A brave 14 year old, Jerry Levitan, was able to sneak into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and talk him into a Q&A session. Thirty-eight years later, Jerry worked with Josh Raskin, James Braithwaite, and Alex Kurina to make an animated video to accompany the recording.
“I Met the Walrus” was nominated for the 2008 Animated Short Academy Award, and won the 2009 Emmy for New Approaches.
In this fourth installment of The Adventures of Mr. Coo, Mr. Coo turns into a carrot, explodes as a castle, makes amends with a car, etc. Although this is the fourth episode, it won’t make much more sense than the first three. This series is focused more on awe-inspiring animation than plot.
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FEATURING: Joel Moore, Amber Tamblyn, and Zachary Levi
PLOT: A gregarious young professional befriends a complex loner at work and unleashes
madness when she tries to unravel his convoluted personal secrets.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While Spiral tells an offbeat story, it contains no outstanding weirdness, aside from the very odd personality of the lead character and the bizarre nature of his relationships. In fact, it is the straightforward way in which the story is told that is responsible for its hypnotic feel and impact.
COMMENTS: Overcast Portland, Oregon locations grace this gloomy and grim, offbeat psychological suspense story about a deeply troubled artist. Spiral spins the whorled, offbeat portrait of a lead character with an odd personality and bizarre personal relationships.
Mason (Moore) is a painter working as an insurance telemarketer. He excels at his job, maintains a nice bachelor pad, and despite his gross social awkwardness and timid appearance he has tremendous luck with the ladies. In fact, he has had a succession of girlfriends who all pose for his oil and canvas portraits.
Despite all that he has going for him, Mason is tortured and confused. A shy loner at work, he feels trapped in his overly bright, sterile, corporate cubicle. The nervous Mason is coiled so tightly that he’s about to spring out of his skin. To make matters worse, he is prone to asthma flare-ups triggered by extreme night terrors and panic attacks.
Mason harbors more than a few skeletons in his inner footlocker and they are especially grim. Like malevolent phantasms, dreadful images of his past girlfriends twirl our of his dreams and splash across his conscience like spatter from a centrifuge. Striking terror, these hit and run specters jar Mason out of deep slumbers, and slap him out of daydreams. The experiences leave him in a cold, sweaty daze, scrambling for his asthma inhaler with a racing heart.
Mason’s only safety net is his cocky, but empathetic boss, Berkeley (Levi)—who is also his only friend and advocate. Willing to act as Mason’s ad-hoc therapist, Berkeley is the closest thing Mason has to some much needed Xanax. Suppressing Mason’s panic with a combination of good-natured ridicule and reassurance, he talks his frightened employee down like Rasputin hypnotically calming Czar Nicholas II’s hemophiliac son. The effect is temporary, however, as Mason seems to be plagued not only by the serpentine hallucinations, but by a wide range of deeply seated personal issues, all indicating a winding, ganglionic tangle of dark, hidden secrets.
Berkely begins to find his role as counselor diminished when a bubbly new employee named Amber (Tamblyn) jumps on board and takes a shine to Mason. Inexplicably attracted to the shy salesman, she is like a schoolgirl rescuing a baby bunny. Intrigued by the dark enigma of Mason’s persona, Amber radiantly circles Mason, determined to unravel his helical psyche by patiently prying away at the repressed layers of his complicated personality.
Mason gradually warms to her efforts and finally admits her to his inner world. Once inside, Amber wreaks havoc like a Trojan horse when she realizes too late that she has opened a Pandora’s box. But how genuine is Amber? Is she really who she appears to be? What does Berkeley know about Mason’s past girlfriends that he isn’t telling Mason? And why the haunting visions? As tensions reach the meniscus, unanswered questions brew a churning swirl of fantasy, reality and bedlam as Mason, Amber and Berkeley cross paths in a twisting maelstrom of truth and lies.
Crisp audio processing of the soundtrack compliments the high definition DVD release of this Santa Barbara Film Festival entry. Spiral is the directorial collaboration of Joel David Moore and Adam Green, who worked as actor and director respectively on the 2006 slasher film, Hatchet. Spiral was co-written by Moore with Jeremy Danial Boreing. Amber Tamblyn may be known to some viewers from her roles in The Grudge II (2006) and The Ring (2001).
FEATURING: Jeong-Myeong Cheon, Hee-soon Park, Shim Eun-Kyung, Eun Won-Jae
PLOT: Eun-Soo, a young man whose girlfriend has just told him she is pregnant, crashes his car on a lonely road and finds himself rescued by a young girl, who leads him to a strange cottage hidden in the depths of a dense forest. The family living there tend his wounds and put him to bed. His gratitude soon turns to fear, as the “parents” disappear and he is left in charge of three children who have no intention of letting him leave.
WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: Much as I love this film I doubt it makes the final cut. Yes, it’s odd, beautiful and moving, but it could stand more ruthless editing, something it shares with the director’s previous Antarctic Journal. The storyline is predictable in parts, especially if you’ve seen a number of “bad seed” films. The style makes it stand out but, honestly, some of the weird scares seem to be a little misplaced. Hansel and Gretel‘s weirdness seems tattooed on rather than bred in the bone.
COMMENTS: Watching Hansel and Gretel is like settling down to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a fondant fancy, only to discover that your cake is crawling with ants. The set design is fascinating; wherever you look there is some odd detail that catches the eye. The color palette is lush, just the green of the woods is breathtaking. The score is beautiful, composed by Byung-Woo Lee, who also composed the music for the sublime Tale Of Two Sisters.
In short this is a quality production, clearly made with love. What prevents it from quite firing on all cylinders is the plot, which is a little predictable. Sinister children with dangerous powers are something of a staple of the science-fiction and horror genres, and anyone who’s seen or read a few such stories will be fairly confident about where this is headed. From the moment Eun-Soo sets foot in the fairy tale cottage where every day is Christmas Day and the decor makes your retinas bleed, our suspicions are roused. They’re all but confirmed by the behavior of the “parents”. Their rictus grins and desperate eyes scream that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. They handle their “son” as if he’s a box of sweaty gelignite and Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: HANSEL AND GRETEL (2007)→
PLOT: More than thirty Beatles songs illustrate a romance between a working-class Liverpudlian and a New England WASP during the tumultuous 1960s.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Set in a sentimentalized Sixties, it’s inevitable that Across the Universe heaves to that decades psychedelic squalls. Spectacular director Julie Taymor relishes slathering lysergic pigment on her CGI canvas for five or six of the thirty plus songs, but the ultimately the story is more about how all you need is love than it is about girls with kaleidoscope eyes.
COMMENTS: In a career of a mere eight years, the Beatles probably cranked out more memorable melodies than Mozart. It was a minor stroke of genius to adapt that songbook into a musical. he script of Across the Universe, which tells the story of a pair of young lovers and their friends with the Vietnam War protests and the Summer of Love as a backdrop, can be viewed in two ways. It could be seen a complete failure, built out of equal parts of romantic cliché and self-congratulatory Baby Boomer nostalgia. Or, it could be looked at as a masterpiece of craftsmanship, considering the fact that the scriptwriters had to weave a coherent epic tale from a relatively small catalog of three-minute song-stories containing no recurring characters.
Like most musicals, however, the story is almost beside the point; it only needs to be good enough to set up the next production number. Fortunately for weirdophiles, the numbers Universe‘s story sets up are frequently cosmic, though you will have to wade through an hour of character setup before it starts coming on. This being an archetypal 1960’s tale, there’s a nod to acid culture: more than a nod, it’s a magical mystery tour through an extended three song medley. It starts with the principals sipping LSD-spiked drinks at a party while a Ken Kesey type (played by Bono) lectures on mind expansion using “I Am the Walrus” as the holy text; whirling cameras and and tie-dye colored solarization gives their trip to the countryside via magic bus the requisite grooviness. This sequence segues into “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” where another acid-guru (Eddie Izzard) takes the crew inside his magic tent for a twisted computer-generated carnival complete with a roller skating pony, a dancing team of Blue Meanies, and contortionists in spooky wooden tribal masks. The scene’s an impressive visual spectacle whose impact fizzles thanks to Izzard massacring the lyrics through an off-the-beat, spoken-word delivery with some unfortunate improvisations. The dreamy comedown features the flower children staring up at the sky, imagining themselves tastefully nude and making love underwater.
Psychedelia intrudes into other numbers, as well: the carefully layered images of “Strawberry Fields Forever” feature bleeding strawberries that morph into fruit bombs splattering on the jungles of Vietnam. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” includes a cameo by Salma Hayek as five sexy dancing nurses, and a bliss-giving syringe filled with a nude dancing girl. The best and weirdest segment may be “I Want You/She’s So Heavy,” which addresses the draft board and stars a talking poster of Uncle Sam, dancing sergeants with square plastic chins, and a platoon of soldiers lugging the Statue of Liberty. Standout non-weird numbers include a gospel version of “Let It Be” set during the Detroit riots and a funky “Come Together” performed by Joe Cocker, who sings as three different characters, including a natty pimp backed by a chorus of hookers. Hardcore Beatles fans will rate Universe a must see (and they’ve probably already seen it); unless you’re some sicko who absolutely can’t stand Lennon-McCartney compositions, you’ll want to check it out just for the visuals. It can get pretty far out.
Despite its weird parts, Across the Universe was able to secure a mainstream release. Audiences were willing to accept the unreal scenes because they were presented in the lone format where the average person expects and accepts surrealism—the music video. Unfortunately, however, even the Beatles fan base couldn’t make Taymor’s experiment profitable at the box office.