Tag Archives: animation

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Stream It!: Robin Hood (1973)

[Showcasing the best and highlighting the newest additions to the various streaming services, including but not limited to Netflix Instant, HuluPlus, and Amazon Prime.]

New on Netflix: Robin Hood

Growing up, I saw many of the classic Disney films – Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp, etc. – but as a child my favorite one was without a doubt the 1973 version of Robin Hood, with a foxy Robin Hood and Maid Marian, a petulant shorn lion as Prince John, and various other characters given appropriate animal form. I didn’t know it at the time, but Disney was in recycle mode here, not even bothering to disguise the re-use of Baloo the Bear from The Jungle Book as Little John, or the King of the Animals from Bedknobs and Broomsticks as the ineffective Prince John. Sometimes there’s something to be said for ignorance, and my childhood glee at watching and rewatching this film is something that will never escape me. I’ve heard others who saw this film first as adults say that they didn’t like it much at all, but I’ll never be able to watch it without nostalgia glasses, I guess. Thankfully, Jonathan feels the same way about it, so at least I have one very important person on my side. If you do have kids who are into adventure but may not quite be ready for the 1938 Errol Flynn The Adventures of Robin Hood quite yet, give the Disney version a try. It’s a good stepping stone, and they won’t know that it falls into Disney’s “lazy” period.

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Watch This: Mickey Mouse in Ghoul Friend

Disney has been producing new Mickey Mouse cartoons for a while now, but I first really became aware of them when I happened to catch one playing at the Disney Store and was like, what is this, it’s awesome! Because they are awesome. I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about how little I like the things that Warner Brothers has tried to do with Looney Tunes in recent years, but for some reason, I have absolutely no problem with the way Disney has brought Mickey into contemporary cartoons. For one thing, they aren’t using gimmicks like 3D, they aren’t trying to fit the characters into a sitcom format, and most importantly, they’ve got a distinctive but classic-looking style to them.

Here’s this month’s short, appropriately Halloween-themed with a zombie Goofy. I’ve embedded the playlist below – check out the others as well, because this one isn’t even my favorite (that might be “Bad Ear Day,” which uses sound really cleverly or “Croissant de Triomphe,” which was the one I saw at the Disney Store and immediately grabbed me with its Parisian setting and stylish backgrounds).

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The Roundup: 18 Feb 2012

And another series back from very long hiatus (with a new name), and another well-meaning intention to do a better job of keeping up. I’d really like to do these every week, a task made more challenging and yet more fun by deciding to include more sections of links. The idea being that I can just keep this up as I read blogs and sites thoughout the week and have it all ready to go by the end of the week. Here’s hoping. As usual, most of these are movie-related links, but that won’t necessarily always be the case, and there are some music and gaming links in the subsections. Anything that’s a video will open in a lightbox, so you won’t have to go anywhere else to watch them.

Featured Links

For the Love of Film III: The White Shadow by the Self-Styled Siren

The For the Love of Film Blogathon is now in its third year, with bloggers focusing on a specific aspect of film preservation, with the intent to raise awareness and funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation. This year, the focus is on the recently unearthed early Hitchcock film The White Shadow, one of a few films Hitchcock assistant-directed under director Graham Cutts in the early 1920s. The funds raised will support the costs of the NFPF streaming the film (that is, the four reels of it that still exist) on their website for four months. I’ve actually seen the film – I was at the Academy screening the Siren mentions – and though it certainly isn’t among the best silent films you’ll ever see, it does have more than historical interest, and it has a whole lot of that. The blogathon goes live in May, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it then.

Hitchcock’s Most Beautiful Shot Ever by Joel Gunz, guest-posting at The Lady Eve

Speaking of Hitchcock, The Lady Eve has been hosting a whole series on Vertigo, with this close-reading of a single shot of the film one of the highlights. Guest poster Joel Gunz looks at the shot of Madeline standing under the Golden Gate Bridge in terms of composition and cinematography, as well as artistic antecedents and psychological readings. By the end, he’s explicated a lot about Vertigo as a whole, simply by analyzing this one gorgeous still. Makes me want to go watch the film again immediately.

Why Don’t the Critics, Oscar, and Audiences Agree? by Jim Emerson on scanners::blog

It’s almost a cliche at this point to mention that the films the end up on critical best lists (whether print critics or bloggers), the films that end up the year’s box office champions, and the films nominated for Oscars are pretty much three different groups of films. There may be some overlap here and there, of course, but by and large, the goals of each group seem to be irrevocably dissimilar. Jim Emerson invokes an article from Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir to explain a bit about the Academy’s point of view, and then points out that their nominations used to be more actually populist, rather than prestige-y the way it is now.

It’s An Honor to Be Nominated, But These Iconic Films Never Were by Wilde.Dash at Love and Squalor

Lots of Oscar-y type talk this week, and I doubt that’ll stop until after the awards are announced and everyone’s done dissecting them. Here the always entertaining Wilde.Dash highlights a bunch of films that are widely considered top-notch classics yet weren’t even nominated for Academy Awards. Some of these (2001, Psycho) absolutely appalling to me. Just goes to show you, these little statuettes? Not that big a deal in the grand scene of things.

Culture Warrior: The Importance of Honoring Motion Capture Performances by Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects

In a year when the Academy doesn’t nominate Andy Serkis for acing (perhaps because motion capture is too cartoony to go against live action) and doesn’t nominate The Adventures of Tintin for Animated Feature (perhaps because motion capture is too live action to go against animation), Landon Palmer discusses why mocap seems to be such a disdained technology – because the very idea of motion capture, which renders actors unrecognizable behind a veil of CGI, threatens the concept of celebrity upon which Hollywood is built. (To be fair, I wouldn’t necessarily argue that either of the “perhaps” clauses above are correct; but Palmer’s assessment of the threat of mocap is an interesting read.)

Pioneers of Animation: Ub Iwerks – The Early Disney Years by Brandie at True Classics

Everyone knows Walt Disney. But not everyone knows Ub Iwerks, who was with Disney almost every step of the way, from the very beginning when they were partners in Kansas City working on Laugh-o-Gram shorts, through the move to Hollywood and the creation of Oswald the Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. But Iwerks isn’t only Disney stuff – he also had many successful cartoons of his own in the early sound era. Brandie has the full story in two posts (the second part is here, and they’re well worth reading – just as Iwerks’ films are well worth watching.

48 Hidden Images in Black Swan by Sati at the Cinematic Corner

Even a single viewing of Black Swan reveals the constant parallels that Aronofsky is making between Nina and Lily, with their faces often morphing into each other for split seconds here and there. But Sati has gone through the film with a fine-tooth comb and screencapped a TON of trick shots that I certainly never noticed before. As you look through these, some will seem obvious (Nina seeing herself on the subway or the sidewalk, or Lily’s face swapping for Nina’s during the sex scene), but most of the things during the club scene I hadn’t seen at all. Kudos to Aronofsky for his attention to detail, and kudos to Sati for uncovering that detail.

In Character: William Fichtner by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins

One of the most memorable and consistently awesome “hey, it’s that guy!” actors working today, William Fichtner shows up all over the place, and he’s often the best thing in any movie he’s in. Like, oh, say…Drive Angry for example. And many, many others. Alex Withrow runs down Fichtner’s best roles in this entry into his ongoing series highlighting character actors (the whole series is worth reading).

Katie-Bar-the-Door Awards by the Mythical Monkey

Speaking of ongoing series, I’ve been away from the blog-reading long enough I didn’t even notice he was doing this until now, but the Mythical Monkey has been posting entries every day with his alternate Oscars for each year since 1927. The awards (named for his wife) were his original impetus for starting his blog, but he’s since gotten lost in the silent era – lost in the best possible way. But he recently decided to get these posted and out there, and I gotta say, these awards are awesome. I don’t necessarily agree with them all (though mostly in cases where I haven’t seen all the films in question!), but they’re pretty great to read through. He just posted 1970, and is taking a break, but the whole series is worth a peruse.

More links!

Sam Fragoso of Duke and the Movies asks us to choose between Howard Hawks or John Huston. I picked Hawks, but that’s a tough question!
Kim Wilson at the Classic Film and TV Cafe reviews Man in Grey, a little-known British film that sounds rather transgressive for its time!
Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence announces the March in March blogathon – posts about Fredric March, in the month of March.
Hollywood Reporter explains why there are only two Best Song Oscar nominees this year.
Ryan at The Matinee kicks off his Blind Spot series by watching John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Alex Withrow of And So It Begins runs down the entirely of Spike Lee’s career.
Wilde.Dash of Love and Squalor picks her 30 most anticipated movies of 2012. Some great stuff to look forward to, for sure!
Nicolas Winding Refn talks to The Playlist about Drive
Bonjour Tristesse reviews Dario Argento’s The Bird With a Crystal Plumage, and likes it quite a bit. One I definitely want to catch up with.
Monty at All Good Things counts down his favorite actresses – some great picks here! Love the Lombard love.

Trailers of Interest

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Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress
Justin Kurzel’s The Snowtown Murders (though I think this one is better; so is the former name)
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Intruders

Max Payne 3
Far Cry 3

Cool videos

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The ABCs of Cinema by Evan Seitz
The Knights Who Say Ni! Kinetic Typography by Evan Seitz
Salvador Dali on “What’s My Line”
Music Video: Jack White’s “Love Interruption” (from upcoming album Blunderbuss)
Music Video: YACHT’s “Shangri-La” (from album Shangri-La)
Live Performance: James Mercer singing “September” (from upcoming Shins album Port of Morrow)

News of Interest

Joss Whedon is writing a RomCom. Not my fave genre, but okay.
Netflix is developing an original series with Weeds creator Jenji Kohan
People are planning to remake Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Suspicion. WHY? Although, of all his films, those two are among the least untouchable.
Gina Carano lines up another action film: In the Blood. I’ll watch it.

Bonnaroo lineup is announced

Rockstar is bringing the original Max Payne game to iOS. Cool!
Touch Arcade reviews Beat Sneak Bandit, a new iOS game. I downloaded it; we’ll see what I think.

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Short Cuts: Gene Deitch Animation

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Originally posted on Row Three.

Los Angeles’ fabulous repertory company Cinefamily shows an animated series every month hosted by Cartoon Brew‘s Jerry Beck. It’s always a great program, but a recent program focusing on the work of animator Gene Deitch is easily the most impressive of all the ones I’ve been to, despite the fact that I was not familiar with Deitch’s work beforehand. Deitch started off as an animator with UPA in the 1950s, then moved to Fox’s Terrytunes, with stints doing Tom & Jerry, Popeye, and Krazy Kat as well, before finally taking an opportunity to head an animation studio in Prague (where he still lives and works). Quite a varied and unusual career, held together by his unique eye and constant quest for new visual styles and innovative ways to use the medium. Deitch himself was here for the program, talking with Jerry about his career and his films, which was pretty special as he’s rarely back in the United States anymore. And of all the filmmakers who I’ve seen at Cinefamily screenings, he was probably the most engaging, with the most fascinating stories to tell.

But great stories are even better when the films they support are good, and I was quite simply blown away by the quality and creativity of these films, especially considering he was working with MGM and Fox, who are not as well known for pushing the envelope as UPA and Warner Bros. Deitch pushed it anyway, using a very angular, minimalist visual style as well as a highly abstract sense of story and narrative.

Watch what he does with Tom and Jerry here, taking two familiar characters and putting them in a very self-aware, meta-narrative story.

But more of the shorts we saw were original characters, like Flebus, a cartoon that was written and begun by Ernest Pintoff but completed by Gene Deitch, who was also the supervising director.

Or characters from books, like little Munro, who was drafted into the army at the age of four and had a Yossarian-esque odyssey trying to convince the higher-ups that their paperwork was in error.

There’s a wonderful simplicity to these stories – a walking box who just wants to be friends, a little boy who runs head-on into bureaucracy – but they’re both set apart by the uncharacteristically world-weary narration and the unusual animation style. Everyone raves, and rightly so, about the voice work that Mel Blanc did on Looney Tunes, but this is an almost wholly opposite strain of voice acting here that provides a wonderful counterpoint to what was going on over at Warners. It’s a bit more cynical, a bit harder-edged, and a bit more grounded in some ways. (Flebus is voiced by Allen Swift, Munro by Howard Morris.)

After moving to Prague (motivated in part by the promise of financing for Munro, which he obviously got – and the film won an Academy Award soon after), Deitch oversaw a bunch of Czech animators, who were working on animating children’s books. If you’ve seen Czech stop-motion animation, you’ll know how creative and off-beat their style is, and Czech hand-drawn animation is no different. Here’s a very strange short called Giants that was released in Czechoslovakia in 1968 – although Deitch originally meant it to be about Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it was immediately interpreted as a political statement on US/Russia relations, which fit rather well with events in Prague in 1968. I find it a little off-putting, personally, but it is….interesting. Yeah, let’s go with that. YouTube only has the Czech language version, unfortunately.

Here’s The Three Robbers, an example of the children’s book adaptations Deitch oversaw; in this case, he also provided the voiceover and all the sound effects, which makes for a unique experience. I love the abstractness of the animation here, how the robbers’ coats become darkness, and so on.

They ended the show with this short, The Juggler of Our Lady, even though it comes from earlier in Deitch’s career, back when he was with Terrytunes in the early 1960s, and fittingly so – it’s simply breathtaking.

Terrytunes has a reputation for being a little less willing to think outside the box than some of the other studios, for playing it safe, and sticking with formula. That’s surely not the case here, as Deitch and Co. take an existing picture book and stay true to the original minimalist, parchment-looking drawing style. He said he was fascinated by the idea of having this huge wide screen (CinemaScope had just been introduced) and having just little scribbles on it. The amount of negative space here is astounding, and used astoundingly well. It doesn’t show up as well in this version, which is not the CinemaScope version, but shown in the theatre in 35mm CinemaScope? Amazing. Not to mention the gorgeous score, which is also highly unusual for the time period.

He also had some interesting things to say about CinemaScope and how restrictive it actually was, especially on animation. With a nearly square screen, you could use it all and do interesting effects like spins that you couldn’t easily do with a physical camera. With CinemaScope, you couldn’t do those anymore, because the width being so much greater than the height, you couldn’t change orientation without losing a lot of the image – it restricted animation to be more like what you could in live-action. Also interesting was that for cartoons especially, you still had to make them so they looked good in non-CinemaScope theatres and on TV, so you basically had to compose everything for three different ratios (that’s presumably why the non-CinemaScope version of The Juggler of Our Lady is the one that’s prevalent on YouTube).

In addition to the cartoons above, we saw an entry in the Nudnik series, a character original to Deitch. The one we saw, which I think was Here’s Nudnik, I was unable to find on YouTube, but here is a sampling of the ones that are. We also saw an early Howdy Doody cartoon he did that never aired because he and his crew (who were young and rebellious at the time) refused to follow the house style of the show, and also a bit of “Tom Terrific,” a cartoon that aired as part of the Captain Kangaroo show. I quite liked Tom Terrific, which puts simple line drawings to really imaginative use, but again couldn’t find the one we watched. Here’s a little snippet of the opening, but most of the videos on YouTube have embedding disabled, so you’ll have to go there to see more.

All in all, it was a fascinating program with Deitch, and I’m very grateful to have been introduced to his work. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen any of it before, but be sure I’ll look for more of it now. Some of these things are difficult to find outside of YouTube bootlegs; it would be great if some of this stuff, especially the more obscure things like Tom Terrific, could find its way into DVD collections at some point. I’d eat it up.

Featured Video: The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)

One of the most intense and memorable cartoons of all time, adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”. UPA studios produced this gem in 1953, utilizing an extremely abstract and completely unique style. There’s very little actual movement in the film, which centers on a man who kills his landlord mostly for the heck of it and then believes he hears the dead man’s heart beating. Instead, a sense of urgency and madness is conveyed almost solely through editing, chaotic stills, and James Mason’s frantic voiceover.