A Prescription of Short Poppies

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If you need a pick me up, it should be the 20 minute series Short Poppies. Seriously. I was in some sort of mood and feeling all sorts of ways, so I streamed an episode (or four) on Netflix, and had my woes banished by Rhys tumblr_n59kbht5U91rb5wuyo1_540Darby’s sexy suncreeny lifeguard legs, Rhys Darby in normcore drag, Rhys Darby as a very professional UFOlogist.

The series is a mockumentary that follows filmmaker and journalist David Farrier as he interviews extraordinary residents of a beachy town in New Zealand. Each episode focuses on an oddball character, all of which are played by the talented Rhys Darby. If you’ve ever watched Flight of the Concords, you’ll maybe recognize Darby as the band manager, Murray Hewitt.

In the first episode, Darby plays Terry Pole, an optimistic lifeguard, whose catchphrase  is “only the pos!” (as in positive). You just really cannot be anything but smiley when there is a sexy legs competition happening before your very eyes.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 11.27.11 PMOne episode will have you reevaluating your relationship goals. Like… is your significant other someone you can be your oddest possible self with? Do you support each others’ passions? Would you overcome your greatest phobias for your special friend? Could you see yourself blissfuly starting a support group together for survivors of alien abductions that meets at the local library weekly? Because really, a successful relationship is overcoming your agoraphobia to tell your UFOlogist boyfriend that you love him before he sacrifices himself for an alien abduction.

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But the real reason I enjoy Short Poppies is David Farrier, the journalist who plays himself. He’s the quietest character, but his facial expressions speak volumes. AND HE IS SUCH A GEEKY DREAMBOAT.

And also Karl Urban as the sassiest, gayest hairdresser there ever was.

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Watch this is if you like: Summer Heights High, Flight of the Concords, the Office, Parks and Rec

Stay tuned,

Angelica

Cuban jazz for the soul

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Chico & Rita (2010) is a subtitled Spanish love story set in Cuba, New York, Hollywood, and Paris in the swanky 1940’s and early 50’s, and it is probably the most sensual animated film I’ve ever watched. It’s a bit sentimental because of the whole unrequited love plot line BUT between all that mushy stuff (be warned of a short and steamy scene with animated nudity) there is an ace soundtrack of Cuban jazz, New York be bop, and sultry blues. Watch for appearances from Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chano Pozo. Watch this because it will break your heart but make your soul happy.

Both Chico and Rita are jazz artists trying to create better lives for themselves through their music. This complicates things for them because, as we’ve learned from numerous movies, fame is not always fun and glamorous– especially if you are a person of color and treated mostly as an investment. The strongest scenes in the movie involve Rita openly addressing issues of race, class, and gender divides. Historically, we know that things usually don’t go well for vocal females so there’s also that complication.

The animation alone is one reason to watch the movie. Spanish artist Javier Mariscal took a research trip to Cuba and dug up city government archives of pre-revolutionary Havana. The cityscapes in the film are detailed down to the words of store signs. Marsical creates a vision of historical moments and deep emotions that are more sparkling and colorful than a live action film would have been.

Listen to the Chico & Rita Soundtrack on Spotify by clicking here or on youtube by clicking here. DO IT. Then stream the film instantly on Netflix.

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If jazz makes your soul happy, so will these three documentaries.

1. Calle 54 (2000) is made by the same director as Chico & Rita and celebrates Latin Jazz with minimal voiceovers and mostly studio performances. Watch instantly on Netflix. Listen to the soundtrack here.

2. Icons Among Us (2009) features interviews and performances by 75 jazz artists in the here and now. Divided into four sections, the film challenges perceptions of what jazz is, explores the social aspects of the jazz community, and showcases jazz from around the world. Watch instantly on Hulu here.

3. Jazz: A film by Ken Burns (2001) is a PBS series revisiting the history of jazz over 10 episodes. Watch instantly on Netflix. Listen to the soundtrack here.

Stay tuned,

– Angelica

For the love of street haunting and cinema

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.53.18 PM“What is this film called Love?” is a poetic travelogue of filmmaker Mark Cousins’ three-day layover in Mexico City. But it’s so much more than that. As Cousins treks through the city streets, he carries out an imaginary conversation with his laminated 8.5″x11″ photo of Sergio Eisenstein, moving the documentary beyond the notion of travel to contemplate memory, solitude, landscape and ultimately the nature of happiness.

Who is Sergio Eisenstein and why does he warrant such a grand gesture? In short, he was a Soviet Russian filmmaker and theorist. He pioneered the montage, adding a level of complexity to the medium of film that revolved around the theory of visual metaphor– combining images and symbolic meanings to provoke a certain effect in viewers. He made films that are political and poetic. He loved Mexico City, and referred to it as a geography upon which his entire being was stretched across.

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The voice-over narration is rich with allusions to literature and poetry. This made the English Major in me feel like tap dancing. If you love reading, you will love this film. Your ears will perk up at references to Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf on the pleasures of street haunting, to Robert Frost and apple picking, to Joan Didion and her tear-jerking essay on leaving New York City, to Ralph Waldo Emerson and the myth of permanence.

What I found most appealing about this documentary was its exploration of the word “ecstasy”. Cousins turns his wandering into a quest by challenging himself to find 5 things that make him feel ecstatic. He finds hints of ecstasy in certain camera angles, in revolutions, in architecture that makes your eyes dazzle, in the brilliance of bodies. But most simply, there is ecstasy in movement.

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Before this documentary, Cousins made serious films including “The Story of Film: An Odyssey”, a 15 episode series (available on Netflix!) that is an extended love letter/history lesson about cinema.

This is not a serious documentary, it’s pretty silly. But it’s insightful. It shows you that films can make you see the world differently. It challenges you create and explore things you don’t know about. It celebrates change. One of the final lines asks “If you could turn into something else, what could it be”?

Watch this if you can handle metaphors.

What is This Film Called Love? – Trailer from BerwickFilmFest on Vimeo.

Stay tuned,

Angelica.

Ashland Can Get Film Festive Too

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All photos from the ashland independent film festival facebook page.

Indie movie magic filled the air of downtown Ashland last weekend as filmmakers and cinephiles celebrated the 14th Annual Ashland Independent Film Festival. I scored myself a filmmaker pass and lived in a five-day popcorn-filled indie binge fest, which is worlds away from my usual streaming binges sur la macbook. The festival screens both features and shorts, narratives and documentaries,  films for families and films “for mature audiences.” I was not able to catch every movie on my wishlist, but I was blown away by everything I did see. Here are two of my faves:

SLOW WEST: Everything a Western should be. It’s got a romantic quest, the unforgiving wilderness, lawlessness, intense shoot outs, and Michael Fassbender being sexy as hell as the John Wayne figure. Watching the opening scene, I instantly knew I had stumbled upon treasure, maybe even a new favorite. Like I am actually going to buy this one on DVD and make all my friends watch it. The screenwriting is rich with witty humor and healthy self-deprecation. The 16-year old protagonist is a romantic with naive ideals and profound lines that the rest of the film makes total fun of. Every opportunity for humor is seized, but things can get real heavy real fast and the tension is enough to make you forget how hard you were laughing a few moments ago. As a whole, the film has a smart balance of tenderness and thrill. Be prepared to feel some feelings, but not in a lame way… in a rogue, wild-wild-west kind of way.

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Photos from cartellandmovie.com

Cartel Land: A documentary that parallels citizen vigilante groups on both sides of the Mexican-Arizona border fighting against drug cartels. This film premiered at Sundance this year and took home awards for best directing and best cinematography for US documentaries. We’re talking about real life drug cartels here, so there is real life violence and corruption. Watch if you want a chilling and twisted story where you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. Look for Cartel Land in theaters this July.

P.S. My super short film “As Apple Pie” played during the film festival as part of the Local’s Only screenings along with SOU professor Robert Arellano’s “Fill My Mirrors.” Watch them both right here: