This Week In Cinema: July 14-20, 2013

bully for bugs

That Bugs Bunny sure does find colorful ways of getting into trouble!

It’s mostly short films again this week,

C’est L’aviron (1944, Norman McLaren, Canada) ***

An impressive visual short from Norman McLaren, but there’s not a whole lot to the production. Sure, it looks great, but I needed more than an animated short film that looked great. I did like the almost 3D aesthetic of the animation, and the way that the animation flows past the viewer. However, there isn’t much of a story, and thus the animation feels a tad hollow.

Children’s Party (1938, Joseph Cornell, United States Of America) **

An experimental short film that tests the idea of what film buffs consider a montage. There is a connecting thread for all of the images that cross the screen in Children’s Party. That doesn’t mean the images connect in a meaningful way, or that they add up to much of anything. The experiment Joseph Cornell is undertaking mattered to him, but it doesn’t matter to me. I wasn’t interested in the way he played with montage, and truth be told I found Mr. Cornell’s filmmaking to be crude and amateurish.

Bully For Bugs (1953, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ***1/2

Ah, the warm embrace of Chuck Jones greets me yet again. While there’s nothing I find funny about bull fighting in real life, in animated form under the guiding hand of Mr. Jones it’s very, very funny. The animation is top notch, and the comedy hits on just about every level. I was especially impressed with the way that Bully For Bugs handled movement. Bugs Bunny and the Bull never simply walked, there was always some sort of sound effect accompanying their movement. It’s a small thing, but details like that are what separate Mr. Jones from almost every other animated director. Well put together, and very funny, about what I’d expect from a Chuck Jones film.

Bang! (1986, Robert Breers, United States Of America) **1/2

Another avant garde short film that isn’t really for me. The approach is that of distorting image and sound, fading in and out of each so that what you’re seeing doesn’t exactly match up with what you’re hearing. I appreciate the effort, and those who are more into the technical side of editing would probably really dig this short. For me there wasn’t a whole lot to latch on to, and that left me pretty blah on what I was watching. Bang! certainly is unique, at least I thought so, but unique experimentation doesn’t exactly send me into hysterics anymore.

Trade Tattoo (1937, Len Lye, United Kingdom) ***1/2

A commissioned work gone crazy, that’s the best way to describe Trade Tattoo. This is supposed to be a piece for the British Post Office, and while it is, it’s also a surreal work of art. That’s what makes this film so great, the information it is conveying and the way it is choosing to convey said information. The music syncs with the visuals and pop style rotoscoping is placed on top of the visuals. Their is a kinetic energy to Trade Tattoo, commercial film though it may be, it’s darn exciting to watch.

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961, Stan Brakhage, United States Of America) ***1/2

A very personal film, full of emotion and the sometimes unpredictable nature of our emotions. I wasn’t present when my daughter was born, but I could see myself being overcome with emotions flowing out of me. Focusing in that scenarios would be hard, and for Stan Brakhage it was apparently extremely hard. The clean black and white film of his child’s birth is distorted and scratched in a way where it’s hard to pick out what is happening. The emotions of Mr. Brakhage are scratching the film, obscuring what he, and by extension we, can see. A very interesting documentary short film from Mr. Brakhage.

The Perfect Man (2005, Mark Rosman, United States Of America) **

Standard fare as far as Hollywood romcoms go, and that’s part of the problem with a film like The Perfect Man. It has a cast that’s easy to like, and it has some charm to its proceedings. Yet, when the important moments pop up The Perfect Man makes sure it conforms to the tried and true formula of a romantic comedy. That makes it more of the same, and means that it’s charm and cast are pretty much wasted. I enjoyed parts of The Perfect Man, but on the whole I was let down by how willing the film was to conform to the Hollywood standard.

Kustom Kar Kommandos (1970, Kenneth Anger, United States Of America) ***1/2

Very slick, and very astute short about the car culture in America. All it takes is one 1950s love song, and a lot of cheesecake shots of a car being buffed and gawked over. That’s all Kenneth Anger needed to eviscerate the car culture of America and reveal it for all it truly exists as; a relationship between owner and car that is akin to sex. I know some will view Kustom Kar Kommandos as nothing more than a loving tribute to the American muscle car. But, knowing the reputation of Mr. Anger and loving to interpret as I do it shouldn’t surprise that I think Kustom Kar Kommandos is a brilliantly put together send-up of car culture.

Raising Helen (2004, Garry Marshall, United States Of America) **

My wife really likes this one, and to be honest I can see why. It’s charming, a little sweet, and it has its heart sort of in the right place. That being said, this one didn’t do much for me. The reason for that mainly comes down to Kate Hudson, who I didn’t buy in the way the film wanted me to buy her. I could deal with Garry Marshall’s hammy and saccharine direction. I wasn’t bothered by the many shortcuts the film takes in terms of story, narrative, and comedy. Where I drew the line was in my ability to believe that Miss Hudson would ever be anything more than the party girl at the beginning of the film. There was no heft or believability to her performance, and that’s what sunk Raising Helen for me.

Wrap-Up:

A handful of pretty great film this week, but it’s hard to beat Chuck Jones. That’s why Bully For Bugs takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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