2015: Favorite Screen Miscellany

Artwork: K.E.T.

Welcome to Screen Week! Join us as we explore the films and TV shows that kept us staring at screens. More from this series



Trailer

Queen of Earth (Dir. Alex Ross Perry)

Maybe it’s because I’ve dipped into too many Trailers From Hell-holes in 2015, but after binging countless 60s and 70s genre film trailers, Queen of Earth’s promo became addictive. The teaser for Alex Ross Perry’s miserables-heavy comedy, Listen Up Philip, featured all principal cast members (Jason Schwartzmann, Elisabeth Moss, etc.) without including any clips from the film itself, providing a refreshing attention to marketing as an art itself. While Queen of Earth is more conventional in its selling of its most crucial scenes as a hook, the execution recalls various psychological mind-benders of the Polanski/Bergman ilk. Cheesy narration, freeze-frame title screens with frilly typography, moody score — subtlety is willingly spared in packaging Perry’s film as a throwback while remaining a glorious, anxious work of an auteur. The cheesiness and intensity create a nervous comedy, much like the film itself. What’s the film selling itself as? All we know it by is its familiar hook: women at each other’s throats. There’s an arrogance of small-scale prestige filmmaking here, but it has the crawl blurbs and accolades to back it up.

Reality Television

The Kardashians Spoof (Dir. SimgmProductions)

ASMR

“Festive Cranberry Face Brushing” (by softsoundwhispers)

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos have been available to watch and enjoy for over five years on YouTube. The tingling sensation that each piece aims to invoke comes from a combination of often delicate, fragile sounds, while the narrator uses whispering as their primary method for communicating actions or signals to their audience. 2015 didn’t exactly make a mark in the way that broadcasters attempted to soothe their viewers, but the ramifications of the sensation seemed to spur more interest than previous years in the way that scientists and journalists examined the affect in detail to better understand what happens to our brains when we engage. From our perspective, this certainly made for an interesting debate, where ideas about the strength of a whisper or a crinkle of material resulted in either deep relaxation or unsavory ridicule — similar feelings are often what spark the most visceral responses to field recordings, tape music, and found sound pieces. But the discussion went beyond the bounds of online commentary, when Emma L. Barratt and Nick J. Davis from Swansea University published the first research paper on the subject; they polled viewers in an attempt to find preference for location, narrative, and indeed the sounds that stimulate the most relaxing reaction so as to explain why the videos have gained such momentum. For us at TMT, the sensation caused by those sounds probably remains the most stimulating, where each affect, style, and suggestion granted virtual tranquility in a harbor of amateur dramatic wilderness. One of the first ASMR contributors we came across returned to the height of her game last year, and although “Festive Cranberry Face Brushing” may not have shifted the direction of this rampant online subculture, or provided insight as to where that tingling sensation comes from, it made for another creative addition to the growing library of soothing online experiences.

Post-Human Condition

Brian’s YouTube (Dir. Brian)


  

Netflix and Kill

Kung Fury (Dir. David Sandberg)

Holy cow this short was crazy. A staggering homage to a mixture of American 80s adventure, 80s cop, and 80s horror movies, Kung Fury played out like it was meant to be more of an artifact than an artwork. Over the top in just about every way, it managed to pack an incredible amount of sheer insanity into its scant 31-minute runtime, featuring plotlines involving policing the dangerous streets of Miami, fighting dinosaurs during the reign of Thor, and subsequently teaming up with Thor and those dinosaurs in a battle with none other than Hitler himself. While the zaniness of its premise was enough to get us to commit to spending a half-hour watching it, what brought us to the conclusion that it belonged on this list was its execution. It’s pretty easy to slap a VHS-tracking-effect on digital video footage, but David Sandberg went all in on creating a piece that was really hard to define with a specific time period. The action sequences were exhilarating as they were absurd, the acting as calculatingly forced and macho as the story warranted, and all-around the film was exactly as long as it needed to be. Sandberg and his Scandinavian team opened the door to exciting new possibilities for short-form filmmakers, proving that with enough passion (or at least with enough adrenaline), half-hour narratives could be just as fulfilling as the lion’s share of feature-length action movies being released these days.

Fan Fiction

Star Trek Axanar (Axanar Productions)

 

Film-Length Music Video

PINHEAD IN FANTASIA (A.R. FAUST)

This weekend, I went to the unveiling of a replica Titanosaur at the American Museum of Natural History. Assessing the massive amounts of cultural phenomena that was physically occurring around this spectacle, I wandered into a lot of the indigenous and tribal in-house exhibits that were completely void of population. Not only did I recognize a lot of similarities in the crowds upstairs (especially parents with children), but I started remembering the A.R. FAUST-made PINHEAD IN FANTASIA video. Ironically, the area I was traversing reflected upon the PINHEAD IN FANTASIA video, with the artwork praising a figurehead in society that’s equally praised and feared. Yet, looking back upon Spencer Clark’s expansive discography, fabricating a believable lore makes the experimental musician Pope of the underground. Even the way I listen to music ritually (especially Fourth World Magazine) seemed to mirror these various historical groups of people, with faith-based entertainment excreting endorphins like an insatiable hunger feasting on the burning question: “Why?” The answers are within A.R. FAUST’s PINHEAD IN FANTASIA.

Awkward

Tidal Live Press Conference

 

Welcome to Screen Week! Join us as we explore the films and TV shows that kept us staring at screens. More from this series


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