It’s a Cartoon Party!: May ’14 in Film

Yet another month has come and gone! This month was particularly eventful for me. The main awesome thing is that I finally graduated from college! I hope my BA in Comparative Literature does me well in the near future. *Grinch smile*

As far as movie-watching is concerned, this month was considerably lackluster. I had a BUNCH of stuff to get through for my final semester of college; along with work and internship stuff, I barely had time to rest for an hour or two a day. Therefore, the majority of films that I watched in May were short animated films, mainly from the final weeks of my History of Animation class and new-to-mes/rewatches from a Looney Tunes boxset I just acquired. Nonetheless, although I did have the possibility of upping my overall view count of the month – since these short films were considerably shorter than feature-lengths – my severely limited time frame left me only slightly more than I would normally watch in a month. So it wasn’t really cheating!!

This post will be a bit shorter than other monthly recaps in the past, since this month was a little dull. However, now that summer has come and I don’t have to worry about school much anymore, be prepared for lots of fun blog posts to come!

Okay, here I go. Here are some highlights (I’ve included links for all the animated shorts I write about).

Romance from Georges Schwizgebel is an animated short film that really blew me away this past month. We watched it during our National Film Board of Canada meeting for History of Animation course, and it was my favorite of the new-to-me films* we watched When it comes to animation, I have this inexplicable fascination for works that progress in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way, flowing and transforming along in ways that are completely unnatural yet work marvelously and beautifully. Another great example of this is Aleksandr Petrov’s My Love, though the method is taken to a completely different level in Romance. The film uses different animation techniques to indicate the past from the present; the results of this are absolutely lovely. Added to the awesome, drifting musical score, it’s truly the kind of film that is impossible not to be moved by in one way or another.

*For anyone who is interested in knowing, my favorite that we watched in class was The Big Snit from Richard Condie. It was a rewatch, but it’s also rather beautiful in its own dark, morbid ways and I could never tire of watching it.

I already wrote about some Russian animated shorts I love, but there is still tons and tons more that I have yet to even glance upon. Continuing through the Masters of Russian Animation DVD collection (which has proven to be absolutely wonderful), I discovered and was completely blown away by Yuri Norstein’s Tale of Tales. I never knew him for very much outside of his masterpiece Hedgehog in the Fog, but this short has proven to be just as remarkable. It’s probably the only piece of animation that I could truly describe as Tarkovsky-esque. Not only does the animation mimic the languid pacing and tracking shots found in the infamous director’s cinematography, but the story and overall atmosphere is rooted into some intensely allegorical, somewhat spooky folklore facets. While I was never fully able to completely comprehend the narrative, it couldn’t matter any less to me – as a mood piece, this is truly breathtaking.

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Less on the serious side of things is Peter Cornwell’s Ward 13. Why is it awesome? the easiest way to put it is that is possesses many similar qualities that makes The Raid: Redemption so fun to watch. The vast majority of it consists of fast-paced, chaotic chase scenes involving a wheelchair, a hospital ward, and quite a number of twists and turns. On top of this, it’s got a truly bizarre sense of humor to match. I watched this in class on a large screen, and despite it being 9 am, I was jolted awake and grasping the edge of my seat through the whole 13 minutes runtime. Check it out!!

Time for some feature-length movies. Now, since I didn’t really have much time for many films longer than about 20 minutes or so, I took it upon myself to catch up on some notoriously “bad” films that I frankly should have watched by now. One of the major ones was Schumacher’s Batman & Robin – and yes, it is bad! It probably goes without saying that all the acting was atrocious, with special regard to Clooney, Schwarzenegger, and Thurman. But overall, it was just plain stupid. I get that it was going for the pulpy, ridiculous feel of the old-school Batman a lá Adam West & friends; in some ways, it actually succeeded in this, particularly in its over-the-top art design and costuming. Yet it was just plain unfunny, and whenever I did find myself chuckling, it was usually out of embarrassment for everyone who had to force themselves through this ordeal. And I say “force” because frankly, with awful puns like “Let’s kick some ICE!”, there had to have been some life-or-death contract between every crew member involved in the production.

On that note: SO many shifty eyes pointed toward this general direction of THIS film. I’m talking, of course, about Foodfight! which is, by far, the single worst animated feature I’ve ever seen. Technically speaking, the plot is utterly uninteresting and the animation is like something out of Vídeo Brinquedo (examples: here and here). On top of this, the movie is further nullified by the fact that practically every supporting character embodies some kind of racial, ethnic, or gender stereotype. So whenever I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs over how boring this film is, I was utterly appalled by some of the lows it hits in order to breath the most pathetic of life into its characters. While the Nostalgia Critic does a pretty damn good job at making these dreadful qualities of Foodfight! come off as laughable, the viewing experience itself is, frankly, a miserable one.

Fortunately, I did watch some enjoyable movies this month! Thanks to my recently-acquired job at a movie theater, I have the opportunity to watch new releases early in the year for free (I never really did before because of money issues). I had been anticipating Only Lovers Left Alive for a few months already, mainly because I’m a pretty big fan of Jarmusch. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. While I’d struggle to really describe the plot two weeks after my initial viewing, it mainly stands out to me as a really awesome mood piece. The music, sets, sound design, and overall pacing of the narrative really made it completely worth the watch for me. Sure it’s slow-paced, but it’s also incredibly engrossing – somewhat hypnotic – and I love it for that. It may be a bit early to tell, but I can predict this hitting somewhere near the top in my 2014 end-of-the-year countdown.

And with the good must come the not-so-good. I was really excited to watch Palo Alto, the first directorial attempt by Gia Coppola, granddaughter of the infamous director of The Conversation and others. While I could see this being of interest to those who are particularly fond of high school coming-of-age dramas, I couldn’t get into it. While the gist of its narrative really has potential with presenting a deep, dark, compelling angle of teen life, it’s weighted down by its flimsy writing and awkward character development. I guess I’m not particularly for the types of movies that can easily be summed up as “White People Problems”. I guessed I’m biased in the sense that I wasn’t able to relate to anything that was being represented, but even so, I feel that a strong movie of this nature should be able to pull audiences in regardless of personal, individual background. With this one, I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

I am SO excited for my recent acquisition of the entire Looney Tunes Golden Collection on DVD (for an extremely great deal, may I add). I’ve already plowed through two discs worth of material, and while there were a great deal of rewatches, every minute is totally justified – well, almost. There are – especially in the Bugs Bunny disc – a great deal of shorts that were just pretty bland and unenjoyable, mainly those directed by Robert McKimson. I imagine that these were added for the sole purpose of filling out the discs in the easiest, less painstaking way possible. Rabbit’s Kin is probably the first Bugs Bunny cartoon I’ve seen that I legitimately hated; this isn’t the fault of Bugs himself, but rather his atrociously annoying supporting cast.

Of course, there are tons of other fun stuff available as well. Rabbit Seasoning and Rabbit of Seville are the obvious highlights of the Bugs Bunny disc I watched. I already wrote a bit about the former, but the absolute genius of the latter must not be passed over. It’s complete, utter animated anarchy to the tune of Rossini’s sophisticated score; just as fun and ridiculous as the similarly orchestrated What’s Opera, Doc?. The Daffy Duck/Porky Pig disc was probably much stronger, though, brimming with many more fun, rewatchable cartoons. Duck Amuck definitely leads the pack (I wrote a bit about it here), though others like Drip-Along Daffy and The Ducksters offer fun collaborations between Daffy and Porky that make their ‘toons so enjoyable. Chuck Jones is simply the boss.

I definitely fell behind with my goal in catching up on various art cinema classics, but at the very least, I was able to slip in Kobayashi’s Harakiri – and boy, am I glad I did. I haven’t seen much else by the director, but the sleek, minimalistic style of the film – along with its generally concentrated camera angles – brought to mind the films of Ozu. However, unlike Ozu who, while I absolutely love, can undoubtably be a bit tedious at times, Harakiri was quite an intense watch. Which is absolutely surprising, considering that a good deal of the film is told in flashback, takes place in very few locations, and has fairly minimalistic dialogue and action (until the end) – yet it stretches for nearly two-and-a-half hours! The pacing is absolutely perfect, and the story is twisty, yet never nauseatingly so. Must watch more Kobayashi.

Finally, I was still able to slip in a horror film in the bunch this month. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon seems to be one that no one ever really talks about – and considering its subject matter and execution of such, this is awfully surprising. It’s a complete dismantling of much of slasher movie convention, much of which is provided as meta-commentary through the eyes of the surprisingly ordinary killer himself. In other words, it’s brilliant! And the first two-thirds of the film – presented almost entirely in a found-footage style – is compelling for these particular reasons. And it’s great, because there isn’t much else like it, and it works. Unfortunately, the final third, though with a rather clever twist, does dilute itself in sadly contradictory ways (kind of like how The Descent was awesome until it got randomly supernatural). Nonetheless, I would highly recommend this to any horror fan. This really needs a much larger, more vocal fanbase.

As per usual, here are the numbers of films watched in May, arranged by decade:

1880s – 0
1890s – 0
1900s – 0
1910s – 0
1920s – 0
1930s – 0
1940s – 10
1950s – 17
1960s – 5
1970s – 8
1980s – 13
1990s – 6
2000s – 15
2010s – 15

… and here is a complete list of titles of the films I watched:

  1. Neighbours (McLaren, 1952)*
  2. Boogie-Doodle (McLaren, 1940)
  3. Blinkity Blank (McLaren, 1955)*
  4. Pas de deux (McLaren, 1968)*
  5. Mindscape (Drouin, 1976)*
  6. Bead Game (Patel, 1977)
  7. Get a Job (Caslor, 1985)
  8. Village of Idiots (Newlove & Fedorenko, 1999)
  9. Tragic Story With Happy Ending (Pessoa, 2005)
  10. Romance (Schwizgebel, 2011)
  11. The Big Snit (Condie, 1985)*
  12. The Cat Came Back (Barker, 1988)*
  13. Canada Vignettes: The Log Driver’s Waltz (Weldon, 1979)*
  14. Bambi Meets Godzilla (Newland, 1969)*
  15. Lupo the Butcher (Antonucci, 1987)
  16. I Met the Walrus (Raskin, 2007)
  17. Medium Cool (Wexler, 1969)
  18. Sinister (Derrickson, 2012)
  19. Motherhood (Dieckmann, 2009)
  20. Tale of Tales (Norshteyn, 1979)
  21. Hunt (Nazarov, 1979)
  22. Lethal Weapon (Donner, 1987)
  23. There Once Was a Dog (Nazarov, 1982)*
  24. Travels of an Ant (Nazarov, 1983)
  25. Lion and Ox (Khitruk, 1983)
  26. Wolf and Calf (Kamenetsky, 1984)
  27. Real Women Have Curves (Cardoso, 2002)
  28. 25 Ways to Quit Smoking (Plympton, 1989)
  29. Zero (Kezelos, 2010)
  30. Rain Town (Ishida, 2011)
  31. All or Nothing (Leigh, 2002)
  32. Pink Komkommer (Newland, 1991)
  33. T.R.A.N.S.I.T. (Kroon, 1998)
  34. The Heart of Amos Klein (Kranot & Kranot, 2008)
  35. Satiemania (Gasparovic, 1978)
  36. RRRINGG ([unknown director], [unknown year])
  37. Luminaris (Zaramella, 2011)
  38. Feet of Song (Russelll, 1988)
  39. Father and Daughter (Dudok de Wit, 2001)*
  40. The Frog Prince (Reiniger, 1954)
  41. The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa (Leaf, 1978)
  42. Copy Shop (Widrich, 2001)
  43. Plato (Cohen, 2011)
  44. Oktapodi (Marchand et al., 2007)
  45. Ward 13 (Cornwell, 2003)
  46. Traffic (Soderbergh, 2000)
  47. Batman & Robin (Schumacher, 1997)
  48. The Producers (Stroman, 2005)
  49. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (Judge, 1996)
  50. The Avengers (Whedon, 2012)
  51. Chico & Rita (Mariscal et al., 2010)
  52. Foodfight! (Kasanoff, 2012)
  53. Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Menshov, 1979)
  54. Explorers (Dante, 1985)
  55. The Sweetest Thing (Kumble, 2002)
  56. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, 2014)
  57. Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film (Chorodov, 2012)
  58. Legally Blonde (Luketic, 2001)
  59. Palo Alto (Coppola, 2014)
  60. Baseball Bugs (Freleng, 1946)
  61. Rabbit Seasoning (Jones, 1952)*
  62. The Double (Ayoade, 2014)
  63. Long-Haired Hare (Jones, 1949)
  64. High Diving Hare (Freleng, 1949)
  65. Bully For Bugs (Jones, 1953)*
  66. What’s Up Doc? (McKimson, 1950)
  67. Rabbit’s Kin (McKimson, 1952)
  68. Water, Water Every Hare (Jones, 1952)
  69. Big House Bunny (Freleng, 1950)
  70. Big Top Bunny (McKimson, 1951)
  71. My Bunny Lies Over the Sea (Jones, 1948)
  72. Wabbit Twouble (Clampett, 1941)
  73. Ballot Box Bunny (Freleng, 1951)
  74. Rabbit of Seville (Jones, 1950)*
  75. Samurai Cop (Shervan, 1989)
  76. Duck Amuck (Jones, 1953)*
  77. Dough For the Do-Do (Freleng & Clampett, 1949)
  78. Drip-Along Daffy (Jones, 1951)
  79. Scaredy Cat (Jones, 1948)
  80. The Ducksters (Jones, 1950)
  81. The Scarlet Pumpernickel (Jones, 1950)*
  82. Yankee Doodle Daffy (Freleng, 1943)
  83. Porky Chops (Davis, 1949)
  84. The Wearing of the Grin (Jones, 1951)
  85. Wild Things (McNaughton, 1998)
  86. True Grit (Hathaway, 1969)
  87. Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962)
  88. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Glosserman, 2006)

New-to-me: 73
Rewatched: 15

Total watched in 2014: 407
Total new-to-me in 2014: 355

Hooray, I’m so close to 365 new-to-me films a year! At this rate, I may have to increase my goal to 500 (although I would also probably need to watch a more balanced ratio of full-length to shorts).

This time, I am going to skip on naming my least favorite film of the month and instead skip to naming my most favorite. But before I do, I’d like to just state that I’m really excited about getting this blog active again. I have so much more free time these days and am already thinking up some new, fun ideas I could use for making this space more active. One idea is a Why I Love… series, where I make numerous posts (probably on a weekly basis) dedicated to various things I love about movies. This could revolve around anything from a director, to a filmmaking tradition, to a filmmaking style/method, to an actor, to a specific movie… you get the picture.

I also want to work on making more lists, whether they are ranked lists or mere compilations of films arranged according to theme. Just a few ideas I think would be nice to throw out. Overall,  my overall goal for this blog is to always have something new to be writing about. I still don’t get very much traffic in this space, but creating posts based on things I love is something that I personally find enjoyable for its own sake. Also, many thanks to that few of you who frequent my blog and are always there to comment whenever I have a new post on the block. Y’all are my favorites. ❤

Anyway, enough with the sentimental stuff; now, it’s time for my favorite film I watched in the month of May.

Bambi Meets Godzilla.

Whoa! Surely, I must be joking?! After all, this film is only a minute-and-a-half long, significantly shorter than any other film on the list. But no, I actually really love this film. If there were an existing scale that rated the funniness of movies based on laughs-per-minute… well, this film would have to be the most hilarious film I’ve ever seen in my life. “Written by Marv Newland… Screenplay by Marv Newland“. *chuckle* How redundant. “Choreography by Marv Newland… Bambi’s Wardrobe by Marv Newland“. How… uh, silly. “Produced by Marv Newland… Marv Newland Produced by Mr. & Mrs. Newland“. Okay, that’s funny! And THAT CLIMAX. Completely unexpected the first viewing, and totally anticipated with recurrent rewatches. So darkly humorous and twisted, yet so deep and symbolic of a fact of life that we, as human beings, all know far too well to deconstruct. That is, if you think about it for far too long. And we hear Rossini as a background score again – only this time, to an entirely different effect. Punctuated by the final chord of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”… we’ve got ourselves a winner, folks.

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One Response to It’s a Cartoon Party!: May ’14 in Film

  1. Pingback: Three Colors & Disaster Artists: June/July ’14 in Film | Films Like Dreams

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