Sunday, March 26, 2017

Recent Blade Runner Fan Films & Homages

2019 is fast approaching, the year the influential science fiction film Blade Runner was set. I'm curious to see how the city of Los Angeles will pay tribute to the film. I hope that institutions like CSU-Fullerton and others who have access to some wonderful art and papers connected to the work of Phillip K. Dick will have some displays that year to mark the occasion. It would be nice to see a convention organize a celebration seriously.

Part of what I'd like to see is of course a film festival that shows all of the major cuts of Blade Runner, and the upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049. Additionally, I think a solid case can be made to include screenings of the short-lived Total Recall 2070 TV series, which owes much more to Blade Runner than the Total Recall film it was named after.


We've seen an increase in the number of fan films made in homage to Blade Runner since at least 2011. To provide an initial resource for would-be film festival programmers, here's a few that have caught my eye that I'd consider.

Some are of better quality than others, and some miss many points of the world that Ridley Scott and the others envisioned while adapting Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But even so, I think it may be worth looking at them to have conversations about what a more fully-realized vision will entail. Considering recent statements that in his mind, Blade Runner operates in the same world of Alien, this also opens up some distinct possibilities such as the Prometheus and Predator series or Kurt Russell's film Soldier.  

Speedrun: Blade Runner in 60 seconds certainly captures a good majority of the themes and memorable scenes of Blade Runner to bring everyone up to speed who hasn't seen it yet. #SpoilerAlert, naturally.

You might also do well to compare and contrast it to the 8-bit Cinema recap of Blade Runner if it had been a reasonably good game, compared to the actual Commodore 64 game that came out.

I would hope that an effort would be made to showcase some of the cutscenes from the Westwood Blade Runner game from 1996, with some of the designers discussing the thinking that went into it.

Among recent fan films is the subdued Tears in the Rain and the atmospheric Slice of Life.

2016 gave us the short film Rogue Investment using the Grand Theft Auto tools. Obviously, it's very rough, but I would give it a few points for trying to push the game engine about as far as it could be pushed to create a neo-noir Los Angeles. 

A 2015 trailer was released for "Blade Runner 2" which asked what might have happened after the events of Blade Runner with a reasonably complex story it was trying to tell:

2011 gave us XXIT which is notable for the successful low-budget approach for the time in recreating the Blade Runner universe, with a touch of the Terminator thrown into the mix.

2013's True Skin, set in Bangkok  also has my vote for consideration, and it has been in the process of getting adapted into a series by Amazon, apparently. 

In December 2016, LOVE magazine also did a video that was supposedly an homage to the interview with Rachel in Blade Runner, where a Voight-Kampff test is administered to someone who might reasonably be suspected of being your basic pleasure model like Pris, thanks to Victoria's Secret model Cami Morrone. I personally prefer Sean Young's approach, but there you have it:

Are there any short films I've missed that should be a part of a Blade Runner mini-film festival? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Exhibit: The Spirit of Invention by Tim Hawkinson

On exhibit until April 14th at Pasadena City College is Tim Hawkinson's Spirit of Invention. It's a short visit, but there are a few noteworthy pieces to consider, primarily his Average Vitruvian Man and Thumbsucker. Admission is free. It's a quick stop but an enjoyable one.

Hawkinson is recognized internationally for his creativity. His approach is to mix "high tech and low tech in unexpected confluence, his resulting artworks are a wonder of creative ingenuity. Because of his remarkable spirit of invention and the wonderfully unpredictable outcomes of his inquisitive postulations."

His 2016 Average Vitruvian Man references the famous Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, which was based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry and classical architecture. Here, all the main body parts have been photographed in the round, and averaged into identically sized 8 1/2 x 11” prints wrapped around plastic soda bottles.

Hawkinson's work has been called "a playful dance with life itself." In his 2015 Thumbsucker, we see a moon "formed from enlarged and reduced casts of the artist’s mouth, and the astronaut is formed through casts – also enlarged and reduced – of his thumb and fingers. " 

Pasadena City College notes that "This exhibition of Hawkinson’s work offers a sampling of artworks throughout his career, in hopes that the viewer may witness this ongoing thread of creative genius, this unexpected, serendipitous pairing of high and low that marks Hawkinson’s innovative process of discovery."

Per his bio:
Tim Hawkinson's (b. 1960, San Francisco) idiosyncratic creations are meditations on nature, machines, mortality, the body and human consciousness. Since the 1980s, the artist has used common found and store-bought materials, handcrafted objects, and machines to shift familiar subject matter off-kilter, creating visual conundrums and conceits imbued with deeper meaning. His inventive works range in size from monumental kinetic and sound-producing sculptures to almost microscopic pieces created from such unassuming materials as fingernail clippings and eggshells. Driven by ideas, materials, and an interest in transformation, Hawkinson continues to create unlikely and thought-provoking associations by transforming common materials into works of art. Hawkinson received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015.

[Road Trip] Museum of Neon Art, Glendale, CA

Founded in 1981 the Museum of Neon Art is a definite treasure of Southern California. The Museum of Neon Art "encourages learning, curiosity and expression through the preservation, collection and interpretation of neon, electric and kinetic art. Neon is a gateway between scientific principles and artistic expression. Neon illumination integrates electrical technology, creative design, and fundamental concepts of physics and chemistry."

The Museum of Neon Art currently holds the distinction of being the only museum in the world devoted exclusively to art in electric media, exhibiting electric and kinetic fine art, and outstanding examples of historic neon signs, for over 30 years. Which may sound like hyperbole, but I found it to be an apt description.

Presently, their main exhibit is the art of plasma, which I found extremely fascinating. It's on display until July 30th, and well worth the visit no matter what your artistic discipline. There's much to consider with this medium, and I'd love to see how Lao artists might take on such a form even as it would require an engagement with the sciences and the humanities in a way that not all of us have ready access to.

It's been 18 years since the Museum of Neon Art last presented an exhibit on plasma, and director Kim Koga was a wonderful host during my visit recently, putting it all into context.

Here are just a handful of the amazing and wonderful displays I saw:

I particularly appreciated this because we often think of neon art as a very two dimensional affair to appreciate primarily from a single angle, but here the plasma art made a very good case that much of it must be seen from 360 degrees, and the very best pieces allow for tactile engagement, although the general public rarely gets to do so. Private collectors would do well to obtain such wonders.

Presently, the MONA is open only from Thursday to Sunday, typically from noon until 7pm, except for 5pm on Sunday. Admission is typically $10 or $5 if you're a Glendale resident. Children under 12 can come for free. It's located at 216 Brand Street and is near some good restaurants and shopping before or after.

Parking is somewhat tricky because the back lots behind the museum fill up fast, but it is not impossible.  $35 also gets you a year's membership, which I think is more than reasonable to preserve such treasures.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

50 Years Later: Remembering Otto Rene Castillo

It's time I think for a repost of Otto Rene Castillo's poem "Apolitical Intellectuals," here in the August 1970 edition of the Ann Arbor Sun. Born to the middle class family in Quetzaltenango, Otto Rene Castillo wrote 2 volumes of poetry in his lifetime. In 1967, he was interrogated, tortured, and burned alive by the Guatemalan government. This year, March 23rd marks the 50th anniversary of his death. He would have been 83 years old on April 25th. Keep involved.