#1176 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is James Gunn’s exciting, dramatic, hilarious, and engaging interpretation of the more recent incantation of the Marvel comic book team. Focusing on a small team of outlaws whose goals, motivations, and reactions could not be any more disparate, their mission is to save the galaxy by reclaiming a device that would end everything in the wrong hands. Of course, it is often in the wrong hands – the guardians included. But this film is difficult to categorize into any one genre or style of film, making it accessible and enjoyable for just about all audiences (we watched it for the second time with our eight-year-old after deeming it was appropriate for him – and he loved it just as much as our parents in their sixties did). A brilliant, exciting, enjoyable, and most importantly, different addition to the superhero epoch we’re currently in. Even if all the rest of them disappeared tomorrow, there is no question that Guardians will remain as an excellent piece of cinema.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_(film)

 

Jennifer

This is everything you could ask for in a movie – smart, snappy dialogue, great character development, impressive but not relentless special effects and a very unlikely (but likable!) hero.

Guardians of the Galaxy is ridiculously fun film experience.  The movie zips along with a fantastic soundtrack.  I am not a huge fan of the typical superhero movie, but this movie has no typical superheroes.  Each scene is laced with just the right amount of humor and sarcasm, without going for an easy laugh or being too into itself.

We are very much looking forward to the sequel next month (the eight-year-old included!).

Garrett

First, this is probably my favorite of our images I have thrown together so far.

Second, James Gunn. I have been a fan of Gunn’s for a long time – completely separate from anything that he has made in the more mainstream film industry. Gunn is central to most of the independent Troma Team products of the past twenty years, and it is no surprise that Lloyd Kaufman has a blatant and beautiful momentary cameo in the GOTG prison sequence. Given his sense of humor, the budget of Guardians, the genre and subject matter of the film, and the final product, Guardians of the Galaxy would not have been the same with the vision of any other director. Gunn was simply perfect.

Finally, I absolutely love this film. It isn’t entirely what one might consider one of the 1001 movies to see before you die, but I completely agree with its place on the list. When we first watched it a few years ago, I remember being upset that we missed it in the movie theater. The film has humor, soul, action, adventure, and characters you can’t help but love. Ultimately, the beauty of this film stands on a solid foundation of having great writing, great characters, great direction, and great actors who all work together to gestate a little exciting comic masterpiece of action, adventure, and heart. I will surely return to this film again and again, and I am really looking forward to Volume 2.

 

Eric and Shaye (2016 – The Premiere!)

I have been a fan of the absurdist films of Eric Fournier since they started popping up on the internet when video sharing still required a long download of a WMV file at 640×480. It took forever, and when it was competing with your (legal) Napster and Limewire downloads, forget it. There was a certain commitment to what was being consumed. There was rarely much more than the trust of an E/N site to (poorly) curate what you were getting, and rarely would one find quality content that said something new or interesting – but when one did, one held onto it with the fervor of being part of an exclusive club of those that appreciated the content more than anyone would ever realize. Members of the cult of Shaye Saint John (while not entirely sporting the numbers and popularity behind Homestar Runner, Salad Fingers, and Strindberg and Helium) are a feverish few whose exclusive membership vibrates wonder and postmodern appreciation for Fournier’s work.

Eric’s name didn’t even appear with the work until his release of a DVD compilation in 2006, and part of the wonder was the mystery behind these little films. The Shaye Saint John films were terrifying, funny, absurdist glimpses into the character’s upside-down Lynchian cabinet. The story goes that Shaye was a supermodel that was injured in a bus accident where she was completely disfigured, amputated, and reconstructed with floppy discount-bin plastic mannequin prostheses. Her resulting life of solitude led her to communicate her experiences through miniature documentaries that featured her triggers, her little telekinetic basket-doll Kiki, and her various ill-fated trips down therapeutic treatments. The films were literally something that had never been seen before in video production, and the use of strobe effects, bizarre graphics, overlays, repetition, macabre imagery inter-spliced with hilarious slapstick antics, strange music, strange images, strange scripts, and defamiliarization and deconstruction of the natural laws and human form have been literally influenced by (and from, depending on who you ask) many of today’s great video artists such as Tim Heidecker / Eric Wereheim / Doug Lussenhop (The Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job / Tom Goes To The Mayor / Check It Out!), Jeremy Shaw, Charlie White, Frances Stark, George Kuchar, Ryan Trecartin, and many, many, many others.

At Fournier’s death in 2010 – a story that only came to the Internet in strange trickles because of Fournier’s (and his close friends’) dedication to the character’s separation from his own reality – we were devastated, looking for answers, wanting to know more, but still managing to separate the art from the artist and appreciate what was without mourning the loss of everything that was no longer coming next.

When filmmaker Larry Wessel began a Kickstarter campaign for a new, feature-length documentary on Eric Fournier and Shaye Saint John that would exist as an homage, an informative study of the work, and a biography of Fournier, I jumped at the chance to join the investment team to insist the story of this man and his work was preserved on film in a lasting and meaningful manner.

Last night we held a private screening of Eric and Shaye a day before the premiere of the film and decided the opening day is a perfect time to review Wessel’s work and hope that many more people experience Fournier’s story.

Wessel captured the life and work of Fournier perfectly. The story is told in several parts, and his organization of the narrative seems to make a great deal of sense. It begins with the trailer, then a gorgeous theme and opening credits sequence featuring Saphir, and then cuts to MySpace email correspondence between Wessel and Fournier outlining how their relationship started. It then moved into the gestation of Shaye’s character, the building recognition of the character as a performance art piece, Fournier’s process for filming and editing his works, and interspersed throughout the film were various biographical and personal stories that ran from the time that he started making the films to his death. Frankly, what I found most beautiful were the stories of those in direct relationships with him. Original animations abound. The narrative’s pacing and overall execution make the final product’s 105 minutes fly, and the expected, inevitable conclusion to the film absolutely crushed us – until the surprise bizarre new touching Shaye surprise at the end.

The film is entirely successful from the beginning. The editing is somewhat jumpy and the pacing a little awkward in places, but that may only be an issue with audience members who are unfamiliar with Shaye. If anything, what little awkwardness exists is likely a testament to Wessel’s commitment to making Shaye’s  awkwardness, camp, and shifting reality a part of his narrative – and in this sense, is almost making the picture itself an homage to Fournier’s work. Perhaps one of my favorite elements of the film are the various ways in which the narrative of those around Fournier explained their relationship, his experiences, and his larger than life personality when in character. Ultimately, it was moving to listen to the effect Fournier and Shaye had on their lives, and Wessel managed to present their stories in a manner that not only captured the essence of Fournier’s life, but also how important Fournier and Shaye were to them as people. Of course, their identifying them as separate entities is incredibly beautiful because it showed a true commitment to his art and performance.

What Wessel manages to achieve in Eric and Shaye is a biographic triumph. This is the portrait of a man whose art and vision were remarkably different than anything we’ve ever seen before, and it is in many ways a postmortem love letter to Fournier not just from Wessel but from we who appreciated and loved his work. I could think of no better homage to Fournier than what Wessel has shared with the world, and I am proud to be a part of its creation – a work that truly represents all of our appreciation.

In three words, see this film.

For more information, as always, click through the links sprinkled throughout this review, or visit the original Shaye Saint John Website http://www.shayesaintjohn.net/ or the Official Eric and Shaye Website http://www.ericandshaye.com/

Update: We learned afterward that there was a music video for Saphir’s Shaye Saint John… Check it out!

 

Swiss Army Man (2016)

‘Fraternal funerary farts’ is probably the best way to describe Swiss Army Man on the surface, but it couldn’t be further from what Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are able to accomplish in their slim and beautiful film. Described by Radcliffe as his favorite movie he ever made, this movie with its paltry $3M budget was an incredibly heartfelt and gorgeous magical realist story about friendship, identity, and existentialism.

Kwan and Scheinert’s script explores how complicated our platonic and romantic relationships are and can become, and the manner through which the fantastic is used to examine the various ways that interpersonal relationships are complicated. Friendships that we build as part of the experience of living require a lot of navigation, and as we age, we build walls around ourselves to protect us and to protect others. When we were children, things were so much easier, and as we age and build an identity and families and marriages and other relationships, everything gets so much more complicated – usually at the expense of our own happiness. This film teases apart what this all looks like with the open-eyed wonder of a completely new type of story with only two beautifully performed characters. It almost seems like the type of make believe that we played as children – and the music!

The result is a bizarre, touching, and original story that borrows from many types of tropes but manages to create something entirely new. From the beginning of the film, we thought that it was going to open the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge trope at the end (and not really a spoiler), but its ending was so much more satisfying because it didn’t rely on a gimmick to resolve many of the elements. Instead, the entirety of the film is a hyperreal dream that entirely uses practical effects to tell a great story. Enjoyable, beautiful, simple, and exploratory, this is easily one of the best new films we’ve seen in a while. In a world awash with remakes and superhero flicks, Swiss Army Man was truly a wonderful surprise.

People, be yourself. Being alive sucks sometimes, but being real in what little time we have is important.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Army_Man

My Name is Jonah (2014)

Tonight we watched the brilliant, funny, heartbreaking, beautiful, and captivating documentary My Name Is Jonah. This film is not on our 1001 list, but deserves some praise for being an excellent story, AND clicking the link above is not only the usual requisite trailer but is a link to the full feature film available for free streaming online that began at midnight when the filmmakers posted it on Vimeo for all the world to enjoy. Touted as rejected by Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Slamdance, once can only hope that this piece’s new place as a free online documentary can garner more worldwide attention for its emotion, subtlety, warm humor, and mastery in storytelling.

The film profiles the larger-than-life personality of Jonah Wishnis, a man who’s life blurs the line between fantasy and reality in small-town Greece, New York. Beginning as a musician in the 1970s, his career has morphed into modeling, music, MySpace stardom, and the production of imaginative calendars, stories, comics, cards, and other memorabilia that celebrate his life as a kickass time-traveling mercenary. Living a life on the outskirts of what many would consider tasteful, Jonah’s true personality is eventually revealed as a man who has not given up on his dreams and endeavors, and truly gives his all in making a change in the world and the lives of people around him.

The production team of Phil Healy, JB Sapienza, and Jon Caron have built Jonah’s story from the ground up, expertly presenting the profile of a man whose heart and soul are dedicated to making the most of the time he has on this earth. The editing of the film, the heart of any documentary, is perhaps the most engaging part of its execution. To present a man with little commentary, and build his character through his own projects and the views of family and community members in a balanced and unbiased way is difficult. The piece coalesces into a gorgeous product, opening little conflicts and complications to the narrative as the film progresses and keeping the audience engaged with Jonah’s captivating personality.

The end result is a documentary that is easily on par with many profile-driven project centered pieces that have become standards in the industry. Well worth the price of admission (did we mention this was FREE to stream online?) and will easily enter the canon as a remarkably comprehensive biography of the most badass man you may have never heard of.

We loved it.

Long live Jonah.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3511262/