MVP Willem Dafoe as a doomed pelican.
MVP Willem Dafoe as a doomed pelican.
A follow-up 14 years later.
Porky in the North Woods (1936)
Porky’s wildlife refuge is an animal paradise, but an illegal french trapper invades, mutilates the forest creatures then whups porky’s ass, so the forest army fights back. The commentary guy knows all the song snippets Carl Stalling is playing and tears up listening to them.
Porky’s Poultry Plant (1936)
Such fast cutting as chicken farmer Porky hops into a prop plane to defend the chicks from hawks. Tash’s first WB cartoon. Comm says original Porky voice actor Joe Dougherty brought his actual speech impediment to the role before Mel Blanc took over… structural ripoff of Disney’s Silly Symphonies but more modern and violent… Tashlin is described as a “rumpled unsociable fellow.”
Now That Summer is Gone (1938)
Less-fun musical picture, a squirrel who loves gambling loses the family acorn supply to a grifter – his dad in disguise, teaching him a lesson. Writer Fred Neiman’s only credit before leaving the cartoon game (I dutifully wrote that down from the commentary, but who is Fred Neiman?).
Puss n’ Booty (1943)
Back to black & white… the cat has eaten a pet bird and hidden the evidence so the family orders a new canary. After a prolonged cat & bird game, the bird eats the cat – good twist – remade with Tweety & Sylvester in 1948. The Jerry Beck commentary mainly wants to tell us exactly which animators worked on which shots.
I Got Plenty of Mutton (1944)
WWII meat shortages… Hungry wolf in cabin tries making bone broth, steams a single pea, then goes after the sheep since the sheep dog is off at war. Dressing as a sexy sheep to fool the protective ram backfires, the ram keeps chasing him even after revealed as a wolf, and 15 years before Some Like It Hot.
Brother Brat (1944)
Today’s tough women in the warplane-riveting workforce need someone to watch their horrific kids while at work, so Porky is enlisted. Baby Butch torments a cat, wrecks the house, and almost murders Porky with a cleaver – I’m not sure what the wartime lesson is here.
The Lady Said No (1946)
This is… not a Looney Tune, it’s a Daffy Ditty… a stop-motion musical about a sexual harasser in Mexico. He takes the girl who only says no to a restaurant, then she says no to him going back to his old life, and no to birth control, and he’s distraught to find himself a father of a hundred babies. Replacement animation with moving camera, impressive work for a silly little movie.
narration: Swan > Henry > Rat > Poison
visuals: Henry > Rat > Swan > Poison
story: Henry > Rat > Poison > Swan
Anderson has long mastered the lesson that Godard delivered from Breathless onward: that viewers can remain deeply engaged in the events of a drama even while being pulled outside of that drama by fillips of form or fourth-wall-breaking winks and nods. Here he stands that notion on its head; he never breaks the framework of classically realistic drama because he never establishes it in the first place. It is not a question of characters breaking the action to address the camera but the reverse, and, for this reason, the direct address comes off as natural and central, and the acted-out drama as strange and supplementary. Ever since Rushmore, Anderson’s work has been an ongoing reproach to the unquestioned dramatic realism of even most of the great filmmakers of the time, and these four new shorts both heighten the audacious inventiveness of his wondrous artifices and sharpen their powers of critical discernment to a stinging point.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar:
The Rat Catcher:
Corman the year after The Intruder and Tales of Terror, same year as X, lightens things up with a very silly Poe comedy. Based on the opening poem and magician Vincent Price casually drawing with light in his living room, you don’t get a sense of the movie’s tone, but as soon as the raven transforms into Peter Lorre you know what you’re in for.
Adventurers Price, Lorre, and their kids Jack Nicholson and Olive Sturgess:
Rival magician Boris Karloff has got the traitor Lenore (Hazel Court), and speaking of traitors, Lorre has been sent to retrieve Price by claiming to be in trouble. There’s a henchman named Grimes; Price zaps his brains with magic finger-bolts. Lorre gets turned into goo during the ensuing magician’s duel, I think the kids survive, and Price goes back to his happy place: giving soliloquies to birds.
Price and the gang are all good but the real MVP is the trained raven:
John Woo’s follow-up to Blackjack, a Dolph Lundgren movie I’d never heard of before this moment. But he was obviously chosen based on his Face/Off experience in mask-based deception, and his ability to make dudes look extremely cool riding motorcycles, wearing leather jackets and sunglasses, kicking ass surrounded by explosions, jumping through the air whilst firing two guns.
Thandiwe Newton bounces between hero and villain (Dougray Scott of Ever After). Anthony Hopkins too embarrassed to be credited as the mission leader even though his other credit that year was the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. Aussies: Ving is joined by John Polson in the chopper and the baddie is assisted by finger-trauma Richard Roxburgh. Evil henchman William Mapother had been in Magnolia, but I think not in the Cruise scenes, and the scientist who sets off the whole plot by creating a supervirus runs the costume shop in Eyes Wide Shut. Bad guys just want to spread the virus across Sydney after securing stock options in Brendan Gleeson’s chem company that will manufacture the cure, and stock options are a boring reason to get the whole IMF on your ass, killing you and your friends, but at least they do it in style.
Observational slow-cinema doc, but that’s fine since half the subjects are Lithuanian water birds. Tourists chatter about the birds over the ever-present low chuckle of cormorant conversation. Mostly the people are being negative, whining how the birds compete with the locals for fish, then shit acid that kills the ancient pine trees – big deal. While there was handheld swaying in Fausto, this one feels like it was shot with hidden/security cameras, the crew returning a year later to collect and edit the footage. I could’ve done without the last 5 minutes of some dude interrupting nesting season with fireworks.
Cuties… if they want to kill all the trees and fishes, that’s their business:
Reviews be damned, I’m gonna watch your one-man movie if that man is Willem Dafoe. He’s an art thief trapped in a high-tech apartment accidentally (I thought they were gonna hint that someone maliciously set him up but nope) with limited food and water supplies. The kind of movie that seemingly wants you to think hard about escape (what about the floor / or the ceiling ducts / where do that tree’s roots go), while our guy fixates on a very hard to reach/remove skylight. At least some small relief that when he finds a secret passageway inside the coat closet, it leads to another art installation and not a deviant sex dungeon. Alas, the pigeon doesn’t survive.
Perhaps filmed in Greece, lotta Greek names in the crew. The DP did Color Out of Space, and the writer worked on an upcoming movie where Ben Whishaw plays a soviet poet.
Making more movie lists over here, re-categorizing things, so my first screening from the new project is The Falls by fellow categorizer Greenaway. 92 sections of varying length (some are major characters who will be referenced later, some are just represented with a title card – half the subjects of discussion don’t even appear). All people affected by the Violent Unknown Event (which took place at least three decades before the present interviews) are affected in different ways, but all have interest in birds and flight. They suffer different ailments and dreams, speak in one or more of “the mutant languages,” and are classified as one of “the four newly formulated genders.”
Absurd concepts mixed in with bland facts and read/performed very straight. At one point the narrator is shown onscreen then muted as a later narrator updates his report. Murders and accidents and conspiracies… callbacks and self-references (to PG’s earlier shorts). Not sure if someone being struck by lightning is a reference to the same year’s Act of God. A sinister force called FOX, a society for ornithological extermination, comes up a few times. Tulse Luper is in this, as an influential author whose stories sometimes seep into the film.
Influenced by TV sketch comedy? “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” I searched for “Greenaway” with “Monty Python” and found this interview/manifesto.
Bead Game (1977, Ishu Patel)
Stop-motion beads create a series of creatures devouring each other until inevitably, as most animated films do, it becomes a cautionary tale about senseless human violence. Really impressive work, fast and complex, synched to a percussion soundtrack, and I don’t know how they got that 3D light effect in the final minute. Up for the oscar that The Sand Castle won.
Paradise (1984, Ishu Patel)
A completely different kind of thing, bright 2D animation, frames fading into each other to create a slow dreamy blur-motion on everything. All very bird focused. A black bird flies into a magic castle made of a million points of light and sees a human king and a parade of colorful exotic birds. Back in the real world he brutalizes all the local birds and flowers, stealing colors and patterns and props to make himself look prettier, does a crazy dance for the king who locks him outdoors in the cage of shame. After escaping, I guess he lives in harmony with his fellow wild birds. Lost the oscar to a shorter British thing I haven’t seen.
Labirynt (1963, Jan Lenica)
This is exciting since I’ve watched the Lenica & Borowczyk shorts but not any of his solo work. Man in a wingsuit descends into the city and hides from various beasties and sees different animal-based horrors. Surreal low-motion clip-art animation, full of birds and moths and traps. He’s finally captured, scanned and identified, rescued by his hat-bird, then shredded when he attempts to escape in the wingsuit. Verdict: cool. This won a prize at Annecy, where Borow also won for his Concert de M. et Mme. Kabal.
The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912, Wladyslaw Starewicz)
One-ups the Lenica by using actual dead bugs (with wire legs) as stop-motion puppets. A cheatin’ movie, a couple of beetles make out with other bugs and get caught. A jealous grasshopper films the husband with a hot dragonfly – including through their hotel keyhole – and projects it when the beetle couple go to the movies, causing a riot that ends with the beetles in jail. Robert Israel soundtrack on the now-rare DVD.
The Frogs Who Wanted a King (1922, Wladyslaw Starewicz)
Clay frogs, a hundred times more expressive than the insect cadavers. Fed up with democracy, the frogs pray to the gods to be sent a king. He sends them a stone idol and they get pissy, so he sends a stork which eats all the frogs it can find. An original Aesop fable (he sent a water snake instead of the stork).
Little Bird Gazouilly (1953, Wladyslaw Starewicz)
I can’t resist watching another bird short and catching Starewicz forty years later. It’s a beautiful one, adding camera movement to the complex stop-motion. Baby birds are born in the trees over the city, and the bulk of the story follows their first day in the human world, getting into hijinks. A bird gets mad at a mirror, just like my birds did earlier today. Wladyslaw had moved to France after 1917, and this film and many more were co-credited to his daughter Irene.
There Will Come Soft Rains (1984, Nazim Tulakhodzhayev)
Opens with an egg, but it’s not another bird movie, it’s a breakfast-making machine. The humans have disintegrated but the household automation carries on. The concept (by Ray Bradbury) and illustration is cool, but the animation is nothing much. Aha, it’s a bird movie after all, as a bird flies in the open window while the automation is celebrating the new year 2027, and the anti-intruder robot arm tears the house apart. It doesn’t end great for the bird either.
Symphonie Diagonale (1924, Viking Eggeling)
Patterns of curved and diagonal lines rhythmically shift and unmake themselves. Good modern soundtrack by Sue Harshe.
My Childhood Mystery Tree (2008, Natalia Mirzoyan)
A Russian kid whose main fear is that hawks will steal his teddy bear has an intricate dream of human-held cities of junk collectors atop a giant tree. After a dogged chase, he refuses to give up his bear when asked, leading to the collapse of their entire owl-bug society.
Kitty Kornered (1946, Robert Clampett)
Porky has too many cats, tries to put them out for the night but they revolt and take over the house. I like that the red-nosed cat’s whole personality was “the drunk one.” Their leader is a proto-Sylvester. A shadow-puppet dog and a martian invasion get involved.