One of the leading technical colleges in America is proudly going a little bit Hollywood. Three University of Advancing Technology Digital Video alumni—Killian Davies, Robert San Pedro and Patrick Kebert—used their skills learned at to create an award-winning military-themed short film, Instinct.
Only five episodes have been released for HBO's new crime drama The Night Of and already it has gained audience and critical acclaim. Based on the BBC series Criminal Justice, The Night Of chronicles the investigation and possible prosecution of a young man named Naz who wakes up after a night of drugs and passion to find his new acquaintance dead. The show follows Naz down the rabbit hole of the American criminal justice system and those associated with the case.
2016 has been a fairly decent year for cinema so far. I found it to be particularly strong in the independent cinema front or perhaps my taste is learning more towards more unseen releases. Either way I decided to put together a cliché list of my favorite films that I see throughout the year. Below is the second.
I discovered the musical and storytelling talents of Laurie Anderson back in 2010 and have been a huge fan ever since. Her avant-garde approach to composition and multimedia projects have made her an important voice in the independent art world. If your unfamiliar with her work, Anderson’s most famous and accessible piece of music can be heard here:
If this gives you any indication of her unique artistic abilities, it is no surprise than when she announced a feature length film I was extremely excited.
Heart of a Dog takes traits of Anderson’s previous works and combines them into a poetic exploration of image and emotion. The film travels down many philosophical avenues, but her beloved terrier Lolabelle is very much the heart of the film. The dog is used as a gateway to explore broader ideas about grief, death, art and the animal/human connection.
These ideas are presented through live action footage, animation, drawing and other fascinating experimental imagery. All the while Laurie narrates in her naturally soothing tone to take the viewer on a journey through her personal life in poignant and comical ways. Those who are used to Laurie’s style will find themselves falling under her storytelling spell fairy quickly, others may take some time to adjust to the sporadic nature of the film.
I was incredibly moved by this slice cinematic poetry and it quickly became one my favorites films of the year. It’s quite hard to define exactly what makes this film so affecting and think a lot of this is due to Laurie's mastery at melding together personal ideas and making them universal. Anyone who has tried to create, lost a loved one or owned an animal will surely walk away with something very touching and real.
In one particular sequence Laurie speaks about the little “squiggles things” we see in the corners of our eyes when we catch it in the right light. She relates this concept to that of a mini experimental movie that is created by the body and mind intended to capture the simple beauty of seemly inconsequential things.
Another hilarious scene finds Laurie telling the story of her live performance piece in Sydney, Australia were she used certain frequencies to perform to a crowd of howling hounds and yapping puppies. Her vocal delivery alone invites the viewer into her strange world of performance and dogs. There is something thrilling hearing an artist speak un-apologetically about her passions and art.
One of the reasons Heart of a Dog works so well is because of its intimacy. Laurie has a knack for making the film feel as though we are having a cup of tea with and old friend that seems to love discussing simple ideas with philosophical implications. When the film came to a close I felt like I had connected with Laurie on level that many filmmakers can only dream of achieving.
Heart of a Dog isn’t a film for everyone, but getting to spend 75 minutes with an inspiring figure like Laurie Anderson makes it something worth cherishing.
2016 has been a fairly decent year for cinema so far. I found it to be particularly strong in the independent cinema front or perhaps my taste is learning more towards more unseen releases. Either way I decided to put together a cliché list of my favorite films that I see throughout the year. Below is the first.
Marketed as a film about Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse, Swiss Army Man gained hype from its first few screenings at Sundance and Cannes. The men behind the flatulent magic are Daniels, directors who created the infamously bizarre music video for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s Turn Down for What.
Swiss Army Man contains some of the elements seen in their previous work (moving body parts), but also solidifies the Daniel duo as an important new voice in independent cinema. The film tells the story of a stranded man on the verge of suicide who finds a friend in the undead corpse of Daniel Radcliffe. The two embark on a journey of fart jokes, love and the challenge the idea of what it means to be human.
Swiss Army Man is so well crafted that the insanity of the plot is completely believable and unexpectedly touching. I found myself laughing more at the ridiculousness of the situational humor than I have at any comedy film in a long time. Some sequences are so strange that's it's hard to convince how somebody thought of the images on screen, however the key to the success of these scenes is that they are never boring and provide a well throughout commentary on social taboos. Daniels expertly combines these taboos with the profound to create one the most unique cinematic experiences I have ever head.
Each moment of poignancy is punctuated by something hilarious. Swiss Army Man spends most of its time throwing ideas at the wall and having almost 100% of them stick. I soaked up the film with a huge smile on my face and was sad to see the end credits. I felt as though I was leaving two good friends behind and that’s a pretty incredible emotion for a film to provoke.
Technically, Swiss Army Man is brilliant down to the minute details. The cinematography takes its time to indulge in the beauty of the forest, but also moves rapidly through each of the imaginary scenarios to put the viewer in the minds of the two characters. This is combined with extremely clever editing that makes me want to see the film a few more time to make sure I didn’t miss anything in the details.
It’s also hard to walk away from Swiss Army Man without being enchanted by the soundtrack. Dano and Radcliffe both feature prominently in each of the meta songs and add a genuine sense of intimacy. My friends and I couldn’t help but listen to the soundtrack as soon as we got in the car to drive home and I’ve had to on repeat ever since.
Swiss Army Man also delves into fascinating ideas about mental illness, social anxieties and the complexities of being human. None of these concepts are shoehorned in, each is earned with brilliant performances and intense build up. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are both heartbreaking and grounded, with Radcliffe stealing the show as the dead best friend. If it were my choice, I'd give Radcliffe an Oscar nomination for his portrayal.
Swiss Army Man is a pretty incredible debut from the Daniels. He is very much a product of the now. He uses death and humor to deal with absurdity of modern human interaction and speaks to something that is deep inside anyone who has ever felt socially awkward or out of place. It takes a real master to tackle themes this confidently and completely succeed in all facets.
If there is any movie you seek out this year, please let it be Swiss Army Man. Okay, buddy?
When I first got into filmmaking and started working on more projects, I found that people would often request to see my work. For the most part Youtube was a fine display platform, but I soon starting creating things that weren’t necessarily 100% film related and so I looked into creating my own website.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the heat, which is ironic because I have lived in two places that are known for their high temperatures. I always preferred being able to put lays on as opposed to wanting to peel my own skin off and lay on a bed of ice.
Just last week the first news was announced about a possible True Detective: Season 3… and it wasn’t great. According to most sources, HBO denied a possibility of a third season due to the mixed audience and critic response to the sprawling second season. However, creator Nic Pizzolatto later went on to confirm that True Detective: Season 3 will happen and that its actually renewed until 2018.
On March 12th, 2016 I received notification that my They Might Be Giants music video had been selected to screen at the 45th Sehsüchte International Student Film Festival in Potsdam, Germany. Not only was it a great honor to be selected for such a prestigious festival, but the management at Sehsüchte offered filmmakers $500 towards their travel costs and free accommodation.
It’s no new knowledge that the cinematic adaptions of popular video games rarely work when it comes to the big screen. In fact, I was originally going to make a list of the “best video game movies” but found that there weren’t enough decent ones to include.