The masterful short films of Neill Blomkamp and Oats Studios!

Okay so it is Sunday 30 July 2017, and it has been a minute since I posted.

One of the things that has been occupying me (besides today’s POWER and ELEMENTARY marathons):

OATS STUDIOS

I do not like You Tube if I have to go to its web page, for the simple fact I hate its un-moderated comments and ignored idiocy and stupidity. But the YouTube channel on Amazon Fire or Roku is something else. I find it actually useful, and nice to view on my big screen TV. And no un-moderated comments to deal with.

The main thing I go to YouTube for is short films, followed closely by movie trailers.

But for short films YouTube’s Roku or Fire Channel, is a great boon. Giving a stage and platform for filmmakers who would otherwise go undiscovered to develop an audience and a name, through short films that wow you and stay with you far more viscerally than most feature length films can.

That brings us to OATS STUDIOS, a production company created by Neill Blomkamp of DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM fame.

I am not a fan of the feature films of Neill Blomkamp, they have wonderful core ideas, but tend to get lost under poor Hollywood casting or unnecessary backstory. However in the short film is where Blomkamp’s OATS STUDIOS shine.

Sporting cutting edge world class visual effects, great actors and performances, and big screen direction the films of OATS STUDIOS are, 30 minute or less, masterpieces of creativity and speculative fiction, of science fiction mixed with war, mixed with horror, mixed with a cautionary mirror tainted with pressing concerns, both moral and material.

 

FIREBASE

RAKKA

ZYGOTE

Those Oat Studio short films form a loose trilogy, united by a common theme of mankind pushed to the brink by powers unearthly. And the films are also united by being superlative and imaginative, and gems of 21st century short films.

FIREBASE (which I have also titled DREAMS OF THE RIVER GOD), the 2nd film released, is a little over 26 minutes, and set in Vietnam War era Vietnam… combines so many mind-blowing concepts, and creates one of the screens memorable creations, in the character of… The River God. I can see this spawning a lot of spin-off short films, set in this universe.

RAKKA, the first film released, moves several decades ahead to a world on the brink of extermination by a threat otherworldly.

and ZYGOTE, the last film released as of this writing, further still in the future, sports one of the most imaginative and horrific monsters since Carpenter’s THING. I like RAKKA but I love FIREBASE and ZYGOTE.

All this to say if you are looking for something to watch, then make it to the Oats Studios site and find the aforementioned films by Neill Blomkamp.

As of this writing they do not yet have a BLURAY up for these films, but I urge them to release one. Quality productions such as this deserve a quality Blu-Ray production with special features and director’s commentary, and not simply the ephemeral availability of websites and streaming.

Today’s Recommended short films!

 

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THE EXPENDABLES Movie Review or THE EFFICACY OF THE BLOOD OF HEROES

THE EXPENDABLES- When I first heard about this idea, I thought it would be a nice, fun kooky throwback to the 80s film of yore. Nothing great but just a nice teaming of some 80s icon, a nice throwaway flick.

So what did I think?

To say EXPENDABLES does not disappoint is to perhaps practice understatement to an unacceptable degree. Quite frankly it is a great movie… full stop. Sylvester Stallone, once again, proving himself to be a creative force to be reckoned with, and a damn great director.

Stallone, much as he did in 2008’s RAMBO, takes the tropes of Hollywood’s current 80s infatuation phase, to craft on to that skeleton a film that is superior to its influences. A homage indicates a film that is a calling card to something greater, THE EXPENDABLES like the aforementioned RAMBO, is not a homage. It is better than its inspirations, as Stallone ratchets the action and adrenaline up to 100, and then takes it beyond.

And more than that THE EXPENDABLES is a far less one dimensional film than those of the 80s, where the bad guys were mustache twirling villains and right and wrong were clearly delineated paths (with the exception of the Somalian Piracy issue, that the film presents in just that one dimensional way. Eschewing the larger issues that the pirates may not be the ones seizing those boats, but may instead be the companies and nations, that are launching them, and are providing the money and weapons that allow a genocidal war to continue. This vilification of easy targets, akin, but less severe than DISTRICT 9’s Nigerian Bashing).

The Generalisimo is presented, thankfully, more adeptly. While a despot, he is one placed there by forces in the form of the always impressive Eric Roberts.

And to speak on Eric Roberts for a second: I’m glad to see in films like this and THE DARK KNIGHT that he is finally getting the due he didn’t in his youth. Eric Roberts long being one of the best actors Hollywood was ignoring.

And Stallone manages to grant all these stalwarts their moments. Peppering his 80s icons with relative new guys and real life tough guys Terry Crews (Retired NFL Football Player, and has appeared in several films including GET SMART and DELIVER US FROM EVA. He brings a distinct, calming and very affable energy to the mix), Randy Couture (Wrestler and retired MMA Champion. Has starred in REDBELT and SCORPION KING among others. Like all truly dangerous guys he brings an easy, laid back presence to the screen), Steve Austin (A former champion WWF Wrestler, and has starred in NASH BRIDGES and THE LONGEST YARD. Known as Stone Cold from wrestling, he brings that intimidating presence to the EXPENDABLES with impressive results).

And not to be outdone by the new guys Stallone, Statham, Li and Rourke (who delivers the film’s central theme of sacrifice in quite a moving scene) do the heavy lifting in terms of story beats.

Giselle Itie, the stunning 28 year old Mexican actress, makes her big screen debut as the worthy reason for the Expendables to expend themselves. She captivates and I see big things ahead for her.

And Charisma Carpenter stars as Statham’s love interest, I didn’t even equate her with BUFFY until checking IMDB in prep for this review. Always attractive, there is something new in her face. Something that is not quite unlike suffering, and not quite unlike grace. She’s one of those rare people whose face only grows more… compelling with time. She is on-screen just briefly, but manages to truly burn herself into those scenes.

And returning to Icon territory, Dolph Lundgren is an actor (like many Action heroes) who has fought long for respect. I’ve always felt he has earned it, being quite a fan of the much railed against first PUNISHER movie starring him and Louis Gossett Jr.

And by all accounts his Direct To Video films, which I intend to bring you an overview of, showcase his growing skills as both actor and director.

With THE EXPENDABLES he gets his first big screen showing in decades, and captivates with it. As a man who has endured and seen and been… too much.

To a certain extent the script by Stallone, in seeming throwaway one-liners addresses each man’s very public private issues, in a self effacing way that speaks of much courage to those who can listen. From Stallone’s marriage woes, to claims of substance abuse, to subtle lights shined on, not the 80s, but today.

The fact that their defacto hangout is Rourke’s tattoo parlor, has nothing to do with the 80s and everything to do with today. It speaks to the proliferation of body art in the 21st century, the need in an empty age to wear your allegiances on your skin because all other allegiances… have failed you. They are men shorn of an inner identity seeking to find in the identification of the flesh, a needle and ink that will pierce deep enough… to identify their souls.

You can get all this out of the movie (akin to how the French looked at our stylish Black and White crime films of the post war era, and saw in them existential commentaries on fatalism and the human dilemma and ultimately coined them… Film Noir), or you can see it as just a phenomenal action movie. Or if you’re like me, you can do both.

Either way, Stallone is really pushing the envelope in terms of on-screen brutality. It is not as clearly disturbing as RAMBO, which I think is a very subversive film, that works on levels of both exhilaration and castigation.

I think one thing it gives you, that you didn’t get from the films of the 80s,where everyone died pretty, is that death is a violent and violating thing, and you don’t ever want to be shot if you can avoid it.

Because flesh wounds in Stallone’s films, more often than not, take off limbs. I think it is a truth about violence that was often missing in the throwback video-game like films of the 80s. And here that violence, of the School of Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and since adopted in films as diverse as TAE GUK, RAMBO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, DISTRICT 9, is in full effect here. Death not as Pekinpah or Woo’s Blood Ballets, but death as meat grinder.

That aesthetic is in full effect here in THE EXPENDABLES, done in a manner somewhere between that aforementioned exhilaration and castigation.

I’m always a little conflicted by these action sequences, and I think that conflict, that sense of horror, is the point. However in films like DISTRICT 9 and to a certain extent here, I see that violence used less as something to horrify, something to remind you life has weight, and more as just something to entertain you.

And that’s an odd and uncomfortable line for me as I get older, this violence as entertainment. I like to hold fast to this idea, old-fashioned I agree, of violence as a last resort… to save maiden’s from dragons, and the weak from the wrong.

But if we are honest this querulous occupation/obsession with the deification of the gun and the men who wield it is ingrained into the early days of our cinema and beyond. Past the Penny-Dreadfuls of the wild-west, past the cobblestoned tales of Victorian England, past the campfire myths and warrior songs, past gunfire’s birth, past the forging of iron, or the wielding of a bow, past perhaps even fire’s spark. Always the glorification of those who live by war.

All to say that we are a caustic and tragic tribe, that at its heart believes, perhaps too fervently, in the efficacy of the blood of heroes.

And for moments fleeting Stallone’s picture touches, perhaps only haphazardly on this, dark dichotomy of our age. Warriors devoid of any clean or simple or justifiable war.

It could be laid against me that I am reading too much into a simple action flick/ DIRTY DOZEN take-off (down to even the setup of the Generalisimo’s fortress), giving Stallone too much credit as a writer (the original story/script being product of Dave Callaham) but I think not. Stallone has proven himself quite an adept and manipulative writer throughout his career, and a fixer of ‘untrue’ scripts, ROCKY and FIRST BLOOD sensations of their time because they exhibit a very deep understanding of what moves us, of what… galvanizes us on an almost instinctual level. I don’t think there’s a more insightful writer/director working. He understands the human heart in a way that very few people do, and he understands the oft querulous nature— of hero. And I see his later films as a questioning of what becomes the hero, in an age where we have all (nations, and nation-states)… to some extent… embraced villainy.

But my concerns about the depiction of violence to the side, THE EXPENDABLES is a film that beneath the wall to wall action, manages to let each character shine, never an easy thing to do with a large cast, and more imbues the characters and the film, with real heart. It is an inarguably well made film, that hits all the notes, and I believe, even all the conflict it hopes for. A great film that I look forward to the director’s commentary, and making-of-specials, and adding to my DVD shelf. As well as interest in the already under preparation sequel. Highly Recommended. B+/A-.


The Expendables (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

DISTRICT 9 film, SHELL GAS, NEILL BLOMKAMP, PETER JACKSON and crimes made clean by cash

I found DISTRICT 9 a well structured film, in terms of pacing, and the germ of its story. I mean there is a lot to like about DISTRICT 9. Its fast frenetic pace, strong performances, a short snappy running time, and really amazing special effects and impressive action, all grafted on to what is essentially a chase pic.

So there was a lot to like about DISTRICT 9, unfortunately the few things… not to like, I found to be significant things, and really kinda central to the heart of the film. And the heart was… corrupt.

Where DISTRICT 9 immediately fails for me is in its fairly unsubtle tone and its use of Black faces to deliver and reinforce White messages. A well worn Hollywood trope going back to the BIRTH OF A NATION.

What do I mean? DISTRICT 9 is a thinly veiled allegory to Apartheid South Africa, replacing the Kafirs with Prawns. The fact that in reality it is the aliens, the Dutch who came in and relocated the rightful occcupants into slums is kind of lost in this translation however. Instead we get Black actors (faces, as I’m sure most of them were non-actors) to in essense regurgitate lines that not too long ago the Dutch would have said about them. It is an irony not lost on me, but is without a doubt lost on the Black faces, thrust into a movie that is all about delivering white messages.

The most aggregious of which? The Nigerians. In one stroke they called them smugglers, drug and weapon dealers, sexual deviants, and cannibals. Wow. Who paid for this movie, Shell Gas?

I know a bit about Nigeria and I found that portrayal racist and maligning and calculated to reinforce stereotypes, on an almost unbelievable level. (I mean you can do a pic with Triad gangs, or Yakuza because you typically have positive asian elements in the same film, as well as tons of positive Asian films. However when a people are as underrepresented on the world stage as the Nigerians, it’s important that their only images aren’t negative images. Otherwise it becomes the engine of Stereotype. So I’m not saying “Do not use Nigerians in film”, but let’s try painting them as hereoes as well as villians, or perhaps even just as people)

It’s well known to everyone except the terminally stupid, which includes unfortunately most of America, that for six decades the Dutch-British company that is SHELL gasoline, this survivor of the mad dreams of Reichdom, has made their fortune by stealing and raping the land and resources of the native Nigerian people… the Ogoni (If you saw AVATAR you have seen a fictionalization of that Ogoni saga played out. With the exception being no one has yet come to the Ogoni’s aid). And the Nigerian email scams, are not Nigerian inventions but British/Dutch inventions (Noise to cover the real signal/emails that activists were trying to get out about the attrocities being perpetrated in Nigeria, against the native Nigerians).

So unfortunuately all the masses, who get their news from obviously bigoted sources such as FOX NEWS, know of Nigeria is little to nothing. All the masses know is the noise.

The noise and now DISTRICT 9.

A movie like Neill Blomkamp’s DISTRICT 9, that makes you care for the fictional oppresed Alien race (and want to say “no this is wrong” to what is happening on screen), does so at the expense of real people, The Nigerians, who have been and continue to be victims of staggering colonialism and oppression.

This juxtapositon with the illusion of caring, with the reality of “this filmmaker eithers doesn’t care enough to offer a non-jingoistic view of Nigerians”, ultimately drowns, what otherwise is a tight, faced-paced, stylish thriller of a movie, that I wanted very much to like.

But I see clearly that the films message of misrepresentation will ultimately only serve… to continue the crimes of mass-theft and mass-murder that continue to occur in Nigeria.

DISTRICT 9, has become a very stylish Nigerian spam email, Noise to hide the faint signal… of people who need your help.

So I view the broad license this movie takes, to paint an already deeply attacked and violated people, with such a broad brush of villany, the only way I can… with utter disgust.

Neill Blomkamp with this film proves himself an effective filmmaker, and perhaps he actually had the best of intentions for his film. But honestly I have to doubt it, the commentary against Nigerians was too pointed, and the use of Blacks/South Africans to espouse Apartheid era lines as subtle as a brick to the face. It comes across as the movie of an apologist for Apartheid at best, and a racist at worst. There’s no other way to say it.

Or perhaps Neill Blomkamp, a very young man, is as much a victim of programming as those Black actors in his film, mouthing white messages that can ultimately only harm them and theirs. Perhaps both him and his actors, raised on this cinema and culture of lies, it has become their truth, and all they can do is regurgitate it. All we can be is our father’s failings.

I’d like to believe that’s not true. I’d like to believe that we can all escape slums, both physical and mental. I would like to believe we can all escape our District 9s. Time will tell.

Recommendation: As long as you could go in and not take this picture’s definition of Nigerians as an encompassing definition, take a look. Otherwise read a bit on Shell Gas, and how your car these days runs as much on blood as oil. (For the record I boycott Shell Gas and recommend that all people do the same).

Here endeth the lesson.

Till next time… be well.

Recommended Short Film! Ricardo De Montreuil’s THE RAVEN

I’ve always been a fan of short films, but recent praise of the short films of Neill Blomkamp (DISTRICT 9) and Carl Erik Rinsch (THE GIFT) has set me back on the path of finding great new voices in film. Particularly short film.

I’ve found one of those voices in Ricardo De Montreuil’s absolutely brilliant 6 minute short THE RAVEN. Fluidly filmed by Director of Photography Alex Sanchez, THE RAVEN is a chase flick, wrapped in the trappings of a not too distant, or far-fetched dystopian future, where men are exterminated by machines (considering as you read this, somewhere unmanned planes are dropping fire from the sky, and major metropolitan municipalites are considering unmanned robotic droids to police the cities… it is a fiction uncomfortably close to tomorrow’s facts).

But above the cautionary tale, which has been and always will be at the heart of sci-fi or speculative fiction, it’s just a good, impressively and stylishly made film that can be enjoyed with your brain switched off if that’s your wont.

But I think you’ll find it an even better film, with your brain left on, and tuned up. Victor Lopez as the title character has to carry the film, and an impressive job he does. For my money I rate this film a bit higher than both the DISTRICT 9 short and THE GIFT short.

And in addition to it being a great short flick, it’s a great short flick with a character of color. And that goes a long way with me. Going back to my previous FOX rant, and extending it to all of Hollywood, I am personally sick of films with no characters of color, or characters of color as token, stooge, side-kick, or comic relief.

I as a consumer, have become very Asian these days, in that I refuse to support a movie that doesn’t have characters that represent me and mine offered in progressive, uplifting roles at the least, and preferably starring roles.

I have no problem with Matt Damon in a trilogy of Bourne movies, but I do have a problem with Denzel Washington and Carl Franklin despite their first Easy Rawlins film being a commercial and critical success getting shot down for funding to do the rest of the series. Or Jai White (with his brilliant BLACK DYNAMITE), and Danny Glover or Avery Brooks or many other filmmakers and actors, with their films relegated only to film festivals, and not picked up for distribution.

While the millionth and one WEATHERMAN or Slacker Romantic Comedy, litters theaters around me.

When a culture is denied positive, uplifting images, and is fed instead only on the media of people who dismiss them at best, deride and denigrate them at worst, you get the erosion of culture. You get an inner city of mad dogs, that absent of their own value, are absent any ability to value others. You breed mad dogs, and that is ultimately a failure for the larger society.

The foundation of the empire crumbling with miseducation, poverty, violence, crime, hatred, and ignorance, can it be long before the tip of that pyramid, the pyramid of empire, slides into the sea.

It can not.

So these days I tend to speak with my dollars, and with my attention. So when I do see a film that is both great, and not utterly Eurocentric, I ‘m happy to give it the attention it deserves.

This is a great short flick, and here’s hoping the filmmakers get the attention and funds they deserve to bring us more shorts and hopefully features.

Strongly recommended! View it here!

NOFATCLIPS is a great site because, unlike YouTube, it is monitored and comments have to be approved. This eliminates the lowest common denominator “discussions” that go on at You-Tube.

And even more importantly it allows you to view these films without needing Flash (one of the most insecure formats ever devised. More and more viruses and vulnerabilities are being spread through bobbytrapped Flash files. If you are using Flash it is not a matter of if you’re going to compromise your system, it’s a question of when). Not needing FLASH for me is a HUGE plus.

Strongly recommended site to host a strongly recommended film!


“Just like the Spanish, raping the Black and Indian women and creating Latinos!”— Immortal Technique

So how do you separate the source from the sourced? How do you separate Black from Latin? Answer? You don’t. Though people are trying hard, the same people, the same minority, who have always relied on divide and conquer to hold their always tenuous grip on the illusion of control. And the sooner the two halves of my blood educate themselves about this, move from ignorance to epiphany, the sooner this world can pass from war to peace.