweden-based Film Bizarro Releasing , who have done a tremendous job on the packaging. It is currently limited to 50 copies, 10 of which are special editions that include a two-page never-filmed script excerpt from the 2008 version of tonight we stay indoors, 3 glossy photos, a slipcase cover, and a link and password to a rarely-seen film collaboration between myself and experimental filmmaker mlord.

From Film Bizarro Releasing . . .

Joseph Larsen is a very unique filmmaker, in that he really focuses on the movie and not everything around it. These movies have only had a few screenings and then he has moved on to a new project. This is very unique, and has left even his 2006 movie COSMIC DISSONANCE without a release. This is the first time they are out on DVD, and who knows when or if that happens again? These movies are very inspired by Asian movies along the lines GOOD BYE, DRAGON INN, and are slow, personal dramas that won't be everyone's cup of tea. This is no gore, this is no violence. This is personal, from-the-heart stories about people on different journeys. An example of this is the plot for TONIGHT, WE STAY INDOORS, which works as an anti-horror/slasher movie. You know the surviving girl in every slasher movie? TONIGHT, WE STAY INDOORS is about the survivor of a massacre, and how she's trying to adapt to life after the incident. What I personally love about his movies is how successfully he makes us experience the same solitude as his characters. I'm honored to be able to release his three movies and hope that people will "get them" and experience the same thing as I have watching them.

11.29.2012

José Carioca


It was just about two years ago after a screening of The Black Cauldron that I vowed to see or revisit every single Disney animated film. It has been a slow process but the time has almost approached, with only Make Mine Music left standing in the way.

Above all . . . moreso than The Sword & the Stone's delightful love of science, the Don Bluth-iness of The Rescuers, Lilo & Stitch's ability to make me tear up upon every viewing, or the unfathomable awfulness of Home on the Range . . . what struck me the most through this experience was José Carioca.

A Brazilian parrot who remains quite popular in Brazil, José first appeared in 1943's Saludos Amigos in order to improve the U.S.'s relations with South America during World War II. After re-appearing in Three Caballeros with Donald and Panchito Pistoles, he was featured again in 1945's Melody Time. His sightings since have been few and far between, making cameos in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Alice in Wonderland and taking part in Epcot's Mexican Pavillion's Gran Fiesta Tour where he's voiced by the great Rob Paulsen.

José's segment in Saludos Amigos in particular is one of the most amazingly animated pieces in Disney's history, standing proudly alongside Fantasia's deleted Clair De Lune. It is a shame that he is not utilized more in the States and that all of his shorts are thrown together with vastly inferior sections in Disney's compilation film phase of the 1940s.

11.27.2012

DIY kino

I find myself as a member of DIY Kino, a new movement in independent filmmaking. My own personal philosophies and methods matched up quite nicely with their manifesto, so it was an easy decision. Tonight, We Stay Indoors is one of the first three films under this movement's banner, and has undergone a new International Cut to be part of an official DVD release in the near future. My next feature, Brooklyn Center Travelodge **, is tentatively scheduled to also be part of the DIY Kino festivities.

THE DIY KINO MANIFESTO

The primary goal of this manifesto is to clearly define the borders of acceptability for any given production within the movement. The originators were highly inspired by Dogme 95 creators, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Unfortunately, the tenants of Dogme 95 or the "Vow of Chastity" is now too far removed from the present state of independent filmmaking to be a beneficial to the contemporary filmmaker. While the DIY KINO Filmmakers manifesto too contains a set of tenants for the filmmaker to abide by, our goal is to limit our effect on the creativity of the artist while maintaining a consistency between our films.

THE FOUR KEY BELIEFS ABOUT FILM:

ONE.
Flexibility of the medium.

Society is flexible, and filmmaking is a reflection of society. It is an impossibility to predict new variables that will change the way filmmakers create their art. A strict lifespan of 5 years is placed on this manifesto, in which time it must either be updated or fall into obscurity. Only Films completed between 2012 and 2017 may qualify.

TWO.
Deviation and Innovation.

We see the current state of film in an unhealthy state of flux. We openly reject the Hollywood standard. Emulation and imitation are expressly forbidden except in cases of parody or satire. Our belief is that the primary goal of the filmmaker is to deviate in form, content or visual aesthetic; to bring the viewer a truly original piece. Genre pieces, with the film openly categorized as only one major genre, is expressly forbidden. Genre blending, or the use of more than one film category to describe your film to an audience is acceptable.

THREE.
Accessibility.

We believe that all people have the right to create within DIY without the social limitations of the "budget." It is our aspiration that DIY KINO (in association with film) will gain a greater acceptance of a more limited budget with the artistic integrity of the film. In no circumstance can the film's cost exceed 10,000 USD.

Fundraising - Anyone contributing funds (apart from the filmmaker) must not have any creative control of the film. You may not sacrifice vision for financing (ex. no advertising within films). The filmmaker must acknowledge financiers of the film in the film's credits (unless the film contains no credits). The complete budget (excluding any distribution fees or insurance) must not exceed 10,000 USD. This assumes a minimum running time of 45 minutes.

FOUR.
Power of the Artist.

We believe that while Film is naturally a collaborative art, the filmmaker's intimate attachment to all aspects of the production is necessary to keep the "vision" of the Film consistent with the "vision" of the filmmaker. If there is a change from script to first cut in form, structure, or story, then the change should originally resonate within the filmmaker. We then believe all DIY KINO Films should maintain an artist that writes, directs, and edits his or her work.

The filmmaker must contribute to the roles of writer, director, and editor. In some circumstances, co-writer/director/editor would be acceptable. In the case that any of these roles don't exist in your film, they wouldn't need to be contributed to.

11.17.2012

bond


I imagine it must be rare to insert characterization into a role that has remained absent of it for close to fifty years. There are few film series' where this would even be possible. Godzilla maybe, or Zatoichi. And perhaps Dracula, Frankenstein, and other literary creations.

Perhaps M has a sense of personality in Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. I am not sure, as I have not read them except for You Only Live Twice, which is weird. What I do know, however, are the movies. Bernard Lee played the role from the get-go, lasting until Moonraker in 1979. While a staple of the James Bond mythos, his appearance was never a highlight. In fact, the only memory I have of old Ms was during the tenure of his replacement, Robert Brown. He only lasted four films, but the scene in License to Kill where he revokes Bond's double-0 license remains in my head.

Interesting trivia: Robert Brown previously played Admiral Hargreaves in The Spy Who Loved Me and it is widely (perhaps not too widely) thought that the character is one and the same, having been promoted after the death of the previous M.

I would say that M was never a substantial character until Judi Dench stepped into the role, but this would be untrue. She fell right along in the insubstantial route throughout all of the Pierce Brosnan entries, and even in Casino Royale.

But then something happened, and it was called Quantum of Solace. It stands as the most underappreciated Bond of them all, and was also the basis for one of the few articles I ever wrote on Switchblade Comb that actually caused a bit of commotion (the very slightest bit, but still). The idea was brought up to have M show more of a maternal role for Bond, and the result is the best Bond/M relationship in the series' wide history, even considering Skyfall.

But oh, Skyfall. Bringing Roger Deakins into the cinematography fold for the 50th anniversary was a stroke of genius and Javier Bardem is good goofy villainy (but not best goofy villainy, that would be Moonraker's Michael Lonsdale), but the highlight is finally seeing M front and center.

Halfway through Skyfall there is a particularly tremendous scene - one of the best in the series' long history - where M speaks her mind to a tribunal, and I am trilled that we as an audience are able to witness it. A character so deeply engrained in cultural mythology rarely has the opportunity to make a grand something out of nothing, but here it is in all its improbable glory.

I am excited to see what new directions the Bond series will go from here, considering the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE are back in their well-deserving hands. But moreso, I am excited that we already have the last two entries. It makes me proud to be a Bond fan. I have spent the months awaiting Skyfall by mulling over 'Best of/Worst of' lists for the series. These things sometimes seem trite though, after a while. So.

The Spy Who Loved Me is the best. Die Another Day is the worst. I will staunchly defend Quantum of Solace, License to Kill, Moonraker, and The Man with the Golden Gun. And I don't know who the best Bond is.

chocodiles


I had a Chocodile once, only once.

A chocolate-covered twinkie concocted by the Hostess Brand, these have been quite rare outside of the West Coast due to freshness issues and fragile shipping conditions. They have just become rarer still now that Hostess is closed, inwardly destroyed by a Baker's Union strike which I'm sure would make a watchable musical based in the 1920s. Baking operations have been suspended at all plants, and bakeries will stay open only for a scant few days to sell already-baked goods.

Sno balls, Twinkies, and Cup Cakes will live on. They are too entangled in consumer culture to suddenly disappear. But I fear for Chocodiles.

There is an single article on the internet that I can point to as one that stands above all the rest. It can be found on the now-defunct X-Entertainment and documents the elusive search for Chocodiles across the country. It was such an inspiration that the finding of these became a major goal next to seeing remnants of the World's Fair on a years-ago trip to Seattle. The hunt was a success, thanks to a random gas station whose name has escaped me. It became a touchtone of that trip alongside the Hurricane Cafe and a road trip to Bend, Oregon. I still even have the wrapper.

Thought to be long gone already, I can't imagine the actual demise of Chocodiles will be largely mourned. I myself have only vague fleeting memories of the taste. There is no final package to snap up at the grocery store, no opportunity for a final glimpse at this novelty treat on the verge of extinction. It must just be accepted.

This is a strange sort of melancholy.

So now I will take part in a nostalgic VHS film festival in two days time. Alongside RC Cola, there will be Cup Cakes. There will be Twinkies. There will be Sno Balls.

But there will be no Chocodiles.

There will be no Chocodiles.

10.27.2012

history

Inexplicably stumbled across this 2007 article and wasn't even googling myself. It even mentions the awful 'God' subplot cut out soon after the original cut screened at the Riverview Theater and Ruin, which 4 years later would become tonight, we stay indoors.

STUDENT JOSEPH LARSEN MAKES SECOND FEATURE FILM AT MCTC

Joseph Larsen, a second-year video student at MCTC, is not one to be discouraged by conventional wisdom on how to make films. “A feature has to be approached in a very different way than a short film,” says Santanu Chatterjee, Larsen’s Video instructor at MCTC, “and film schools generally don’t have the resources to make it possible for most students to attempt a feature.” Now in post-production (the editing and fine-tuning stages) on his second feature film, Larsen says, “I just didn’t feel that the format of a short film would work for the style of the project I had in mind.”

This project became Cosmic Dissonance, a post-apocalyptic narrative made up of long takes, no dialogue and minimal music. Working from a ten page original outline, Larsen and the cast improvised roughly half of the material used in the 75-minute film, using various Minnesota exteriors as inspiration. The finished film, which premiered at the Uptown Theatre last January, is a deceptively simple story of one young woman’s day-to-day journey through a desolate wasteland after the end of the world as we know it.

“My biggest influences on Dissonance were Tsai Ming-Liang [Goodbye Dragon Inn], Bela Tarr [Werckmeister Harmonies] and Werner Herzog [The Wild Blue Yonder, Rescue Dawn],” says Larsen. “Tsai Ming-Liang and Bela Tarr in terms of long takes and minimal dialogue, and Herzog in his use of natural landscapes and his blurring of the lines between documentary and narrative filmmaking.”

“[Dissonance] is beautiful, lyrical, poetic,” Chatterjee says. “I am amazed at Larsen’s talent. He went against my better judgment in making a feature, but I was very impressed with the finished work. No artist can truly become an artist without breaking rules and going against conventional wisdom.” Larsen says his next film, When the Sidewalk Ends, was “written on the plane ride back from Japan [where he was working on a documentary on Anime conventions], after the budget and cinematographer for my next planned project fell through.”

That project, tentatively titled Ruin, was to be a deconstruction of the slasher genre, focusing on the aftermath of the murderous rampage seen in films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, and how the survivors pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

“When the Sidewalk Ends is similar to what I was trying to do with Ruin,” says Larsen, “because it kind of deconstructs the traditional film noir/ revenge genre. It’s set in a world where God has revealed Himself to the world, said goodbye and left forever, but it focuses more on the tedium and boredom of actually planning and taking revenge, instead of cool violence like you would see in a Hollywood revenge movie.”

“The fact that I’m shooting on video rather than film is part of the inspiration, too,” Larsen added. “Shooting video lends itself to a more realistic feel, so I’m using it to take a more realistic look at Hollywood genres.”

When the Sidewalk Ends is in the final editing stages and is scheduled to be finished by the end of September. Larsen hopes to have a screening of the film in November.

10.23.2012

crown


Today is the one-month anniversary of the closing of Block E 15, downtown Minneapolis' last remaining downtown movie theater. Empty poster cases and barren marquees now mark the desolate Block E landscape that represents the urban embarrassment of Hennepin Avenue. On a recent visit to Chicago, I marveled at their stunningly respectable downtown/lakeside and wondered why my city couldn't muster that much class, but maybe that was just because of the clear view of that building from Adventures in Babysitting.

I kid, of course. All of downtown Chicago is beautifully formed, with a skyline I prefer even over the towering spectacle of Hong Kong. I am also not giving Minneapolis enough credit, as Hennepin does have the Theatre Trust and I've always been quite partial to Nicollet Ave. I am just being dramatic.

But still, Hennepin. What a geographical bastard.

I suppose Block E 15 never went out of its way to help matters. Before it became a place where you would be the sole audience member in attendance, the crowds were quite awful, adding to the experience only when viewing shlocky horror films. The theater does hold a special place in my heart, however, as the place where I saw my first movie in Minneapolis. While it took a few weeks to make my way into the Uptown area (where I would fall in love with the theater of its namesake), I immediately wandered downtown to the skyways I remembered from my youth when I visited and drew a fever of 105 for reasons unknown to this day. My time came before Kerasotes and AMC took over, when Block E was under their original owner Crown, and became my easiest accessible mainstream theater.

The first film I saw there was Michael Mann's wonderful showcase of digital cinema, Collateral. I sat in the back row. I was entranced. Unfortunately, I have few other concrete memories of the place. Watching The Brothers Bloom, the opening film of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival, for free thanks to the clout that Switchblade Comb had provided. Wanting to walk out of that Korean animated monstrosity Oseam but waiting it out angrily because I didn't want to disturb the one other person in my row whose vision I'd have to cross to exit. Noticing that it was the only theater in Minneapolis to play the original After Dark Horrorfest, but not being interested enough to actually attend. Watching a ridiculously violent movie (I forget which) while a small child ran back and forth across the aisle in front of me. Leaving the theater during a movie to take a phone call (again, I forget which, and no, the ringer wasn't on) and deciding that it wasn't worth the effort to go back in and finish watching.

It was that kind of theater, if that can indeed be a description of theater type.

The last film I attended at Block E was The Chernobyl Diaries. I contemplated seeing something else right before it closed on September 23, but decided that particular film was a fitting end. The theater was one of the last remaining rental spaces in the Block E area, mirroring the emptiness of the infamous Russian town (no it doesn't, not really). And despite moving on to St. Anthony Main and Rosedale for my mainstream movie needs, I had always made sure to view the horror genre in that good ole movie palace.

Now it is gone, blending into its surrounding nothingness, and the apathy still has yet to overwhelm the melancholy.

There has been too much death this year.

8.30.2012

ebert review


This is perhaps the most eloquent film review I've ever had the pleasure of reading . . . Roger Ebert's 2008 review of Synecdoche, New York, which he named the best film of last decade. I didn't quite know what to make of the film when I first saw it, but after a return viewing thanks to this article, I now consider it a masterpiece, albeit one that I can't watch very often thanks to its ability to deeply depress me for days afterward. It's sad, yes, but also possibly the most accurate representation on film of how life seems to work. Anyway.

I think you have to see Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" twice. I watched it the first time and knew it was a great film and that I had not mastered it. The second time because I needed to. The third time because I will want to. It will open to confused audiences and live indefinitely. A lot of people these days don't even go to a movie once. There are alternatives. It doesn't have to be the movies, but we must somehow dream. If we don't "go to the movies" in any form, our minds wither and sicken.

This is a film with the richness of great fiction. Like Suttree, the Cormac McCarthy novel I'm always mentioning, it's not that you have to return to understand it. It's that you have to return to realize how fine it really is. The surface may daunt you. The depths enfold you. The whole reveals itself, and then you may return to it like a talisman.

Wow, is that ever not a "money review." Why will people hurry along to what they expect to be trash, when they're afraid of a film they think may be good? The subject of "Synecdoche, New York" is nothing less than human life and how it works. Using a neurotic theater director from upstate New York, it encompasses every life and how it copes and fails. Think about it a little and, my god, it's about you. Whoever you are.

Here is how life is supposed to work. We come out of ourselves and unfold into the world. We try to realize our desires. We fold back into ourselves, and then we die. "Synecdoche, New York" follows a life that ages from about 40 to 80 on that scale. Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theater director, with all of the hangups and self-pity, all the grandiosity and sniffles, all the arrogance and fear, typical of his job. In other words, he could be me. He could be you. The job, the name, the race, the gender, the environment, all change. The human remains pretty much the same.

Here is how it happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.

In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree. We succumb to temptation -- but, oh, father, what else was I gonna do? I feel like hell. I repent. I'll do it again.

Hold that trajectory in mind and let it interact with age, discouragement, greater wisdom and more uncertainty. You will understand what "Synecdoche, New York" is trying to say about the life of Caden Cotard and the lives in his lives. Charlie Kaufman is one of the few truly important writers to make screenplays his medium. David Mamet is another. That is not the same as a great writer (Faulkner, Pinter, Cocteau) who writes screenplays. Kaufman is writing in the upper reaches with Bergman. Now for the first time he directs.

It is obvious that he has only one subject, the mind, and only one plot, how the mind negotiates with reality, fantasy, hallucination, desire and dreams. "Being John Malkovich." "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." "Adaptation." "Human Nature." "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." What else are they about? He is working in plain view. In one film, people go inside the head of John Malkovich. In another, a writer has a twin who does what he cannot do. In another, a game show host is, or thinks he is, an international spy. In "Human Nature," a man whose childhood was shaped by domineering parents trains white mice to sit down at a tiny table and always employ the right silverware. Is behavior learned or enforced?

"Synecdoche, New York" is not a film about the theater, although it looks like one. A theater director is an ideal character for representing the role Kaufman thinks we all play. The magnificent sets, which stack independent rooms on top of one another, are the compartments we assign to our life's enterprises. The actors are the people in roles we cast from our point of view. Some of them play doubles assigned to do what there's not world enough and time for. They have a way of acting independently, in violation of instructions. They try to control their own projections. Meanwhile, the source of all this activity grows older and tired, sick and despairing. Is this real or a dream? The world is but a stage, and we are mere actors upon it. It's all a play. The play is real.

This has not been a conventional review. There is no need to name the characters, name the actors, assign adjectives to their acting. Look at who is in this cast. You know what I think of them. This film must not have seemed strange to them. It's what they do all day, especially waiting around for the director to make up his mind.

8.28.2012

when the sidewalk ends review

A review for my second feature film, 2007's When the Sidewalk Ends. . .

This review marks my third review of a film by Joseph Larsen, an extremely interesting filmmaker who makes small, personal stories about different kind of journeys. Sort of. It's a weird way to describe it, but it's the best way I can. In "Tonight, We Stay Indoors", which is his latest flick but the first one I saw, it was the inner journey of a survivor. In "Cosmic Dissonance" (his first flick) it's a post-apocalyptic journey. In "When the Sidewalk Ends" (the second) it's about a man with a destination in mind but he begins to realize he might not get there, or maybe he just can't find the strength to take himself there. What exactly our man, Haskel, is looking for I can't tell you. There are some hints but the journey is the key here. The destination could be anything and it wouldn't change the film in almost any way.

Although "When the Sidewalk Ends" comes off as a bit more of a narrative story than the others, I think this is my least favorite of the three. It might be because of the movie, or it could possibly be that after having watched two movies similar in style before, a third was a bit too much. I love Joseph Larsen's way of telling a story, I find it very unique and inspiring to see what can be made with a little effort. But I have said this before - I would love to see another side of him, which I already knew going into it that "When the Sidewalk Ends" wouldn't offer. But then again, I could also like this one less because the journey and the character bringing us isn't as intriguing and mysterious to me. The lead character feels like a very average Joe and I couldn't find myself as interested in his story in the same way.

In the end though, I have to get back to what I have said before. Joseph Larsen makes movies in a way that almost no one does. His style is minimalistic, claustrophobic and philosophical on a very personal level. It brings us down to one person's life, at a certain period of their life, and just lets us observe. Not because it has something specific to show us, and not because it wants to tell us something, but because we're willing to be there. To make this sort of film is probably more brave than trying to make the most extreme shit out there, since this is most definitely something that only a few people will enjoy. An extreme movie can achieve notoriety even if its bad, but a movie simply about a man or woman going somewhere, with nearly no dialog? It takes a lot more to make, and a lot more to watch. Joseph Larsen's unapologetic filmmaking is to admire.

"When the Sidewalk Ends" takes you on a journey that you won't see the end of, as it takes a very realistic turn. Which means realizing that maybe the journey isn't worth taking. If you haven't watched a film by Joseph Larsen yet then I'm sure you can start anywhere in his filmography, but if you plan to watch it all then I think you should know that the films are very similar in certain styles.
(via Film Bizarro)

8.22.2012

R.I.P. Nintendo Power


Word is out today that Nintendo Power will cease publication by the end of the year.

I recall renting NES and SNES games from the local 29 Supermarket on a fairly regular basis, which must have cost my parents a small fortune. Video games were my main past time as a child, after all, and I only owned copies of Super Mario Bros, Mega Man 3, and my older brother's copy of R.B.I. Baseball. He was more into sports, which my parents did their best to fit me into, but life had other plans.

Video game design was my first conscious desire as a career, long before literature and comics led to screenplays led to film led to whatever I'm doing now. I crafted Legend of Zelda castles out of Legos and kept notebooks full of game ideas and level layouts, which I miss the most out of all past belongings I have ever separated myself from. But I had no conception of what programming entailed, and was young and easily distracted enough to never learn. Again, life had other plans.

I wonder, these days, if it was the video games I was more enthralled by or just their articles in Nintendo Power. As Topless Robot points out, the issues were more satisfying than the games themselves much of the time, and it made games otherwise destined to be lost in time legendary by tossing them a cover like Metal Storm and Vice: Project Doom, or one of the monthly posters that were always plastered on my bedroom walls.

You can easily find NES emulators online, and games rarely hold up to what I remember reading about them. I've only held on to a scant few titles, but I have a whole bin of old Nintendo Power articles that I ripped out of their issues when I had to move to Minneapolis but didn't want to carry the extra weight. I still even have my first issue - May-June 1989, which came in a gray Nintendo Power trapper-keeper from Shopko. It's cut up to hell, but I can still make out the maps of Cobra Triangle and the original Ninja Turtles and the 1988 awards declaring Zelda II as game of the year over Super Mario Bros 2.

Their articles on titles such as Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, and Earthbound - published before the games' releases - formed the basis of my own plagiarized fantasy world ideas that originally got me writing for pleasure and still float in the back of my head, waiting for the day to be polished up and finally completed in literature form (once hoped for in cinema form, before the realization of what it takes for epic fantasy films to exist).

There were a few select moments, years ago, when I realized video games were no longer for me. When the Nintendo 64 & Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time turned me off of 3D games and I subsequently cancelled my Nintendo Power subscription, or when I bought a bootleg NES system years later to rediscover my old favorites, only to realize they no longer held my attention. Reality colliding with nostalgia is always an awful experience, but I thought this particular chapter was dealt with and moved on from. I still hold onto Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Mario 2, and a handful of others, and I still even put in a yearly play-through of Final Fantasy VI. But I don't consider this an important part of my life anymore. And this, more often than not, does not make me regretful.

But I owe a great deal of my imagination to Nintendo Power, so now, today, I am sad. Perhaps I should have been a video game designer. Perhaps I should have created something to grace your pages. Perhaps those were the plans that I should have made.

My apologies.

RIP.

8.13.2012

Walker Library

I have just been notified by the Hennepin County Library Catalog that the Walker Community Library, situated on the corner of Hennepin and Lagoon, will close its doors for renovation on September 22. The inevitability of this event has been in the back of my head since the plan was announced quite some time ago, but much like the Uptown Theatre renovation across the street, it never really struck me as something that would actually happen anytime in the near future.

I'm not quite sure if I have a deep affection for the library itself. The building, put up in 1981 after replacing the original site from 1911, went virtually ignored in my world for the first few years of living in the Uptown area, as it never had the collection I was looking for. This all changed with the advent of the online catalog - or rather, my discovery of it.

I believe it started with my yearning to keep up with comic books without spending money on what usually turned out to be not worth owning. The Walker's selection at the time left something to be desired (which is no longer the case, it's decently stacked over there these days), but the ability to ship titles from libraries from across the county was a tremendous boredom-saver. This discovery transitioned into other literary works, of course, and it rekindled my love of reading that I had lost after moving away from Wisconsin and the Marathon County Public Library in particular.

Now there was a library. While it had no online borrowing network, it sufficed plenty while I was living two blocks away and working third shift which offered me nothing but time to read and free day-old donuts. I breezed through their collection so fast, I can barely remember what books I conquered (which might not be a good thing, I suppose), but I do remember my pride and joy.

The hardcover, limited-edition Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury. The collection of short stories, essentially a rough draft of October Country, was the first published book of Bradbury's in 1947 and this 2001 reprint remains one of the most beautiful books I've ever laid eyes on. I had already fallen in love with the author thanks to the library's copy of Death is a Lonely Business (first edition hardcover with the eyeballs on the cover), but this sealed the deal on him being one of my most cherished writers. I think I had a vague plan to steal it before I moved to Minneapolis, and I still kind of regret that never happening.

I knew those librarians well - well, not so much personally, but they were almost daily figures in my life at the time. And this is now how I feel about the Walker Library staff. Not a week goes by that I'm not delving deep into that underground, filling downtime at the movie theater with Scott Snyder's Batman or Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (the best works I've read all year).

I won't see them much anymore, for the time being at least, and that's kind of depressing. And now I must move on somewhere else, probably to the University of Minnesota's extensive library since I'll finally have access. As it happens, I'm returning to school this Fall to build towards Archive & Library Studies. Perhaps the Walker Library helped out on deciding that one.

8.11.2012

Minouk Lim at the Walker

Video work from Korean artist Minouk Lim has been on display at the Walker Art Center since the end of May, but I suppose now is as good of time as ever to point out how it showcases the best film I've seen all year. The wonder in question is titled S.O.S. - Adoptive Dissensus, a three-channel video projection that's actually from 2009.

The film was originally a three-act guided boat tour that focused on three groups of people that were passed by on the water, all representing the the impact of rapid urban development. A political prisoner and student protesters are in the mix, but it's the two young lovers and their bullhorn darting across a small island to keep up with the boat that is the highlight. Intermingled with cityscapes lit by spotlight, the sweet simplicity of the couple's section is touching and refreshing in a year where I've been entertained by many but moved by . . . well, one (Nuri Bilge Ceylan's towering achievement Once Upon a Time in Anatolia).

This is not to say the rest of Lim's 'Heat of Shadows' exhibit isn't also worth a watch. There are two other video works, New Town Ghost and the highly unique Weight of Hands featuring a tour bus and thermal imaging, along with sculpture work that the exhibition booklet needed to explain to me, of which it succeeded admirably. But really, it's the two lovers that should draw you out to the Walker's Burnet Gallery by the time it leaves on September 2nd.

The quality of this work should come as no surprise, as the Walker has quite a track record in bringing fantastic video work from Asia to the Twin Cities. It was there years ago that I witnessed my favorite piece of video art, Cao Fei's Whose Utopia, and just last year they featured the great works of Zhao Liang.

8.09.2012

the greatest


Months ago, after Roger Ebert posted his thoughts on the Greatest Films of All Time, I attempted to do the same. Upon completion, my mind was changed immediately. And now, Sight & Sound has produced their 2012 list of the best, with Vertigo overtaking Kane and Jeanne Dielman joyfully cracking the Top 35. This has prompted my second attempt.

And this is it.

1. Gojira
2. Fata Morgana
3. Lessons of Darkness
4. Wild Blue Yonder
5. Late Spring
6. Citizen Kane
7. Bambi
8. The Wizard of Oz
9. The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
10. Gates of Heaven

I remember attempting a list like this once before, back in film school around 2005. Man with a Movie Camera was #1, because it represented 'pure cinema.' Other entrants were Pierrot Le Fou, Stalker, Talking Head, Goodbye Dragon Inn, and End of Evangelion. Things change. It will change again, I am sure. But for now . . .

6.27.2012

cosmic dissonance review

A review of my first feature film from 2006.

This is the first film from filmmaker Joseph Larsen, who also made the interesting and previously reviewed anti-slasher "Tonight, We Stay Indoors". In similar style, "Cosmic Dissonance" isn't aiming to be part of a genre, or even to please the current generation of ADD youth. On paper "Cosmic Dissonance" is a sci-fi flick, but the only typical element of science fiction that you will find here is the lack of human life on Earth. That's what I really enjoy about his films as well - he takes a concept we've seen before, and starts it off in familiar ways but then we soon realize he is leaving us there too. We're not gonna see a bunch of action or over-acted drama.

"Cosmic Dissonance" is about a woman and the loneliness she feels in a post-apocalyptic world as she is trying to find signs of life. If you hate it then it's a film about walking, but if you like it then you'll see a lot more in it. It might not be politically charged, but it carries a large portion of human nature. It's about a woman having to accept that she is lonely. Even if she happens to find someone else, they're either dead or just not interested in teaming up. And in the end it's just one of many ways that humans can adapt. Going from a social media world where people want to live as close to each other and shopping as possible, to an almost dead world. One that will be more and more dead for each day. Or, is it just a film about walking?

Joseph Larsen manages to do a lot with his technique. It's not one that requires a lot of money or a big crew, but it does require SOMETHING to make an hour long film about a woman who walks around not saying a word that works. I'll admit that I wouldn't have been as accepting to the film had it been 90 min or 2 hours long. But an hour is the perfect length for this kind of film. I think it might also be part of the point to make this film feel longer than it is. It makes sense that we'll suffer the same feelings of loneliness that our lead is.

It's very similar to his latest film "Tonight, We Stay Indoors" in almost every aspect, and I think maybe that's both good and bad. Part of me thinks it would make a fantastic, depressing trilogy in the future (I have yet to see "When the Sidewalk Ends", so maybe that one does complete the circle). But then another part of me wonders what else he can do. He obviously knows how to play with human emotions on a subtle level. "Cosmic Dissonance" isn't for everyone. Most people out there will be bored by it, and that's fine too - I understand why. In the end I don't love the film, but it's an interesting experience and I am very interested in Joseph Larsen as a filmmaker.


(Film Bizarro)

3.20.2012

tonight, we stay indoors review

tonight, we stay indoors review from Film Bizarro...

When Daniel Schneidkraut, the director of "Seeking Wellness" and "Invincible Force" told me about this film I knew I had to get my hands on it. And it turns out that the cinematographer on "Seeking Wellness" is the director of this one, so I was even more excited! I got a note with this DVD that said I shouldn't expected something similar to Dan's films, but I beg to differ. I might not see a lot in common in terms of themes and that, but there is something brooding in Minneapolis. What "Tonight, We Stay Indoors" shares with Schneidkraut's films is the psychologically challenging undertone and the lust for doing something unique.

The real plot in this film has already passed us once we start watching it. The story is in the back story. And oddly enough, the back story is an extremely generic slasher movie, yet this movie is the furthest you can get from that. This story takes place after a textbook slasher movie massacre, where only the nice girl manages to take down the killer and is the sole survivor. This movie is a post-horror movie, it's what happens after the killer is dead and the last girl standing is trying to continue her life, without her friends. We're about a year after the incident and young Davi is struggling with her loneliness. What we're left with is one of the calmest film experiences ever.

"Tonight, We Stay Indoors" is perhaps one of the most original films I have watched this year and I can't possibily compare it to other films. To write a fair review of this one I have to step out of my safe zone of past film experiences and prejudices, and rate it simply as its own thing. I said it's one of the calmest film experiences, and it really is. Hell, for the first 2 1/2 minutes everything is black, with a slow song playing. It cuts to a blue-lit room with our lead, Davi, only visible as a silhouette, while a narrator begins telling us her story. The rest of the film consists mostly of this narrator, and of course Davi walking around looking caught in her own thoughts, with additional nature/scenery shots. It might sound dull but it's surprisingly engaging as it takes us into the story of Davi, the town and the Umbrella Killer. How it lead up to that massacre, and how the state of everything has been since.

Okay, I will bring out the critic in myself and say that there were times where the narration extended upon some things too much, and simply talked about some seemingly uninteresting things at times and at these times it became easy to lose yourself in other thoughts. But considering the narration is the main driving force for this film I think it worked out extremely well overall. It's a long film if you consider the thin content (with a very thorough execution), but overall very short with its 55 minutes. It's very unique for the entire story to be a party we're arriving too late to, leaving us only with the aftermath, and that's what "Tonight, We Stay Indoors" is. A look at the world (town and the survivor) after an incident literally taken out of any slasher film.

I am very pleased with "Tonight, We Stay Indoors" because it offered something new, something I hadn't even thought about. Yet, now all I can think is what a great idea this is, and wondering how it took so long for it to be made! It's impossible to judge this according to typical film rules because they were dumped already in the scripting stage. The execution is great, so it's just a matter of understanding what makes this work or not. I don't even know if it comes down to taste in this case. But I dug it and hope to see more creative ways of telling a story from Joseph Larsen.

Positive things:
- Definitely something different.
- No opening credits, no end credits. Bold move!
- It's just a weird experience. Almost mockumentary-ish.

Negative things:
- Because the movie is mostly driven by narration it's hard not to get thrown out of it at times.

Rating:
Gore: 0/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 3.5/5
Effects: 0/5
Comedy: 0/5