If you go outside (a big ask, I know), and walk a block while casually observing your surroundings you're likely to see at least one sticker plastered on a telephone pole, mailbox, or other permanent fixture. More prevalent in major metropolitan areas, these little art pieces have become increasingly popular across the globe. Or at least they seem to be much more popular here in Seattle, where you can't go a block without seeing a spontaneous outdoor art gallery on various objects. What was once a small distraction for the darting eye, is illuminated to be something more meaningful in Sticker Movie.
Directed by Will Deloney, Sticker Movie is an introspective look at the beautiful community of artists that create, trade, and put up stickers around the world, with a love of artistic expression. As someone who sees stickers all over the place, I was curious as to the backstory behind not just the art in a single sticker, but the thought behind what appears as a rapidly growing movement.
While this isn't a historical documentary, charting a course from the inception of the sticker to now, it does establish a fantastic level of emotional insight into some of the motivations behind the art. Much like other forms of art, these stickers are bite sized pieces of people expressing themselves. Using art as a way to release negative or positive emotions and ultimately putting them in public for others to enjoy. The main reason behind using stickers as a vehicle for this art, resonating amongst most of the speaking artists, is the sheer accessibility of it. Stickers are a way to create art galleries just about everywhere. They can turn what is seemingly an ugly fixture on a busy city corner into a patchwork quilt of artistic expression and emotional messages.
Many of these artists operate through artist names, remaining in anonymity, which Sticker Movie preserves through an incredibly inventive piece of storytelling. By animating different art pieces from artists, the film is able to keep the artists anonymous and use their interviews to continue pushing the narrative forward. Instead of doing some Netflix murder documentary trick of a backlit subject and a deepened voice, which would've gotten extremely old very fast given the number of subjects, this film highlights a piece of art while overlaying commentary. In all honesty, I found myself smiling at this fun little twist in storytelling and thought it elevated the connection between the art and the artist.
Moreover, the artist described community around stickers as what pushes the film to contain a delightfully human message on interconnectivity. Not only interconnectivity but a sense of community and friendship through the ephemeral. Trading stickers across the globe and having actual sticker galleries like the one highlighted in the film in Washington D.C. created by the artist iwillnot are small instances that can bring people together who may have never met outside of the sticker community.
The film takes extra time to highlight the importance of the late rapper MF Doom to this community. MF Doom, who always wore a mask, was a symbol of the same type of underground street art that the sticker community belongs to and it’s clear he made an impression. My only displeasure in this was the segment felt a little out of place. I understand that art begets art and inspiration can transcend the medium of expression, but the connection to MF Doom along with the time spent on this part felt shoehorned as a filler piece. The only other instances of the film not feeling as fluid as I would've hoped are two individual animated bits that worked almost as intermissions, or entryways into differing emotional states.
The first instance was a bit about a cartoon character who was going into what appeared to be a Best Buy store but was duped by a sticker labeling the store as such. This was followed up by a portion on the respect that artists show each other and the various unwritten rules of sticker engagement. I can sort of see how these play into one another but again, it may have been a little forced. Lastly, there was an animated bit of a squirrel creating stickers and putting them up in Seattle. Playing with a type of soothing study music and coffee house vibe, it looked and felt very calming. However, immediately after this is a segment on using stickers as vehicles for propaganda. From various topics such as racial and gender inequality to police brutality, the emotional whiplash was quite jarring. The editing between these portions could've used a shorter animated intermission or found a different emotional bridge across these themes for fluidity.
Outside of these small gripes, I really enjoyed this! I'll say again I was a huge fan of the animated stickers doing most of the talking, with some actual people here and there. However, the inclusion of the art as a highlighted form of narration was spot on for the subject of the film. Musically, the score establishes peaks and valleys with the emotions of the artists and the themes at hand, albeit with a handful of outliers. In the end, Deloney, and writers Sha-Risse Smith and Tori Luecking have created a solid documentary that's enlightening, interesting, and creatively made.
A similar dosage of creativity to the film, I pulled this beer out of a hat and found it to be appropriately sticky.
Get it? A movie about stickers and I've got a sticky beer? Alright, maybe it's too much, and you might feel that way about this imperial IPA. But rest assured the Block 15 Brewery brewed Sticky Hands is fire. The Sticky Hands comes in at a strong 8.1% but it never tastes as strong as it truly is. It's possible that the 110 IBU covers some of that boozy taste, but it ultimately is an easily drinkable brew. The beer has a paler color than I expected, looking more akin to a light pale ale, but the extra blast of lupulin-packed hops gives it a boosted aroma. One filled with citrus, floral elements, and dankness. Given these lupulin heavy hops, the Sticky Hands is packed with delicious hoppy flavors that any NW IPA lover is bound to drool over.
That especially includes me.