Beauty Is Embarrassing: The Wayne White Story
Sometimes the true pleasure of a film, especially a documentary, is having the opportunity to bask in the presence of someone you wish you could invite into your home for dinner or head off on an epic road trip with or, as in the case of artist extraordinaire Wayne White, spend time wandering around thrift shops in search of old landscapes that will serve as new canvasses for his new creations. Better yet, it would be a hoot to lend a hand, under his guidance, as he creates one of his stupendously fun puppets. White, known for his work as a puppeteer and designer for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and his witty word art, subscribes to the crazy notion that art, while striving to be about making beauty, should be fun and something you love, which makes it a vital, life-affirming activity (and possibly embarrassing, if you’re doing it right). Neil Berkeley’s documentary captures the inspired genius of White’s life work that has a local, not-so distant cousin in the smart arts programming experiences to be found at Northside’s Happen, Inc.
Writer-director Craig Zobel’s disturbing feature Compliance had its regional premiere at this year’s FilmDayton festival, but for those who missed it on the big screen, the DVD release makes for chilling in-home viewing. Boasting to be “inspired by true events,” the film exposes one instance (in what turned out to have been many) of a weird phone hoax perpetrated by callers pretending to be police officers who convinced fast food managers to detain and, in some of the most extreme case, sexually assault employees while working supposedly in “compliance” with police investigations.
Zobel’s film is anchored by a performance from Ann Dowd as a suburban Ohio chicken joint manager, that deserved serious awards consideration. Gullibility and anxiety escalate as the narrative speeds toward inevitability, but the film forces viewers to question how they would respond in a similar situation, which could lead to some deep dark reflection, far more frightening than the torture porn or found footage genre excursions that pass for contemporary horror.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures (Season 2, Volume 3)
It is fascinating to switch from the comic book fanboy sites, as they feverishly debate the live action film and television adaptations of their sacred graphic tomes, and then sit down to watch the latest installment of, say, Marvel Animation’s Iron Man: Armored Adventures because it is obvious that the team behind this reimagining of the life of Tony Stark (as a teenager with his young friends and classmates Rhodey and Pepper Potts) cares not one bit about trampling on the character’s classic mythology. They see this as a chance to update the character for a new generation and to have some fun along the way. There are certainly plenty of references to the rich history of Stark, from his relationships with friends and family to the appearances of key villains throughout the six-episode arc featured here, but all of these elements feel like they’ve been reconfigured with careful consideration for both the old roots and the rebranding that is taking place thanks to the live action plans already in place. These Adventures are simply the more family friendly version that doesn’t kowtow to the notion that a new, younger Iron Man can’t be just as driven or serious just because he’s not yet an adult.
Tales Of The Night
The world is a place full of wonder and mystery and who’s more gloriously aware of that potential than a child with an active and engaged imagination? I’m not talking about contemporary kids raised in this technological age who have been swiping iDevices and activating/accessing fragmented information without truly integrating it into their lives and experiences. No, I’m focusing here on children like the protagonists in Michel Ocelot’s Tales of the Night, an animated tale set in a world where six global fables play out against intricately detailed backdrops where silhouetted characters come to life, all at the behest of a wise mentor and his two young charges. The swirling and colorful 2D frames are staged in ways that recall the breathless dash of Joe Wright’s recent Anna Karenina, but these Tales are tailor-made for inquisitive family viewings. Ocelot makes the oldest technology — human imagination — new again.
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