Oberhausen Film Festival
Hood (Perfume Genius)
Winston H. Case
Homosexual porn star Arpad Miklos and Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius battle preconceptions of stereotypical homosexual body images. It’s more about “that freaky shit underneath”.
Take One Two (EMA)
Erika M. Anderson
Documentary footage in the mid-90s involving EMA herself. Small moments of happiness sheltered by the trailer while the gay- and punk-haters wait outside. For all the weirdos out there.
Pigs (Black Dice)
Colourful, schizophrenic and psychoactive.
For me, the best online movies of the year have been the images that moved governments to ban them: Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer, a video of their anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral that has been viewed 2.4 million times, and Ai Weiwei’s handcuff-dangling pastiche of South Korean rapper Psy’s Gangnam Style, which itself is now the most-viewed YouTube video of all time. Pussy Riot were smacked with a draconian prison sentence for three of the band members, and also a court order (blacklisting the band as “extremists”) that seeks to prevent websites from hosting their videos, while Ai’s video was banned in China and the artist lives under virtual house arrest.
Anish Kapoor and Akram Khan collaborated with artists and curators around the world to create a Gangnam Style video for Ai and other political prisoners, while Pussy Riot’s performance and subsequent trial inspired tributes, circulated via YouTube, performed in churches from Totnes to Seoul. Kapoor also collaborated with Amnesty and PEN International to create and share his video, while English PEN have curated a series of poems, film poems, performances and videos in support of Pussy Riot.
Artists, activists and legislators continue to battle for the Internet as a commons. Ai’s use of Twitter and YouTube had a marked presence in Alison Klayman’s 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, while next year may see two documentaries about Pussy Riot and Voina, the larger arts/activist movement of which they are a part: cinema and digital media making common cause for freedom of expression.
Encounters Short Film Festival
Bradley Manning Had Secrets
The inception of the WikiLeaks saga told through a portrait of Bradley Manning, the US Army private accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to the site. Butcher animates exchanges from Manning’s instant-message chats between with hacker-turned-informant Adrian Lamo through rotoscoped pixel art-style animation. The juxtaposition of such unadorned, clinical visual style with insights into Manning’s psychology foregrounds the story of a vulnerable, isolated man going through a deep crisis of identity and conscience.
In 2012 Sigur Rós invited a dozen filmmakers to create a short inspired by any of the songs from the band’s new album Valtari. The filmmakers worked in total independence, resulting in a beautifully diverse array of personal takes on the songs. The one that has most stuck with me is photographer McGinley’s scintillating ode to an innocent, playful, carefree New York, through whose streets a golden-haired little girl skips, filling them with her light and wonder. It’s visually stunning, poetic and heart-warming all at once.
Andrew Thomas Huang
One of those shorts I discover online and cannot wait to see on the big screen, this is an impressively crafted audio-visual treat exploring/questioning the concept of solipsism, according to which one can only be sure of the existence of one’s own mind. Over three narrative moments the filmmaker seems to overturn this theory and suggest that in fact we might not at all be restricted to only one perceptive experience… Or something like that! It’s not entirely clear what this experimental short is ‘about’, but it nonetheless demands indulgence of its immersive dream of colours, light, feather and fabric-clad dancers, underwater puppets and face-painted men disintegrating into technicolour sand.
One of the 10 finalists in YouTube’s Your Film Festival (which had 15,000 entries), this is a chilling sci-fi thriller in which a young woman takes extreme measures against a poltergeist type of force. Hats off to a filmmaker who in only 15 well-executed minutes – from the confident command of visual effects to the great sense of pace – conjures an atmosphere filled with mounting tension and fear in the face of an uncanny, intangible menace.
Henry K Miller
The best online video of the year was taken down from most sites.
In the summer Rotten Tomatoes, the Warner Bros-backed review-aggregator whose ‘Tomatometer’ is film criticism’s answer to LIBOR, banned maverick critic Eric D. Snider because he posted what seemed to be a link to a negative review of Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises without even having seen it, thereby earning the wrath of many other people who hadn’t seen it.
Just as Snider planned. As it turned out, his link didn’t link to a review, but to a blogpost about the tendency of RT commenters to get angry about negative reviews of films they haven’t seen. Some men just want to watch the world burn. RT editor-in-chief Matt Atchity, who had warned film journalists of the pitfalls of covering indie and foreign movies to the detriment of the mainstream – “not a lot of traffic” in it – had no choice but to defend the site’s reputation for integrity and ruled that Snider’s reviews “will no longer apply to the Tomatometer”.
Much else was blogged on all sides, but I can’t help feeling that Snider backed down too easily. HADN’T he seen The Dark Knight Rises? Arguably he had. And so had the haters. We all had. The first teaser trailer was uploaded a year and a day before the film came out. Many more trailers, stills, posters, set photos, and so on, have followed. Anyone who saw Mission Impossible IV in IMAX also saw a good chunk of Batman III first.
Uploaded about the time all this happened, The Ultimate Super Preview, a compilation of pre-released material from The Amazing Spider-Man, did not win the approval of Sony, but all of it had apparently been published already. It feels like a digest of practically the whole film – or so I imagine; I haven’t seen it ‘yet’ – and reveals the extent of the madness. It’s 25 minutes long.
Sorkinisms: A Supercut
This is really quite something. Cruelly timed to coincide with the debut of Sorkins’s, ah, disappointing The Newsroom, it’s a reminder of happier times or an exposé of a serial self-plagiarist, depending on whom you ask.
Rear Window Timelapse
An excellent time-lapse film constructed out of bits of Rear Window.