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!

 

Director Spotlight : The Films of Kasi Lemmons

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With the perhaps unnecessarily color titled BLACK NATIVITY headed to theaters this November, I thought now was the perfect time to take a pictorial gander at the films of its director Kasi Lemmons; a director who unfortunately like too many directors, particularly directors of color, does not get a chance to work enough.

Her 1997 debut film EVE’S BAYOU remains a personal and perennial favorite, being equal parts coming of age story and southern gothic tinged horror and magical realism. In the nearly 20 years since that film’s debut she has managed to make 4 feature films and one short, which is good to have at least that much work from a unique and talented director, and is also a tragedy to only have had that much work from a talented and unique director.

I do think the economics of making a theatrically viable film in Hollywood has kept her from truly exploring the promise of her first film; as I would have loved to see a dozen movies from Kasi Lemmon’s in her unique and dangerous southern gothic magic realism vibe. In the directorial genes of Kasi Lemmons, you had the promise of a director with the unique output of a David Fincher or Nicolas Winding Refn.

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However the films we do get from her, even hampered by the constraints of producing more accessible and conventional movies, still are never completely… conventional. There are stylistic choices and decisions that in places, take your breath away. Particularly she has never shied away from strong Black protagonists, and Black male protagonists as heroes, leading men, rather than comedy relief or the sexless partner.

Kasi Lemmon’s cinematic viewpoint of Black Masculinity, even when that masculinity is dangerous or flawed, is never less than riveting and dignified and hopeful, and as such is a viewpoint that is virtually forbidden/extinct in Hollywood films. I doubt BLACK NATIVITY will be likewise blessed, but I will still support the film and go see it, in the hopes a respectable opening gets Lemmons back to making films, that transcend… convention.

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Eve’s Bayou

The Caveman’s Valentine

Talk to Me

MOVIE TRAILER ROUNDUP: SUPERMAN RETURNS vs MAN OF STEEL and the bigotry of ELYSIUM?!!

MOVIE TRAILER AND UPCOMING MOVIE ROUND-UP

GHASTLYTHE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X- I gave this trailer a download. It’s a send up of 50s movies, especially of the drive-in, monster, teen angst variety. Not my beverage of choice. And it just wasn’t interesting at all. Save yourself the viewing time… avoid.

PACIFIC RIM- I keep watching this trailer, and I keep being impressed. “Today we are canceling the APOCALYPSE!!” Delivered as only Idris Elba can deliver it! This summer blockbuster hits screens in July. And I’ll definitely be in the crowd.

NOWYOUSEEMENOW YOU SEE ME- “First rule of magic, always be the smartest guy in the room.” A stellar cast, and an inventive and surprisingly original feeling trailer (no small feat for a film to seem original, given how many caper and heist films I’ve seen) makes this film one that I’m interested in seeing on the big screen when it hits on 31 May.

man_of_steelMAN OF STEEL- The latest full trailer is out and looks very good, though I have to be honest it doesn’t excite me the way the SUPERMAN RETURNS trailer of several years ago did. And I know it’s envogue these days to hate on that movie, but the young and foolish forget how well received that trailer and the movie initially was. That plane sequence alone having people cheering in the theaters. And while the pimply set in hindsight dismiss SUPERMAN RETURNS because of some pacing issues and I think some weaknesses with the casting, particularly the Lois character, it was, warts acknowledged, a good movie, with a great trailer. So far MAN OF STEEL merely has a good trailer, let’s hope that translates into a great movie. Being a fan of Zack Snyder (not so much Christopher Nolan) I’ll be in the theaters to find out.

THOR II- I’m watching the 1st trailer for this film and I’m not particularly gripped by the ‘story’ of the trailer, but I’m thinking how awesome it is that we can produce movies on this scale. Super-hero movies are possible due to CGI and advances of technology that can make a man swinging around and hitting things with a big hammer prop look awesome rather than stupid. That said,the absence of Branagh as director worries, as I couldn’t find anything close to an interesting story in the trailer. But it is just an early trailer, perhaps the movie has more depth to it than the trailer hints at. This one is a wait and see.

ELYSIUM- This scifi trailer is for a film by Neill Blomkamp ,the director of DISTRICT 9, and starring Matt Damon. That is strike 1 and strike 2. I disliked DISTRICT 9 for its pretty blatant Nigerian bashing, and am not a fan of Matt Damon. ELYSIUM is based on a great short film by Ricardo De Montreuil’s THE RAVEN, which sports a Black/Hispanic protagonist, almost a christ parable, taking the fight to the powers that be in a drone plane/terminator oppressed future, ELYSIUM seemingly takes everything edgy and original and challenging about THE RAVEN, and literally whitewashes it with a Dutch/South African director and a White savior in the form of Matt Damon. Compare the short film THE RAVEN (my review and a link to the film here) to the ELYSIUM trailer and I think it is clear which one is the far more interesting. ELYSIUM is a definite wait for DVD, if that, and is yet another glaring example of the bigotry and programmatic and exclusionary nature of Hollywood sanctioned films.

MANOFTAICHITHE MAN OF TAI CHI- Keanuu Reeves is one of those actors like Nicolas Cage who takes a huge amount of crap from Western critics for his acting style, or perhaps more precisely utilizing the same style regardless of project. Whether that assessment oh his acting ability is true or false, in Asia Keannu Reeves is HUGE, again like the aforementioned Nicolas Cage. And that Pan-Asian popularity seemingly has to do with their looks (since their acting/voices are dubbed by Asian actors). Asians being a, seemingly, very homogeneous society like supporting their own, and both Reeves and Cage are of the necessary dark hair and build and perhaps presence to be adopted by Asian audiences. So it makes perfect sense that Reeves’ directorial debut should be geared to that part of the world market that has always embraced and made profitable his films. The trailer for THE MAN OF TAI CHI is out and it sports glimpses of impressive fight choreography. Whether there is a story to go with it remains to be seen, but it definitely interest me enough to look for it on DVD

Okay that’s all for this segment. Join us next time for more!

PULP OF THE DAY! The Best Norvell Page Spider Covers!!

PULP IMAGES OF THE DAY!

This section is dedicated to great pulp covers whether classic or current.

Today we showcase a few covers of that 1930s creation, The Spider!

While I really enjoy Novell Page’s SPIDER writing (Norvell Page being the primary writer of the Spider), the covers tend to be variations on a theme.

There are more than a few Spider covers that are not the most imaginative and art-wise come off a bit as a poor man’s Shadow, which is something of the truth, the Spider being created to ride the popularity of the Shadow.

Fortunately for the series Norvell Page didn’t write an imitation, his Spider was its own animal, and his stories are arguably more excitingly written and entertaining than the Shadow novels. So any generic, uninspired covers could generally be forgiven when the stories were as bat-addled insane and gripping as Norvell Page could make them.

Though to be fair, compared to the covers that pulp writers of today use, even the most boring SPIDER cover is a masterpiece.

Here for your viewing pleasure are a few examples of the best of those SPIDER pulp covers:

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And if you like that, for more on The Spider go here:

The Spider: City of Doom (Spider (Baen Books))

The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy

When the Death-Bat Flies: The Detective Stories of Norvell Page

PODCAST OF THE DAY: SIDEBAR CAST EPISODE #177

PODCAST OF THE DAY:

SIDEBAR CAST EPISODE #177: Interview with Storyboard Artist Warren Drummond- Fantastic and fun interview he covers entertaining anecdotes and stories touching on everyone from Denzel Washington to Harrison Ford to Ron Howard to John Singleton to Bruce Lee to Kathryn Bigelow! It’s just great.

Listen to it here!

Five FAVORITE AVENGERS Posters!!

So I was at the post office flirting hard, with the fetching postal worker behind the counter. And to her credit she was throwing it back pretty capably, and we got on the subject of the AVENGERS movie. She has no interest in the AVENGERS movie or any superhero or action flick.

She was much more psyched by THINK LIKE A MAN and WOMEN THOU ART LOOSED and other relationship tinged flicks. I must admit I died inside a little to know my future wife has no interest in slam, bam action flicks, but oh well. Diversity they say makes a happy home. 🙂

On a serious note, taking a page from her book, I’m glad the AVENGERS movie is finally here, and I’m glad Joss Whedon is helming it, but I’m not really that wowed by the trailer I’ve seen, or the poster.

Of course I’m going to go see it, and I hope it’s great as everyone thinks it’s going to be, but I’ll be happy with good. Let’s put it this way, on anticipation level, not crazy about the default AVENGERS poster, this one:

The poster just bothers me, because it’s so un-artfully done, if you take my meaning. I can’t quite define what grabs me the wrong way about it, but it does. It definitely puts me off. It is so bad it actually has me worried about the movie. 🙂

If you can’t take the effort to make a decent poster it just hints at sloppiness or laziness somewhere else in the film. I’m hoping that’s incorrect and the buck stops with a lazy marketing department (which is far from an isolated thing in Hollywood, unfortunately.)

So I went searching for AVENGERS posters that did look good, and found these top 5! (Some of the best ones are fan created) Enjoy!

First the honorable mentions. The solo posters with Scarlett Johansson for obvious reasons 🙂 :

Now counting down to the best, #5:

#4

#3

#2 A great poster from Australia!

And my #1 favorite AVENGERS poster, is this simple but sumptuous use of open space and duality in this Japanese poster. I show the logo and logo free posters. It’s great!

Well I don’t know about you, but I feel better for having seen those nice looking posters! Easily pleased aren’t I? 🙂

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The Most Interesting Movies Spring 2012 April Update!

What strikes me, in looking at the upcoming movies for the rest of the Spring is there is a shocking lack of films that are not stupid mean-spirited comedies or stupid mean-spirited 'thrillers'. There is also a staggering lack of diversity, as with the exception of Samuel Jackson, and one Blair Underwood film, you can pretty much slap the label "All White" on every single film coming out this spring and be not far wrong.

Films or television shows that recall the 70s where you could have numerous characters of color in significant roles (that's key) both in front of and behind the camera are few and far between.

That said, movies with characters of Color in lead roles, not just as tokens or secondary characters, get made all the time, both domestic and foreign.

You can see them at the film festivals. Unfortunately they just don't get picked up for distribution.

Brilliant ones such as the Cuban made EL BENNY, which is one of my favorite films of the last ten years. And the fact that most of you have never even heard of it, much less seen it says volumes about everything that is wrong about America's monopolized and color conscious theatrical and DVD distribution system. "Oh this film has more than two people of color and it's not a comedy or a 'mama drama'? Nah, we're not distributing that movie."

Of course not. That would take away theater space from films such as the umpteenth AMERICAN PIE idiocy. 🙂

So if that's what I'm not looking forward to, you may ask "what, that is making it to theaters, looks interesting?"

Good question.

Answer: a few look intriguing. Not necessarily good, but perhaps because of Director or Star or in the case of KEYHOLE premise… at least interesting.

Here are the posters of ones I'll be keeping an eye out for this Spring:

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KEYHOLE- Genres: Drama Thriller Language: English, French
Synopsis: After a long absence, gangster and father Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) arrives home to a house haunted with memories, towing the body of a teenaged girl and a bound and gagged young man. His gang waits inside his house, having shot their way past police. There is friction in the ranks. Ulysses, however, is focused on one thing: journeying through the house, room by room, and reaching his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) in her bedroom upstairs. The equilibrium of the house has been disturbed and his odyssey eventually becomes an emotional tour, as the ghostly nooks and crannies of the house reveal more about the mysterious Pick family.
Haven’t seen a trailer yet, but the description/premise intrigues me. Seems a bit experimental and potentially original.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS- Written and produced by Joss Whedon, this film looks to be a genre bending flick from what little I know of it. Count me interested enough to find out for myself.

SAMARITAN- This looks like a nice little crime thriller, but the trailer gives away pretty much the entire film. But that aside I’m still interested in seeing it. I would just urge people to avoid the trailer.

If you think I missed a film worth seeing this spring, feel free to put in your two cents. But I don’t think I missed any. :).