Saturday, December 20, 2014

MORE ABOUT NASH EDGERTON


 After discovering Nash Edgerton's brilliant work on Dylan's "Must Be Santa" video (see the previous post) I had to see more. Here's (above) another Edgerton short called "The Spider." Watch it and see if you can figure out how he did it.


I like the way he handled the action in the car.  I'm guessing he was influenced by "Gun Crazy" which was famous for its back-seat-camera shots. The GC cameraman makes the effect look easy, but that's an illusion. Without special equipment you could only get a shot like that with a very wide angle lens and that would have distorted the picture.

Here the characters look flattened out, meaning that the camera used a long lens (slightly long) and was farther back than you'd think. It must have been on a platform shooting through a glassless rear window, and the platform must have been attached to the car so it could take bumps in the road the same way the car did.


Real back seat shots aren't as easy to get as they appear in Gun Crazy, especially in the tiny cars everybody drives now.

So why did Nash go to so much trouble to give the illusion that his film was made cheaply with real back seat photography? I think he wanted the intimacy that comes from back seat shots. Notice there's no frontal shots. You could argue that cinema requires a variety of angles but Nash deliberately restricts his palette, as all artists do.

What you get from a back seat view is a real feeling of being cramped in a moving car. It brings back memories of past drives. Not only that but it forces you into a new relationship with the people infront. You see only the backs of your friends. You feel like  like a disembodied spirit eavesdropping on them. That creates intimacy.



Here's (above) a video which shows how a crane was used to shoot the dazzling interior pan near the end of Nash's film.

IMHO The most interesting thing about "Spider" was its highly disciplined narrative structure. Nash dials up the sounds of ordinary life and the film is cut to those rhythms. He creates a pattern of normalcy then shatters it.

After the final violence happens the pattern is repeated. We're left with the unsettling feeling that in our real world Alice-in-Wonderland universe horrifyingly unexpected events are a part of everyday life.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

CHRISTMAS SONGS AND NASH EDGERTON


Here's a few Christmas songs that get a lot of play at my house this time of year. I thought you might like to hear them, too.



We're lucky to have a few good versions of Ave Maria. This one is by Connie Stevens, whose voice was unique.



My favorite part of Pavariti's version is his opening which is executed with dignity and power.



This Jingle Bells is a tad slow but I still like it.




I never studied this Dylan film closely but I can see that I'll have to do that. Dylan did a great job with the music and the direction by Australian shorts director Nash Edgerton is nothing less than awesome. Think of it: he filmed dozens of moving actors in a real house where lighting is a problem and walls can't be removed. Not only that but he had a celebrity star who in his old age isn't as photogenic as he used to be. And that subplot with the guy who goes berserk...it was a brilliant way to rev up the pace of a film that already had a fast pace. I'd love to hear the story of how this film was made.

Here's a link to one of Edgerton's YouTube shorts:
http://youtu.be/CKeooK0zfeU

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A SECOND LOOK AT A GREAT CARTOON


I like "Jolly Rounders" so much that I can't help adding to what I wrote last time. It's wonderful to have a blog like Theory Corner where things like this can be discussed in detail. 

Anyway, I like the textured barebones background and the midlevel line of the wall boards. Some artists avoid midlevel anything because it divides the composition into two and gives it an ignorant, unschooled look. For me that's precisely why the technique is useful. Sometimes you want an ignorant look. 

I also like the way the artist puts the irritable wife on the left and gives the open doorway equal emphasis. No doubt this is to make a space for the kids when they come in later, but it serves another purpose. Given that the woman is touchy and has a short fuse it's funny to think she's near a doorway where any doofus could walk in and bother her. 
  

We cut to the outside and her ridiculously huge number of comically eager clones. I like the open front door which reminds us that there's a touchy, irritable person inside.

The kids react to something O.S. and run inside. 


The little clones run in and announce that Dad's outside and he has a "bimbo" (that's what the title card calls her) with him. Mom tosses the broom and heads for the door.

Uh-oh. Whatever fools are out there now have the total attention of a Type A character.


There's Dad outside, beckoning to his "bimbo." This is a technique I often use myself. The bimbo is an outrageous character and a character that funny shouldn't be in the scene when you first see them. They have to make an entrance to underline their importance. The act of beckoning functions as a kind of fanfare.


And here she is! I LOVE this hippo. Her design and very stiff but charming acting style is a masterful example of skilled ignorance. I also like having the empty space on the left where the angry wife will stand when she comes out. You could argue that leaving an awkward space there is unnecessary but...and this is important...if it's funny then it IS necessary. You could handle mom's entrance with cuts and pans and that might be good cinema, but it's not funny.

I have more thoughts about the staging in this cartoon but I'll have to save them for the time when I have the whole cartoon infront of me, and not just a tiny fragment.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

"JOLLY ROUNDERS"


I like the way the best old cartoons (above) used to look. They didn't have the production value of a film like "Frozen," but they were fifty times as funny and they were cheap to make.


 Here's (above) a fragment from a vintage short called "Jolly Rounders." The disk it was on credits Paul Terry as the director, but IMDB attributes it to someone else. I believe the disk because the film is hilarious and Bob Clampett used to say that that the young Terry was one of the funniest guys in the business.

Anyway, the film starts with an irritated housewife sweeping a carpet. She no doubt wishes her husband were there to help. I love the awkward way she handles the broom with her oversized hippo paws.


 Outside her kids see Dad coming, and they're alarmed at what they see.


 They run inside and snitch to Mother: "Dad's coming and he has a Bimbo with him!" She tosses the broom and heads outside.


 Sure enough, Dad's out there and he's beckoning to his "Bimbo."


She comes in, naked below the waist...but that's okay because she's a hippo and because her modesty is preserved by the fact that she's wearing socks and shoes.


They embrace...


...and snog.

Good Lord! Well, that's all I have.


I believe this cartoon can be found on Thunderbean's forthcoming compilation, "Cartoon Roots." Steve Stanchfield says it should be out sometime in December or January. Personally I think Jolly Rounders is worth the price of the whole set and everything else on it is free.


And did I mention that "Hot Tomato Mollie"...Hot Tamale, get it?...is on the same set? Our cup runneth over! 


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

BRITISH ART NOUVEAU


I thought I'd post about a Christmas gift idea I had, namely architectural posters. I did some research and was amazed to find how few decent ones there were. It looks like those who want that sort of thing will have to make them at home.



I'd just seen a documentary about British Art Nouveau at a friend's house so the first pictures I tried to track down were of Nouveau buildings like the famous chapel at Compton, England (above). No luck, though.


In this case it's possible that the lack of demand for posters can be accounted for by the offputting clutter and darkness of Nouveau interiors. English artists liked to mix Nouveau with Gothic and the combination didn't always gel.


British Nouveau rooms were often platypuses where different influences were thrown together, helter skelter.


The combinations seldom worked, but that doesn't disqualify them as art. I like British Nouveau. The flaws don't diminish the invigorating passion and intelligence behind it.


Nouveau/craftsman artists like William Morris were socialists and were embarrassed by the fact that the new styles (above) were labor intensive and weren't really affordable by the working poor.


To correct that he put a lot of effort into fabric design (above) that could be cheaply mass-produced. It was a case of no good deed going unpunished: the poor guy was denounced by his socialist friends who thought anything factory made was a tool of the Devil. A bitter schism took shape.



Morris must have had OCD. His leaf patterns were incredibly busy, even more so than you'd find in real life forest cover. When I was a little kid old ladies were fond of dress patterns like this. All these years later it occurs to me that some of them must have associated those busy designs with Morris and the avant garde of his day.


Anyway, the man created some beautiful fabrics but he was undercut by a brand new movement in architecture that believed in filling rooms with light. Morris's fabrics were meant for shadowy rooms illuminated by oil lamps. Bright sunlight seemed to call for something more light-hearted and airy.

Gee, thinking about all this reminds me of how fast art movements came and went in the astonishingly creative Twentieth Century. Art Nouveau had ten years, which is better than some had.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

THE VANISHING TOWN STORY

ON KIDS RESPONDING SCEPTICALLY TO A VOICE ON THE VIDEO PHONE:

 DAD (VO):

"KIDS! It's me, Dad!"


"I have to talk fast because I might get cut off any minute. Look, I can tell by your expressions that you don't recognize me anymore. That's okay...it's not your fault! Just bear with me!"


I tried to call your mother but she didn't recognize me either, and she hung up. It sounds fantastic, but...I honestly don't think she remembers having had a husband. Maybe you guys don't remember having a dad! By the time you wake up tomorrow you probably won't remember this conversation.


The whole crazy mess started a few weeks ago when I went out of town on business. Remember? You made me promise to bring back souvenirs and your mother drove me to the airport. Well, things in the city went okay for a while but I couldn't shake off the feeling that something was off kilter there, that things just weren't right. 


Maybe it was the people I saw on the street. They seemed different somehow. 


With every passing day they seemed to get more and more...aggressive. 


They'd get annoyed about little things. You had to be careful not to antagonize anyone.


I was at a restaurant and two men started a fight over who should have an empty table. I didn't get it. The place was full of empty tables. Why fight over them? They would have killed each other if someone hadn't pulled them apart.


Violence was becoming common. I'd stumble over corpses in the street. Like everybody else I learned to walk past without seeming to notice.


The media was no help. TV and newspapers were full of stories that ridiculed people who failed to take revenge. There were shows that showed how to load and fire a gun, and tips like the one about running over a person twice to be sure they were really dead.


Even kids TV was like that. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. 


It got so that nobody trusted their neighbors. Misunderstandings resulted in shootings.


I had the feeling that the town was being rapidly depopulated. Not only that, but buildings were falling into disrepair at an alarming rate. It only took a few days to put what looked like years of decay on them.   


Whatever or whoever was causing all this must have come to the conclusion that the homicides weren't happening fast enough. I began to hear rumors that people had been inexplicably whisked away into the sky. At first I didn't believe them.


According to the stories people thought they could cheat death by staying home with the doors locked, but it didn't work. If their time was up they'd still get sucked up, only if the windows were closed they couldn't get out. 


Eventually they'd starve to death and their lifeless corpses would continue banging against the ceiling. I didn't believe any of this til I took my first walk down a suburban street. I can't begin to describe the sickening feeling I got walking along and hearing thumps inside the homes.


I'm no fool. I tried to leave but it was too late. Every avenue was closed. Small roads were overgrown with brush and trees...


....big roads simply vanished. 


There was no way out.


In only a few weeks whole parts of town had become overgrown with vegetation. It was as if the whole place was being obliterated, section by section. I looked at a map and the town wasn't even listed anymore. I mentioned the name of the town to your mother on the phone and she never heard of it, even though it used to be the state capitol.

What was going on? I talked to a guy on the street who had a theory...he said maybe this has happened throughout history. Buildings go, people go, and nobody remembers. Maybe cleaners have to eliminate the past to make way for what's happening now. Maybe that's just the way things work. I don't know. I don't understand any of it.


Under that soil had been schools and streets and people leading their lives. Now there's just...what?...wild growth and a strangely unfriendly forest. That'll probably be my fate too, if one of the angry shooters doesn't find me first.

Wait a minute, someone's at the door. Maybe it's the police. I called them a little while ago. I'll be right back.




BAM!



****THE END****

c story by Eddie Fitzgerald 12/2014, photo copyrights owned by their respective owners.