Despite the plethora of TV comedy out there, it isn’t actually all that often that I find myself truly and consistently tickled by a TV show. Luckily for me, Adult Swim exists. And whilst I find most of what I’ve seen from them very, very funny there is one show in particular that rises above their own very high standard and deserves far more attention and accolade than it receives. That show is The Venture Bros. Having waited for what seems like an eternity to an avid fan, Season 4 Part 1 is now available to purchase on DVD in Australia thanks to Madman Entertainment. And it’s every bit as absolutely awesome as the three incredible seasons that precede it.

At the end of Season 3 viewers were left wondering not only where the line between “good” and “evil” lay with relation to key characters but also who exactly would make it back alive for Season 4. Well, I’m not going to spoil things by answering those rather excellent questions but what I will say is that you needn’t worry because – one way or another – all your favourites will be returning and, as has been the case all along, the “plot” (I think we can just about call it that) thickens. There are important updates afoot with regard to The Guild of Calamitous Intent, The Sovereign, budding romances between certain young characters, the mental health of various other characters and of course, the very complicated, legal minefield that applies to the world of Arching.

If everything I wrote in the last paragraph means absolutely nothing to you then I suspect you are unfamiliar with the best cartoon ever made, in which case, you really ought to start with Season 1 and catch yourself up. Don’t worry, this recommendation is about as iron clad as anyone’s sanity, so if you have a sense of humour (and particularly if things that are a little bit not quite right so happen to tickle your fancy) go buy Seasons 1-4 NOW.

The only negative thing to be said about this DVD is that once you’ve finished watching the eight wonderful episodes it boasts, you’ll no doubt wish you had the next eight at the ready (sadly, they are not yet available over here). But, on the up side, you can go back and watch those eight episodes all over again which, so far as I’m concerned, is actually pretty bloody exciting because if Seasons 1-3 taught me anything, it’s that The Venture Bros. only gets better with repeat viewings.

The Venture Bros. Season 4 Part 1 was released on DVD on Thursday February 16 through Madman Entertainment.

Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.

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In accordance with MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival)  and though not strictly associated with- more something of a timely selection in lieu of- MIAF (Melbourne International Animation Festival), Sunday’s special preview screening of Komaneko – The Curious Cat (2006) at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) was a fantastic first look at an intelligent and well observed Japanese children’s film whose title character rivals Hello Kitty when it comes to cute.

Komaneko is a 60 minute stop-motion animation that consists of five short segments, each of which operates on two clear and decipherable levels; as a lesson in the virtues of patience for children and filmmakers alike.

First Step:  

Komaneko wants to make a short (self-reflexively stop-motion animation) film starring his/her (Komaneko is gender ambiguous) soft toys. Storyboarding the scene during the title sequence, Komaneko then embarks upon creating an appropriate mise-en-scene. So, “the first step” is the necessary though not entirely dynamic process of creating and staging; props, set design, lighting, wardrobe, and camera angles. The First Step is the shortest in the series, but affords its viewers with a suitable level of understanding and anticipation for the creative processes and obstacles that follow.

Hands On Camera:

As not all processes of filmmaking, or any creative project for the matter, rest solely upon the omniscient control of their directors/creators, a degree of allowance must be made for what could be called “capturing the moment” or “artistic accident” within the context of creative output. Through an amusing anecdotal sequence that sees Komaneko attempt (and fail) to capture natural occurences of beauty and excitement; from a flower blooming to a ghost ghouling the often frustrating element of artistic endeavour is exemplarily explicated.

Koma and Radi-Bo:

The third section focusses on the simultaneous and contradictory reliance upon and enablement of technology, with specific attention paid to the physical toil that is involved in successfully controlling and manipulating it to a positive end. Just like their respective parents, Komaneko and his/her friend Radi-Bo (also gender ambiguous) toil with (not against) technology for a creative outcome. From a malfunctioning disco dancing robot to a projector that’s jammed, Komaneko and Radi-Bo learn that it takes sweat and tears (quite literally) to create a successful item for artistic entertainment.

Radi-Bo’s Battle:

Section four sees Komaneko’s friend Radi-Bo battle with (an)Other – one of the most difficult battles of all, be it in filmmaking or life more generally, getting along with Others and resolving conflict with one another is no simple feat. Radi-Bo is flying a toy plane and there is a certain bird who continually sabotages his/her recreational activities. Radi-Bo learns to deal with the interference to his/her recreational/creative endeavours through an agreement to work together. Although it seems, for the inconvenience caused, it is not without something of a retainer for revenge!

Real Friends:

The final chapter in Komaneko – The Curious Cat involves the most sought after filmmaking technique, and life skill, of all: the search for the Truth. To show something true and honest is the noblest of quests for any filmmaker and certainly when considering theories of spectatorship and photography (see Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Chirstian Metz’ The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema, to name but two of many great sources on the topic) it is indeed a significant point of contention within schools of visual/film theory and for viewers alike. Indeed the search for the truth in life more widely is too riddled with issues, but as Komaneko soon discovers, it is the search that ultimately rewards and validates its seeker. Sweet and heart-warming, an exemplary exercise in animation, Komaneko is an absolute joy to watch.

Komaneko – The Curious Cat screens exclusively at ACMI Friday July 2 – Tuesday July 6 daily at 1pm.

We Were There

February 26, 2010

Last night we here at Liminal Vision had the pleasure of attending an underground screening of Spike Jonze’s new short film, I’m Here (2010). A collaboration between Jonze and Absolut Vodka, I’m Here is a remarkable film, screened and distributed in an equally remarkable fashion. Rather than run the festival circuit or situate itself amongst a compilation of short films, I’m Here is currently playing a few free underground UK screening events (organised by Absolut and We Are Social) and will be more widely released online in March. So why is it free to see the newest and most beautiful work of such an acclaimed director as Spike Jonze (especially off the back of his brilliant recent feature release Where the Wild Things Are)?

First and foremost I’m Here is not just a film to be seen, it is an embodied experience and as such a work of art capable and intent upon being felt beyond the parameters of a screen. I’m Here is simultaneously a simple and complex contemporary love story. Sheldon is a robot in a world where humans and robots co-exist. His menial existence, working and recharging ad infinitum, is one day altered by Anne, a female robot who literally and metaphorically jolts him into a state of consciousness. Sheldon is hesitant and frightened at first, but once he understands that no one can tell you you’re not allowed to dream, he opens his heart and imagination to the possibility of love and connection. Sheldon learns to give of himself so that he might find a complete, embodied connection to another person. The robotic metaphor is gentle and sweet in its execution resulting in the soft fimic tonality Jonze is renowned for.

I’m Here is a film made with equal measures of hope and eloquence. It’s accessibility is a mark of its own moral project reaching beyond the confines of technical, prescribed boundaries. Extending beyond the screen, the team at Absolut clearly put great effort into creating an appropriate atmosphere for the screening itself. Greeted with a washer that was immediately exchanged for drink tokens, we headed to the bar to sample an Absolut Peppar Bloody Mary and an Absolut Citron Tonic Twist. Having grabbed our drinks we explored the underground NCP carpark which had been converted into a bar, complete with dj, sound system, fluroescent lights and cinema screen, we took our seats… In front of the screen were a number of cardboard boxes, their contents mysteriously plugged in to power points leading beneath the astro-turf-like-surface we thought we were to sit on. Just minutes before the screening began the contents of the boxes came alive and some thirty inflatable matresses sprang forth for our viewing comfort. Surrounded by the occasional car door and some nifty looking techno-ruins a suitable atmosphere was created for the film’s debut.

If you missed the event itself then make sure you catch the film online. Whether it’s in an underground car park or the comfort  of your own home, Jonze’s beautiful depiction of the human condition is unmistakably here.