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Archive for January 2012

Bob Clampbett’s John Carter of Mars Cartoon

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A lot of people are just discovering that animation great Bob Clampbett worked on an aborted John Carter of Mars project way back in 1935,  thanks to the Youtube test footage for the cartoon, which originally appeared on the 2000 Beany & Cecil DVD (which, by the way, happens to be one of the all time great DVD’s).

However, many of us learned about this project way back in 1976, courtesy of Jim Steranko’s Mediascene. Issue #21 of the mag was a “special animation issue” which included articles on Chuck Jones, Winsor McCay, Max Flieischer, and other titans of Hollywood cartoons. But the real eye opener for most of us was a giant two page article by Carl Macek which fueled our imaginations with one of the great “what ifs” of animation and film history. As a pull out quote in the article put it:  “Had the John Carter series been filmed, the entire focus of animation might have been altered significantly.”  It made us realize that just because someone has a great idea, it does not mean that Hollywood will help it become a reality. The story of John Carter made us wonder what other great films remained just dreams in the Hollywood Dream Factory.

Here’s the article. Feel free to click on the images to make them legible.

And here’s the test footage, which, as I already said, originally appeared on the great Beany & Cecil DVD.

Written by David Kilmer

January 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Workers Leaving the Factory: Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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Near the beginning of the 2005, Tim Burton directed film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willie Wonka fires all of his workers. One might expect the film’s resolution to include at least a token gesture towards a return to the level of employment of the locals that existed at the film’s start. But if you did expect this, you would be disappointed, for even though Charlie ends up winning the factory, even though his grandfather was one of the fired workers, in the end no one suggests that the workers should or will get their jobs back. In fact, the issue is completely forgotten by the film, as if it were never an issue to begin with. If it were raised, the big question would be: what happens to the Oompah Loompahs, the scabs Wonka hires to replace the fired workers, bringing them in from a mysterious country that apparently only he knows about? (They don’t work for peanuts; they work for cocoa beans!) The film gives every indication that the Oompah Loompahs will continue to work in the factory. They appear to be happy. They sing, they dance,  obeying Wonka’s every command. Happy workers, are, after all, irreplaceable.

Is the disappearance of this issue an indicator of something larger than the film? Perhaps a sign of how the filmmakers regard laborers? Or does it reflect the concerns of our society itself?

Charlie wins the factory despite not knowing that he’s in a contest and the factory is the prize. The kids that lose are all portrayed as worthy losers. Why are they unworthy? Because they disobey Wonka. It’s that simple. unlike the singing and dancing Oompah Loompahs, the kids will not make good workers because they don’t take orders very well. They act according to their own desires which make them seem like sinners worthy of punishments that would not be out of place in Dante’s Inferno. Happy workers they will not grow up to be. Charlie, however, does not disobey Wonka. Proving he has what it takes to be a happy worker, Charlie wins the contest, but becomes, somewhat paradoxically, much more than just another happy worker. He becomes the factory’s owner.

The ultimate lesson of the film? Suck it up to your boss and you will get far. Very far, indeed! On the other hand, if you don’t follow orders, if you upset the boss in some way, expect to be replaced by an Oompah Loompah. Not exactly the lesson you would expect from a Tim Burton film, is it? (Perhaps not. I’ve already written how another one of his films, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which ends up sending a surprisingly conservative message. But perhaps it’s just the Hollywood tendency to make conservative films, which I’ve written about here.)

Written by David Kilmer

January 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Patrick Brion’s Le Cinéma Fantastique

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LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, Martinière (Editions de La), 1996.  Condition: Good.

The subtitle translates as “the great American classics from The Lost World to 2001: A Space Odyssey.” This is a French book, but with lots of very nice, large images, some examples of which are below. It covers the classics of Hollywood cinema from the genre the French call the fantastique, which includes horror and science fiction. Currently, the cheapest price you will find on the net is US$134, as offered by a dealer in Germany.

UPDATE: Sold.

LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, front cover
LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, back cover
LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, from entry on The Day the Earth Stood Still
LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, from entry on The Portrait of Dorian Gray
LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, from entry on Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde

This book is not in mint condition. During shipment from the original seller, the book was slightly damaged around the corners and the binding is slightly cracked at one point as seen in these pictures:

LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, cover damage
LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, cover damage
LE CINÉMA FANTASTIQUE by Patrick Brion, binding slightly cracked on this page

Written by David Kilmer

January 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Animated Films: “Kick Me” by Robert Swarthe

“Kick Me,” by Robert Swarthe, is an animated film made by drawing directly on celluloid. Most such films, as exemplified by Norman McLaren, are usually mostly abstract works, but this is a comedy with a central character.

“Kick Me” was apparently Swarthe’s only animated film or personal work, after which he has credits on a few Hollywood type films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, his IMDB credits end in 1983, with Coppola’s The Outsiders, although he makes an appearance in a 2001 released doc on the making of Close Encounters. What happened to him?

Written by David Kilmer

January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

Groundhog Day Ned Comes To Life?

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Is that Ned from Groundhog Day on the left?

Groundhog Day Ned

Written by David Kilmer

January 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Lookalikes

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Binary Concepts: Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft

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Gesellschaft. (Subway by George Tooker, 1950)
Gemeinschaft. (The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568)

Two of my favorite concepts are the binary pair of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. First introduced in print in 1887 by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, Gemeinschaft, in short, means community, a place where everybody knows your name. Gesellschaft, on the other hand, is a society where greed is good, and nobody sticks their necks out for anyone but themselves. It’s the difference between Bedford Falls and Pottersville.

Where do you live: Bedford Falls or Pottersville?

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

1. Film noir is often about a character who is stuck in a Gesellschaft world, but trying to get to a Gemeinschaft world. Think The Asphalt Jungle, The Killing, Johnny O’Clock.

2. The Wizard of Oz: the world over the rainbow, Oz = Gemeinschaft; Kansas, at the beginning of the film = Gesellschaft.

3. Brigaddoon = Gemeinschaft ; the New York City of that film = Gesellschaft.

Is Copyright Democratic?

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It’s unlikely that if everyone in the world were to suddenly wake up to find themselves in a world where their opinion mattered, one of their opinions would favor copyright law. Why? Because copyright is not democratic. The first copyrights originated from Kings and Queens, and have continued to be used by elites to maintain their power ever since.

Here’s how it works:

1. Copyrights create artificial monopolies.

2. The monopolies use their power to create artificial scarcities.

3. Scarcity leads to prices that are higher than they would otherwise be.

4. Higher prices restrict access.

5. Access is restricted to those who can afford access, which leaves most people on Planet Earth out in the cold.

6. Given such a situation, theft and piracy are inevitable.

7. The best way to combat piracy is to make copyright laws democratic.

8. Good luck with that!

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

If you are against piracy from the perspective of so-called creator rights, you should also be for full employment and a living wage as the minimum wage. Wage earners cannot buy the creators’ stuff if they don’t have the money. Of course, if wages increase, prices will increase. So the only way to make a wage increase effective is to put price controls in place. In other words, it’s an economic justice issue which should be looked at from the perspective of what’s best for society as a whole, not just a small group of individuals or corporations.

We need to come up with an unbiased system that works for everyone, not just an elite, and enables everyone access to all information with equal ease, regardless of economic standing.

Written by David Kilmer

January 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Are they serious?

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