Monday, August 15, 2016

Buddhist Art: A Fragile Inheritance

The preservation of deteriorating Buddhist art is examined in this well-shot documentary. Threatened by both natural and manmade dangers, vulnerable ancient paintings are crumbling into dust from wind, sand, flood, fire, earthquake, salt deposits, and the very act of restoration itself. The devotional art appearing in this documentary is created with 'a pure mind for the greater good', often examining the impermanence of life and its rebirth, and uses ancient illustrations as a guide. The depiction of the gods and saints must be accurate, and the requirements cannot be modified. Therefore, its preservation for future generations is imperative. Through conservation techniques such as salt removal, plaster replacement, reattaching crumbling frescoes with adhesives, and the limiting of tourists to remote religious sites, the race to salvage irreplaceable artwork is shown. Featuring beautifully shot vistas of mountainous terrain, colorful traditional garments, gorgeous temples, twirling prayer wheels, and an intricate dance which destroys evil spirits and generates spiritual benefits to onlookers, Buddhist Art: A Fragile Inheritance is an enlightening look at a serious problem threatening priceless cultural artifacts.

ICYMI, I said dumb stuff about the horror film They're Watching over at Cultured Vultures.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Always For Pleasure

The music and culture of New Orleans is examined in this cheeky documentary. Colorful and humorously shot, Louisiana culture is on display, with a jazz funeral procession, musical performances, singing, dancing, marching, as fellas the glorious folk art. of the region. Andouille, ham hocks, and red beans are prepared. Allan Toussaint and Irma Thomas are interviewed, and Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers perform. Legba is briefly mentioned. And of course, crawfish are boiled. A surprisingly whimsical film, a little girl whizzes by on a skateboard, and the ornate and meaningful costumes of the Wild Tchoupitoulas are created. Gorgeous and joyous, don't pass up Always For Pleasure.

Speaking of passing up something pleasurable, don't forget to check out my review of They're Watching at Cultured Vultures.

I can't really guarantee watching the film or my review will be that pleasurable, though.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Bickering heroes team up to avert a world decimating threat in this entertaining, uneven comic book film. Jumping into the action immediately with a breathless opening sequence, Avengers: The Age Of Ultron wastes no time bringing the viewer up to speed, as though you just received the latest issue of the comic book. Unfortunately, the pace makes action-free scenes plod along, such as the Stark/Banner montage of the origin of Ultron and a dreary party scene.

Thrilling and boring in equal measures, Avengers: Age Of Ultron has the very best CGI there is to offer, a hint of characterization, an over-the-top ending featuring hundreds of robots and a levitating city threatening to crash to extinguish all life on Earth and justifying assembling all these heroes, and a relatively high ratio of Avengers-based destruction. You know, Ultron kind of has a point, that the Avengers often seem like a more immediate threat to life and property than Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, well, other than that whole hovering city business.

Anyway, Avengers: Age Of Ultron wasn't half bad, which is more than can be said for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

 ICYMI, I said a bunch of stuff at Cultured Vultures, and I have a Youtube channel you should check out.

And there's more:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Crazy About Tiffany's

Celebrities, authors, philanthropists and other wealthy people gush over the luxury brand in this well-shot, slick, and extremely tasteful, feature-length advertisement. Examining the history of the iconic store and high-end jeweler, from the origin of the robin's egg blue color used exclusively in its packaging, the world's first catalog The Blue Book, the design and creation of expensive jewelry, and clips from the film "Breakfast At Tiffany's", Crazy About Tiffany's looks very expensive, and the music licensing must've cost a fortune (or at least a few comped blue bags of trinkets).

At the 32-minute mark, there's the first mention of non-wealth, as if there is somehow a world beyond the glittering precious metals sold in the store. Don't worry, it's very brief.

Suddenly, everyone onscreen is somehow surprised to discover the Holly Golightly character in Truman Copote's story is a prostitute. Meanwhile, young girls are indoctrinated into the Tiffany cult. A diamond mine is briefly shown from a distance. No actual mine workers were shown because they probably don't really exist.

At 48 minutes, during a clip of the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, amidst swelling saccharine strings, Patrick Dempsey proposes to Reese Witherspoon in an after-hours Tiffany's as less-than-excited, probably-not-actual employees stand around to wait on them hand-and-foot. I suddenly felt quite queasy.

At 50 minutes, weak criticism is introduced that suggests the brand could be considered passe amongst millennials who feel the store might be stuffy and old-fashioned, but it's quickly pushed aside for more self-promotion.

A beautifully shot, awful, congratulatory corporate cheerleading film with deliriously squealing celebrity shills, Crazy About Tiffany's is just as polished as its overpriced baubles, but that doesn't mean you should buy into it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

UFOs and Prophecies From Outer Space

Prophet Billy Meier's somewhat suspect UFO photos are examined in this dull paranormal documentary. After an assassination attempt and walking away from the French Foreign Legion, Billy Meier claims to have been visiting by extraterrestrials and mentored by an alien named Sfath. Featuring talking head interviews and photos of UFOs dangling suspiciously close to trees, The Billy Meier Story rambles on and on about UFOs and some sort of barely touched upon prophecies. Here's a not-especially compelling clip of a too-good-to-be-true UFO dangling near a tree.

I don't know an awful lot about the motivations of supposed extraterrestrials, but if I was piloting a UFO, I probably wouldn't dangle right there by the one lone tree for miles around because it would certainly look suspicious. I do know a bit about boring movies, and UFOs and Prophecies From Outer Space is as boring as a five minute clip of two pie plates hot glued together and suspended from a string.

ICYMI, I said some stuff about the film Zoombies at Cultured Vultures. Check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2016


People do some vaguely science-fiction-y stuff in this largely incoherent, but fascinating, experimental short film. Featuring a screenplay written by a piece of artificial intelligence named Benjamin, the film is simultaneously self-conscious, humorous, somber, and accidentally poetic, as if Tristan Tzara used predictive text instead of cut-up newspaper to write it. The actors act their lines in earnest, but since the dialogue doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, the words and emotions clash, giving a baffling, dada-esque aura to the film. It's a well-shot and fascinating bit of cinema, mostly due to a sense of surprise to what the program could possibly say next. Sunspring is funny, surreal, and thankfully, brief.

ICYMI, I said some stuff about the zombie film Zoombies at Cultured Vultures. You should check it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ancient Alien Question

A point-by-point rebuttal of Erich Von Daniken's book about UFOs is incoherently presented in this rambling speculative documentary. From the Nazca Lines, geopolymerization, Cargo Cults, standing stones, Crystal Skulls, Nephilim, Dropa Stones, and Timewavezero, and amidst repetitive music, endless narration, wipes, and unimpressive CGI images, suspect evidence proving the ancient colonization of Earth from extraterrestrials is examined, jumping from one example to the next with little framework other than Von Daniken's book Chariots Of The Gods, and it would be extremely helpful to have the tome in hand to follow along. Lots of questions are asked, but I'm not entirely sure what the questions are or if they're thoroughly answered, although a few are half-heartedly debunked. There's an explosion of some sort at the 33-minute mark, but even that manages to bore. 

Did aliens come to Earth and build the pyramids? I don't know, I wasn't there. Maybe, just maybe, the people of the time built the structures they did with the technology they had and the tools and raw materials available to them. Or not. I mean, we have evidence that the pyramids were built, because they're like right there, yet little to no actual evidence of flying saucers. Therefore, it was probably definitely aliens. I mean, they scratched easily-found, way-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere selfies into the Earth in Nazca, and that sounds like solid proof of alien visitation to me.

If I was an ancient alien visiting Earth, with untold futuristic and science-y knowledge, I would probably build something a little more useful than a pyramid or a circle of stones, like a Costco, or an International House Of Pancakes, but what do I know? Aliens didn't have Facebook or LinkedIn back then, so a crystal skull as self-promotion was the next best and logical step. Duh. Call me conceited, but if I built a mindbogglingly impressive structure like the pyramids, everyone would know about it. I'd be flying past in my flying saucer with one of those signs fluttering behind it, and it would say, "Visit Stabford's Pyramid. It's sweet. $25 admission, half-price for puny earthlings.", and everybody would  be tweeting, "Yeah, we know about your freakin' pyramid already. Shut up about it."