This weekend I saw this year’s Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films. I’ve seen most of the animated and live-action nominees since 2009 (though Covid may have interrupted the last couple years).
Four of the five films from this year are available online for free on either YouTube or Vimeo. I’ve ranked the films below from what I think is best to worst. The first two are maybe some of my favorites from all of the years I’ve seen these shorts and I would love to see either win. My third and fourth picks are more typical of what one would see for nominations.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse won the BAFTA over the weekend. If it wins the Oscar, I’ll lose my faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful looking and well executed, it has Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne providing voices, and Woody Harrelson and JJ Abrams produced it. It’s written like a first-year philosophy student in a bad creative writing class. Maybe it works better in the original book, but it doesn’t here.
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It
My Year of Dicks (it’s not for the kiddos)
The Flying Sailor
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (trailer only)
Last night I was lucky enough to catch a screening of a 16mm print of the 1963 version of The Haunting. It had long been on my list of my films to see. It’s one of three adaptations based on Shirley Jackson’s original novel, The Haunting of Hill House.
Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity.
The story was adapted again in 1999, albeit loosely.
Mike Flanagan also adapted the story, though changed the characters to a family with some aspects of the original characters.
In my last post, I talked about watching Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Opera, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Inferno, and Deep Red. In addition to those films, I’ve since watched Tenebrae, Cat o’ Nine Tails, The Stendhal Syndrome, Phenomena,Dark Glasses, and even both Demons films! Because they aren’t streaming, I’ve also ordered Four Flies on Gray Velvet and a couple lesser-known of his films.
I’ll spare breaking down the films one by one, but I do have some observations. The most interesting part of this process has been watching someone direct films starting in the early ’70s all the way to this year. Other than Sam Raimi, Spielberg, and Scorsese, there are very few people who have directed across that many decades (Argento’s been writing films since the ’60s).
I want to be kind here – I will say the films have lessened over the years. I won’t even say in they’ve lessened in quality; Dark Glasses looks great and it’s interesting to have Italians speaking Italian. There’s something about a lot of his films in any decade that make me think “it’s so close, but not quite there.”
Demons and Demons 2 were co-written with others, including director Lamberto Brava. There’s something fun about these films; including the ’80s rock and pop music and cast members playing different roles across the two films.
While I’ve been at it, I’ve watched a few films by Lucio Fulci (Zombie, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond). My free trials of Shudder and Mubi, where I’ve watched most of these films, have been worth every penny!
In all of my horror film watching over the last several years, one filmmaker stands out over all of the others – Dario Argento. While I have my quibbles with some of his techniques, the visuals alone are astonishing. So far, I’ve watched Suspiria, Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Inferno, and Opera. Other than Inferno, the films listed above tend to be his most highly praised.
For the uninitiated, many of his films fall under the Italian horror/thriller subgenre or Giallo. Giallo, Italian for yellow, takes its name from the typical color of the country’s pulp novel book covers. The genre will usually include a black-gloved killer. While Suspiria doesn’t technically fall under this thematically, it’s often included in lists of Giallo films. There’s a clear throughline from Hitchcock to Argento and, despite his claims otherwise, a similarity to the films of Brian De Palma.
For Argento, there are other calling cards to his films beyond the visuals and Giallo tenets; the protagonist is usually someone creative (a writer, singer, dancer, etc.), a score by Italian prog rock band Goblin, violent and unexpected murders, and a twist ending.
About those visuals – Suspiria and Inferno share a sense of color and set design. While the latter is the weaker of the two as a film, it looks as good as the other. Even if saturated colors aren’t present (as is the case with 1987’s Opera), innovative camera moves and set design will be.
For all this praise, there are negatives. The films are typically dubbed (even with English-speaking actors speaking English dialog), as was the fashion in both these films and Spaghetti Westerns. The films can also be a bit repetitive – for example, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red have very similar endings. That said, the films are creative enough that it’s not a huge problem and it feels like he’s trying to improve each time. Let’s talk about music. Throughout most of these films, the music is great and fits well. But when there’s a horror moment, you’ll know it because the music by Goblin (or their keyboardist, Claudio Simonetti) will tell you how. This criticism may be a bit thin, but like Hitchcock and De Palma, women in his films are used, shall we say, interestingly. Even if the film contains a female lead (Suspiria, Opera), they are often damsels in distress or objects of desire.
I’d also recommend the Luca Guadagnino Suspiria remake. While they share many of the same themes and plot points (and even a cast member or two), they differ signifigantly.
Continuing a tradition I started in 2020, I’ve been binging horror movies for the spooky season. As time passes, I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten weirder. I’ll likely keep watching this month and will post here (and Letterboxd) once I’ve watched more!
It looks like this blog is now dedicated to British YouTubers.
I can’t decide if this guy digging a tunnel between his house, garage, and shed is really cool or really dumb. I mean, it’s only taken four years of hand digging! When your other achievements include things like making working Wolverine claws and lots of flamethrowers, I guess this was the logical next step.
Maybe you’ve seen Tom Scott’s channel, but I wanted to share it in case you hadn’t (he does have over 5 million subscribers). These three recent videos are good examples – short video essays, typically about amazing places, science, technology, etc.
Happy Pride Month! Several years ago, I made an observation… my home state of Maine has produced a fairly high number of books by, about, or connected to Trans people. I thought I’d gather those I know about here.
Jennifer Finney Boylan Jennifer is a former professor at Colby College here in Waterville, Maine. She’s best known for her book She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, which documented her transition. I’ve also attended a few readings of the book and was able to meet her on at least one of those occasions.
Nicole Maines Nicole first came to the public’s attention by fighting discriminatory practices at her school outside of Bangor, Maine. The incidents resulted in a several legal cases as well as her family relocating to Portland, Maine. She went onto star as Dreamer in the TV series Supergirl and the independent vampire movie Bit. I met her in passing at a past Portland Pride event.
Imogen Binnie I can’t recommend this book, and its very stream-of-conscience writing, enough. It’s clearly semi-autobiographical – the lead character is Trans and works in a bookshop (much like the author). Though I’d seen her band, Correspondences, a few times, I met her briefly when she was working a local bookshop.
From the Amazon page for the recently republished version of the book:
`One of Vogue‘s Best Books of 2022 So Far
Buzzfeed‘s Summer Books You Won’t Be Able To Put Down
Book Riot‘s Best Summer Reads for 2022
Dazed‘s Queer Books to Read in 2022
Janet Mock Janet isn’t from Maine, but the state gets a shout early on in the book. Her boyfriend at the time grew up in Cumberland, Maine.