This Week In Cinema: July 31-August 06, 2011

Another week, even more short films!

The teaser says it all, I watched a bunch more shorts this week,

Rabbit Fire (1951, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ****

What a surprise, another classic Chuck Jones short and yet another four star rating. At this point I’m close to believing the man can do no wrong, he understands film on both a visual and a dialogue based level. Rabbit Fever is chock full of excellent sight gags and a lot of witty banter, my favorite moment moment being when Bugs and Daffy attempt to dress up as their opposites. I’ve said it before, but man do I ever love Chuck Jones, Rabbit Fire is no exception.

The Dot And The Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics (1965, Chuck Jones & Maurice Noble, United States Of America) ****

At first I wasn’t completely sold on The Dot And The Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics. The venture was cute and all, but was there something besides the cuteness? Then the Line freaking lost it, regained his senses, and the study of abstract art, mathematics, and love that was taking place smacked me right across the face. The three aforementioned aspects of study are the three levels of the film, and the two directors, Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble, do a lot with all three levels in their limited time. What they do that is most impressive is to meld all three levels together so that one can think about the abstractness of art while also contemplating modern day gender roles in relationships, and at the same time puzzle at the perplexity of basic shapes within math. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, The Dot And The Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics gives the viewer mouthful after mouthful to chew on.

Vincent (1982, Tim Burton, United States Of America) ****

A perfect summation of the quirks, idiosyncrasies, ad ideas that drive Tim Burton. Vincent is lusciously narrated by one of the best voices in cinema, Vincent Price, which of course adds another meta level to the short since the lead character just wants to be Vincent Price. The animation fits the darkness of the tale, and watching Mr. Burton explore the very essence of his being in such a carefree manner was delightful. It is sad that Mr. Burton has spent the rest of his career trying, and most often failing, to convey what this film so succinctly put forth about who he is as a person and an artist.

L’homme Qui Plantait Des Arbres (The Man Who Planted Trees, 1988, Frédéric Back, Canada) ***½

The images are wonderful, like a magical paintbrush that already contains the images comes down and sweeps them across the screen. As each image morphs into the next it really is a display of animation prowess, and uniqueness, that grabbed me. The story is simple enough, and easy to latch on to, it’s even uplifting and shines a light at the end of the tunnel for humanity. Some of the narration could have been done away with however, it was quite stifling at times.

More (1998, Mark Osborne, United States Of America) ***

Too on the nose for my liking. No matter how much we consume we won’t be happy as long as we live a soulless existence. I give Mark Osborne a lot of credit for not forcing dialogue into his film and for sticking with a rough animated look, but the message of the story is delivered in such an obvious fashion for a message that is as well used as the one in More. I would have preferred something other than the sledgehammer approach.

The Band Concert (1935, Wilfred Jackson, United States Of America) ***

I’m always taken aback when I revisit older Mickey Mouse shorts and see Mickey being quite mean. The early Mickey shorts, like The Band Concert, are before Mickey had an official image and personality, that means sometimes he was mean, sometimes he was nice, and he was almost always a little bonkers. The Band Concert is cute and charming, but surprisingly the animation is a little too simplistic and the jokes don’t hit as much as I would have liked.

Gertie The Dinosaur (1914, Winsor McCay, United States Of America) ***

A demo reel of animation, that’s what Gertie The Dinosaur is. As a piece of cinema history it is undoubtedly important and worthwhile, not jut for its existence but for people to see and experience as well. That being said, it’s a simple film, rudimentary in its animation and story. Winsor McCay is showing what can be done with animation, he’s having fun with the format, but I didn’t have that much fun, even though I enjoyed this watch.

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943, Tex Avery, United States Of America) ***1/2

I liked the play on conventions, the twisting of the story, and the animation. I didn’t find Red Hot Riding Hood to be hilarious or anything like that, but I did chuckle a few times. The more adult sensibilities were handled very well, but I felt like I should have been laughing more. That doesn’t say anything about the craft or the film really, my funny bone just wasn’t touched all that much.

Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950, Robert Cannon, United States Of America) ***

A minimalist story with limited animation, yet it all comes together because of the energy in Dr. Seuss’ work. Especially in the beginning Gerald McBoing-Boing has a frenetic rhythm about it, in the animation and in the dialogue. Its last few minutes are more quaint and charming, an enjoyable experience.

King Size-Canary (1947, Tex Avery, United States Of America) ***1/2

The ridiculousness escalates to funnier and funnier results. Tex Avery smartly plays on easy humor, there’s no need for much depth or wit when you have giant animals trying to outdo one another with a growing potion. The animation is great, King-Size Canary was far less witty than Red Hot Riding Hood, for instance, but the quality and variety of the animation made up for that.

Toot Whistle Plunk And Boom (1953, Ward Kimball & Charles A. Nichols, United States Of America) ***

I like the way the animators combine fun with a bit of education, but I was never quite taken by this one. It looks good, but it kept going to the well for its cuteness and I guess that lost me at some point. It was fun though, I’ll give it that.

Brave Little Tailor (1938, Bill Roberts, United States Of America) ****

What joy can be found in the antics of this mouse, pure unadulterated joy, that’s what joy. Brave Little Tailor is about a mouse getting caught up in an escalating set of circumstances. From that simple premise a lot of laughs are gleaned, and not just gentle chuckles, but loud belly laughs. The cuteness and the charm is always present with Mickey Mouse, but in the case of Brave Little Tailor there’s a certain something that isn’t always present. I’m not sure what that something is, but it sure is special.

Free Willy 3: The Rescue (1997, Sam Pillsbury, United States Of America) **

Surprising moments of beautiful cinematography are drowned out by a predictable and heavy handed story. Seeing Willy again was cool, and the ending of the film was truly something to behold. The rest of Free Willy 3: The Rescue was the definition of cookie cutter, with an extra helping of bad acting.

Wrap-Up:

Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, in the same week, now that’s some animation! Among all the great films I watched this week one stood out more than the rest, not surprisingly it happens to be a Chuck Jones film. Once The Dot And The Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics grabbed me it refused to let go and it was a great ride to be on. The Dot And The Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics takes home movie of the week honors from a field of very strong candidates. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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