Where have you gone, Nick Park?
It seems like only yesterday I was watching a variety of classics created by this great animator and starring his most beloved creations: the befuddled inventor Wallace and his trusty, whip-smart dog Gromit. There was The Wrong Trousers. Then there was A Close Shave. Heck, I even loved the duo’s earliest entry into cinema, A Grand Day Out.
Sadly, we haven’t seen any more of these brilliant movies in a while. I think that’s a shame.
The pair is as inimitable as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, or Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The few films they’ve starred in are comic treasures, filled with lovingly designed animation and wonderful, witty scripts, along with terrific, iconic characterizations.
I miss them.
Maybe one day Park will revisit these two cartoon stalwarts. I still remember watching them at Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation in New York long ago, relishing their delightful humor. Please grace us with more films in which they appear, Mr. Park. We could use them.
Signing off now …
Doesn’t it seem like a long time has passed since Air Bud debuted?
Hey, it’s only been 17 years. Feels like an age, no?
I think there’s a reason for this. We’re not seeing a lot of live-action movies starring dogs, cats or other animals these days – certainly not as much as in previous years. Yes, there are plenty of CGI-flavored animated films portraying the beastie set. But the likes of Air Bud, Beethoven and Marley & Me seem to have gone to the dogs. We’re not getting as many of those kinds of flicks anymore. Why?
I wonder if it’s more economical for studios to develop animated pictures dealing with all creatures great and small than it is to do live-action ones requiring the onscreen talents of various stars. Or maybe the public has had its fill of Turner & Hooch and its ilk. That could be a possibility. Perhaps tastes have changed … though I’m not sure the taste for buddy films centering on the relationship between man and canine could ever be construed as being “good.”
To tell you the truth, I kind of miss these generally dreadful pieces of celluloid. I don’t know why. They almost always featured coarse slapstick comedy and schmaltzy sentimentality. Am I, at heart, a sucker for that?
Nah. I’ll give ya, maybe, Lassie Come Home and A Dog of Flanders. Air Bud? Nope.
Oh, that reminds me: Someone should do a film of Farley Mowat’s The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. That’s at least a well-written story that’s cinematic. Unlike Beethoven.
I’ve seen so many good documentaries that sometimes it seems bad ones don’t exist.
Well, it’s not true. Case in point: American Wine Story, a tedious, unfocused attempt to look at a number of American winemakers who left unrelated jobs to pursue their dream of crafting vino. Written and directed by David Baker, this film features unnecessary animation, stilted narration and some of the worst incidental music I’ve ever heard in a documentary – a droning, repetitious sequence of sonorities that doesn’t belong anywhere near a movie reel.
Yeah. I think it’s clear that I didn’t like this picture.
The subject itself can be intriguing, and the flick tries to show how fascinating the talking heads onscreen are, but it doesn’t succeed. At one point, if I recall correctly, one of them even indicates that she has never had an uninteresting conversation with a person in winemaking … at which I suggested to the television that she should watch this movie. When you hear about five people recount the best wine they’ve ever tasted in wistful tones, you know you’re in for a dreary hour-plus of film watching.
So, in sum: not a well-done documentary. Which is an anomaly in a month during which I’ve viewed more compelling pictures such as Tabloid and Searching for Sugar Man. I guess every time period is bound to have its cinematic disappointments. The only thing to do is watch a better movie to clear my mind of the worse one.
That I can easily do.
Why I don’t have certain classic movies on DVD at home is beyond me.
Watership Down is one of those missing from my rather lackluster collection. Why? This great, un-Disney-esque cartoon about the (often-scary) trials and tribulations of a migrating rabbit colony is one of my favorite animated features, yet for some reason, I don’t have it at home for my viewing pleasure. And sometimes I get a hankering for it – the atmospheric mythology of the bunnies, the expert vocal performances of actors ranging from John Hurt to Zero Mostel, the evocative score by Angela Morley. It’s a unique film, the type of thing that they don’t make anymore … in part because it’s sometimes very bloody (strange for a cartoon of that era) and certainly not for children. But it’s tremendously moving, and it’s got a lot to offer viewers open to something new and different.
I only read part of the novel by Richard Adams on which the movie was based, so I’m not sure how true to the book it was. A great film, however, stands on its own, in my opinion, and Watership Down does exactly that. At some point, I do expect to buy the DVD for myself. But first I must catch it.
Sorry. A bit of ill-chosen rabbity humor, there. I’ll stop now while I’m behind.
Last night, I watched something I hadn’t seen in more than 30 years.
It was an imaginative animated short that appeared on Sesame Street when I was a kid, so you know it was long ago. In it, a young woman lying on her bed imagines the crack on her wall to be various friendly animals: a camel, a hen and a monkey. She travels with them through the wall and finds what is hoped to be a new pal but turns out to be the “Crack Master,” a horrible, frowning face made of cracks. This “Crack Master” then is “destroyed” as the plaster that makes up his visage falls to the ground because he is “mean.”
Whoa, right? What a trip.
Actually, this short frightened me practically to death as a young child; I remember running out of the room when it was on so I didn’t have to see it. There was something about the face of the “Crack Master” that bothered me, as well as the idea of cracks coming to life. But in watching it last night, I did something I’ve been unable to do for decades: Conquer my fear. The scares of childhood weren’t, thankfully, there. Just the remnants of memories.
This clip has some notoriety; apparently I wasn’t the only kid to be horrified by it years ago. It remains a very creative piece: stark but well-realized, despite the eerie subject matter. You can decide for yourself whether all my fears were warranted by watching it here:
Please don’t fault me for watching Conan the Destroyer.
It’s a horrible movie, I know. But it’s something of a guilty pleasure. And in watching it last night, I marveled at a quality I hadn’t really noticed before.
The special effects. They’re just plain awful.
Rubber suits galore. Bad animation. Welcome to the world of Conan. Where things are really cheesy.
Which is not to say that the effects are so much worse than, say, the acting, which is just as horrid. Still, you have to wonder how this stuff passed muster. It looked lousy then. It looks lousy now.
Yet I always find it on TV, for some reason. Maybe there’s a market for it.
One can always hope not.
I think the reason Frozen was such a hit was marketing.
Ads for the animated film were all over TV. They got people to see it.
But I’m not sure why so many people liked it. I thought the script was dreadful and the songs mediocre. Plus, it was highly, highly unfunny, especially the character of the live, talking, happy-go-lucky snowman. It’s highly possible that the execrable Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was a more humorous, better developed character.
OK, the computer animation was quite well done in Frozen; that was no surprise. Yet the film seemed artificial, manufactured, as if devised specifically for a certain audience and peppered with hip dialogue and silly situations. It didn’t have an organic quality, and the songs just made it worse.
I’m in the minority on this, I know. Frozen was a huge success. Yet that doesn’t necessarily equate quality, and in that light, the movie doesn’t make the cut for me.
Disney can do better than this, methinks.