Music Video Monday: Mammút – Svefnsýkt


I’ve debated starting this theme for a few weeks, and I ultimately decided I would as it would encourage me to looks for options that actually fit what I’m aiming for. If one pays too much attention to Top 40 type music you tend to see a dearth of creativity in the music video form. The music video is spawned from short films and can be as creative if not more so than their predecessor. Far too often it does just become singing heads. I want to try and buck that trend and find ones both new and old that do something somewhat outside the box, at the very least have some sort of visual narrative. Here we go.

Mammút – Svefnsýkt

Above I refer to “singing heads,” which is a musical equivalent of “talking heads” in a documentary. Essentially the moving image is so dynamic you want more than just speaking to occur either through mise-en-scène or montage. This video has a kinetic edit, uses some superimposition, smoke, and dramatic lighting; along with some creative framing to to take it a notch above singing heads. It then goes further adding a minimalistic story and even more intriguing visuals when the song gets going. A good sign if this is an example of the work done at the Icelandic Film School.

Review: William’s Lullaby

William’s Lullaby is a film about how the inability to integrate events of the past consciously into one’s being can lead to the dissolution of the present, and even the future. This is not just sophistry but I believe the most succinct way to encapsulate the response to the dramatic question this film poses, or for lack of a better word the moral. It’s the best way to discuss a film wherein the less one knows the better it will likely end up being.

The subject matter can get a bit heavy, and it was actually a film that haunted me for a bit, and made it a little difficult to write about, but if you’re open to cinematic experiences across the emotional spectrum it’s well worth looking into and investing your time in.

Here is the synopsis, and it’s really as much as you want going in:

A single father struggles to raise his five-year-old son while coming to terms with a trauma from his childhood.

William's Lullaby (2014, Nicholas Arnold Productions)

One of the most interesting things about the film is some of the chances it takes. It’s labeled on the IMDb as a drama/mystery, which are accurate. However, in trying to deal with a mostly repressed pass it certain possesses a good deal of a the character of a psychological thriller. Yet, the endgame isn’t as obvious or trite and the concept not high, but still very intriguing. There are moments in Thomas’ (Richard Roy Sutton) mind that we are privy to us that are rendered as skillfully frightening as in a full-on horror film. In fact, it gave me one of the better jolts in a non-horror film I’ve experienced in recent memory. Even with all this blended in the film does have a fairly even handle on its tone and tenor.

The build and progression is a bit unorthodox, and some of the balance among hiding information, revealing it, then accepting and moving forward is slightly askew, but it ultimately creates a cinematic language that becomes easy to follow, and the film hits a great stride in the second half such that I was prepared for it to go on a bit more after it ended. That’s saying quite a bit with a film that burns slowly to start and runs nearly two hours.

The film as a whole does grow as it moves on, which is saying quite a bit, as it usually works in the inverse. The edit, score, as a whole, and moments in the cinematography help buoy it a great deal. By the time the facts come to the fore and his whole arc is displayed Richard Roy Sutton is quite impressive in the role of the distraught now-single father; Robert Lawton possesses a screen presence and sagacity that belies his inexperience on film at his advanced age in his role; conversely, Toby Bisson deals with material far more difficult than most young actors his age are asked to deal with and does so with near-prodigious ability.

William's Lullaby (2014, Nicholas Arnold Productions)

As this film deals literally with the workings of the mind, the subconscious, and the havoc that can wreak on one’s life and stability, particularly following newfound trauma; it’s understandable that the structure is a bit out of the ordinary. It deals with memories, dreams and visions, and such brings to mind Fellini’s quote about the natural kinship the language of film and dreams share.

The courage of this film, the emotions it stirs, the questions it raises, how it goes about revealing its truths, and guarding its mysteries generates enough power to overcome the sparse shortcomings it has and is a worthy investment.


William’s Lullaby is now available on DVD and digital platforms. Further information about the cast and crew can be found on the film’s official website.

Short Film Saturday: Trevor (1994)

For June, at least in the short film department, I will be featuring gay-themed films for Pride month. 

Here is what I wrote about Trevor when I featured it in My Year in Film: 1994.

This film I first saw only last year. It’s the only short on this list. It’s almost more important for its significance than the film itself for this film is what spawned The Trevor Project. Perhaps what’s most impressive is that it really was ahead of the zeitgeist in terms of a hot button issue. It deals with a youth struggling with his sexuality and is suicidal. It won an Oscar after it was made and was re-introduced in a TV special hosted by Ellen DeGeneres but now it has a third incarnation as The Trevor Project is one of the most notable and active NGOs in the nation right now. Granted its a film buoyed by its message and its significance but few films, especially shorts, have this kind of track record so far as reemergence and staying power are concerned.

It’s a bit of a somber piece, that’s bittersweet at best, so “enjoy” seems an inappropriate sign off. I hope you find the film as enlightening as I did, at the very least as to the origins of a very worth cause.

Free Movie Friday: Blondie Meets the Boss (1939)


I wanted to start this series back in January. Basically, there are a lot of good movies out there that you can watch free and clear. Meaning you don’t have to pay for them and by streaming it free you’re not stealing it because they are in the public domain. Also, in some cases, these films are not all as ancient as copyright laws usually call for.

Blondie Meets the Boss (1939)

This is the second film in the series. I posted the first one last week. One of the pivotal characters in this series is Mr. Dithers (Jonathan Hale), Dagwood’s boss, through the zany misunderstandings that ensue he invariably fires, then rehires Dagwood several times and is a great foil and straightman for all the insanity.


Beach Party Blogathon: Flipper’s Good Ol’ Retcon!


Note: There is within a discussion of plot points, which can be considered spoilers.
I must say when I offered to cover Flipper (1963) and Flipper’s New Adventure (1964) for the Beach Party Blogathon (co-hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings) I believed that it would only fit the premise in a very superficial way. Neither are a literal beach party movie after all. Yes, there’s water, sand, even a boy named Sandy; but it’s not really about 1960s beach culture. However, there was something that caught me by surprise that does fit very well in the come as you are nature of this blogathon with no assigned days and things like that.

What came to mind to write about was not something one can really only notice by going from the first film to the next film and then into the series. That surprise is the bit of a retcon that occurs in the stories. For the uninitiated this is a phrase that is short for retroactive continuity. What this refers to are story changes in a follow-up that not only add a new wrinkle, but in many ways imply that the current state of affairs has always been true. While either the main term or the abbreviation were vernacular in the 1960s there are citations of this having happened in fiction dating back to the late 19th century with the death, and subsequent return of Sherlock Holmes. More specifically about the term can be found here.

I’m sure at this point you’re saying “That’s fine but what does that have to do with Flipper of all things?” Well, I kind of had to introduce the term in general simply because it seems like something so silly to have happen with as straight-forward a tale as family and their smarter-than-your-average dolphin friend/helper that I kept waiting for simpler explanations for certain things, and usually they didn’t come in overly-diegetic (story-based) ways.

To be clearer I’ll provide some context both with regards to myself, these films, and the show. I’ll begin with a bit of a personal history.

Flipper and Me

Flipper (1965. MGM)

I saw the TV show first. It was one of many shows I discovered on Nick at Night when young, this fact makes it ideally suited to a true cinematic episodes treatment. Later on, I went to see the movie in the mid-‘90s. Being a fan of both the old show and Elijah Wood, I wasn’t too thrilled with how that movie went down. As cheesy as it can be,  with too much filler at times, I do enjoy it taking it for what it is. Clearly, it’s a concept well-suited for TV and also for kids. You’re living vicariously through Sandy and Bud indulging in what adventures you’d likely have with a dolphin as best friend/pet living on a marine preserve. It has its place and serves its purpose. I say this because I don’t want this piece’s tone misconstrued. I believe in treating all titles seriously but not too seriously. What that means is: sure I’ll talk about narrative liberties taken, while I’m not excusing them entirely, I’m also not yelling “HOW DARE YOU!?” either. The point of demarcation between those two is debatable, and can be discussed elsewhere. Here, I’m just pointing out some interesting things I noticed, this is a beach party after all.

Clearly, the time period accounts for some of these liberties in part. In the 1960s movies and TV were still very much in competition so a network may not have cared to keep continuity, and it could be assumed that you’d never have exactly the same audience for your film and television show. Even if you did, and though things started to go from movies to TV, there wasn’t the interplay then that the two enjoy now, such as when Marvel weaves its universe on big and small screen alike and projects are discussed as having both feature and miniseries components. So there was a clear line of delineation These things may have happened in a movie, but now this is a TV show. Usually these were treated as very different things, not as much here, you’ll see how so soon.

Another example not too long after this is that Maya was a film starring Jay North that was followed up by a one-season series. The series rebooted the story though. In the series Jay’s character in constantly searching for his presumed-dead father, in the movie they are together then separated.

So what are the changes in between these movies, and then leading to the series?

Flipper (1963)


What Flipper ends up being is a boy-and-his-dolphin movie, as opposed to a boy and his dog.

The synopsis as seen on the IMDb appears as follows:

Sandy is distraught when, having saved Flipper by pulling out a spear, his father insists the dolphin be released. A grateful Flipper, however, returns the favor when Sandy is threatened by Sharks.

There’s some left out, some glossed over, but that’s the bones of it. It starts with a storm rolling in, a struggle to bear the brunt, then in recovery Flipper acts as the impetus for Act II. Flipper distracts Sandy and keeps him from his chores as his father’s away seeking a neighbor set adrift during the storm. There’s the classic father-son struggle about responsibilities. Needless to say its a little surprising to see Chuck Connors in this film lending name recognition as well as being a stern, but not overly-stoic when it matters, father.

Flipper (1963, MGM)

In one regard it acts as the origin of how Sandy and Flipper meet, how Flipper becomes his de facto despite the fact in most regards Flipper is not really held captive. In a rather forward-thinking way he’s only really penned when injured and a short while after that. Beyond that her stays fairly free-roaming and seems to seek human companionship almost more than they seek him.

Flipper’s New Adventure (1964)

Flipper's New Adventure (1964, MGM)

With a second film is where things either become established parts of mythology or start to shift almost uncontrollably. The theme song, which debuted in the first film, here returns. (it was altered for season two). More original songs, that are about as forgettable and maybe worse, than the additional tunes in the first film come along for the fun too.

The next few changes are a combination or writing and casting concerns.

Kathleen Maguire, who played Martha Ricks, does not return. Instead of recasting her, as they did with Porter Ricks replacing Chuck Connors with Brian Kelly, who would proceed to the television show in in the role; she was written out of the story having tragically and inexplicably died (at least at this point) between the end of the first film and beginning of this one.

Flipper's New Adventure (1964. MGM)

Granted recasting will never be addressed with dialogue like “My father what strange plastic surgery you’ve had,” unless the intent is highly farcical. Deaths of parents were intimated, but not as often seen or discussed in children’s fare in earlier eras. This is just one reason Bambi stands out. However, it’s fairly rare for such a thing to occur between films.

Usually the writing accommodates a higher focus on one character through casting concerns by having that focus be integral. Both films in essence represent a coming-of-age or milestone for Sandy. In the first film he’s finding a pet and learning to care for it and balance his responsibilities. In the next film his father is again away through much of it; this time studying to be a Ranger, feeling a change is needed to be able to support his son. This allows the focus to be more on Sandy again as well as to distract the audience from the new actor playing Porter Ricks and making the change easier since it’s a small dosage. Sandy’s maturation here comes in helping a stranded family who are separated from their father, who was taken hostage on his own boat by escaped convicts. This allows him to see a family come together in real crisis and he copes with balancing wanting to help them and wanting not to be found himself. Clearly, he makes mistakes along the way but eventually does what he can to help with Flipper’s help.

All’s well that ends well here…

Television Series (1964-1967)

Flipper (1965, MGM)

Now, as of the last film things are set perfectly in place for an episodic run: Porter Ricks (still Brian Kelly) is now a full-fledged ranger assigned to Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve, he’s going to live there with his son Sandy (still Luke Halpin), Flipper is going there too after getting a clean bill of health. A single-father, a kid, an animal usually quicker on the uptake than human characters, all kinds of nefarious types doing who knows what on the waterways, threats to Flipper, threats to the main characters; plenty of fodder for show, sure. With frequent quests, guests, and usually minimal cutting to a B-plot from the A-Plot, or at the very least the B-plot wasn’t usually as detached from the A- as it is say on some sitcoms. So what’s missing?

Well, what if Sandy had a brother? Where’s Bud you say? Well, that’s what I was wondering as I had never seen these movies. I quickly got the feeling that Bud was quickly going to be the biggest, truest retcon in the series going from films to TV.

Any show will add supporting characters later that make their presence known. The beginning of season two establishes that Ulla (Ulla Störmstedt) will be “around all summer,” but a second sibling invariably adds potential conflict and plot-lines: differing ages and interests, sibling rivalry, different interactions, etc. That’s all well and good, especially considering that each episode of Flipper has a tendency to be so self-contained such that their order rarely matters; in fact, the episode shot as the pilot aired third after the show was picked up. However, you must accept that Bud (Tommy Norden) just exists there as Sandy’s younger brother with no precedent whatsoever. He was always there, he lost his mother too, he was just never seen before.


Flipper (1963, MGM)

As I mention above this is only really a concern if you’re going from one to another to another expecting seamless continuity. Being such a simple story I have to say, why wouldn’t I? However, I do say that for as much stasis as the show seemed to thrive on, being far more interested in situations for its characters to be in than in developing them; the films proved a pleasant surprise in those regards. Each had a sort of evolution from an unexpected kinds of adventure tale, to a quieter conflict and narrative demands. Sure, there are escaped convicts and a kidnapping plot and your usual action beats, but both have their smaller times as well as bigger character moments, which are an interesting contrast. It’s the movies that make Halpin’s theatre background and his appearance in Waiting for Godot on Play of the Week in 1961, which surprised me when I saw it on the IMDb, seem like less of an outlier.

Retcons aren’t new, nor are they necessarily going away, though they are certainly less than desirable. The invention of a character from one project to the next, especially when they were shot so close to one another that even some of the costuming is the same, is kind of crazy. Having said that the show would’ve had more struggles with fewer main characters, I just wish more thought had been give to how to introduce Bud. Regardless, it contributes a final odd chapter to the way these tales morphed from the silver to small screen that I thought was noteworthy.

Review: Kick It

Here you have what is ostensibly a sports movie, as tends to be the case the best one’s aren’t inherently about the sport at all. Kick It would definitely qualify and it bears mentioning since the English title would lead you to believe its your run-of-the-mill sports film as opposed to well-crafted, superbly acted, and emotionally rendered drama focused on kids. The title of the original Dutch film, and this one in its native Norwegian, give you a bit more of an indicator of what you’re in for: Cool Kids Don’t Cry.

To know more specifically what you’re in for here is the official synopsis:

Kick it! Tells the story of Anja, a spirited young girl who loves soccer, even when her classmate Jonas thinks soccer is not for girls. Anja uses her humor to deal with Jonas’ bullying, not knowing that behind his hostility hides a boy who is in love with her. When Anja is diagnosed with leukemia, she remains optimistic and full of energy. She even continues interfering with the school soccer tournament while she is in hospital. When Anja is no longer able to participate in the tournament, Jonas comes up with a really special plan.

As becomes a pattern when you see enough foreign-language youth-geared films there is far more realism and less sugar-coating with subject matter just because children are involved in the project, or the intended audience. The film does very well to balance and appropriate level of seriousness with occasional comedic relief, and other emotions as appropriate through the different subplots.

One of these subplots are the actual dueling love stories. Anja (Mia Helene Solberg Brekke) has Lars (Ulrik William Græsli) who carries a torch for her, as her love/hate with Jonas (Victor Papadopoulos Jacobsen) moves toward the latter the arcs of both relationships is deftly handled. Surely, the change in emotions the two have becomes apparent but the progression is natural, and Lars’ being overlooked as a romantic option doesn’t go the conventional anger/bitter route and they remain good friends to one another. Sure, these characters are younger, it’s puppy love, but the complication of a love interest in a film whose main focus is not romance can be a hurdle either to trip a film up or that can be surpassed. Here it is clearly surpassed, and in a natural, organic, wholly satisfactory way.

Not shying away from things and refusing to treat difficult subject matters superficially puts a huge onus on the young actors of a film and the main foursome Brekke, Græsli, Jacobsen and Sigrid Welde (Anja’s other best friend, Lisa) are wholly up to the task. There is a general sincerity about all the interactions the children have with one another whether combative, friendly, supportive, or romantic that really drives home the emotion. This truth is not only evident in the scenes where the children interact with one another but also when Anja is dealing with adults, namely her parents and doctor.

This film is heartfelt, sincere, moving and beautifully done regardless for the emotion the film is striving for. It’s not a wonder that the book upon which this story is based is so popular, and that it’s already yielded two film versions. This film will have you chuckle, and also pull at your heartstrings but in a way that’s wholly intrinsic to the film and not in due in large part to manipulation. A truly excellent film.


Short Film Saturday: Hoje Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (VIDEO – Subtitled)

Being June now the shorts will be fitting for LGBT Pride month and if you read the blog regularly the first selection will not be that surprising.

This short eventually was expanded into last year’s BAM Award Winner for Best Picture, Best Foreign Film and Best Director, titled in English The Way He Looks.

As fate would have it I saw the feature first, but having seen them both I can assure you there are surprises in store for those who have seen either of the two. The longer version adds conflicts, expands on themes and has a few different surprises in store. Whereas there are some different surprises here.

Click the “CC” icon for myriad subtitle options.

Free Movie Friday: Blondie (1938)


I wanted to start this series back in January. Basically, there are a lot of good movies out there that you can watch free and clear. Meaning you don’t have to pay for them and by streaming it free you’re not stealing it because they are in the public domain. Also, in some cases, these films are not all as ancient as copyright laws usually call for.

Blondie (1938)

Firstly, anyone lamenting that sequels are “ruining movies” today, this is one of the easiest examples to cite proving that everything old is new again, meaning sequels are not a modern scourge. There were about 25 of these films released over a thirteen year period. Also worth noting is that long before the Harry Potter films Larry Simms grew up on film – at least in real life if not so much as Baby Dumpling.

I finally started watching a box set of these short, easy-viewing comedies this year. They are in the public domain, readily available and usually quite enjoyable even if the formula has few variables. The series may bolster this section for quite some time as the completist in me does want to get through all of them.

On a personal note, it’s most compelling to me because I recall Blondie in the Sunday comics when I was very young. I always read it, as I did most things on the page, and I guess I never enjoyed it per se due to my youth and the dated nature they had at the time. A similar example on the comics page for years was my not getting or liking Doonesbury reading it anyway.  Doonesbury I still don’t care for, but I have come to an appreciation of Blondie through these films mainly due to Arthur Lake and Penny Singleton’s characterization which I never would have read into the panels.


Review: Outlaw League

The sports film, it would seem, is one of the subgenres that’s most constrained by its tropes in all of cinema. Usually, a lot of hinges on the result of the game or a season. As there are only so many ways an athletic event can end that’s where the limitation of options begins. Things get a bit more unique when the competition, and the result thereof, are an afterthought and not the biggest thing.

The synopsis as provided by Attraction Distribution is as follows:

Nicolas, 12 years old, son and grandson of fishermen, lives alone with his mother in a village overlooking the sea. A terrible storm snatched his dad a few earlier. Summer vacation is the chance for Nicolas to resume his greatest pleasure: playing baseball with his friends. But a major obstacle greets the kids who assemble at the village baseball field: the town council has decided to convert the field into a municipal dump. With Nicolas as their leader, the village kids will resist the mayor’s machinations with ferocity and, to their surprise, they will receive the support of Nicolas’ grandfather and his old buddies.

In this guise the film is really as simplified as it could get: it’s really only about playing for the love of the game and that becomes paramount. The game that the kids have to win just becomes a means to an end. It’s about them being allowed to be played, satisfying the need the kids have while satisfying the adult concerns with the well-being of the town. This simplicity is enviable inasmuch as it strips most of the sports film encumbrances out of the the film.

The issues only come in to play because there’s not much else brought into it to fill the void that those clichés usually occupy. In fact, aside from the main conflict (finding a suitable playing field and being allowed to play) there’s really only one subplot that ends up being significant: Nicholas’ relationship with his grandfather and mending fences in the family he has left. The amassing of the few new friends is treated by the film as little more token scenes needed to round-out a starting nine.

With an uncomplicated plot, and a short running time, one would hope that the film would move briskly but it doesn’t so much. The film does end up feeling a bit longer than it really does. The must-win game being introduced late is good but it is rendered anticlimactic by its treatment.

The film has its enjoyable qualities, Nicholas’ relationship with his Grandfather, Nicholas’ imaginary conversations with his father, and the performance by André Kasper as the young lead.

If one is a huge baseball fan it’s definitely worth looking into, children who may not be as discerning, and can also deal with some adult themes can find enjoyment in it. The simplicity of the film could’ve yielded more but it is a fairly realistic treatment of young characters and love for sport that would likely find an audience.


Review: T.I.M (a.k.a The Incredible Machine)

In media res, is one of those phrases that is bandied about, at times a bit haphazardly. Such that it has become cliché inasmuch as we don’t really consider its true meaning at times and the functionality this technique can have. Beginning in the middle of things, which is what in media res translates to, factors into this story about T.I.M. is set in the future, in a world where personalized robots have become commonplace and Tibor (Dyon Wilkens) and his father (Bas Keijzer) have one that is a relic among many generations of newer better android assistants. However, these are things that we as an audience infer as the movie travels along a bit. It is not something handed to us via voice-over or other forced exposition. These facts are a given combined with an in media res beginning quickly tip you off, again subtly, that this movie is more concerned with other things than the robot and the sci-fi elements of the story.

At the heart of the story is a lonely, socially maladjusted Tibor; his struggling, verklempt father Arend; and a journey to try and find the man who built T.I.M. in the first place to try and fix him, holding on to him rather than having to part with him. Taking into account the fact that Tibor lost his mother when he was young the quest to get T.I.M. fixed takes on a thin veil masking the desire he has to keep some semblance of his mother’s memory alive.

Yet simultaneously the film also builds in and addresses Tibor’s struggle to relate to his peers as his pain and isolation have made him unable to relate to those around him. Readily confessing that T.I.M is his only friend, he faces challenges in owning up to his shortcomings, learning to trust, communicate, as well as the meaning of friendship.

Most of that learning how to have a friend is personified in the hot-and-cold relationship he has with Kiki (Claudia Kanne) as she helps him along his path to where he thinks he’ll find answers. He does just not in the way it was expected.

What’s loveliest about this film is that while all this is readily apparent it never hits you over the head, and it is still as enjoyable on the surface as it is in its subtext. The film balances emotions well, it keeps some humor in, there is a bittersweet nature to it, some sadness, and surpassing beauty to it all.

It’s a lustrously shot film with an enchanting score that closes its circle well and leaves the characters in a great place, so much so that you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. The film moves briskly apace and is entertaining throughout and can be enjoyed equally by audiences of all ages.

The irony that at times the best examinations of humanity are made when contrasting us to artificial intelligence is not lost on filmmakers. The motif still appears to be fertile ground yielding much fruit, this is just the latest in a long line of great films to prove that point. Exactingly done and precisely performed, it’s an enrapturing experience that should be sought out.