Monday, December 17, 2012

College educated whites are not Republican

Did you know that McCain lost college educated whites by 19% in 2008? I always make a big deal about how working class Lake County Cheap Properties Cheap Properties whites should be Republican, but I did not consider that we do so poorly among the college educated. I wonder how much of that is due to the fact that public employees and teachers are all college graduates? There are so many teachers that they alone could skew the statistic heavily. The article does note that business oriented college graduates are Republican, so that's kind of a hint.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

All is available in portable accommodation

Looking for building materials in the store building is not as easy as imagined. Because not all stores have a full inventory in bulk. And to build a very tall buildings, which is an indispensable ingredient. Is not possible if you have to move around the shop. a modular buildings provide the best solution for it. There is a number of buildings providing you want.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Realtor features my article in her blog

Ontario realtor ri Joanne Cross has featured one of my articles in her latest blog post. The article is entitled "Can I sell an estate property before getting probate?" and I know it will be of interest to executors who aren't sure in which order things are done in an estate. Click here to check out Joanne's blog, articles and new listings.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Week 2: Verse 2 - First Impressions

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Boy does this verse sting. After the revelations of last week, realising that a lot of gonging and clanging was due to me trying to be the smartest guy in the room, Paul God decided he was going to reinforce just how useless that pathetic effort was. MPV (My Paraphrased Version) - Even if you are as smart as God himself, seeing & knowing all things, and don't have love, YOU ARE NOTHING! Good lord I have been arrogant. I fear it has become a part of my character. I hate that. I also fear that my hypocritical distaste for all things stupid & ignorant has made me stupid and ignorant myself. It makes me wonder what the opposite of this verse would be. MPVO(My Paraphrased Version Opposite) - Even if you are as dumb as a pile of rocks, not knowing anything, but you love fiercely, YOU ARE EVERYTHING! That really puts some things into perspective. Where along the way did I start to believe that being the smartest, strongest, whitiest, etc, would get me anywhere. All my previous jobs come to mind. I could know everything I needed to know about the job and do it well, but since I never really loved it or really loved on the people I worked with, my best rarely shined through. Even now, as I approach 29 years of age, I am finally learning that the real way of the world is building relationships. Some abuse this and fake them, then discard them when they are not needed, but people you genuinely love on and care for will generally give it all right back and then some.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All is available in portable accommodation

Looking for building materials in the store building is not as easy as imagined. Because not all stores have a full inventory in bulk. And to build a very tall buildings, which is an indispensable ingredient. Is not possible if you have to move around the shop. a portable accommodation provide the best solution for it. There is a number of buildings providing you want.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Change, Atmosphere Your Kitchen

In many developing countries, has been widely used by most homeowners. But not infrequently also in certain states, the kitchen table is still very little used, even more so because of the habit of using a kitchen set. Though very useful kitchen table, among others, as a place to put a dish that was just released from oven. As place to put a dish that is cooked and had just finished a comfortable place if you're making bread or cakes. If you want to reset to change the atmosphere in your kitchen, you can add a kitchen table with a beautiful countertop in your home. There are many choices in Kitchen Countertops Santa Cruz, to complement your kitchen. There is a countertop made from granite, marble, quartz, Cambria, silestone, caesarstone, zodiac, recycled glass, semi-precious, limestone and soapstone. Everything can be found in kitchen countertops santa cruz.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sell Your House Fast - And Get Your Cash Today!

sell your house fast Are you one of those home owners who wish to sell their homes as soon as possible? There is a meager chance that you might be able to do so. Yet, you might very well be able to do that if you find the right people. The big issue you will be dealing with while selling your house is how you can get cash faster than the usual selling procedure can bring you. Well, you don't need to worry about a thing. You still have a great option when it comes to selling your house fast: you can sell your home and receive the complete agreed cash shortly after striking a deal with a company that invests in real estate. There may be different reasons which can drive you to sell your home. Maybe the lack of maintenance has finally got to your home, and made it so ugly that you can't bear to live in it any more. And now that the repair costs are surely out of your control, the last thing you would want is to invest your savings on fixing your house. This really justifies your decision to sell your house fast to home investors for cash. It is these individuals who can deal with any type of property better than you can. Yet the lack of maintenance may not be the only reason behind the shabby look of your house. Its deterioration can also result from accidents such as natural disasters and fires, both of which come with heavy repairing costs. You may have also suffered from careless tenants who have damaged your home so bad that it needs a whole makeover. Whether you plan to sell your house fast due to any of these problems, a home investor is your best option. One of the best features of having to sell your house for cash to home investors is that the latter offer timely services to property owners in distress. If you are sinking in debts, these investors will offer you the means to dig yourself out of your financial crises. Once you have a deal with them, they can take care of all the legal matters associated with your property, and you will be free from worries for a long time. Even if you are not in a hurry to sell your property, just imagine the trouble you would have to go through to place your ads on-line or in the classifieds. And, do not expect anything but a handful of buyers outside your ugly home. Just like you, no one wants to live in a rundown home! Aside from that, the waiting will definitely bring you down. Some home owners finally give up and end up paying thousands of dollars to get their homes fixed. Yet, even then, selling their homes will only manage to get them half the market rate. This further builds up one's distress. Try to sell your house fast to a real estate investor, and you will be able to spare yourself from this nightmare. Most people hesitate when selling their home in distress because they feel it's worth nothing. These people need to see the true picture. If you possess such a property, then don't just sit back and wait for things to happen. All you need to do once you decide to sell your house is to contact real estate investors, and let them give you a reasonable amount for your property right after you sign the contract. No waiting, no nothing! Just a trouble-free real estate solution.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Funny Feet: The Art of Eccentric Dance

I've always loved dance animation.  Whether it is Mickey in Thru the Mirror or Donald in Mr. Duck Steps Out or the dancing in Rooty Toot Toot, when expressive movement joins with music, you get an energy that leaves ordinary animation in the dust.  Dick Lundy, Les Clark, Ken Harris, Preston Blair, Ward Kimball, and Pat Matthews are just some of the animators with a genuine flair for dance.

Animated dance built on what was happening in live action films, and that was built on what had been done in Vaudeville and the English music hall.  Chaplin, Keaton, Stan Laurel, Groucho Marx, and James Cagney all used dance in their stage performances.  Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen, and the Nicholas Brothers were all influenced by the same tradition.

Betsy Baytos has worked as an animator and dancer and is making a documentary called Funny Feet: The Art of Eccentric Dance.  Her promo is below:

She's using Kickstarter to fund a trip to England to research music hall performers who fall into the eccentric dance category.

In addition to interviewing performers for the last 20 years, she has also interviewed artists Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Myron Waldman (Betty Boop/Popeye) , Joe Barbera, Joe Grant and Al Hirschfeld (NY Times caricaturist).

Here's a clip from a Buster Keaton two reeler for Columbia.  Keaton and Columbia were not a good fit.  The studio was much more at home with the lowbrow knockabout of The Three Stooges than it was with Keaton's deadpan irony.  Elsie James, the woman in this clip, is a pretty crude performer with a tendency to mug.  However, I'm including this clip because after the three minute mark, there's about 20 seconds of sublime dance by Keaton, where he transcends Columbia's limited view of comedy.


I'm excited about the subject matter of Baytos's documentary and looking forward to seeing it.  Read more about it on her Kickstarter page.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Animation on TCM Reminder

If you receive Turner Classic Movies, remember that this Sunday, October 21, they will be screening an evening of animation co-hosted by Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew.  Films include the two Fleischer features Gulliver's Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town; a selection of UPA Jolly Frolic cartoons; a selection of silent animation provided by historian Tom Stathes; and The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is the oldest surviving animated feature as well as the first animated feature directed by a woman, Lotte Reineger.  You can find the complete schedule here and Beck has posted artwork associated with Gulliver and Mr. Bug on his site.

If you are interested in hearing about how Beck connected up with TCM and learning more about the early days of film collecting, you can hear him on a podcast called The Commentary Track.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

More Loomis

Andrew Loomis' 1947 instruction book Creative Illustration has been reprinted.  One in a series of instruction books by Loomis, a Chicago-based commercial illustrator of the 20th century, this book might be described as his magnum opus.  It's the first of his books to deal with colour and composition.

Sections include line, tone, colour, and creating ideas.  It is by far the thickest of Loomis's books and before this reprinting, copies sold for over $100.

Titan Books will reprint Fun With a Pencil next April, Loomis's most basic how to draw book.  All that will remain, should Titan continue, will be Three Dimensional Drawing, an expanded version of Successful Drawing which they have already reprinted, and The Eye of the Painter and the Elements of Beauty, a book published after Loomis's death.  Used copies of that start at $141.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Manolito's Dream

 I wrote about Txesco Montalt's work before, and here is a short that he created with Mayte Sanchez Solis.  Both of them worked on Pocoyo, one of the few pre-school shows I can watch without falling asleep.  Like Txesco's earlier work, it synchs beautifully to the soundtrack and while done in Flash, has lots of subtle shape-changing that gives it wonderful flexibility.

I'm also in love with the simplicity of the design.

The two are partnered in a company called Alla Kinda, and even their logo

exudes charm.  Their site is worth checking out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ottawa Festival Report

My visit to the Ottawa International Animation Festival got off to a bad start. I usually walk from the bus station to the hotel, but it was pouring rain when I arrived. As the walk would have been a half hour, I would have been thoroughly soaked, so I was forced to take a cab.

The wireless at my hotel was not working when I arrived, which was frustrating. The first program I attended was the International Student Showcase, which was a unrelieved depression and boredom. It may be the choice of films or maybe students are actually this depressed, pretentious and boring, but I was contemplating never coming back to the festival during this screening.

Fortunately, this was the low point and things rapidly improved. The next thing I attended was Amid Amidi's presentation on Ward Kimball, a teaser for his forthcoming book Full Steam Ahead: The Life and Art of Ward Kimball.  Amidi covered things I didn't know about Kimball's childhood and his artistic evolution.  Kimball's father had repeated business failures and seemingly moved the family to a new location after every one.  It prevented Kimball from forming long-term friendships and made drawing more attractive as it was one of the few areas of his life that Kimball could control.  Amidi talked about the influence of T. Hee on Kimball, moving Kimball's art more towards simplified design.  The talk was illustrated by unpublished paintings, drawings and home movies.  Amidi has the cooperation of the Kimball family, including access to the journals that Kimball kept during his time at Disney, so he had access to a rich source of material not common in other Disney books.   I pre-ordered the book as soon as Amazon listed it, and I am even more anxious to read it after seeing this presentation.

I started Saturday seeing part of an interview with Elliot Cowan conducted by Richard O'Connor.  Cowan is at work on an independent animated feature starring his characters Boxhead and Roundhead, the star of several shorts.  It's great that so many animators are tackling the challenge of a feature either solo or with small crews.  It's more likely we'll see artistic and thematic growth in these films than in mainstream animated features.

That was followed by a panel discussion of professional etiquette for job seekers and people pitching in animation.  I've attended several of these panels and they all hit the same notes: research who you're talking to and make sure you're a good fit, be brief, get to the point, and network like crazy.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi's talk was easily a highlight.  Unfortunately, it was not well-attended and people missed a tremendous opportunity to hear an important figure.  Bakshi readily confessed to the shortcomings of his films, but stressed the conditions they were made under.  He couldn't afford pencil tests and there was no room for retakes.  He talked about the incessant battles over money, ratings, distribution, etc.  His attitude has always been that it's better to say something in a flawed way than to say nothing new in a slick package.  By coincidence, I was re-reading Sam Fuller's autobiography A Third Face during the festival and I realized that Bakshi is animation's Fuller.  Fuller stuck with low budgets in order to have creative freedom (though I suppose that Bakshi didn't do that by choice), and Fuller's style was always blunt and direct.  There are similarities between Fuller's films Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss and Bakshi's films set in New York.

Bakshi is currently doing shorts for YouTube.  Here is Trickle Dickle Down.  The animation is repurposed from Coonskin, which caused Jerry Beck to reject running it on Cartoon Brew.  Bakshi was very vocal in his disagreement over this, stating that the message was more important than the re-use.

Following Bakshi's talk, I caught up with Paranorman, which I had missed in theatres.  Made by Laika, the company behind Coraline, I actually liked it better than their first feature.  While I felt the designs could have been more attractive and that the second act seemed padded, the film worked and had strong themes.  The fear of those who are different and the mob descent into violence are themes that are as relevant to the film's supernatural world as they are to international politics.

I only saw one shorts competition this year.  These programs are always a mixed bag and all you can hope for are enough films you like to make the program worthwhile.  Films I enjoyed in this program included I Am Tom Moody by Ainslie Henderson, Melissa by Cesar Cabral, Pythagasaurus by Peter Peake of Aardman, Night of the Loving Dead by Anna Humphries, Una Fortiva Lagrima by Carlo Vogele (using a 1904 recording by Enrico Caruso), and The People Who Never Stop by Florien Piento.

Due to arriving on Friday and various schedule conflicts, I only got to see one feature in competition, Le Tableau, directed by Jean-Francois Laguionie.  It is set inside an unfinished painting, where the figures form a class system based on their level of completion.  While this film also had a meandering second act, it dealt with fascism, ethnic cleansing, the search for God and God's responsibility toward his creations.  The film combines cel-shaded 3D with painterly 2.5D backgrounds and while I could think of ways that characters could have been more developed, I was still highly impressed with the look and the thoughtfulness of the film.  See it if you get the chance.

I regret missing Arrugas, directed by Ignacio Ferreras, a feature set in a retirement home and which won the grand prize at the festival.  If anyone has seen it, please comment below.

Barry Purves

Sunday, I started with the Barry Purves retrospective.  Purves, a brilliant stop motion animator, introduced his work and then returned to answer questions at the end.  Besides running clips from his TV work, he ran Next, Screen Play, Riggoletto, Achilles and Gilbert and Sullivan.  Purves is clearly in love with opera and operatic voices.  Riggoletto and Gilbert and Sullivan are built entirely around them.  However, I wonder if the music and singing are too broad for the intimacy of film.  On stage, the audience is a distance from the action and there is no cutting or close-ups possible.  When the audience is only inches from a character's face, the operatic delivery often overpowers the visuals.  Purves would be horrified at the idea of redubbing his films, I'm sure, but I wonder how they would play with more intimate arrangements and singing.  None of this takes away from his mastery of performance, though.

I ended my festival with the screening of children's films.  Every year I look forward to this, as the films are the antithesis of most of the shorts in the festival.  They are bright, funny, well-paced and are clearly concerned with how the audience will receive them.  While all the films were worth watching, my favourites were Stick Up For Your Friends by Anthony Dusko, My Strange Grandfather by Dina Velikovskaya, From Point A to Point Z by Karl Staven, Why Do We Put Up With Them? by David Chai and Thank You by Pendleton Ward and Thomas Herpich.  I was pleased to see that two excellent films were from Toronto: The Fox and the Chickadee by Evan DeRushie and Beethoven's Wig by Alex Hawley and Denny Silverthorne of Smiley Guy Studios.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ottawa International Animation Fest Winners

JUNKYARD WINS BEST SHORT, ARRUGAS SELECTED BEST FEATURE,  AT OTTAWA INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL
OTTAWA (September 23, 2012) – The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) came to an end Sunday, with closing ceremonies held at the National Arts Centre. Organizers announced the winners of the official competition during the ceremonies.

This year’s event, held September 19th-23rd, was a tremendous success with packed screenings, sold out workshops, high profile networking events such at the Television Animation Conference (TAC) and a strong weekend of professional development.

The OIAF is a major international film event that attracts 1500 industry pass holders from across Canada and around the world with a total attendance of close to 30,000. Although the final numbers are not officially in, there are strong indications that this year’s Festival reached its highest attendance to date.

The 2012 international jury for Short Program, Student and Commissioned Films included: Mike Fallows (USA), J.J. Sedelmaier (USA) and Sarah Muller(UK). The international jury for Feature Film Competition and School Showreels included: Barry Purves (UK), Hisko Hulsing (Netherlands) and Izabela Rieben (Switzerland).

The Festival also featured a special jury made up of local kids to select the Best Short Animation Made for Children and the Best Television Animation Made for Children. This year’s kids jury included: Jordan Quayle, Evelyn Abacra, Lucas Kelly, Jakob Boose, Zoe Monogian, Conall Sloan, Eleanor Simonetta, Jacob Cooper, Chantalyne Leonhardt and Lauralee Leonhardt.

List of WinnersNelvana GRAND PRIZE for Best Independent Short AnimationJunkyard– directed by Hisko Hulsing, Netherlands

GRAND PRIZE for Best Animated FeatureArrugas (Wrinkles), directed by Ignacio Ferreras, Spain

Walt Disney GRAND PRIZE for Best Student AnimationI Am Tom Moody– directed by Ainslie Henderson, Edinburgh College of Art, UK

GRAND PRIZE for Best Commissioned AnimationPrimus "Lee Van Cleef" - by Chris Smith, USA

Best Animation School ShowreelSupinfocom (France)

BEST Narrative ShortA Morning Stroll - by Grant Orchard, STUDIO AKA, USA

BEST Experimental/Abstract AnimationRivière au Tonnerre – directed by Pierre Hébert, Canada

Adobe Prize for BEST High School AnimationThe Bean – by Hae Jin Jung, Gyeonggi Art High School, South Korea

Honourable Mention:La Soif Du Monde (Thirsty Frog) – by a Collective: 12 Children, Camera-etc, Belgium

BEST Undergraduate AnimationReizwäsche - by Jelena Walf & Viktor Stickel, Germany

BEST Graduate AnimationBallpit – directed by Kyle Mowat, Sheridan College, Canada

BEST Promotional AnimationRed Bull 'Music Academy World Tour' – by Pete Candeland, Passion Pictures, UK

BEST Music VideoThe First Time I Ran Away - by Joel Trussell, USA

BEST Television Animation for AdultsPortlandia: Zero Rats – by Rob Shaw, USA

BEST Short Animation Made for ChildrenBeethoven’s Wig, directed by Alex Hawley & Denny Silverthorne, Canada

Honourable Mentions:Au Coeur de L’Hiver - directed by Isabelle Favez, Switzerland
Why do we Put up with Them? - directed by David Chai, USA

BEST Television Animation Made for ChildrenRegular Show: Eggscellent - by JC Quintel, Cartoon Network

Honourable Mention:Adventure Time: Jake vs. Me-Mow - by Pendleton Ward, Cartoon Network, USA

The National Film Board of Canada PUBLIC PRIZEIt's Such a Beautiful Day - directed by Don Hertzfeldt, USA

Canadian Film Institute Award for BEST Canadian AnimationNightingales in December, directed by Theodore Ushev, Canada

Honourable MentionsBallpit – directed by Kyle Mowat, Sheridan College, Canada
MacPherson - directed by Martine Chartrand, National Film Board of Canada, Canada

BEST Canadian Student Animation AwardGum - By Noam Sussman, Sheridan College, Canadaa

Honourable MentionsBallpit - By Kyle Mowat, Sheridan College, Canada
Tengri - By Alisi Telengut, Concordia University, Canada

The Ottawa Media Jury AwardFor the best short competition film, as deemed by the local Ottawa Media, consisting of:

-Peter Simpson (Ottawa Citizen)
-Sandra Abma (CBC)
-Fateema Sayani (Ottawa Magazine)
-Denis Armstrong (Ottawa Sun)

I Am Tom Moody– By Ainslie Henderson, Edinburgh College of Art, UK

About the OIAFOIAF 2012 was held September 19-23rd, 2012 in Ottawa. Events at the OIAF included screenings, panels, workshops, parties and the Television Animation Conference. The OIAF is a leading competitive animation film festival, featuring cutting edge programming, catering to industry executives, trend setting artists, students and animation fans. For more information about the OIAF, please visit www.animationfestival.ca.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

100 Years of Chuck Jones

September 21, 2012 is the 100th birthday of Charles Martin Jones, arguably the greatest director of animated shorts in history.  While there will be justifiable celebrations of his life and work this day, his career strikes me as a very curious thing.  There was a period of brilliance, but there was also a period of decline which lasted much longer.

I've wrote about Jones' career back in the '90s and while my knowledge of Jones has been augmented by many interviews with his co-workers (see Michael Barrier's site for many of these), my opinion has remained constant.

Whatever your opinion of Jones, there are worse ways to spend the day than to watch some of his films.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shifting Distribution Patterns

The world of film distribution is changing.  What we take for granted, and have for years, may soon no longer be the case.  Movies open in theatres.  Three months later, they're on DVD.  Then they move to pay TV and finally free TV.

Theatre audiences in the U.S. and Canada are shrinking.  Hollywood has compensated for this by raising prices, so that the overall theatrical grosses go up while the number of people buying tickets goes down.  Last summer was a disappointment in that everything went down.  Deadline Hollywood reports that the summer movie season ended with grosses in the U.S. and Canada down 2.8% over last summer and the number of tickets sold dropped 4.3%.  And that was with a rise in ticket prices of 1.5%.

Just like studios have gone to digital projection as a way to cut their distribution costs, they're now shifting to downloads to cut their costs on DVD manufacture and distribution.  DVD sales have gone down in recent years, so the move to downloads is a way to increase the profit when people pay to see the movie at home.  Variety reports (and the article is behind a paywall):
In a first for the studio, 20th Century Fox is making Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller "Prometheus" available for HD download Sept. 18, three weeks before the release of the physical discs.
Pic marks the inaugural film in Fox's strategy of carving out a new digital window for homevid releases. Studio will make all of its films available for HD download about two weeks before the titles hit store shelves. The three-week jump for "Prometheus" window is an exception. The next few pics in Fox's queue are "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "Ice Age: Continental Drift" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days."

And the digital versions will be cheaper: Retailers will offer the digital version of "Prometheus" for less than $15, rather than the $20 they usually offer films through the electronic-sell-through category.

On the day of "Prometheus'" launch, the studio will also make 600 of its library titles available through the new service. Those include mainstream movies like "Avatar" and "Rio," but also less readily available DVD fare like the original 1968 version of "Planet of the Apes" and "French Connection." The price point for the studio's library titles may vary slightly from its upcoming releases but will hover around the $15 mark.
We're reaching a tipping point.  As theatrical revenues decrease (even with rising ticket prices) and DVD sales go down, the studios are hungry for cash.  By making downloads available before DVDs go on sale, Hollywood is saying "screw you" to retailers like Wallmart.  They're throwing retailers under the bus, not caring if they reduce the retailer's take so long as they increase their own.

It's only a matter of time before some studio decides to do the same to the theatres.  We are quickly reaching a point where a studio will make a download available the same day a film opens theatrically.  There may be some pushback.  Perhaps a major retailer like Wallmart will tell Fox that they'll no longer carry their DVDs or a theatre chain will boycott movies from a particular studio.  However, that may simply drive more business directly to the studios.  If you want to see a Fox film and can't find the DVD, why not download it?

Just like record stores have mostly disappeared and physical bookstores are suffering, movie theatres may be next.  While they won't vanish entirely, we could be looking at a drastic reduction in the number of theatres.

The theatres are not blameless in this.  While multiplexes are the standard, their selection of films is limited to mainstream releases.  That has narrowed the audience that goes to the movies.  Theatres have done nothing to police their patrons with regard to talking during films and because audiences have been shrinking, theatres have inflated the cost of tickets and their concessions in order to bolster their own bottom lines.  Combine all that with a soft economy, and audience has many reasons to stay home.

It would be ironic after theatres have invested heavily in digital projection at the request of the studios if the studios walked away from them, but it wouldn't surprise me.  I don't doubt that Hollywood bean counters are staring at the numbers right now, deciding at exactly what point the revenue from downloads will be comparable to the revenue from theatres.  Once they reach that point, it's the end of movie theatres as we know them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Toronto Urban Film Festival

If you're riding the Toronto subway between Sept. 7 and 17, check out the electronic message boards for the Toronto Urban Film Festival.  Films are screened in the subways, so while waiting for your train, you have the chance to see one or more short films.

Three of this year's films are by Sheridan students.  Yeti by Eva Zhou, Amare by Katarina Antonic and Bygone Bounce by Shen Ramu.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Facundo the Great


Here's another Storycorps short animated by the Rauch Brothers. Storycorps is raising money through Kickstarter to do a half hour special.  The goal is only $25,000, so I don't know if the money is to simply top up a budget or if they're going to do a slight amount of new animation to wrap around the work they've already done.

In any case, I'm a fan of their work and look forward to them doing more.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Persistence of Vision Preview


I've written previously about Kevin Schreck's documentary on the making of The Cobbler and the Thief, Dick Williams' ill-fated feature.  Above is more preview footage of the finished documentary that is making the rounds at festivals.  If you're interested in finding out where it will show, you can check the film's Facebook page.

(I really wish that Schreck would identify the people on screen in these clips.  I'm sure that they'll be identified in the final product, but I'm frustrated not knowing who I'm looking at.  That's Greg Duffell at the 25 second mark, but I have no idea who else is on screen.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

R. Crumb on Ward Kimball

Amid Amidi recently posted this picture of (L to R) Robert Armstrong, Ward Kimball and R. Crumb on the blog 365 Days of Ward Kimball.  If you're interested in Crumb's thoughts on Kimball, you can go here and scroll down.  Crumb also comments on Matt Groening and Ralph Bakshi on the same page.  You'll have to scroll down to find them, but he also talks about Winsor McCay and Walt Disney, among many other people of note outside animation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Foreign Royalties Owed to Canadian Directors

The Directors Rights Collective of Canada is an organization that collects residuals that accrue from foreign screenings of Canadian film and television.  I've received several hundred dollars for work I directed on Monster By Mistake.  The DRCC has money they have not been able to distribute as they cannot locate the directors.

The list is below.  Click on the images to enlarge.  I see the names of several animation directors from the NFB on the list as well as animation directors of TV series.

If you're on the list or know someone who is, contact the DRCC.  For the record, I have alerted Kaj Pindal, whose name is on the list.

Here's the email that accompanied the list:

The Directors Rights Collective of Canada (DRCC) is currently holding royalties for the attached list of directors derived from foreign broadcasts of their work. We have been unable to make contact with them in order to send them these funds. The attached list is comprehensive and includes directors for whom we are holding very little funds, to those for whom we are holding a substantial amount. The list includes estates for those directors who have passed as well as those for whom we believe we have contact information but have not responded. It is also possible that due to the small amount of royalties owing, we have not yet made efforts to contact them.


It is important for all audiovisual directors to be members of the DRCC, regardless of whether a director's work has received foreign broadcasts or not, and whether or not any royalties are currently owing. Membership ensures that they and their works are registered with us and the centralized collecting society database in Europe allowing for identification and subsequent distribution of royalties.

Membership to the DRCC is free with the proviso that once sufficient royalties are collected, a one-time $50 fee is deducted from those royalties. The membership form is also attached and can be submitted via email, fax or regular mail.

The DRCC has over 900 director members, working in all genres, living in Canada and abroad. The DRCC has agreements with 24 foreign collecting societies in Europe and Latin America. In 2012 alone the DRCC will distribute more than $620,000 worth of royalties to its membership. It pays to have rights.

We would appreciate any help you can provide in tracking down these directors so that we can be sure to pay out what is owing to them currently as well as any future royalties collected. Please have a look at the list and let us know of any contact information you may have. Also, feel free to pass the list on to others who may know or who may themselves be on the list. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Also, if you are receiving royalties from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) but are not a member of the DGA nor a resident of the USA, please contact us as there may be avoidable deductions to your payments taking place.


Sincerely,

Hans Engel
Manager
National Directors Division &
Directors Rights Collective of Canada
Directors Guild of Canada
111 Peter Street, #600
Toronto, Ontario M5V 2H1 Canada
 Tel: (416) 482-3825
Fax: (416) 482-6639
Toll Free: 1-888-972-0098
E-Mail:  hengel@dgc.ca
Website: www.dgc.ca



 

Monday, August 27, 2012

1,000th Post: Where's Our Eastwood?

Since May, 2006, I have now posted 1000 times to this blog.  It's hard to believe.  I'd be the first to admit that the quality of the postings is variable.  There are some that are simply announcements or were tossed off quickly just to keep the blog from going stale.  However, there are entries I'm proud of, even if they're becoming fewer and farther between.

I once asked on this blog, "Where's our Brando?"  That discussion was about how characters in animation are conceived and executed.  I'm now going to ask, "Where's our Clint Eastwood?"

I mistakenly wrote Eastwood off years ago during his Dirty Harry period.  I had no interest in movies about right wing vigilantes.  This summer, I have watched a large number of films that Eastwood directed, and I have to say that I was very impressed and embarrassed by my earlier response to him.

What does Eastwood have to do with animation?  Unfortunately, nothing.  However, Eastwood's strengths as a director point out the shortcomings of animation directors currently working.

Eastwood is tremendously eclectic.  He moves between genres but even within genres he's not afraid to take different approaches.  The same director made a mid-western romance, The Bridges of Madison County, and a war movie from the Japanese perspective, Letters from Iwo Jima.  He's made films set in working class Massachusetts (Mystic River), in post-apartheid South Africa (Invictus), in the boxing world (Million Dollar Baby), in 1920s Los Angeles (Changeling), Savannah (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and the old west (Unforgiven).  His film's characters have been country and western singers (Honkytonk Man), jet pilots (Space Cowboys), retired auto workers (Gran Torino), transvestites (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), escaped criminals (A Perfect World), over-hyped war heroes (Flags of our Fathers), film directors (White Hunter, Black Heart)  and reluctant psychics (Hereafter).

The range of Eastwood's films and the characters in them is immensely broad and he's sympathetic to characters from all walks of life and in all kinds of circumstances.

While live action films can be made faster than animated features and Eastwood may be an exception even in the live action world, there is nobody directing animated features who comes close to Eastwood's range.  He does have the advantage of not having to include children in his audience, even though children sometimes feature prominently in the films.  In Hereafter, a young twin has to deal with the death of his brother.  In Honkytonk Man, a young boy has to watch his uncle made poor choices and succumb to disease.  In A Perfect World, a kidnap victim comes to have feelings for his captor, who seems to understand him better than his own family.  Because Eastwood doesn't have to simplify his films to satisfy children, his characters are free to exist ambiguously, having to make choices that are not clearly good or bad, but simply the best they can do under the circumstances.  And the endings are free to be downbeat if that's what the story demands.

There's something else interesting.  Eastwood isn't a writer.  While I am an auteurist from way back, and while I applaud the existence of personal films in animation and live action, Eastwood's approach is to find a script that he finds interesting, rather than create or shape the material from scratch.  I think this input from other minds gives Eastwood something to wrestle with, rather than letting him fall into familiar patterns.  In animation these days, even if the director hasn't originated the story, the story department is likely made up of people with the same frame of reference as the director.  That, plus the economic pressure to hit the family audience and gross hundreds of millions of dollars, reduces animated features to a very narrow area.

There are animated features that have broken the mold, but they tend to come from other cultures: Persepolis (Iran and France), Spirited Away (Japan), Mary and Max (Australia), The Secret of Kells (Ireland) and The Illusionist (France and Scotland).  It's wonderful that these films were made and that we've gotten to see them in North America, but it's frustrating that North America is not capable of significant variety in animated features.

I have to admit that live action films and graphic novels hold more interest for me these days, due to their variety of subject matter and point of view, than animated features.  Currently, animated features are successful at the box office, so there is no incentive for anyone to rock the boat.  Hollywood is famous for riding trends until they die, so until animated features consistently tank at the box office, I don't expect to see a change.  However, while the medium may be advancing technically, it is pretty stagnant in other ways and that's a shame.

I wonder if we'll ever reach a point where animation has a Brando directed by an Eastwood?

Burlington Animation Festival

Animation festivals are proliferating in Ontario these days.  In addition to the Ottawa International Animation Festival and TAAFI, there is now an animation festival in Burlington, located down the Queen Elizabeth Way from Toronto.

The Burlington Animation Festival will take place on Saturday, September 29.  The inaugural festival is starting out very modestly, with a single screening at the Encore Upper Canada Place Cinemas located at 460 Brant Street  in Burlington, ON.  A list of the films to be screened can be found here and tickets can be purchased here.  The festival also has a Facebook page and is on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tissa David R.I.P.

Animator Tissa David has died at the age of 91.  Michael Sporn has more at his site.  Michael was associated with Tissa professional and personally for more than 35 years.

Tissa drew exquisitely well.  Her animation was very sensitive but could also be vigorous and raucous.  After working in Europe and coming to the U.S. after the second world war, she worked with Grim Natwick for years.  She animated for John Hubley, R.O. Blechman, Richard Williams and Michael Sporn.  She animated the whole of Sporn's TV special The Marzipan Pig.

Because she was located in New York, she didn't get to work on projects that had the visibility of features made in California.  It's unfortunate that her name isn't associated with the kinds of animation projects that an average person would be familiar with.  However, she was unquestionably one of the best animators the field has ever seen.




Tissa's roughs from the 1977 feature Raggedy Ann and Andy. 

She was a fixture of the New York industry for over 50 years and her loss is a blow to the animation community and certainly to her friends and co-workers.

Below is John and Faith Hubley's Cockaboody, animated entirely by Tissa.

Monday, August 20, 2012

DHX Buys Cookie Jar

Update: Canadian Animation Resources has links to stories with more information.

This may only be of interest to those working in the Canadian animated TV field, but DHX has bought Cookie Jar.  While consolidation makes it easier for the two studios to compete internationally, it also makes it harder for independent producers to get their work on Canadian TV.

Michael Hirsh, CEO of Cookie Jar, was one of the founders of Nelvana.  Cookie Jar rose out of the ashes of Cinar, a Montreal company that was plagued by scandals over fraud with regard to government tax credits and suffered from the untimely death of co-owner Micheline Charest.  Hirsh reorganized Cinar into Cookie Jar and bought DIC in 2008.  There was speculation from the beginning that he intended to take the company public.  While that hasn't happened, there's still a large payday for Cookie Jar's owners.

DHX is the result of the 2006 merger of Decode and the Halifax Film Company.  The merged entity later went on to purchase Vancouver's Studio B in 2007.

Whether this means that Michael Hirsh is retiring or will take a position with DHX is unknown at this time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Risk

Several recent events have reminded me of the risks involved in animation.

Brenda Chapman's dismissal as director of Pixar's Brave is old news, but she recently spoke out  about being fired.

Henry Selick's untitled film with Disney was cancelled, forcing the layoff of over a hundred artists at the Cinderbiter studio in the San Francisco area.

Finally, and this won't be as well known, the CEO of the Go Go Gorillas operation, Christopher Turner, is under investigation for fraud.  Further details here.  I've written about John Celestri in the past.  John's a friend and former co-worker who was looking for an alternate financial model for animation and connected with Christopher Turner.  The company was attempting to use a restaurant/arcade to fund animation.  That's the reverse of the typical approach where popular cartoon characters are used to brand other enterprises like theme parks.  In any case, it is doubtful that the company will be able to move forward or survive with this shadow hanging over it.

The important thing to realize is that risk is unavoidable and the above events are not the result of malice.  While the people who have been affected by this will suffer, there was no intent for that to be the case.  Pixar would have been better off not hiring Chapman rather than deal with the public relations problems of taking her off the film.  Disney expected to release Selick's film or it wouldn't have bothered to invest in it to begin with.  Time will tell if Christopher Turner was a businessman who got in over his head or whether he deliberately planned to defraud, but there are much quieter ways to steal money.  Ask Bernie Madoff.

There's no shortage of studios that have lost projects in mid-production or been forced into bankruptcy by creditors.  The artists at those studios have fallen victim to forces beyond their control.  If Chapman and Selick, who were working for the largest animation company in the world, couldn't avoid risk, no one can.

That's the moral.  No matter how solid things look, they never really are.  It pays to plan for losing your job.  Can you survive financially if you're laid off?  Are you in touch with enough people in the industry to find your next job?  Are your skills up to date so that you can easily fit into another production?  If the answer to any of the above questions is "no," then you're more vulnerable to risk than you should be.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Continuing Evolution of TV Economics

348,000 people in the U.S. cancelled their cable in three months time.  Why?  This article suggests that the use of OTT (which stands for over-the-top) boxes, used to access Netflix and Hulu, are responsible for the drop.

To date, the majority of what's available on Netflix and Hulu is pre-existing material.  In other words, the production of this content was paid for under the existing TV model, where broadcasters pay a license fee and producers sell to multiple markets in order to finance their shows.

But if the number of cable subscribers continues to drop, subscription fees and advertising revenues will also drop, making it even more difficult to finance original programming.

TV's evolution from a business standpoint has been very interesting.  Initially, when there were limited choices over the air, every program got a substantial audience.  A show didn't have to be the best, it only had to be the best in it's time slot, and the competition was less than half a dozen shows.  Everything had a sizable audience, which meant that everything was able to attract solid advertising revenue.

Then came cable and the 500 channel universe.  With more choice, viewership for individual shows fell.  That meant less advertising revenue and budgets were reduced as a result.  That's where reality programming came from, whether it was Survivor or the Home and Garden channel.  Cheap programming became the standard instead of the exception.

Now, with OTT, the ground has shifted again.  In a 500 channel universe, competition was still somewhat limited.  A show was still competing against everything on in the same time slot, there were just a lot more shows.  OTT is built on the idea of on-demand programming, which means that a show is now competing against everything on at the moment and everything in the libraries of OTT service.  And if people continue to dump cable, then newer shows are cut off from that revenue stream.

The trend has been towards a continuing fragmenting of the audience into smaller and smaller chunks for each show.  We could theoretically reach a point where a show is competing against every show ever made as well as every movie ever made.

As the audience for each show gets smaller, how do you finance a show?  Lower budgets are not the answer if you're competing against past product made with good budgets.  This is especially true for  animation, as older shows date less badly than live action and children are less sensitive to when a show was made anyway.

I'm very glad that I'm not depending on the TV market for my livelihood anymore, and I wonder how aggressive TV animation studios are at finding new revenue streams.  Budgets have been shrinking for years and will continue to shrink.  Even The Simpsons is being done for less money (since 1991, viewership is down by 66%).  At what point does the creation of animated TV become unsustainable?  And what replaces it?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Upcoming Animation on TCM

 Update: Jerry Beck, who will be co-hosting with TCM's Robert Osborne, has more details at Cartoon Brew.

Sunday, October 21 is still a distance away, but Turner Classic Movies will be devoting their evening block to animation.  It starts with the two Fleischer features, Gulliver's Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town.  That's followed by six UPA cartoons (all available on the Jolly Frolics DVD set).  Sundays at midnight, TCM regularly schedules silent films, and for this day they're showing 11 silent cartoons, including The Artist's Dream (an early J.R. Bray), Trip to Mars (with Koko the Clown), Bobby Bumps Goes to School, and Fireman Save My Child (with Mutt and Jeff).  The next slot is for foreign films, and their animated example is Lotte Reineger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

The schedule can be accessed here, and I'll be reminding everyone as the date approaches.

Monday, July 30, 2012

OIAF 2012 Selections

The Ottawa International Animation Festival has posted its selections for 2012.  Congratulations to everyone whose film will screen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Animation Before Movies

In the period between the discovery of the principle of persistence of vision and the invention of flexible film stock, animation was born.  It was made with a variety of toys, all given impressive Greek names like Thaumatrope, Phenakistoscope and Zootrope (see the comments for the derivations of these words courtesy of Daniel).  These toys combined drawn or painted images in ways to give the illusion of movement.  The technology behind animation has become a lot more sophisticated, but it's all built on on the same principles exploited by these toys.

Richard Balzer is a collector of these toys and the images they used and he has a site where the images are animated via Flash.  This means that if you're browsing on an iPhone or iPad, you will not be able to see the motion.  He also has a blog that deals with these toys as well as other 19th century amusements such as the Magic Lantern.

While the animation is necessarily cycled and limited in duration, we have a modern equivalent in the form of animated gif files.  The more things change...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Super Complicated

Readers of this blog will know how interested I am in creators' rights.  Some of the most famous characters of 20th century pop culture were created under dubious legal and financial conditions.  The copyright to Superman was transferred from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the writer and artist, to their publisher for the sum of $130.  That was $10 per page for their first 13 page Superman story.  In order to get paid for their work, they lost control of their creation.

The latest U.S. copyright law allows for creators who sold their copyrights to regain them during specific time periods.  If the creators are deceased, their heirs have the right to pursue the copyright.

Jerry Seigel's heirs have filed to regain their half of the Superman copyright.  Joe Shuster's heirs are eligible to file in the near future.  Both are represented by attorney Marc Toberoff.

On the face of it, it's a nice, clear story.  Two little guys were taken advantage of, lost millions of dollars as a result, and now their families are going up against a large multinational corporation to get just compensation.  A David and Goliath story with an ending that should be a foregone conclusion.

However, the story is a lot more complicated and I urge you to read this entry by Daniel Best.  Even if you skip over the actual legal documents and just read Best's commentary (scattered throughout the documents), you can see that the families have made some poor decisions and done some questionable things.  Their lawyer appears to be working for himself as much or more than for his clients.  While I am not a fan of large corporations, Paul Levitz, a comics fan who eventually became publisher of DC Comics, acted more ethically than others in this dispute.

If nothing else, this situation just emphasizes the importance of owning creative properties.  It is important for creative people to understand the problems that can result from giving up ownership.  While the animation business doesn't perfectly mirror the comics business, the issues are the same and stakes are equally high.  If you have created something on your own and are looking for somebody else to finance it or market it, make sure you understand the repercussions of transferring copyright and allowing someone else to establish the trademark.  If not, the result might be several lifetimes of pain and legal squabbling.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Light of Finding Nemo 2...

...I'd like to point you to a post, now a year old, called "Growth, Maturity and Decline."  My impression is that Pixar is done.  That doesn't mean that they won't make the occasional film that is exceptional, but the initial energy that propelled the company creatively is gone.  It was inevitable;  they are now predictable.  In terms of the previous article, they are a mature company.  The question now is when does the studio enter its decline?  This is not a criticism of the company so much as it is a sad observation.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taafi Report

July6-8 was the first TAAFI festival.  TAAFI stands for Toronto Animation and Arts Festival International.  I suspect that the acronym was chosen before the full title was worked out, but that's okay.  TAAFI is catchy.

Ben McAvoy and Barnabas Wornoff are the two guys who made it all happen.  They spent the better part of a year pulling everything together and I have to say it was a successful festival, especially for a first-time event.  The TIFF Bell Lightbox, located in downtown Toronto and easily accessible, was a good venue, keeping all the events under a single roof.  The fest was a good mix of screenings, workshops and presentations and there was more happening than any individual could take in.

Some of the events included a screening of Rock and Rule with a reunion of some of the crew, the North American premiere of Ronal the Barbarian, a northern European 3D cgi feature that parodied sword and sorcery movies, workshops by Charlie Bonifacio on posing, Peter Emslie on caricature and John Kricfalusi on story development.  There were panel discussions on games, the state of the Ontario industry, independent animators and a retrospective of Kaj Pindal's career.

There were four programs of shorts and a separate program of student films all programmed by Mike Weiss.

I know from talking to Ben that the festival was a financial success and that there are plans to do it again next year.  While there are organizations like The Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS) and the Computer Animation Studios of Ontario (CASO), Toronto has been a fragmented animation commmunity.  Here's hoping that TAAFI continues to be successful and serves as a hub and rallying point for the Toronto animation community.

I didn't have my camera with me over the weekend, so the following pictures are lifted from other sites or individuals.  Below are shots from Grayden Laing's blog.

Facing the camera: Adam Hines and Andrew Murray of Guys with Pencils.  Facing away from the camera, Nick Cross, Rex Hackelberger and Marlo Meekins.  You can hear a podcast interviewing Cross and Meekins here.

John K. leads his workshop.

From the Rock and Rule panel.  L to R: Robin Budd, Scott Caple, Willie Ashworth, Charlie Bonifacio.

The photo below is by Sanaz Asli.
That's me on the left moderating a question and answer session with Kaj Pindal.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Advice from Bill Plympton

Here's an interview with Bill Plympton, where he gives advice to independent animators.  The piece includes video clips.  And there's a link at the bottom to "4 Lessons in Creativity from John Cleese" that's also worth reading.

Monday, July 2, 2012

In Praise of Tony Fucile

Tony Fucile is an animator and visual development artist who has worked on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up and other films.  He is also an illustrator of children's books, and that's what I'd like to focus on.

I first became aware of his art in books in Jack-Jack Attack, a Golden Book that was part of merchandising for The Incredibles.  His drawings are spare, but spare shouldn't be confused with simple.  His characters are solidly constructed and his compositions are nailed down, but everything is delineated with very few lines.  While those lines are somewhat rough, they are very expressive.  Slickness is not high on Fucile's list, but his other qualities are so outstanding that it isn't missed.

Fucile both wrote and drew Let's Do Nothing, a story of two boys desperate to come up with a way to fill time.  You can see from this example how strong Fucile's poses are, a result, no doubt, of his time as an animator.
I think that my favorite Fucile work are the two volumes (so far) featuring Bink and Gollie, a Mutt and Jeff pair of girls who are best friends, written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee.  Fucile conveys their personalities clearly through their poses and facial expressions.
While I've been focusing on the character drawings, Fucile is no slouch when it comes to backgrounds either.

In the latest book, Bink and Gollie: Two For One, the authors seem to be stepping back, allowing Fucile to carry more of the story through drawing.  This sequence is from "Whack a Duck."



 One of the ironies of this story is that the "violence" shown would be considered inappropriate in children's television.  The man with the glasses gets increasingly battered as Bink continues to throw baseballs, but as the drawings are funny, the effect is humorous, not painful.  It's good to know that publishers are not as skittish as broadcasters and good to know that Fucile is free to draw cartoon slapstick.

Many animation artists are doing work outside the field these days, searching for greater control or at least for the chance to sign their work.  It's a positive trend and I'm grateful that Tony Fucile is illustrating books.  His drawings have given me a lot of pleasure and I look forward to whatever he'll be illustrating next.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Gilliam's Favourites

Ever wonder what Terry Gilliam's favourite animated films are?  If so, go here.  To see some of them, go here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brave Story

Character A has a conflict with Character B based on pride and control. Character A's will to power accidentally does something to put Character B in jeopardy, so Character A has to rescue Character B. During the rescue, the two characters reconcile their differences and learn to accept each other.
That's the underlying structure of Brave. It's also the underlying structure of Toy Story.

We may never know the story that Brenda Chapman intended to tell before being removed from the director's chair, but the story we have is a retread. It comes in a visually attractive package with qualities that were unachievable just a few years ago, but it feels like Pixar, having rejected Chapman, reverted to something it felt comfortable with. So while Brave isn't one of the Pixar sequels already released or yet to come, it still feels overly familiar with only the environment to set it apart. A reliance on setting, rather than story, smacks of the later drawn Disney features.

There are echoes here of How to Train Your Dragon, Mulan, Brother Bear, Donald's NephewsBeauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, The Sword in the Stone, Princess Mononoke, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. That's evidence of a story team taking the easy way out, using elements they know will work, rather than letting events grow out of the characters' actions.

Brave will make a lot of money and shows the heights the Pixar artists are capable of reaching.  However, I personally take more pleasure from films like Persepolis, The Illusionist, Spirited Away and Mary and Max than I do from Pixar's recent films. While they may not be as slick or elaborate, those films have singular points of view.

My opinion of Brave won't change anything. Mainstream animated features are too successful to let dissenting voices bother anyone with influence. But animation has once more decided to live within a cage of its own making and is happy to stay put, safe and secure.  Frankly, it's a waste of talent.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

R.I.P. Andrew Sarris

This has nothing to do with animation, so skip it if you like.

There was a time when Hollywood movies were treated as nothing more than commercial entertainment.  (Sound familar?)  They were a product, not an art form.  In the years after World War II in France, a group of cineastes started looking hard at Hollywood films.  Perhaps, due to their cultural background or perhaps due to their lack of English skills, they saw things in Hollywood films that no one had bothered to notice.  They formed a magazine called Cahiers du Cinema and many of them, besides being critics, grew to become film makers.  Some of you will be familiar with the names Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and others of their generation.  Collectively, they were known as the Nouvelle Vague, the French New Wave.

Critically, they championed what they referred to as Les Politiques des Auteurs.  They saw directors as the ones who shaped what was on screen and noticed recurring themes and motifs in directors' films.  They not only championed film makers who had some critical standing, such as Orson Welles (though at the time Welles' stock was pretty low), but directors who were completely below the radar like Howard Hawks and those considered mere entertainers like Alfred Hitchcock.

Their approach to film history and criticism might have gone unnoticed in the United States except for Andrew Sarris.  Sarris was aware of French film criticism and was a lone voice fighting to establish what was known as the Auteur Theory in American criticism.  He was opposed by critics like Pauline Kael and during the 1960's, film criticism was on the cultural map with the Auteur Theory being one of the main points of contention.  Was the director the author of a film or not?  Was a weak film by a great director automatically better than a good film by a weak director?  Was a director's style integral to how a story was communicated or was it something layered over the top of a script?

While the Auteur Theory may have overplayed its hand in claiming authorship, it firmly established the legitimacy of the concept of directorial style.  Earlier film critics had been mainly literary in their approach, judging a film based on plot, characterization and dialogue and basically blind to the notion of a visual style or recurring themes in a director's work.

If we take for granted now the idea of a Martin Scorcese film, a Wes Anderson film, a Ralph Bakshi film or a Brad Bird film, we do so because of Sarris.

Sarris's book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 was a Rosetta stone for understanding the work of Hollywood directors.  He placed them in somewhat frivolous categories (Pantheon Directors, The Far Side of Paradise, Expressive Esoterica, Less than Meets the Eye) and his descriptions of directors were sometimes frustratingly short and hard to decipher.  However, the more films I saw by a director, the more I understood what Sarris had written and the majority of the time, I was amazed at how perceptive and concise he was.  The American Cinema was a map book; it showed you the terrain and pointed out the highlights.  Prior to the trip, it made little sense but once there, the reader could only be impressed by what Sarris had written.

I saw Sarris only once in person.  He gave a talk at Queens College with his wife, critic Molly Haskell.  However, he absolutely shaped my value system when it comes to film.  Sarris was much more a champion of John Ford than the French critics, and for that I am eternally grateful.  His books, the aforementioned The American Cinema; The John Ford Movie Mystery; and You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: The American Talking Film, History and Memory, 1927-1949, are still taken off my shelf when I've seen a film and wonder, "What did Sarris say about it?"

The heady days of film criticism are over.  No longer does a review provoke controversy or demand attention.  We've passed through the "thumbs up-thumbs down" era and are now reduced to a Rotten Tomatoes meter reading.  Many of us who love film have little to be happy about in this era of tentpoles and sequels.  I'd rather spend my time staring at the work of Ford, Hawks, Raoul Walsh, Frank Borzage, Gregory LaCava, Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, etc. trying to perceive these directors through their films.  It's a rewarding way to spend time and I have Andrew Sarris to thank for it.

(The New York Times obituary can be found here.  Those of you who might be interested in the views of cinephiles and published film writers on Sarris should look at Dave Kehr's entry on Sarris's passing.  Kehr regularly writes about new DVD releases for the Sunday edition of The New York Times and his site is an ongoing discussion about various topics of film appreciation.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fred Moore, Where Are You?

Let's see.  There's seven of these little guys.  Could it be?  Why yes!  It's the seven dwarfs.  Well, they're public domain, so anybody can use them, right?  What's that?  This is a Disney project?  DISNEY?

Welcome to 7D, a new TV series for Disney Jr.   Quick!  Which one is Doc and which one is Happy?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Goodbye Film

According to Deadline Hollywood, distributors will no longer make movies on film available to theatres in North America by the end of 2013.  International theatres will be done with film by the end of 2015.  It's all going to be digital.

I fully understand the economics behind this move.  Film prints are expensive to make, expensive to ship and easily damaged when projected.  They contain silver, a substance whose cost varies widely due to market forces.  Digital prints can be made faster, the drives that hold them are reusable and they shouldn't degrade over multiple showings.  They won't need splicing.

Still, for anyone who has handled film, it's a sad moment.  There was something magical about being able to hold a ribbon of celluloid up to the light and see the images.  Seeing the squiggle of the optical soundtrack and knowing that the squiggle could be turned into an orchestra or an actor's voice was amazing.  Comparing the sides, one the celluloid base and the other the emulsion, said something about the film's manufacture.  The knowledge of edge numbers, negative and reversal, hi-con and panchromatic, internegs and interpositives, workprints and release prints, will vanish with film.

The artifacts of film are what we accept as the look of movies.  Film grain is an imperfection, yet we take it as normal.  Observant people notice the marks in the upper right corner to signal reel changes to the projectionist.  (Those marks have disappeared in recent years due to improvements in projectors).

It is because projectors used to be mechanical that sprocket holes, one of the most common graphic identifiers of movies, exist and why all movies were projected at the same rate.

The new digital systems are not restricted to 24 frames per second.  Peter Jackson will release The Hobbit at 48 fps.  James Cameron will release the Avatar sequel at 60 fps.  Some people are wondering if these films won't look like soap operas or sitcoms shot on video.

Finally, think how this will affect Tex Avery's cartoons.  Old cartoons already labour under handicaps because their contemporary references aren't known to modern audiences.  Voices that imitate radio performers or gags spoofing hit films of the past don't register.  Avery, in particular, loved to riff on the nature of film itself.  The wolf runs past the sprocket holes in Dumb Hounded.


Two hunters cross a boundary where Technicolor ends in Lucky Ducky.


A singer pauses to pluck a hair from the film gate in Magical Maestro


It's only a matter of time before these gags will mystify audiences instead of making them laugh.

The world moves on.  Some future Tex Avery will probably do gags about file formats.   Films will soon have the same status as cylinder recordings; only specialists will know what they're looking at and have the equipment to play them.  I'm going to miss film.