Blue is the Warmest Color is a quiet character study and romance unlocked by its title alone. Adele, a high school student focusing on literature, tries to fit in by dating the boy everyone knows she’s perfect for. She feels nothing from the relationship and winds up meeting Emma, a university fine arts student, at a lesbian bar. Emma’s bright blue hair catches her interest and helps her begin to form a sense of identity.
The color blue is important to the film. It really is a subtle device reflecting Adele’s self actualization. In the beginning of the film, when Adele is just following whatever her friends and family expect her to do, there is very little blue on the screen. The first memorable appearance of blue is a cross, Romeo & Juliet style, where Adele and Emma’s eyes meet while crossing the street and pass without incident. A bit more blue begins to fill Adele’s life as the thought of the beautiful stranger with blue hair sends her into sensory overload. The color blue grows and fades in shade (light blue is tepid, cyan is vivid, navy is overwhelming) and vibrancy to reflect Adele’s mental state and feeling of independence.
It really is quite remarkable how that kind of detail can set the tone for a film. By the time her high school friends realize Adele is a lesbian, you can’t avoid blue on the screen. Everyone is wearing dark wash jeans and vibrant scarves and hats. The sky is practically glowing and even the lockers in the school seem to transform. The dialogue is so simultaneously slice of life and driven by references to very specific philosophers, writers, and artists that the color conceit really opens up the text.
Nicholas Winding Refn has a mission. As a writer and director, he wants to take the subject matter of action films and raise it to high art. It’s a really interesting cinematic philosophy so far removed from anything else happening in mainstream or arthouse filmmaking that it’s going to be totally hit or miss in its impact. The flaws are perhaps the most endearing parts of films like Bronson and Drive.
Only God Forgives does not have much of a story. It’s a spiraling revenge fantasy where every action has a more extreme reaction. Billy and Julian are American brothers living in Thailand. They run a kickboxing gym as a front for a drug smuggling operation. One night, Billy decides he wants to find an underage prostitute and winds up murdering her. Chang, a high ranking police officer, decides to let the girl’s father have his way with Billy before punishing the father for letting his daughters enter the sex trade. Billy and Julian’s mother arrives from America to claim Julian’s body and revenge for his murder.
There are no real levels in Only God Forgives. It’s a visual experiment in slowing down a typical (if a bit darker) action/thriller and telling the story solely through mood and physical business. The nuance of the story is lost to the overwhelming visual and audio design. It’s like Refn is playing with the alienation effect, forcing the audience to realize they are watching a totally manufactured story in every frame and refusing any semblance of emotional connection to the characters onscreen.
You ever see two films and think there’s no way the similarities are coincidental? We’re not talking the shot for shot remake of Psycho from Gus Van Sant here. We’re talking about films that were made in response to other films.
This week on Slipstream: The Pulp Culture Vlog, I propose that a modern Academy Award-winning fantasy classic pulls more than just a little inspiration from a radical Czech New Wave Surrealist fantasy from the 1970s. The latter already inspired one of my favorite dark fantasy/horror films of all time; whose to say that a film buff like the director of the former wouldn’t have embraced the structure and story of the same film for his own purposes.
Watch the video, then click on through to like, comment, share, and subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube.
This week on Horror Thursday, we’re looking at a slasher film from Kenta Fukasaku, the screenwriter of Battle Royale and the writer/director of Battle Royale II: Requiem. He brings his eye for brutality and realistic teenage behavior to someone else’s totally ridiculous story and almost make magic happen. Almost. A meta-text on slasher films paying tribute to everything from Psycho to Scream that starts to take itself too seriously, which in itself is a commentary on oh so serious slasher films that commit to ridiculous twists just to have a twist. It’s like Inception, only it all boils down to a school dance. So, you know, not at all like Inception.
Horror Thursday: Black Rat
The new The Preston Files is up! I’m hoping to fulfill the Monday, Thursday, Saturday schedule I had printed on Moo cards last spring when Strip Search finally convinced me to get my butt in gear and start a new webcomic. Hey, I’m only half a year behind for once. That’s good for me. I got the camera equipment for my YouTube channel last December and only really started in August.
I’m a Pokemon fanatic and I have OCD. You can understand the dilemma. “Gotta catch’em all” isn’t a tagline for me; it’s a lifestyle. It’s why I cannot trust myself to play Skylanders or Disney Infinite. I don’t even trust myself to buy the Nightmare Before Christmas figures for my collection because I’ll feel compelled to buy the game and all the things that go with it. It’s not impulse control. I get anxious if I start a collection and don’t have everything. Shoot, achievements popping up on Steam can peak my anxiety because I know there will be more than one.
Bear with the quality. I need to figure out the best way to scan 9×12 paper on an 8.5×11 scanner. This is photography and a whole lot of photo editing to make it look as good as it does.
Read “Catch’em All” here.
Penny Arcade’s Strip Search wound up being one of the most positive, inspiring, and life-changing reality shows ever created. The slower pace at the start meant learning a whole lot about the contestants, which made every elimination–even the clear winner/loser scenarios–very tense to watch. You didn’t want anyone to go home.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that all 12 finalists have benefited from the exposure of the show. All of them get invited to do guest strips for the Penny Arcade/PVP collaboration The Trenches. Almost all of the contestants have a webcomic project up at this point; all are regularly sharing their art. The post is actually going to focus on the finalists in more detail, but here’s what everyone else on the show has been up to.
Alex Hobbs is running his solo comic Wanderlust Kid and it’s really funny. Ty Haley (still running The Secret Life of a Journal Comic) and Monica Ray (still running Phuzzy Comics) are taking over The Trenches as the new writer and artist, respectively (that was announced at PAX Prime (skip to 6:31:00 for the announcement)). Mackenzie Schubert has a gorgeous new series called Full Stop running. Nick Trujillo is drawing up a storm at his Tumblr and has done guest work on PATV’s Extra Credits.
A little shadow box art to brighten up–or perhaps darken up–your Tuesday. Sketchy Details @Home is back with a new art project inspired by SyFy’s Face Off. Since last week was preempted by Halloween madness (so worth it, did you see the Haunt video?), I had the choice of the Dark Elf/Nordic Rune challenge or the Bird/Human Hybrid challenge. I went with the Dark Elf challenge. I preferred all of those designs to the designs in the bird challenge and already had a solid idea of what I would do.
I tested out a different camera rig that would have been perfect with the light I decided not to set up and a new mic that I still need to order. Much better visual quality than the cellphone videos the first 11 weeks.
Watch and enjoy, then subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube for more great video series like this one.
Last night, YouTube held its first awards ceremony. Specifically, the YouTube Music Awards broadcast live around the globe starting at 6PM EST with region-specific live performances, guests, presenters, and more. I didn’t watch live, but I sure got a face full of it on Twitter. YouTube’s actually put up the live highlights and is featuring the winners on the homepage today.
There are a couple cool things about the YouTube Music Awards. Most Internet-specific awards shows are decided on popular vote (I should start my Lammy’s campaign sooner this year) and YouTube’s were no exception. The difference is how the winners and nominees were even chosen. The nominees were selected by video views, subscriptions, likes, and comments since September 2012. Then, a video was created for each nominee in each category that was voted on by sharing the link on social media–Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. The nomination process is the perfect way to handle awards through YouTube. There can’t be any questions. These videos had more views, comments, likes, and channel subscriptions than other possible nominees.
Another great aspect of the awards: brevity. There were only six categories: Video of the Year, Artist of the Year, Innovation of the Year, YouTube Breakthrough, YouTube Phenomenon, and YouTube Response. Innovation meant creative advances in video design and was the only category not decided entirely by views/likes/subscriptions/comments. Phenomenon was basically the viral video category, the music trends you couldn’t escape over the past year. Response was the cover song category.
I’ve only been promising this for months. The Preston Files, my new webcomic spin-off from Food Don’t Go Stale in Space, debuted today.
Preston is a freelancer who believes no idea is a bad idea. He’s willing to follow any plot thread through to see if there’s a chance of success. Today, he puts his own spin on the slasher genre.
The Preston Files #1: Crisis of Faith
I love researching things. It’s not a joke. There is no punchline. I take great joy in finding something I don’t know and learning everything I can about it.
This really applies to the horror genre. I love checking out other people’s lists of the best horror, in general or by some sub-genre or time frame. Sometimes, it’s entirely predictable. Other times, I learn about something brand new and that excites me. I mean, I sat through a 90 minute or two hour panel (can’t remember which) at ConnectiCon all about foreign horror films and had to talk to the panelists because they introduced me to two films I never heard of before; we traded notes on their existing country focuses and I even gave them some hot tips for making South Korea its own stand alone category in future presentations.
Season 4 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race and all around fantastic entertainer Sharon Needles put together her Top 13 horror films for the Chiller channel in time for Halloween and it’s a riot. Sharon’s character is beautiful, spooky, and stupid, so her in character reasoning for liking some of these films is pretty shocking (from its intentional stupidity). For example, she lists the US remake of Funny Games (a solid film in its own rights, though I prefer the acting in the original) because “[she doesn't] like other countries.” It’s a joke, people. Sharon knows her horror and it’s worth digging through her list because of its fantastic focus on some of the most under-appreciated modern horror films.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why my writing has been so sporadic this month. I had to get all my haunt stuff together to put on the annual traffic-stopping show on Halloween night. A daytime guided tour, followed by the premiere of the official 2013 haunt video, and the aftermath of a yard haunt.
This month at the LAMB, we’re looking at the amazing cinema coming out of South Korea. This is the home of Mother, I Saw the Devil, and The Red Shoes series among many other great films.
You have to be a member of The LAMB to participate in Foreign Chops. All the details are on the announcement page.
Announcing Foreign Chops #17: South Korea