Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Maker--Christopher Kezelos

The Maker--Christopher Kezelos (courtesy of
I am a huge fan of creepy stop motion animation, from the benign Tim Burton to the not so benign Quay Brothers.  I'm especially fond of films that make art out of the detritus of the world--the broken junk and grimy leftovers unloved by a materialistic culture addicted to novelty.  Since I teach young filmmakers and film scholars, I try to emphasize that the director's intentions for a film are only a layer of information toward interpreting a film's meaning.  Even if the director suggests that the film is about "A strange creature [who] races against time to make the most important and beautiful creation of his life," one can read Kezelos's film in an entirely different way.  A much darker way.

The film has a Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935) air about it.  With all the brightly colored vials and secret grimoire, the mad scientist seems fast at work (and under serious time constraints) constructing his dream girl.  I'm not super-thrilled with the heteronormative nature of the creation, as our Bunny Pygmalion creates a "pink" bejeweled companion/doppelganger.  Still, if you watch Kezelos's earlier stop-motion work Zero (2010), you'll see some of these earlier ideological issues already in place.

The threadbare nature of our "hero" with the musical clefs on his head contributes not only to the film's worn aesthetic, but to a tactile experience much like The Quay Brother's Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987).  I've posted what I could find from YouTube below:

Could the film be a meta-commentary on the process and experience of being an animator and making animated films?  Certainly the film could be about "beauty"--misshapen teeth and all--and the beholder's gaze.  Small scale filmmakers (like many large-scale ones) frequently create personal films that star a version of themselves.  And the process of artistic creation can be simultaneously fruitful and fruitless.  Artists of all stripes are often driven to create, as if by necessity.  One puts their heart and soul into a work, but the process is never-ending and endlessly repeats itself.  Stop-motion animation is so elaborately detailed, so painstaking, that it is the ultimate DIY project for an artisanal filmmaker.  Perhaps that frantic race against time can seem defeating, like a treadmill one can never get off.  I bet Kezelos is hard at work on his next project, even as he just won the audience prize at The Wrap's Short Film Festival mere days ago.

The music that our Maker plays to imbue his creation with life force seems to come directly from the soul, and the piece played is truly magical.  Yet I found the film remarkably downbeat and a little bleak--just the way I like it!  To experience the film as it should be experienced, I recommend that you download the film in high-definition from  It's available for the price of a couple songs on Itunes, and well worth every penny.  You can watch a less gorgeous version here:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Play Dead"--Andres and Diego Meza-Valdes

This short film from the Meza-Valdes brothers is getting play all over the internet right now, but so what?  The film gives us a very different perspective on your standard zombie apocalypse, and raises some dreaded concerns about what might happen to our beloved "best friends."  Pets or Meat indeed.  **Vegetarians, steer clear of this one.  I even felt like becoming one after screening this short.  Still not a fan of the cats vs. dogs dichotomy that seems to permeate our culture though.

The film is very genre sensitive, with homages to 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead, among other well-known zombie epics.  There's a nod to The Graduate too, as well as some romantic comedy hijinks between Princess and Nemo.  This film is one of the shorts from Miami's Borscht festival, and you can see it and others online.  Or here!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Getting Rid of Lost Girl Baggage

Syfy's Dynamic Duo
Syfy's Lost Girl has its ups and downs, and the focus on romance always seems to detract from the more important relationships--between friends.  "Truth and Consequences" and "Lachlan's Gambit" finally got rid of all the romantic baggage that seemed to be bogging things up.  Only two more episodes left it seems.  For those of you not up to speed on this show, **Spoilers Ahead.

1. Nate and Kenzi are kaput.

For Warehouse 13 fans, the clinging presence of Nate (Aaron Ashmore) became increasingly annoying as the season evolved.  For one, Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) actually went on tour with him instead of fighting alongside Bo (Anna Silk), which made her absent from at least two shows.  On a show full of ridiculously gorgeous actors, Ashmore was just too "Jimmy Olsen."  I like him better as a gay man on Warehouse, rather than getting in the way of Kenzi and Bo's friendship.

2. Nadia and Lauren are over.

While I'm sad that this lesbian couple's storyline had to end so tragically, Lauren mooning over Nadia in a coma was quickly replaced by Nadia dragging Lauren down post-resurrection. Their relationship seemed more about obligation than excitation as the season went on.  The psycho shower scene moment was tres cliche, but I'm never immune to Zoie Palmer soaking wet.  Nadia's death was all over the place as well (seems she was possessed by the Guruda and just wanted to kill everybody while simultaneously spying on them).  Silly, silly, silly plotline.  Lauren's better off (like Kenzi) not having to continually lie to her human partner, and take her rightful place in this fae/human Scooby Gang.

3. Dyson and Ciara are history.

I don't know how they cast this show, but everyone seems to need brief periods of "vacation," so Dyson left for a bit to get in touch with his inner wolf or whatever.  Love seeing Kris Holden-Reid with his shirt off, but when he opens his mouth this season,  Dyson's so whiny--not sexy and brooding.  So I wasn't sad to see him go.  And then he came back.  Ciara (Lina Roessler) on the other hand--can we keep her?  She was always too cool as fairies go, but her and Dyson....kind of milquetoast until "Lachlan's Gambit."  Her knife play during "we-might-die-tomorrow" sex was extremely hot.  That and her "knife-in-the-eye" fight move made me cheer for her return.  Then she had to die.  What??  Stupidly too.  Now Dyson has even more to whine about.  Sigh.

4.  Lachlan is dead.

Lachlan's loss is a bummer.  Not only was Vincent Walsh pretty smoking, but he was morally ambiguous enough to be intriguing.  I'm glad that they never made him hook up with Bo, or have some distracting love/sex relationship.  He sacrifices his head (literally) for the good of the fae, joining four fellow fallen nagas.  Will Hale (K.C. Collins) now be the new Ash next season?  That would move him out of the Dyson sidekick role for good.

5.  Friendship trumps romance.

The sweetest moments this season have been when the characters set aside their romantic yearnings and had each other's backs.  Kenzi pretended to be Hale's date in "The Girl Who Fae'd with Fire" despite Nate's rampaging (and misplaced) jealousy.  Other than Bo, Hale is closest to Kenzi, and he knows that when he leaves her behind during Dyson's fight, she's not only "too cute," but too savvy, to die.  Putting aside any feelings Bo might have for Lauren, when Lauren asks to sleep with her, she tells Bo it's to displace her grief over Nadia, and just wants to be held; Bo sensitively obliges, telling her that "they're in this together."  The show may have a great deal of sizzle, but its foundations are built on trust and respect between friends.

I scoured the web looking for the image that sums up the series for me--no such luck.  At the end of "Truth and Consequences," Bo arrives home, calling Kenzi's name, and finds her quietly cuddled on her bed.  Even after Trick informs Kenzi that she's a dangerous distraction for Bo, and Bo tells Kenzi to run somewhere safe, Kenzi insists that where she belongs is by Bo's side, sisters forever.  Bo is smart enough to see how much she needs her friend, and tells her so.  Their embrace at the end of "Truth and Consequences" made me teary-eyed and delighted at the same time.  Here's to my favorite BFF's on television.