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Rip-Roarin’ Rock & Roll Yarn – AMERICAN POP

AMERICAN POP is a visually arresting tribute to American music.

A unique (and uniquely-rendered) animated film that spans four generations, Ralph Bakshi‘s American Pop (1981) is the tale of a Russian Jewish family’s turbulent journey towards the realization of the American dream. Unfortunately for the impoverished family, loss plagues them, continuously chopping them down, as if cursed with a ‘close but no cigar’ hex. And yet despite all the pain there remains one true constant in this family – music. It flows through them effortlessly, each generation blessed (or cursed?) with the gift for writing or playing heartfelt music with stunning results. It’s this talent that hurtles our heroes across forty years of unforgiving American historical landscape, shaping their dreams and sinking them all at once, like a double-edged sword. The film works like a survey of American culture, from Jazz to Punk and all points in between, making American Pop as much a musical voyage as it is an animated, visual one. And speaking of the the animation, this one’s a beauty – using the process of rotoscoping, in which live-action footage is animated over, resulting in characters that truly feel real. This contrast, evident in other parts of Bakshi’s animated wonderland (Lord of the Rings, Fire and Ice, Wizards), has always rubbed me the right way. And highlighted here by ‘huge’ pop songs, often sung by the main characters themselves, Bakshi’s magic is particularly effective in evoking tone and emotion. He doesn’t shake our suspension of disbelief by ever explicitly claiming his characters have written the originals (we all know a coke dealer didn’t sing target=”_blank”>Night Moves) – he’s simply evoking a sense of where these characters are emotionally and historically, which gives them a poetic truth that’s profound and compelling. And even though Bakshi has some misses in his filmography (damn you, Cool World!!), this is not one of them – possibly because of his personal, autobiographical connection to this immigrant story. Sure the narrative gets clunky – Hell, if you wanted to, you could probably skip a generation and tell the same tale with equal results – but you know what? Warts and all, I still find myself coming back to this movie time and again. Coming back to the sonic assault of color and sound, and good-ol’ adult-targeted animation at its finest. So do yourself a favor and crank up the volume on this creature – even if it means pissing off your neighbors.

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June 6, 2011   2 Comments

Full Sci-Fi Feature – THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE

For our 100th post we thought we’d celebrate by linking to this super-cool flick that captures the spirit of the isle of cinema. Hope you enjoy the nearly-forgotten 1958 Czech masterpiece by Karel Zeman, Vynález Zkázy (aka The Fabulous World Of Jules Verne), a visual smorgasbord of matte paintings, incredibly rendered sets, and beautiful hand-drawn and stop-motion animation, stunningly meshed with inventive live action which captures the magic of Méliès and Lang. Enjoy!

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Awesome, Right?


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January 5, 2011   No Comments

Stop Motion Bliss – A TOWN CALLED PANIC

A TOWN CALLED PANIC is madness, plain and simple.

Told from the assured heart of a child, 2009’s A Town Called Panic explodes across the screen with a purity of imagination and creativity that’s rarely seen. Hard to pin down (nor should one try), the film contains a kaleidoscope of genres within its bag of tricks – action, adventure, comedy, mystery, and love story – lending the whole affair a truly rubber-band-like quality. This film eats glass, man. Watch out. Big words for a stop-motion animated feature about a horse, a Cowboy, and an Indian – aptly named Horse, Cowboy, and Indian – and a plot just as simple: You see, it’s Horses’ birthday, so Cowboy and Indian decide to build him a brick barbecue pit. But only requiring a scant fifty bricks to complete the task, the bumbling duo order fifty million bricks by mistake. Realizing their mistake and seized with panic (sorry), Cowboy and Indian decide to hide the bricks, but choose the worst spot imaginable, practically razing the entire town. In so doing they set in motion the weirdest, most imaginative series of events ever to befall their neighbors. Co-directed by Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, who bring so much detail to what at first seems simple, A Town Called Panic began as a French television show, gaining a cult following and allowing the creators time to cut their teeth and master their style – which truly shows in the full-length feature. The creators are so in control of the absurdity that they can warp and bend their animated space and time like the worst road on a rainy day – yet by the time we arrive at our destination, we’ve fallen head over heels in love with not only our animated trio but also the creators who breathed life into them – for they represent the child in all of us.

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September 16, 2010   2 Comments

Animation Devastation – THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE

THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE is a colorful trip into a world of sound and spectacle.

Now this is a film that proves cartoons can achieve high art. An animation showcase, The Triplets Of Belleville hypnotizes you with over the top character design and streamlined storytelling. Told with little to no dialogue, the film is carried by music and perfect sound selection. A loving grandmother has her grandson taken from her and she will stop at nothing to get him back. Sounds simple, I know, but the results are staggering. Screenplay, storyboards, and graphic design were all masterfully created by director Sylvain Chomet. And not a single frame is wasted. Here is a talent in top form, and a man lucky enough to find an animation team to realize his vision and turn his renderings into the stuff of legend. And for the purists out there – there is some 3-D animation on hand, but before you run for the hills let me assure you that it is tastefully done. Now that that’s out of the way, let me stress that 95% of this cartoon is good-ol’-fashion hand-drawn magnificence, on par with the work of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki and rivaling the magic of early Disney. Fall into this one and feel like you did when you first fell in love with cartoons.

June 9, 2010   3 Comments

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