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Surrealist Jan Svankmajer Is Crowdfunding His Final Film

Jan Švankmajer has been working for more than half a century to blend live action and stop motion into more than 30 unsettling shorts and feature films. In features such as Alice (1988) and Little Otik (2000), plus dozens of shorts adapted from Edgar Allan Poe and other masters, his work manages to be both humorous and grotesque, deeply absurd, and strangely joyful. Švankmajer has also been deeply influential to the likes of Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, and David Lynch, although perhaps most notably to the Brothers Quay, who have used a similar blend of stop motion, Central European atmosphere, and eerie, exaggerated sound to produce gems like Street of Crocodiles (1986).

Now, as Open Culture notes, Švankmajer and his longtime producing partner Jaromír Kallista are crowdfunding to produce what they say will be Švankmajer's final feature film, Insects. According to the Indiegogo page, the film will be inspired by the “misanthropic and surreal imagery” of a trio of other Czechs: Kafka and the Čapek Brothers. The latter pair wrote The Insect Play (also called The Insect Comedy), first published in Czech in 1922, and Švankmajer's last feature promises to tell the story of an amateur theatrical group rehearsing the play in a pub after hours.

“The Čapek brothers' play is very misanthropic,” Švankmajer says on the Indiegogo page. “I’ve always liked that—bugs behave as a human beings, and people behave as insects. My screenplay extends this misanthropy further while also reflecting Franz Kafka and his famous Metamorphosis.”

Švankmajer's work is not the kind of thing that gets funded in Hollywood, at least not today. The plots are fragmented, the visuals are at times disturbingly strange, there are no action sequences or feel-good heroes in the way you might expect them. There’s also an embedded critique of capitalism. “The civilization we live in has little interest in authentic artistic creation,” the filmmaker says. “What it needs is well-working advertisement, the iconographic contemporary art, pushing people towards more and more mass consumption. It gets increasingly difficult to fund independent art that scrutinizes the very core of our society. Who would deliberately support their own critics?”

With 11 days to go (as of this writing), the campaign has met its first stretch goal, but only about half of its dream goal, which is $400,000. There are some great perks—film posters, lithographs, art photobooks, bugs used as props in The Nightmare Before Christmas—although someone has already snapped up the “the deceased and majestic tarantula actor” the Quay Brothers used in their film The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer (1984). However, if you have $15,000 to spare, you can still score “A dinner with Jan Švankmajer at his mansion in Czech Republic and a commented visit to his Kunstkabinet.”

Švankmajer says he is eager to start filming as soon as the funding has been secured. In the meantime, according to the Indiegogo page, "He’s very busy visiting entomological auctions, buying various kinds of bugs, doing rehearsal shots with them and so on."

“I promise you that I will invest my entire body and soul into this last feature film of mine," the filmmaker writes. "After all, that’s the only way I know how to create.”

[h/t Open Culture]

Header images via YouTube.

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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