Torture Money (1937, Harold S. Bucquet)
Caught on TCM’s Oscar Month – this beat out Deep South and Should Wives Marry? for best two-reeler. A cop from the Bunco Squad goes undercover to investigate a ring of scammers who beat a guy up in a back room then fake a car accident complete with paid “witnesses” to fraud insurance companies. The scammers purposely run over a little girl, just in case insurance fraud wasn’t enough of a crime to get our attention. Our officer blends in successfully thanks to his knowledge of 30’s street slang and his ability to fake a hatred of cops. He’s chosen to be the “accident victim” (that’d be the titular torture), manages to contact his men, spring the trap and send the baddies to jail. I don’t recall the character names, so our cop was either George Lynn (I Was a Teenage Frankenstein) or Edwin Maxwell (The Great Moment, His Girl Friday). The director went on to better things (a Katharine Hepburn feature, the Dr. Kilgare series), as did the writer (T-Men, Robinson Crusoe On Mars).


Three half-hour shorts from the 1997 Africa Dreaming series:

Sophia’s Homecoming (Richard Pakleppa, Namibia)
Sophia arrives in town after years in South Africa and finds that her husband, kids and sister aren’t so happy to see her. Turns out the sister and husband are in love… Soph tries to break it up, but when the sister says she’s expecting the husband’s baby, Sophia packs up her kids and returns to S. Africa. Other than a solo dish-destroying kitchen tantrum, there’s surprisingly little screaming and fighting, considering the situation.

Sabriya (Abderrahmane Sissako, Tunisia)
Hot, uninhibited, waterfall-loving foreign woman comes to town and shakes up the home life of a local chess-playing tavern dweller. He falls in love, but I think she leaves town without him at the end… I was too busy staring at the nice visuals and trying to remember scenes from Waiting For Happiness.

So Be It (Joseph Gai Ramaka, Senegal)
Doctor arrives in town (people are always arriving in town in these movies), sees a mute retarded kid who hangs around. Everyone seems to dump on the retarded kid… finally outta nowhere (actually I predicted it, but I was kidding) the townsfolk come with torches to kill the kid. Why? I dunno, but the doctor is right upset. The written description on the box calls it an African Heart of Darkness (although I would prefer an African Heart of Darkness to concern an adventurer from the Congo on a dangerous mission to England to retrieve a countryman who’d encamped in a rural British village up the Thames and established himself as a god among the locals). The box seems to know a lot that I couldn’t figure out from the movies. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention?


Egged On (1926, Charley Bowers)

Charley invents an overly-complicated machine in his girlfriend’s parents’ barn which makes eggs unbreakable (rubbery, you open them with scissors) and aims to sell it to the egg-shipping industry. The investors are coming, but Charley has no eggs for the demonstration, so he fails to gather some in various ways. Finally gets an egg from a hen who’s been eating dynamite… test goes well until he hits the egg with a hammer to prove its indestructibility and destroys the whole barn. Worth watching for the scene shown below in which a batch of eggs, incubated by Charley’s car engine, hatch into hundreds of little cars in a massive and delightful stop-motion display.

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He Done His Best (1926, Charley Bowers)
Another one involving eggs, and complicated machinery, overall more entertaining then Egged On. Charley needs his girl’s dad’s consent for marriage, ends up working at his restaurant. Gets dad in union trouble, so invents an automatic server/cook machine (powered by stop-motion, natch). Dad is cheered immensely, girl holds wedding at the restaurant, but she’s marrying some other guy which is supposed to be a funny surprise but is instead kind of an anticlimactic ending after a great movie, a la Chaplin’s One A.M.
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Azur and Asmar (2006, Michel Ocelot)
Not supposed to be a short, but we ditched after 45 minutes because this was so bad. I can’t even think when’s the last time I walked out on a movie (though I remember itching to leave Sam Raimi’s The Gift). The critically-raved-on animation looked to me like weakly-puppeted low-detail Flash, and the story was going nowhere we couldn’t easily predict, so there seemed no point in staying. As a rule, I don’t put half-seen movies on the website, but I’m making an exception here and I don’t need a reason, nyeah.

Euro/African kids grow up with same mum/caretaker, Euro kid is sent away to become classy, African kid/mum is kicked out of house, sent back to whatever country to become super-rich merchants. Eurokid goes to africa, hides his blue eyes, runs into his mum and a hunchback liar fellow, and sets out to locate the three keys and marry some mythic fairy. Africa stuff is all Eurocentric wide-eyed wonder, and the other kid disappears for huge chunks of the movie, so the idea that we were seeing some kind of African tale faithfully told by a Frenchman went out the window.

Then we snuck into the animated shorts program and caught Varmints (Marc Craste) – wordless depresso-short with very good CGI about a bunny in a polluted Wall-E world trying to use his potted plant in order to get captured by giant floating jellyfish to live in meadowy heaven with the girl he met in the elevator – Gopher Broke (Blur Studios) – slick, commercial-looking animal comedy, unlucky gopher upsetting trucks on their way to the farmer’s market in order to get himself some food – Skhizein (Jeremy Clapin) – guy is hit by an asteroid and finds that his consciousness is some number of centimeters to the side of his body, neat premise but in the end it turns out he is just deranged – and Hot Dog and John and Karen which I’d already seen in The Animation Show 4 but played better with a crowd.

1. Only movie in recent memory that makes me hope for a special-edition DVD so I can sit and watch making-of featurettes all night long to answer the record number of “HOW did they DO that”s which hit me during the screening.

2. Best use of 3D that I have ever seen. Implemented not to throw stuff at the audience’s face, but to bring us into the movie’s world and immerse us in all the handcrafted marvels within.

3. And a good, extremely imaginative story on top of that. The plotting gets a little video-game problem-solvey towards the end and Coraline’s own character could use more exploration, but hey, even WALL-E had problems. No need to nitpick when there’s so much here worth appreciating.

Mopey-teen title character deals with her new home and inattentive parents. Meets a talkative, twitchy boy with the disturbing-in-a-kids-movie name of Whyborn, a flea-training circus strongman neighbor, and two candy-appreciating, dog-collecting women who are also washed-up performers. Then Coraline finds a doorway into John Malkovich’s head, where dad is robotically nice (and sings just like They Might Be Giants), the performing neighbors are impossibly entertaining, and Whyborn shuts up… all catering to Coraline’s desire that everything should center around her. Fortunately, a stray cat fills her in on the diabolical reality involving an interdimensional witch who steals the eyes of children, and even more fortunately, the witch stupidly allows Coraline to bargain and cheat her way home, leading to a happy ending where C. has learned to better appreciate her real life.

Also: the armatures were fantastic! Guy named Jeremy Spake was their armaturist… I imagine we’ll be seeing big things from him in the future.

Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey
Short doc of the duo band at SXSW. Funny! Seen below massaging the feet of Peaches.
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Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008, Nick Park)
This was as fast-paced as the action scenes in the Wallace & Gromit full-length, and packed full of jokes and puns. Our heroes are bakers now, and a former bread company model, now grown fat on breads and pastries, is out for revenge on the bakery world. She gets cozy with Wallace, plotting to murder him with a giant cartoon bomb (among other things) while Gromit and the woman’s terrified pet poodle try to ruin her plans. Lovely movie, probably inspired by the name of cowriter Bob Baker and/or voice actor Peter Sallis’s appearance in the movie Who Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe. Must check out Nick Park’s series Shaun The Sheep.
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Living in a Reversed World
Educational doc. Sadistic Austrian professor, trying to prove a point about perception, gets students to wear special mirror/prism glasses which reverse left/right or up/down and see if they can adjust. They can. He also puts goggles on a chicken, which I don’t think is a good idea.
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The Contraption (1977, James Dearden)
Closeups of construction. What’s he building in there? What the hell… is he building in there? Turns out to be a giant mousetrap for our suicidal handyman. Dearden later made Matt Dillon thriller A Kiss Before Dying. Contraption-builder Richard O’Brien had lately been in Rocky Horror, would play Mr. Hand in Dark City. Tied for best short at the Berlin fest… this is pretty neat, but I wouldn’t have thought it an award-winner.
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Cameras Take Five (2003, Stephen Woloshen)
Abstract hand-drawn animation set to Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. Liked it, not super busy, didn’t think people were doing stuff like this anymore.
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Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature (1966, Hubleys)
John & Faith animate two short musical numbers to Spanish Flea and Tijuana Taxi. Not slick like the Doonesbury short, homemade-looking. Cute pieces though (predictably about a flea and a taxi). Beat out a Pink Panther short and an anti-smoking PSA for the oscar. Rough year for animation, I guess. Lost at Cannes to a documentary on Holland (not by Bert Haanstra).
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The Tortoise and the Hare (1935, Wilfred Jackson)
Hare is kinda an asshole – supposedly his character was stolen by Warners as a prototype for Bugs Bunny. This plays like the other Silly Symphonies, not as good as the Three Little Pigs though.
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A Perfect Place (2008, Derrick Scocchera)
Sharp b-w cinematography and two very dryly comic actors (Mark Boone Jr. of Memento & Thin Red Line and Bill Moseley of all the Rob Zombie films) make for a good movie. In the first second, MBJ “kills” an acquaintance who was cheating at cards, then they spend the next 25 min trying to dispose of the body. Not the usual over-the-top situations either, movie keeps it cool. I guessed early on that the cheat wasn’t really dead but that didn’t make it less enjoyable. Dig the theme song by Mike Patton.
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MANT! (1993, Joe Dante)
Tracigally not a full feature. All the scenes shot for the film-in-a-film of Dante’s awesome Matinee were assembled into this short included with the laserdisc.
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Three excellent shorts by Norman McLaren. Fiddle-de-dee (1947, painted to an upbeat fiddle tune), Boogie-Doodle (1948, drawn with pen to a piano boogie) and Serenal (1959, etched and hand-colored to a Trinidadian string quartet number)

Fiddle-de-dee:
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Boogie-Doodle:
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Serenal:
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Three Little Pigs (1933, Burt Gillett)
Musical short feat. “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf” song. Great sound work by Carl Stalling. Uncle Walt did the voice of the brickhouse pig, one of only a couple credited non-Mickey voice roles. OMG, inside the brick house there’s a framed picture of sausage links on the wall with the caption “father”.
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Mirror of Holland (1951, Bert Haanstra)
Greeeeat movie. He shoots reflections of Holland on the river, then flips the camera so they’re rightside-up. Looks for cool subjects and cool effects off the water. All woodwind and harp music, no narration, gorgeous. Didn’t know there was a golden palm for shorts at Cannes, but this won it.
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Quiet As Kept (2007, Charles Burnett)
“That little-ass FEMA check sure don’t go very far”
Actors are real actorly, especially the kid (he’s in Ned’s Declassified). Video is real videoey. Script is real good, a sketch about a family of black New Orleans ex-residents post-Katrina, but the movie is ehhh. Oops, All Movie Guide calls it a documentary – bozos. Can’t find anyone talking about this online, probably because when Killer of Sheep came out on DVD, everyone got in line to praise it and didn’t want to look out-of-touch by talking about the not-great shorts it was packaged with.
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Mr. Frenhofer and the Minotaur (1949, Sidney Peterson)
Distorted film of actors, string music, and voiceover, none of which has anything to do with the other. “To pose, or not to? I love him, I love him not? Or rather, since I love him less already, why not? An old man mad about paint, Frenhofer…” Yep, definitely from the same source as La Belle Noiseuse. “Once upon a time there was an old man who had been painting one painting for ten years. His name was Frenho… for what? … He started looking for a model to compare. All he wanted was the most beautiful woman in the world to prove to himself that his painting was more beautiful than any possible woman.” It’s all in here: Marianne’s man (also a painter) offering up her modeling services, Porbus the art dealer.

The script/narration is pretty swell but I wouldn’t be following if not for having seen the Rivette, and the visual is just nothing to me… a clock, a fencing match, cats, blurry nonsense, movie would be just as good with a black screen. Sorry, Sidney Peterson. Hmmm, at the end a fencer stabs the painter.
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Eurydice – She, So Beloved (2007, Bros. Quay)
Very underlit ballet. Kinda dull. I preferred The Phantom Museum (and Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary).
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Victory Over The Sun (2007, Michael Robinson)
Weirdly shaped monuments and the whispering wind. Would probably help if I could understand what the chanting people are saying. There’s some abstract 3D Animation thrown in. Towards the end goes into sound from some cartoon… Transformers? Some very familiar symphonic music. Pretty nice… I didn’t love it by any means, but I like it better than the disappointing Light Is Waiting.

Waaait, I looked this up online and found all sorts of stuff about it, something about being shot on the former sites of Worlds Fairs, but now I can’t find where I wrote that down.
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The Wizard of Speed and Time (1979, Mike Jittlov)
Oh My God. This is three minutes of pure joy. Now that I have found this movie, I will watch it always. It’s my new The Heart of the World, using jaw-dropping stop-motion to express pure cinema love. The look is dated, but the music is swell, and Mike is a grinning god.
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Lifted – came in late and missed it, but it’s supposed to screen in front of Ratatouille so I’ll get another chance.

The Danish Poet – saw the end, didn’t look impressive, but cute maybe.

Maestro – cool, the inner workings of a cuckoo clock (that being the twist ending) with the camera moving around the room in increments like a second hand. Landmark liked it so much they played it twice in a row (or that’s because their heads are up their asses as usual).

The Little Matchgirl – too smooth looking, too disney looking, and too many credited animators. Unfairly sad little thing.

No Time For Nuts – an Ice Age short, also unfair. More importantly, not especially good/funny, not half as good as the Madagascar penguin short. Prehistoric squirrel-thing finds a time machine and it teleports him and his sole acorn all over, ending in the future with a fake oak tree. Poor guy.

A Gentleman’s Duel – 3D short with people, never a good idea but this one looked quite good. Uptight brit and uptight frenchie duel in battletech suits over pretty girl who ends up getting nekked with her butler/servant/whatever. Has its moments.

Guide Dog – only crossover with The Animation Show and my favorite of this bunch. Too bad, the Oscars could learn a lot from Judge and Hertzfeldt.

One Rat Short – brown rat follows cheetos bag into rat lab run by red-eyed robot where he falls for white rat. Cheetos bag causes chaos and the gates are all opened, brown rat escapes but white rat is left behind. SAD MOVIE.

The Passenger – kid is scared of dog, sits on bus next to fish in plastic bag that turns into hideous huge creature when he turns on his walkman. Funny, cool little piece.

Wraith of Cobble Hill – ugh, brooklyn kid with drunk mom drinks cough syrup with his friends, gets key to shop while owner is “out of town”, finally “saves” owner’s dog from rat-infested store. Claymation whatever.