We Were Wanderers on a Prehistoric Earth: A Short Film Inspired by Joseph Conrad

“We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth,” says the narrator Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, “on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. We could have fancied ourselves the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil.”

The palpable menace that permeates Conrad’s classic novella has been edited out of the narration in this short film, made for Tourism Malaysia by British filmmaker James W. Griffiths. What remains is a poetic sense of wonder for a natural world that is no longer frightening, no longer in need of being subdued. In the original, the twisting and turning sentences are like a microcosm of a journey up the winding Congo River, into the metaphorical darkness that lies at the heart of all men. Out of the stillness of the page, Conrad’s imagination washes over us in a rolling wave of words:

The great wall of vegetation, an exuberant and entangled mass of trunks, branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in the moonlight, was like a rioting invasion of soundless life, a rolling wave of plants, piled up, crested, ready to topple over the creek, to sweep every little man of us out of his little existence. And it moved not.

Griffiths can perhaps be forgiven for defanging Conrad. We Were Wanderers on a Prehistoric Earth is a beautiful little film, a quiet meditation on the unspoiled rainforest of West Malaysia shot in November by cinematographer Christopher Moon, who also collaborated with Griffiths on last year’s award-winning Nokia cellphone film Splitscreen. The music is by Lennert Busch, the sound design is by Mauricio d’Orey, and Conrad’s words are spoken by Terry Burns.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: An Oscar-Nominated Film for Book Lovers

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore offers a modern tribute to an old world. Made with an animation style that blends stop motion with computer animation and traditional hand-drawing, the silent film pays homage to a bygone era when elegantly printed books inhabited our world. The 15-minute short is the first made by Moonbot Studios, a fledgling animation shop in Shreveport, Louisiana. For their efforts, Moonbot’s founders (William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg and Lampton Enochs) received an Oscar-nomination this week (Best Animated Short), putting them in competition with two other films featured on Open Culture: Sunday and Wild Life.

We recommend watching The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore in “Couch mode” on Vimeo, or downloading it for free in HD from iTunes. iPad owners will also want to consider buying the related app ($4.99) that turns the film into an interactive narrative experience.

For more animated bibliophilia, don’t miss:

Spike Jonze Presents a Stop Motion Film for Bibliophiles

Books Savored in Stop Motion Film

Going West: A Stop Motion Novel

Books Come to Life in Classic Cartoons from 1930s and 1940s

Before Brokeback: The First Same-Sex Kiss in Cinema (1927)

BrainPickings recently highlighted the first kiss in cinema history. That takes you back to 1896, to a film brought to you by Thomas Edison. Now we rewind the videotape and present the first same-sex kiss in film history (or at least one of the earliest known ones). This Brokeback-before-Brokeback moment took place in the 1927 film Wings — the first and only silent film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen star in the film, playing two combat pilots who vie for the affection of the same woman (Clara Bow). That’s the storyline. But neither, as writer Kevin Sessums writes, “shows as much love for her … as they do for each other.”

Find more classics in our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via Andrew Sullivan

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A Tour Inside Salvador Dalí’s Labyrinthine Spanish Home

Along the Costa Brava in northern Spain, in the little seaside village of Portlligat, sits the house that became Salvador Dalí’s main residence in 1930. It started off as a small fisherman’s hut. Then Dalí went to work on the structure, renovating it little by little over the next 40 years, creating a living, breathing, labyrinthine home that reflects the artist’s one-of-a-kind aesthetic. Writing about the house, the author Joseph Pla once said:

The decoration of the house is surprising, extraordinary. Perhaps the most exact adjective would be: never-before-seen. I do not believe that there is anything like it, in this country or in any other…. Dalí’s house is completely unexpected…. It contains nothing more than memories, obsessions. The fixed ideas of its owners. There is nothing traditional, nor inherited, nor repeated, nor copied here. All is indecipherable personal mythology…. There are art works (by the painter), Russian things (of Mrs. Gala), stuffed animals, staircases of geological walls going up and down, books (strange for such people), the commonplace and the refined, etc.

For many, it’s a long trip to Portlligat, and only eight people can visit the house at a time. So today we’re featuring a video tour of Dalí’s Spanish home. The interior shots begin around the 1:30 mark. If you love taxidermy, you won’t be wasting your time.

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Related Content:

Destino: The Salvador Dalí – Disney Collaboration 57 Years in the Making

Salvador Dalí Appears on “What’s My Line? in 1952

Alfred Hitchcock Recalls Working with Salvador Dalí on Spellbound

Un Chien Andalou: Revisiting Buñuel and Dalí’s Surrealist Film

Wilco Rehearses ‘The Weight’ Backstage in Chicago with Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe

In December, the alternative rock band Wilco played a special series of hometown shows called the “Incredible Shrinking Tour of Chicago.”

The tour kicked off on December 12 at the majestic Civic Opera House and continued over the next four nights, moving to successively smaller and more intimate venues: the Riviera, the Vic, the Metro, and finally Lincoln Hall, with a capacity of only 500 people.

At the opera house on opening night, Wilco played a 24-song retrospective of the band’s 18-year history, followed by an extended series of encores featuring Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe. The grand finale was a stirring rendition of The Band’s classic “The Weight.”

Photographer Zoran Orlic caught a special moment before the show (above), when the musicians gathered in the dressing room to rehearse “The Weight.” You can see amateur footage of the on-stage performance of the song here, and learn more about the concert (plus see a clip of the band performing “One Sunday Morning”) on the WXRT website.

And for an interesting comparison, watch The Band’s performance of “The Weight” (below) from Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Waltz, which also features a guest appearance by Mavis Staples, along with her father and sisters in The Staple Singers. Although the film consisted mostly of footage from The Band’s farewell concert on November 25, 1976, Scorsese filmed “The Weight” afterward, on an MGM soundstage.

Alain de Botton Wants a Religion for Atheists: Introducing Atheism 2.0

Last summer Alain de Botton, one of the better popularizers of philosophy, appeared at TEDGlobal and called for a new kind of atheism. An Atheism 2.0. This revised atheism would let atheists deny a creator and yet not forsake all the other good things religion can offer — tradition, ritual, community, insights into living a good life, the ability to experience transcendence, taking part in institutions that can change the world, and the rest.

What he’s describing kind of sounds like what already happens in the Unitarian Church … or The School of Life, a London-based institution founded by de Botton in 2008. The school offers courses “in the important questions of everyday life” and also hosts Sunday Sermons that feature “maverick cultural figures” talking about important principles to live by. Click here and you can watch several past sermons presented by actress Miranda July, physicist Lawrence Krauss, author Rebecca Solnit, and Alain de Botton himself.

If Atheism 2.0 piques your interest, you’ll want to pre-order de Botton’s soon-to-be-published book, Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.

Thanks to Elana for sending this our way.

Related Content:

Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, with Jonathan Miller

Watch Sunday & Wild Life: Two Animated Shorts Just Nominated for an Oscar

When the 2012 Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday, there must have been plenty of smiles at the National Film Board of Canada. For the eighth time, the Canadian film producer/distributor scored a double nomination in the same category. In this case, Sunday by Patrick Doyon, and Wild Life by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, were selected as finalists for Best Animated Short Film.

Thanks to the NFB, you can watch Sunday (above) and Wild Life (below) online for a limited time, along with the NFB’s nine Oscar-winning films. The film provider also makes hundreds of free movies available via the web and the iPad — something to keep in mind for a good rainy day.

More great films can be found in our collection of 450 Free Movies Online.

Apocalypse Not Quite Yet: Why Solar Storms Won’t End the World in 2012

With the largest solar storm since 2005 lighting up the night skies this week after a pair of solar flares sent streams of charged particles hurtling toward the earth, prophets of doom have been lighting up the Internet.

Bob Thiel, a self-described “Church History and End Times Examiner” and author of 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sectwrote yesterday: “Worse solar flares will ultimately happen after the ‘Great Tribulation’ begins (Revelation 16: 8-9), and one or more that affect satellites and electricity could happen even today.” Hmm. Interesting.

Although very serious questions do exist about the readiness of our electric power grid and satellite infrastructure to withstand a major solar storm like the one in 1859 that shorted out telegraph wires and caused aurorae so bright a crew of gold miners in Colorado reportedly got out of bed in the middle of the night to cook breakfast, the current increase in solar activity is part of a regular 11-year cycle and poses no special risk, according to NASA heliophysicist Alex Young. (See the video above.) And anyway, Young says, the peak isn’t expected to hit until 2014, well after the Mayan calendar has run its course.

For an interesting discussion about the past week’s solar activity you can listen to Phil Plait, author of Discover Magazine’“Bad Astronomy” blog, in an interview yesterday with Patt Morrison of Los Angeles public radio KPCC. And for a look at the earth-directed coronal mass ejection of January 22, you can watch another NASA video below.

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