Month of 121 Shorts: Oscar-winning cartoons 2

Surogat (1961, Dusan Vukotic)
Slightly naughty beach picture about a fat guy who brings inflatable ball, boat, car, food and girl. Real great anything-goes animation. Disney, Friz Freling and Chuck Jones must’ve cancelled each other out, giving the award to the underdog foreigner.
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The Crunch Bird (1971, Ted Petok)
“Crunch bird, my ass!” Ugh, punchline shorts. Was there no competition this year? I would’ve awarded Thank You Mask Man over this. From a co-writer of What’s Up Tiger Lily, this beat a comic Canadian short about evolution and an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale (OW wrote fairy tales?).
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The Sand Castle (1977, Co Hoedeman)
A desert man with arms and legs but no body creates clay creatures to help him build a giant sand castle. All stop-motion, the short that (probably deservedly) beat Doonesbury at the oscars.
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Every Child (1979, Eugene Fedorenko)
More of a foley demonstration than a proper cartoon. The animation is there I guess, though slightly Squiggle-visioney. Wow, someone sings the Umbrellas of Cherbourg theme. So the foley guys are telling the story of an unwanted baby… to a baby. One foley guy went on to voice the French version of Chief Quimby on Inspector Gadget. This beat a short called Dream Doll which I’d like to see, apparently an X-rated spoof of The Red Balloon.
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Tango (1981, Zbigniew Rybczynski)
An empty room, simple tango music. A kid (looks like stop-motion cut-out photographs) throws a ball into the room, comes in, throws the ball outside, leaves, repeat. Then another person is added, then another and another, none of them interacting with each other until the very end. How’d they do it? Beat out some stop-motion from the great Will Vinton and a half-hour piece about a snowman.
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The Man Who Planted Trees (1987, Frédéric Back)
Just about the happiest thing ever, so lovely it made my head hurt. Story of a lonely shepherd who singlehandedly reforests an entire region of France. I looked it up, hoping that it’s a true story, and unbelievably it is. Narrated by the familiar voice of Christopher Plummer and animated with lush, colorful sketches. The romantic short from the creators of Bob & Margaret and a big of head-morphing Bill Plympton hilarity never stood a chance against this beauty.
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A Greek Tragedy (1985, Nicole Van Goethem)
The characters are man/pillars holding up a stone wall that has fallen into ruins. When it finally collapses, the pillars are free to frolic. The kind of simple cuteness you’d see at a festival with three of four similar pieces, not the kind I’d think would win a major award. Hard times in 1986. Actually this beat Luxo Jr. somehow. I guess computer animation wasn’t in style until ’88. At the same time, it’s nice
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Tin Toy (1988, John Lasseter)
A one-man-band toy escapes the wrath of a slimy toddler, then grudgingly returns to cheer it up when it’s crying only to be ignored in favor of an empty box and a paper bag. Clear precedent to Toy Story. 1988 computer technology was not up to the task of accurate baby rendering, but it’s still pretty cool looking. It beat a Tex Avery-style short from the future director of FernGully and Cordell Baker’s great The Cat Came Back.
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Manipulation (1991, Daniel Greaves)
A good ol’ artist’s-hands-interacting-with-drawing-table short, somewhere between Duck Amuck and Rejected. Funny how one of the most recent shorts is the one available in the lowest quality. The line-drawing guy turns 3D at the end, which I think was done in claymation. Very inventive and fun. Apparently Greaves’ Flatworld is also a must-see. No U.S. shorts in this year’s competition – this UK film beat out two Canadian pieces (including long-time fave Blackfly).
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Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase (1992, Joan C. Gratz)
Really wonderful little animated film which would probably be the greatest thing ever if I was an art history major. Since I only knew about five of the paintings which were mighty-morphing into each other, I probably attribute more of the film’s beauty to its director than I probably should. Oh wait, it won the oscar so I guess I’m not the only one who was impressed.
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Then again, some of it is just silliness.
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Quest (1996, Tyron Montgomery)
A man made of sand navigates increasingly more difficult and dangerous worlds of paper, rock, metal and water. The end is the beginning – would work as a looping DVD or art installation. Nice stop-motion, like The Sand Castle but I liked this one better, Thought it was anti-technology for a while, but now I think its just trying to say the world is a dangerous place. Competition included an Aardman, a Canadian piece I’ve seen but don’t remember, and a stop-motion short from a future Pixar animator.
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Month of 121 Shorts: Oscar-winning cartoons 1

The Country Cousin (1936, Wilfred Jackson)
A Disney Silly Symphony. Country mouse loves all the expensive food in the city, but isn’t fond of cats, cars or roller-skaters so he hauls ass back to the country. Includes an extended drunky joke. It beat a Popeye cartoon and an MGM jazz short of racial caricatures.
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The Milky Way (1940, Rudolf Ising)
Finally someone other than Disney takes the prize. Disney wasn’t even nominated – competition included the first Bugs vs. Elmer short and the first Tom & Jerry cartoon.
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The Cat Concerto (1946, Hanna & Barbera)
Won the oscar despite allegations that the story was ripped off from W-B’s Rhapsody Rabbit, beating a George Pal puppetoon about John Henry, a Woody Woodpecker musical, and early appearances by Chip ‘n Dale and Foghorn Leghorn.
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For Scent-imental Reasons (1949, Chuck Jones)
“Ahhh, le belle femme skunk fatale!”
The greatest sexual predator in the cartoons makes his fifth appearance. This beat a piece John Hubley made for UPA which I’d like to see.
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Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950, Robert Cannon)
Gerald makes noises, is shunned, finds his place and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Beat out a Mr. Magoo cartoon (also from UPA) and one of my favorite Tom & Jerrys.
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Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953, Ward Kimball)
Full-on Disney animation plus outlines and photographs. I’ve seen part of this on those Disney Sing-Along Songs tapes that Trevor played on repeat for two years. The history of musical instruments in ten minutes. Possibly my favorite of all the oscar shorts so far, though I’ll bet it’s not widely played because of the racial stereotypes on display.
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The first CinemaScope cartoon, originally released to accompany Fantasia – should be a required classic. Tough competition: Chuck Jones, UPA, Donald Duck and Ted Parmelee’s awesome The Tell-Tale Heart.
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When Magoo Flew (1954, Pete Burness)
Ridiculous picture (and not always in a good way) complete with weird self-referential ending and a crabby complaint about television. Maybe Tashlin was hiding under a desk somewhere. Not a big Magoo fan, don’t know how this beat a Tom & Jerry mouseketeer short, tweety bird, Disney and Tex Avery. Dig the Ted Parmelee reference in the screenshot.
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Speedy Gonzales (1955, Friz Freling)
This one doesn’t have the line I remember about wanting to get the cheese but being too lazy, but it does have the line “he’s a friend of my sister” / “Speedy is friend of everybody’s seester!” Another no-longer-politically-correct classic. Surprisingly beat the Hanna/Barbera holiday classic Good Will To Men and an acclaimed Tex Avery piece.

Month of 121 Shorts: Visions of Europe

Visions of Europe is a 2004 anthology film with shorts by various directors about the current state of the continent, which I’ve already started to watch earlier and still may never finish. Pretty hit or miss.

The Miracle (Martin Sulik)
An immaculate conception story, the girl’s parents and priest trying to get answers. God’s message, via the girl, “We mustn’t build tower blocks. The big ones must heed the small. We need to travel more to resist the false messiah.” Weird, kinda spooky. Not sure if the floating coffee cup at the end helped or not.
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Anna Lives In Marghera (Francesca Comencini)
Briskly edited montage of an Italian student who participates in Rage Against The Machine-soundtracked political protests and prays when she’s not working on her thesis about industrial pollution.
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Children Lose Nothing (Sharunas Bartas)
A girl collects frogs. Two boys fight over a girl. A paper boat! Finely photographed brownish little art short. Symbolic of something!
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Room For All (Constantine Giannaris)
Talking heads tell us about the immigrant experience in Greece. Giannaris just made a movie called Gender Pop – the title alone is more interesting than this.

Prologue (Béla Tarr)
Loooong black-and-white dolly shot (imagine that) with pretty music by Mihaly Vig showing hundreds of people waiting in line to get food. Tibor Takacs was one name in the credits – could it be the director of The Gate?
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Invisible State (Aisling Walsh)
A serious man in a suit tells us angrily about human trafficking. “They will tell of Irish eyes not smiling.” Walsh made a teary Aidan Quinn drama the previous year.
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Crossroad (Malgorzata Szumowska)
The adventures of a catholic cross outdoors at a crossroad. Eventually some coroners take down the classic Jesus and replace it with a blobby new plastic Jesus. Was it supposed to be funny? I found it kinda funny.
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Paris By Night (Tony Gatlif)
Immigrants on the run, one of them injured, run through the Paris streets to some good music. Jarmuschy. Same year as Gatlif’s acclaimed Exiles.
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Month of 121 Shorts: Recent

Glorious (2008, Guy Maddin)
Far more guns, gangsters and cocksucking than has ever been in a Maddin film before. Features Louis Negin as a single-frame apparition turned fellatio-ghost. Must pay more attention to the music next time. In other news, when I looked up Louis Negin on IMDB, it says he played a zombie in Pontypool.
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Yay, got me a 2007 disc of cartoons based on the work of Jim Woodring. Jim himself kicks off the collection with the one-minute Whim Grinder: A Frank Adventure, in which Frank and his pet… box? intercept a transmogrifying eggbeater from a mischievous devil.
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Frank (Pushpow) (Taruto Fuyama)
I dig the use of the “meet george jetson” music cue. Watched twice because there’s a second audio track with elektronischy music by James McNew. Black and white and very stripey. Done in Flash, maybe? then transferred off a videotape from the looks of the credits. One of the greatest things ever.
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Frank (Eri Yoshimura)
Next one, done in a puppet cutout style, is very different. Frank seems to be having a picnic with his buds until a rampaging pig beast tears them all apart. Seems about two minutes of animation edited into four. The closing credits are pretty nice – not so much the rest.
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I’ve Been Twelve Forever (Michel Gondry)
Gondry talks with his mom, storyboards his dreams, builds a spinning camera-spirograph triggered by strings tied to Bjork’s fingers, makes cartoon farts with cotton balls, invents new animation methods, films himself in stop-motion, and discusses his best music videos. This turned out not to be a short at all, though I thought it would be when I started watching it, and much more elaborate and creative than its status as a DVD-extra on a music videos disc would suggest. I’m pretty sure I like this better than Be Kind Rewind. Co-directed with four people including Lance Bangs.

Wet Chicken (2003, Myznikova & Provorov)
A woman’s hair blows in the breeze, then she shakes her head, then she’s shot with a stream of water. Seems like the kind of rough materials that Shinya Tsukamoto would make something interesting from, but these guys forgot to make something interesting and accidentally released it like this. Too late to re-edit now that it’s on the internet.
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The Marker Variations (2007, Isaki Lacuesta)
One ruler of Dijon uses photographs to rule, and the next uses them as execution aids. 12th century monks composed Bach concertos 900 years before Bach did, inscribing the notes into their stone architecture. Buenos Aires is “the divided city” so a story of two mirroring authors is told using split-screen images.

Opening with these unbelievable stories reminded me more of Magnolia than Chris Marker, but an exploration of the images and possible existence of Marker is what follows. He goes over Marker’s references, he asks his own Japanese friend the questions asked of Koumiko, and eventually he gets caught up in his own essay, his own connections, but accompanied by so many images from Marker’s films (not to mention the music) that none of it escapes, sticks in my mind. To a Marker-phile such as myself it’s just too much.
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Month of 121 Shorts: The 80′s and 90′s

Musco (1997, Michael Smith & Joshua White)
A fake 1984 infomercial for a music-oriented lighting equipment company. I don’t get it. It was part of an art installation, and I don’t get those in general, maybe because I don’t live in New York.
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Flash Back (1985, Pascal Aubier)
Two-minute short – soldier is killed in combat, life flashes before his eyes represented by photos going back in time until to the earliest baby picture. Guess Pascal had to find an actor with lots of family photos for this.
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The Apparition (1985, Pascal Aubier)
A guy’s bathroom light makes the Virgin Mary appear in a church across town. Aubier ought to be at least as popular as Don Hertzfeldt.
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Un ballo in maschera (1987, Nicolas Roeg)
Things I like:
1. That the king is played by a woman (Theresa Russell) with a mustache
2. That the action takes place in an ellipsis (“…but”) between the opening and closing text (“King Zog Shot Back!”)

Nice piece, set to music by Giuseppe Verdi. First segment of the anthology film Aria, which I must watch the rest of when I’m not so tired (next segment put me to sleep in a couple minutes).
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Universal Hotel (1986, Peter Thompson)
“1980, I have a strange dream. Between the fortress and the cathedral is the universal hotel.” Slow, calm analysis of photos and reports about a nazi experiment where prisoners were frozen then revival was attempted using boiling water, microwaves and “animal heat.” “I make statements about the photographs which cannot be proven. I speak with uncertainty.” Increasingly intense, with narrated dreams illustrated with photography tricks, a murder-mystery without an ending. Last line: “they come while I’m asleep.” Scary, and I would not have watched this right now had I known nazis were involved, but now I’m glad I did.
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Universal Citizen (1987, Peter Thompson)
Now in Guatemala, Peter talks with a concentration camp survivor who told himself he would move to the tropics if he survived. He did, so he does, laying in a hammock, floating in the warm water, working on the sun roof of his house, listening to Armenian records and refusing to be filmed. Mayan ruins. This time the dream/nightmare scenes lack narration. Ends with a joke (and a shot from the beginning of the other film). Oh wait, no it ends with depression after the credits. I preferred the joke.
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Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981, Jeunet et Caro)
There’s an insurrection inside the bunker. A timer count backwards, people have gas masks and eyegear and prosthetic limbs, there are shootings, eletroshock, cryogenics, there is complicated machinery, tubes and wires and hidden cameras. Possibly they are Germans, it is possibly post-apocalyptic, and the soldiers possibly go crazy and kill each other. I am not entirely sure of the politics, but it’s a neat little flick, definitely full of the clutter style of their later features.
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Opening Night of Close-Up (1996, Nanni Moretti)
That’s just what it’s about. The nervous cinephile (Moretti himself) who runs an Italian theater is opening Kiarostami’s Close-Up and wants everything to be just right.
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World of Glory (1991, Roy Andersson)
“This is my brother. My little brother. I suppose he is my only true friend, so to speak. [both look away uncomfortably]” I just checked and yeah, Roy Andersson is the acclaimed deadpan comedic filmmaker who made Songs from the Second Floor and You, The Living. I’d believe it, and be almost excited to see those two after viewing this short, a guy grimly introducing us to his sad life, with he and others looking slowly into the camera as if we’re to blame for all this – except why did it start with a mini-reenactment of the holocaust? The whole rest of the movie I’m wondering that… he won’t let go of the “blood of christ” wine pot at mass and it’s supposed to be a funny scene but I’m thinking “the holocaust?!?”
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Reverse Shot explains:

World of Glory locates a society — ostensibly the director’s native Sweden, but easy interchangeable with any modern European country — so paralyzed by ennui, anxiety, and desperation that its inhabitants are apparitions. The main character is a thin, pasty man who takes us on a guided tour of his life — his loveless marriage, his stultifying job, his pathetic day-to-day activities. It was not until the second time I saw the film that I realized that this character had been present in the first shot: dead center of the frame, turning away from the proceedings every so often to fix us with his gaze. His meek, self-effacing misery in the later scenes thus comes into sharper relief: a person who does not act to avert tragedy endures beneath its weight.

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Je vous salue, Sarajevo (1993, Jean-Luc Godard)
“Culture is the rule, and art is the exception. … The rule is to want the death of the exception, so the rule for Cultural Europe is to organize the death of the art of living, which still flourishes.” This two-minute piece is a montage made from a single photograph, with voiceover. Directly to the point, I like it better than almost all of Histoire(s) du cinema.
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Origins of the 21st Century (2000, Jean-Luc Godard)
A bummer of a film, montaging footage from news videos and feature films (The Shining, The Nutty Professor, Le Plaisir) over quiet music with the occasional commentary or block lettering, war and death, pain and happiness and a few plays-on-words.
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If 6 was 9 (1995, Eija-Liisa Ahtila)
Sex, split-screens and supermarkets. More people looking into the camera confessionally, but all about sex this time, not too similar to Today.
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Can’t figure what a full hour-long Ahtila film would be like, but she’s made two of them so I’ll find out eventually.
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Zig-Zag (1980, Raul Ruiz)
Ruiz had adapted Kafka’s Penal Colony ten years earlier so surely he knows he’s making another Kafkaesque film here. A man named H. “realizes he is the victim of the worst type of nightmare: a didactic nightmare” when, late for an appointment, he finds himself part of a global board game at the mercy of pairs of dice. The game keeps changing scale, zooming out, so H. has to travel further distances more quickly – from walking to taxi to train to plane. Rosenbaum (who says it’s Borgesian not Kafkaesque) says it was made to promote a map exhibition in Paris, which to me just makes it more strange than if it was promoting nothing at all. “The history of cartography [is] the business of labyrinth destruction.”
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Either H. or the mysterious gamer was played by Pascal Bonitzer, cowriter of some of Rivette’s best films. “We now live in the pure instantaneous future.”
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Month of 121 Shorts: The 50′s to the 70′s

Precautions Against Fanatics (1969, Werner Herzog)
“Have you ever seen a dishonest man with a chest like this?”
Said to Werner’s cameraman by a one-armed man in a suit: “What are you doing here? Go away!” It’s not clear who is supposed to be here where they’re filming, in the training area of a horse racetrack. Some guy is repeating himself and karate-chopping flat stones. This cannot actually be happening! It is all pretty wonderful, a parody of a behind-the-scenes documentary. Made in between Signs of Life and Even Dwarfs Started Small, both of which I need to catch some day.
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Organism (1975, Hilary Harris)
Time-lapse footage and readings from biological textbooks portray a large city (New York, of course) as a living organism. The dated 70′s sound design is unfortunate but otherwise it’s completely wonderful. Makes me wish I had a classroom of kids to show it to. He worked on this for years, inventing a time-lapse camera in the 60′s for the purpose. Bits from Scott MacDonald “As late as 1975, Harris apparently felt that time-lapsing imagery was unusual and high-tech enough to justify his frequent use of science-fictionish electronic sounds as an accompaniment. … Hilary Harris shot some of the New York City traffic shots used in Koyaanisqatsi, though apparently Reggio didn’t see Organism until after his film was well under way.”
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L’Opéra-mouffe (1958, Agnes Varda)
Somehow I missed this during Varda Month – one of her earliest shorts hidden amongst the copious features on a Criterion DVD. Varda films either herself or another pregnant nude women, then goes on a rampage through the marketplace, mostly capturing the faces of people shopping there, with interludes featuring actors (incl. Varda regular Dorothée Blank, as nude here as she is in Cleo) clowning around. Sections highlight public drunkenness, anxiety and affection. I want to say this is my favorite of her shorts so far, but then I remember they’re all so good. Delightfully scored by a not-yet-famous Georges Delerue.
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“I was pregnant. I felt the contradiction of expecting a child, being full of hope, and circulating in this world of poor, drunken people without hope, who seemed so unhappy. I felt tenderness toward them, especially the elderly. I imagined them as babies, when their mothers kissed their tummies.”
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Silent Snow, Secret Snow (1966, Gene Kearney)
A boy named Paul starts to obsess over snow, allowing the snow in his mind to filter him from reality. Creepy and well shot. Later remade as a Night Gallery episode with Orson Welles narrating. Makes me think of the Handsome Family song “Don’t Be Scared,” with its line “when Paul thinks of snow, soft winds blow ’round his head,” except it’s one of their very few comforting, happy songs and the movie is anything but.
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Une histoire d’eau (1961, Truffaut & Godard)
A girl wakes up and the whole town is flooded from melting snow. She meets a guy (a young Jean-Claude Brialy) who offers to drive her to Paris before nightfall. Music is weird – gentle flute or horns punctuated with bursts of percussion. Ooh, a Duchess of Langeais reference… in fact there are a ton of references in her quick monologue narration, which ends with spoken credits.
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The Forgotten Faces (1960, Peter Watkins)
Revolution in Budapest. Nice reconstruction, convincingly documentary-like – where’d Watkins get all those guns? No sync sound, a TV-sounding narrator. One part, the reading of a communist speech turns briefly into a dramatic propaganda montage – don’t see that happen much in Watkins’ films.
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The Perfect Human (1967, Jorgen Leth)
“Today I experienced something I hope to understand in a few days.”
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I like the British narrator. “What does he want? Why does he move like that? How does he move like that? Look at him. Look at him now. And now. Look at him all the time.” There’s no diegetic sound, but if this was dubbed in a studio, why does there have to be so much tape hiss? A fake documentary and a stark white delight, with slow zooms in and out, gentle string music, and a general sense of serious absurdity. Only saw, what, a third of this in The Five Obstructions.
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Les Maître fous (1955, Jean Rouch)
Document of a group in Ghana called the Hauka doing something involving wooden toy guns, red ribbons, chicken sacrifice, dog-blood-drinkin’ and having lurchy foaming-at-the-mouth fits. I’m not ever quite sure, because the French narration has been auto-subtitled by google – whatever they’re doing, the subs call it “having.” After they’ve had, the film crew catches up with them at their day jobs, not freaked-out cultists anymore, just working hard, smiling at the camera. This is one African film that Katy didn’t want to watch, because Rouch is an exoticizing anthropologist. So what’s going on that this film makes the best-ever lists? A Rouch tribute page says he popularized direct cinema/cinema verite, that he was known for rethinking ethnography, and a documentary surrealism (sounds like Jean Painleve). Ian Mundell says the film “drew plaudits from the Nouvelle Vague, in particular from Jean-Luc Godard. They liked the fact that Rouch’s fiction emerged from an encounter between the actor (professional or non-professional) and the camera, and his willingness to break the rules of cinema.” Paul Stoller says Rouch crisscrossed “the boundaries between documentary and fiction, observer and participant,” but I take it that’s more about his later films, which I’m thinking I would like better. So it’s seeming like this film gets awarded because it’s one of the most-seen of his films and because of its influence, not because it’s Rouch’s best work.
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Nicky’s Film (1971, Abel Ferrara)
A mysteriously silent possibly gangster-related 6-minute film. I can’t imagine even a Ferrara scholar gets much out of this.

The Hold Up (1972, Abel Ferrara)
Super-8 production made when Abel was 21, seven years before Driller Killer. A few minutes in, I realized it’d be much better with the director commentary turned on. “And away we go. Wait, it’s the other way. Which way is she looking?” Um, some guys get fired from factory jobs, hold up a gas station, get caught. The song “Working on a Building” is heard.
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Month of 121 Shorts: Frank Tashlin cartoons

Porky’s Romance (1937)
Porky has barely been introduced and he’s already attempting suicide. First Petunia Pig short – she’s stuck-up and candy-obsessed, with a fancy dog – rejects our man, changes her mind, then in a dream daze he predicts a miserable life with fat, lazy Petunia and flees. Some character introduction… no wonder Petunia didn’t take off. Song “I Wanna Woo” is featured. Don’t know much about 30′s music (despite once replaying the Singing Detective soundtrack for a whole month) but I suppose the Looney Tunes series would showcase popular songs onscreen, the Grey’s Anatomy of its time.
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Porky’s Double Trouble (1937)
An escaped con looks just like Porky, kidnaps him and replaces him as bank teller for easy money. Two surprises: meek Porky kicks some criminal ass in the finale, and Petunia drops Porky to lust after the killer even as he’s being arrested.
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The Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937)
The local lawyer takes Jekyll-and-Hyde Juice, calls the audience a bunch of softies and creampuffs, goes after Porky and Petunia’s family to steal their inheritance, defeated by having a chair thrown at him by a guy in the audience.
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The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (1937)
Hooray, more owls. Also, the word “esophogi.” The rest isn’t so amusing, all caricatures of 30′s personalities who I mostly don’t recognize.
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Have You Got Any Castles? (1938)
Opens with a cuckoo – nice continuity. Another collection of caricatures, but this time it’s book titles and characters, something with which I’m more familiar. More excitedly animated and sung than Cuckoos as well. Named after the Johnny Mercer tune.
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Porky’s Road Race (1937)
More celebrity caricatures, including a parody of the scene where Chaplin goes nuts with his wrenches in Modern Times. Hard to imagine, but that was a current film at the time. The plot is minimal, but among all the film references Porky manages to beat Borax Karloff in a car race. Future head writer Tedd Pierce voices W.C. Fields and Mel Blanc makes his debut.
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Speaking of the Weather (1937)
Another musical caricature piece, this time with magazines come to life instead of books – even the exact same Thin Man gag. This one has more of a story – a criminal sentenced to Life (heh) escapes and a team of mag covers helps bring him in. Castles has guns firing from All Quiet on the Western Front and Weather has scout troops from Boy’s Life – same idea. Each seems to have been named after a song featured for only half a minute and having nothing to do with the rest of the picture. At least The Woods are Full of Cuckoos is set in the woods. Maybe it’s some contractual co-branding with the music companies, if they had such a thing in the 30′s.
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Porky at the Crocadero (1938)
P.P., with a music degree from the Sucker Correspondence School becomes band leader at a jazz club, probably imitating other bandleaders of the time but the only one I recognize is Cab Calloway.
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Porky the Fireman (1938)
Ooh, an animated (and multiplied) Keaton gag, circus tricks, smoke and ash turning frantic white people into lackadaisical black people, murder and mayhem. In the end, the fire wins.
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Wholly Smoke (1938)
I can’t tell what nationality Porky’s mother is supposed to be: “nix on the mud-playing-in.” An anti-smoking ad with Porky as a stooge conned into trying a cigar by a tough kid. Cameos by the Three Stooges and I think Bing Crosby.
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Porky Pig’s Feat (1943)
Porky and Daffy are broke, try unsuccessfully to escape from an absurdly high hotel bill. References to Dick Tracy and to other Looney Tunes, including a Bugs punchline at the end. Joe Dante commentary: “By the time he passed away, his career had falled on hard times with bad vehicles for actors of waning popularity.”
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Swooner Crooner (1944)
Porky’s wartime egg factory is endandered when the hens’ attention is captured by a crooning rooster, leading to a Crosby/Sinatra showdown. Is it naughty that the crooners’ voices make the girls all lay eggs? Also the third Al Jolson caricature I’ve seen today. Oscar-nominated, beaten by a Tom & Jerry.
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Hare Remover (1946)
I take it Tashlin didn’t do many Bugs cartoons. Elmer (looking a little primitive) is a wannabe mad scientist who recruits Bugs to test a formula which doesn’t seem to do more than taste awful (and explode when thrown).
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Also watched a short doc on Tashlin’s career. Sounds like his comic strip Van Boring was the Dilbert of its time. Would’ve been great if they had clips from the live-action films instead of just a few stills.

Month of 121 Shorts: Avant-Garde 2

The Bridegroom, The Comedienne, and the Pimp (1968, Straub/Huillet)
Four minutes in, it’s just been a long car ride in the rain with opera music playing (there was no sound at all for the first two minutes) and I am very suspicious.

Five minutes in, cut to a stage set, with German words on the wall and a clattering wood floor. Rivette (or Michael Snow) would be pleased. A fast-paced stagey farce follows. Blackout, next scene but the camera hasn’t moved, hasn’t even cut for all I know. Actors include Fassbinder regular Irm Hermann, composer Peer Raben, and future superstar Hanna Schygulla (who I’ve recently seen in The Edge of Heaven, Werckmeister Harmonies and 101 Nights of Simon Cinema).

Bang, cut, new location, and back out on the street. An action scene. Jimmy Powell is marrying Lilith Ungerer (star of a couple Fassbinder films). They go home, the pimp (Fassbinder himself, early in his career) is there, she shoots him and gives a speech as the music returns. All affectless acting.
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So, what was that all about? Well the title refers to the cinematic drama in the third section, that much is clear. And the actress and the pimp were in the stage play in the middle. IMDB fellow says “The film has its roots in a theatre production of a play by the Austrian playwright Ferdinand Bruckner which Straub had been asked to direct by a German theatre company. He considered the play too verbose and cut its length from several hours down to just ten minutes, and it is the production of this play which forms the centrepiece of the film.” As for the beginning, the same guy says it’s a “Munich street frequented by prostitutes.” F. Croce calls it a “mysterious, structuralist gag” and notes that “filmic subversion can prompt political revolution, and transcendence.” No revolution or transcendence here – I just thought it was a weird little movie made by an overacademic sweater-wearing type. Was only Straub’s fourth work – let’s check out his tenth, which is half as long.
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Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice (1977, Straub/Huillet)
It’s in French this time. Actors sit in a half-circle near the memorial site for the Commune members and recite a poem. I’m mistrustful of the English subtitle translation of the poem, and there’s not much in the movie besides the poem (the recitants are as expressionless as in the previous film, maybe even more so), so there’s not much of value for me here. Actors include Huillet herself, Michel Delahaye (the ethnologist in Out 1) and Marilù Parolini (writer of Duelle, Noroit, Love on the Ground), shot by William Lubtchansky and dedicated (in part) to Jacques Rivette.
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Mongoloid (1977, Bruce Conner)
Music video for a Devo song using (I’m assuming) all found footage (science films, TV ads and the like).
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Mea Culpa (1981, Bruce Conner)
Dots, cubes, light fields and… whatever this is. Conner goes abstract! The music sounds like 1981′s version of the future. Aha, it’s Byrne and Eno, so it WAS the future. I didn’t know that Conner died last year, did I?
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(nostalgia) (1971, Hollis Frampton)
of a photo of a man blowing smoke rings:
“Looking at the photography recently it reminded me, unaccountably, of a photograph of another artist squirting water out of his mouth, which is undoubtedly art. Blowing smoke rings seems more of a craft. Ordinarily, only opera singers make art with their mouths.”
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So far I really like Hollis Frampton. His Lemon and Zorns Lemma were brilliant, and now (nostalgia) is too. Anyway this is the one where Frampton films a photograph being slowly destroyed on an electric burner while Michael Snow reads narration describing the next photograph that we’ll see. It’s important to know that Snow is the uncredited narrator for a humorous bit in the middle. The movie also has a funny twist ending that I wasn’t expecting. This would be part one of Frampton’s seven-part Hapax Legomena series. I have the strange urge to remake it using photographs of my own, but I lack an electric burner and a film/video camera.

Gloria (1979, Hollis Frampton)
Remembrance of a grandmother, Frampton-style, meaning annoyingly hard to watch and strictly organized. Clip from an ancient silent film, then sixteen facts about gramma (“3. That she kept pigs in the house, but never more than one at a time. Each such pig wore a green baize tinker’s cap.”) then a too-long bagpipe song over an ugly pea-green screen, and the rest of the silent film. Or as a smartypants would put it, he “juxtaposes nineteenth-century concerns with contemporary forms through the interfacing of a work of early cinema with a videographic display of textual material.” I prefer my version.
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Prelude #1 (1996, Stan Brakhage)
I don’t think that I enjoy watching low-res faded videos of Brakhage movies. I’ll wait for the next DVD set to come out (or the next Film Love screening). As a side note, I cannot believe that Raitre plays stuff like this. Just imagine: art on television. Picture a single TV station anywhere devoted to showing art. Can you? Can you?!? I feel like screaming!!
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NYC (1976, Jeff Scher)
Shots of the city sped-up, rapidly edited, reverse printed and hand colored, two minutes long with a jazzy tune underneath. Super, and short enough to watch twice (so I watched it twice).
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Milk of Amnesia (1992, Jeff Scher)
I’m thinking it’s short scenes from film and television, rotoscoped, with every frame drawn in different colors, with some frames drawn on non-white paper (a postcard, some newspaper). Warren Sonbert is thanked in the credits. I would also like to thank Warren Sonbert.
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Yours (1997, Jeff Scher)
An obscure musical short from the 30′s or 40′s overlaid with rapidly-changing patterns and images from advertisements. Descriptions and screenshots can do these no justice.
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Frame (2002, n:ja)
Black and white linear geometry illustrating a Radian song. I can’t tell if it’s torn up by interlacing effects or it’s supposed to look that way. Give me Autechre’s Gantz Graf over this any day. Between this and Mongoloid and the Jeff Scher shorts, I’m not sure where to draw the line between short-film and music-video. Not that it’s a dreadfully important question, but I’m in enough trouble tracking all the films I have/haven’t seen without adding every music video by every band I like onto the list. Although maybe videos should be given more credit… I’m sure Chris Cunningham’s video for Squarepusher’s Come On My Selector would beat 90% of the movies I watched that year.
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Month of 121 Shorts: Avant-Garde 1

Zweigroschenzauber (1929, Hans Richter)
The intertitle says “Twopence Magic: a commercian in picture rhymes.” Movie shows us a thing, then crossfades to a similar-looking thing. Much better than I’ve made it sound.
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Dada (1936, Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth)
Shapes in motion, quick.
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Synchromy No. 4: Escape (1938, Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth)
A Bach music video, with black bars perversely imprisoning the viewer away from the orange and blue color geometric spectacle beyond.
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War, etc. (1983, Leo Schatzl)
Crude drawings of planes, horizontal scratches give the appearance of speed, sound fx from old arcade games. Mix it up with some TV interference. Part of an installation which surely annoyed many (unless the sound was turned down).
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OXO Wonder Vision (1996, Leo Schatzl)
Looks/sounds like the window of a plane flying through a cloud. Then the plane slowly sinks into a giant coffee pot. It must be endless fun to be an avant-garde video installation artist.
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The Endless Sandwich (1969, Peter Weibel)
Pretty much this shot, a guy watching a guy watching a guy, until the TVs start staticking from the inside out, until our own TV statics, closing with a quote by the filmmaker.
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Imaginare Wasserplastik (1971, Peter Weibel)
Meta-video-art using “television as a time-space switch,” only a minute long. Not great, but so far I like this guy better than Leo Schatzl.
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Fluxfilm 1 (1964, Nam June Paik)
“pranksters”, “playful artists”, “ephemeral humor”: the Fluxus movement sounds like fun. But then the first film I watch is a pure white screen and silent soundtrack. What’s worse, someone has punk’d my DVD player so the clock is moving at half-speed.

Fluxfilm 2 (1966, Dick Higgins)
Still silent, closeup of a man’s mouth chewing. Okay, I’m done for now.