31 December 2009

Gatehouse Gazette Issue #10

The tenth issue of the online steampunk and dieselpunk newsletter the Gatehouse Gazette was released today!

I wrote a review of the Nintendo DS game Nostalgia by Matrix Software, so be sure to check that out. Also marvel at the wonderful cover by Myke Amend.

From Ottens:
A Happy New Year to all our readers! With 2009 behind us—a year that saw the steampunk community continue to grow and interest in the genre extend to mainstream media—we predict that 2010 will be a dieselpunk year.
We see mid-century influences in modern-day fashion and film and a revival of interest in times past in general, especially in the interwar era as a result of the economic hardships suffered then and today. At several websites and blogs dedicated to dieselpunk, enthusiasts are hard at work building the genre into a movement with its own style and philosophy. The Gatehouse Gazette is no exception in this process. As steampunk is steadily entering the mainstream, we are free to devote all the more energy to promoting dieselpunk. We have begun exploring its potential from the very first issue of this publication onward and will continue to do so by offering a platform for opinion and analysis. Dieselpunk is truly taking off—and therefore this Gatehouse Gazette is “taking to the skies!”
Tying in our aviation theme with the emergence of a dieselpunk mentality, we offer biographies of two heroes: Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart, written by James Roberts and J. Parkin respectively. Both were pioneers and perhaps a tad eccentric. Both were innovators and adventurers. And both continue to inspire us are we reminiscence about their accomplishments and the seemingly more heroic epoch that was their time. While Earhart was the first aviatrix to crisscross across North America and later, the world, a league of equally daring men attempted to conquer the Arctic by air. Marcus Rauchfuß tells the story of the early twentieth century polar expeditions by airship, balloon and zeppelin. Later on in this issue you will find him interviewing Ms Kaleena Kiff; producer and director of the web series Riese: a steampunkesque adventure that incorporates Norse mythology and dystopian elements seemingly inspired by Piecraftian dieselpunk.
In our literary section is an exclusive preview of Lavie Tidhar’s upcoming steampunk novel The Bookman which should hit the shelves around the time this issue is released. Hilde Heyvaert reviews Philip Reeve’s Larklight trilogy and dedicates her Steampunk Wardrobe column to the aviator look while also reminding us of one of Disney’s most underrated adventures: the movie Treasure Planet. Lastly, Trubetskoy writes an extensive comparative review of The Angel of the Revolution by George Griffith and H.G. Wells’ The War in the Air—another chapter in the history of alternate history fiction that no serious steampunk can afford to skip!
Click here or on the image to go to the Gatehouse and download it now.

29 December 2009

The Third Man - Gatehouse update

So, I've got another post up on Cinema is Cinema proper. This one is all about The Third Man, my favourite film noir. Here's a sample:
The Third Man comes forth as a collaboration of so many greats. Of course, I have to give plenty of credit to [Graham] Greene. It is his writing that, in my opinion, helps set this film apart from other films noir, for the mysteries and themes are complex and deeply woven in the expertly crafted story. Yes, I love film noir for its shadowy aesthetics and ambiguous morality, but that is precisely because it reflects the dark, complex storytelling. Well, sometimes. Not all films noir are the greatest examples of masterful storytelling. I still love it for its look, drama, and suspense, but all those things are heightened to pure excellence when portrayed through a script by a skilled writer like Greene. I cannot state enough how much this makes The Third Man an absolute favourite for me.

Furthermore, keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming release of the tenth issue of the Gatehouse Gazette, which I believe is going to occur on New Year's Day. I've got a review of the Nintendo DS game Nostalgia in it, and there are numerous other wonderful features in store!

14 December 2009

Give Us This Day

As I continue my quest into the world of Icelandic cinema, I would first like to point out an invaluable web resource for anyone else out there interested in this small national cinema: Iceland Cinema Now. ICN is a fantastic resource for the latest news, and it's where I discovered my most recent watch, and one that will be incredible easy for all of you to get access to as well (see the end of the article for the link!)

Give Us This Day (Íslands þúsand ár, 1997) by Erlendur Sveinsson is what I would call a "period documentary" about fishers in Iceland. It is a documentary of a culture gradually becoming forgotten in the seas of time. In this it reminds me of a documentary made 40 years earlier called The Hunters about the Bushmen of the Kalahari. While this culture was still present at the time of shooting, it was already rapidly modernizing. Thus, the film's attempt to portray the way the bushmen hunted was not, in fact, how the bushmen in the film actually hunted. Rather, these men were acting out for the camera the way their ancestors had once hunted, committed to celluloid in a last minute attempt to preserve knowledge of this disappearing culture.

So too does Give Us This Day preserve a culture killed off by the grand globalization of the modern world. However, while The Hunters tried its best to hide the fact that it was, in fact, largely staged, Give Us This Day remains somewhat more honest in this regard. One of the central themes of the work is its claim that, despite the grizzled fishermen's connection with nature and their ability to feel out the changes to come in the sea, the weather, and the locations of fish, they cannot sense that the thousand year tradition of fishing is also on the brink of change. The entire documentary, from its protrayal of religion and magical superstition to its attention to detail on the life of a man at sea, is always focused on this desire to preserve a dying culture. While we are never explicitly told what is to come, the sense is always looming that this small Icelandic fishing boat with its simple men and their meager catches will soon be replaced by massive corporate trawlers and a practice that is now overfishing the cod populations.

The film, I think, works well in creating a somewhat unbiased view of this rural society. On one hand, it shows a certain sense of praise and love for these nobel fishermen, but it does so without casting a judging eye on what is to follow. It does not seem to suggest that this life was better, that the future is wrong. It recognizes their strength and courage without suggesting that we have truly lost it. Rather, it presents an attitude that this too shall pass. That this life is one of the past, and that it was a life of strong caste systems and many hardships, but that there is something important to it as well, something that we must remember.

Give Us This Day is currently streaming for free over at Poppoli Pictures. If you have an hour to kill, I think it's worth checking out.

12 December 2009

Cold Fever

Now that I'm free from the schedules of academia, I'm able to begin to fully explore some avenues of cinema I've been interested in studying further, namely Icelandic cinema.

Over the course of the semester, I read an incredibly well-detailed thesis on Icelandic cinema by Björn Nordfjord, an Icelandic film scholar I intend on contacting soon to express my interest in pursuing the topic in grad school and as a professor. Iceland is a culture I have found myself strangely drawn towards throughout my life and it's cinema has a bizarre appeal to me.

However, Icelandic films are, ostensibly, difficult to obtain. This is an issue I have been slowly remedying through DVDs imported from various regions.

Tonight, I watched Friðrik Þór Friðriksson's Cold Fever (Á köldum klaka, 1995). I may talk more later on my father's impression of the film, as he watched it with me and seemed to enjoy it. Certainly, this film is a clear example of Icelandic cinema's transnational approach. The film centers on a young Japanese businessman, Hirata, visiting Iceland to perform a rite for his deceased parents, who passed away in an accident at a remote Icelandic river. In addition to Hirata, the film also features brief appearances from Germans and a section in which Hirata picks up American hitch hikers. Thus, while Iceland is spoken, it is always between Icelanders, supporting characters to the Japanese Hirata. Hirata speaks in his native tongue in the brief introduction that takes place in Japan or when he is alone and talking only to himself. All these moments are subtitled, but the bulk of the film occurs in English. English is, after all, the closest thing to a universal language. As Nordfjord points out, when Hirata is first greeted on the plane to Iceland, he is asked, "Do you speak English? You're going to like it here in Iceland," but this also acts to introduce the audience to the film.

The film asks as a sort of introductory course into the peculiarities of Icelandic culture. Everything from brennivín and sheep's head to the local music scene is paraded out for the foreign viewer. Here is Iceland, packaged up for global consumption.

At the same time, for those familiar with Icelandic culture, the local audience, there are plenty of sly "insider jokes." For one, the entire sense of an "introduction to Iceland" is played up sarcastically. We can sit back and laugh at the Icelanders portrayed in the film that excitedly promote that "Iceland has the most writers per capita" or "Iceland has very beautiful women. We had two of the last six Miss World." Not to mention some obscure jokes, like a tourist angrily calling the radically anti-fascist punk band Þeyr "Nazis" because the radio won't turn off and he doesn't want to hear the music.

Overall, the film is essentially a "road movie," tracking Hirata's arduous quest to finally do something for his parents. It's also a comedy, though perhaps its most comedic elements are more directed towards its local audience, while foreigners will look more to its European art cinema elements and Jarmusch-style cinematography.

01 December 2009

More delays

Bare with me for a few more days while I finish out the semester here. Then I'll have some free time to really dig in and start watching and writing about films.