Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

09 AUGUST, 2010

5 ½ Werner Herzog Gems

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Monkey philosophy, literary incongruity, and what eating a shoe reveals about the state of contemporary culture.

We’re a little obsessed with the endlessly eccentric, delightfully dark German director Werner Herzog. So we’ve curated five — and a half — of our favorite Werner Herzog nuggets to get existential with or simply have a good intellectual chuckle over.

PLASTIC BAG

Directed by Ramin Bahrani of Goodbye Solo fame, Plastic Bag follows the existential journey of a plastic bag, narrated by Herzog, searching for its maker.

The film is part of FutureStates, a series of 11 fictional mini-features exploring hypothetical scenarios for our future through the lens of the world’s current realities.

WERNER HERZOG READS CURIOUS GEORGE

Okay, so it isn’t really Herzog. It’s an impersonator, filmmaker Ryan Iverson. But the prospect of the dry, uncompromising, deeply existentialist German interpreting children’s classics is oddly alluring, both humorous and awkwardly disturbing. Either way, you can’t stop listening.

WERNER HERZOG READS MADELINE

Yep, it’s another impersonation. But we just can’t get enough of them. The urgency with which “Herzog” recites the playful rhymes of the book is so comically incongruous that you — or at least we — can’t help chuckling.

WERNER HERZOG READS WHERE’S WALDO

No children’s books parody is complete without a stab at Where’s Waldo. Here, “Herzog” takes a tone that’s somewhere between Freud and The X Files, taking the absurdity of the whole concept to a whole new level.

WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE

Returning to the authentic Herzog, these excerpts from Les Blank’s classic 1980 short film, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, are part serious cultural commentary, part humorous encounter with Herzog’s public persona, part rare glimpse of his private creative process as a deeply thoughtful filmmaker.

The film documents Herzog delivering on a bet he made with Errol Morris, which held that if Morris finished his acclaimed first feature, Gates of Heaven, Herzog would eat his shoe.

BONUS

You may recall an old Brain Pickings favorite from a couple of years ago, Clemens Kogler’s Le Grand Content — a brilliant blend of humor and philosophy reflecting on today’s infographic culture. Inspired by Jessica Hagy’s equally brilliant indexed blog, another Brain Pickings favorite, it’s narrated by a (rather excellent) Werner Herzog impersonator who nails Herzog’s characteristic monotonous snark with a degree of precision and an ounce of caricature that only adds to the dark charm of the piece.

This instant classic is without question in our top five animations of all time.

For a deeper dive into the magic of Herzog, we highly recommend Werner Herzog Collection, a fantastic 1977 film anthology featuring eight of his excellent films, along with commentary, as well as Herzog on Herzog, a priceless collection of interviews Herzog has given throughout his prolific career in both fiction and documentary.

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05 AUGUST, 2010

Animation Spotlight: The Films of Joaquin Baldwin

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Changing the world through origami, or what voodoo has to do with windmill farms.

Joaquin Baldwin grew up in Paraguay. But, as a 19-year-old, he made his move to the US, heading first to Ohio for college, then LA for graduate school. Enrolling in The UCLA Animation Workshop, Baldwin began working on his animated films. By 2006, he released two shorts, Placenta and Alphamorphosis, which feature a signature “poetic, silent narrative.” Papiroflexia (2007) came next.

Papiroflexia (“origami” in Spanish) plays felicitously with the concept of changing the world through art, and the critics greeted it warmly. The film won 22 awards and honors overall. Even better, it was named a finalist in the Short Film Corner competition at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2008, Baldwin took another step forward with Sebastian’s Voodoo, a darker film with a more cinematic quality.

Sebastian’s Voodoo landed an even longer list of awards, despite sometimes facing competition from Pixar and Disney. Then the big coup. Baldwin re-entered the same competition at Cannes where he was a finalist the year before, and this time landed the big prize. You can watch (and even download) Baldwin’s films — including his latest one, The Windmill Farmer — at PixelNitrate.com.

Dan Colman edits Open Culture, which brings you the best free educational media available on the web — free online courses, audio books, movies and more. By day, he directs the Continuing Studies Program at Stanford University, and you can also find him on Twitter.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

04 AUGUST, 2010

One Designer, Two Designer: Vintage Australian Animation

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Tea cups, cavemen and why consumer research is doing design a disservice.

We have a soft spot for documentaries about design — from Gary Hustwit’s Objectified to the BBC’s The Genius of Design. And while industrial design may seem like a relatively newfound cultural obsession, the design of “things” has been on the minds of filmmakers for a long time.

Today, we look at an uncovered gem from the archive of the Design Council of Australia — One Designer, Two Designer, a wonderful animated short film circa 1978 comically exploring what makes good and bad design.

Style can be very easily confused with design and is very often substituted for that. A trendy hook to a product may be just that. To serve a popular style today is often to perform a disservice to the customer. The real function of the designer is to understand the function of the thing he is designing.

Despite the humorous tone, the film delves into the important misconceptions about design and designers’ role in society, emphasizing the need for developing a design sensibility to better and more critically evaluate the value of objects beyond what advertising slogans may promise.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.