Sunday, June 29, 2008

"THE BIG STORY" AND "BOB'S BIRTHDAY"



Here's the best stop motion short done in the last twenty years, the best I know of, anyway. it's by Tim Watts ("Corpse Bride") and Dave Soten, with voices by Frank Gorshin. It spawned a few great commercials and nearly won an Acadamy Award in the mid-nineties, but I'm surprised that it didn't do even better than that.

The style easily lends itself to computer animation and demonstrates that 3D features needn't have confined themselves to kiddie subjects like penguins. Imagine what a Kirk Douglas enthusiast like John Kricfalusi could have done with a look like this!!!! Imagine, of course, what Tim and Dave could have done!





I was curious to see what animated short beat this film for the Oscar. Somebody speculated that it was "Bob's Birthday." I just watched it, and it's not horrible. What do you think?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

VINTAGE MUPPET COMMERCIALS!



Wow! Mike Fontanelli sent me some Jim Hensen commercials for Wilkin's Coffee! Whaddaya think?









I threw this one in for good measure. Boy, the Muppets sure had a way with monsters! Here's (above) a collection of the best monsters-eating-people scenes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

ROMANTIC INTERLEWD



This was done really quick and dirty, just for fun. It's a minute and forty seconds long.

Boy, how did I ever get along without an isight camera?

Friday, June 20, 2008

A PORTFOLIO PIECE FOR A DRAMATIC ACTOR



Here's (above) what they call an "Actor Demo Reel." YouTube is full of them. The Hank Harris example I used here is far better than most and yet it still disappoints on some level, (actually, the first example on the reel isn't so bad) and I was curious
to understand why.

The answer it seems to me is that Harris geared himself up to play the kind of "post-modern" roles that TV offers now. Post-modern man perceives himself as a statistic, a victim, a cork on the waves of social and psychological forces. That's so different than the way people perceived themselves in the golden age of fiction when it was believed that man possessed free will and was on the Earth to undergo a trial, and when people still believed in good and evil.





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhoaSrrA6YQ


But it also has to do with tapping into weird, supernatural forces. Harris is always believable and appealing in the parts he plays in the demo, but is that all there is? Didn't Margaret Hamilton transcend "believable and appealing" when she played the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz?" Wasn't Peter Lorre more than simply scary and convincing in "Stranger on the Third Floor?" How about Garbo in "Grand Hotel?" It seems to me that it's an actor's job to bring to the project a pre-existing character of great power and iconic significance.




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoyEHyB4MnQ&feature=related


Then there's technique. It seems to me that a good actor lays down a tone and a rhythm that other actors can bounce off of. Actors playing a scene are like musicians in a jazz combo. They're laboring to create sounds that combine into a beautiful, satisfying whole. In my opinion you can learn more about this from the great character and supporting actors than from the stars.

I admit that I don't know anything about dramatic acting. If I did I'd probably have a lot more respect for what Harris did in the demo.


NOTE: In order to publish this post I had to delete my two previous ones dealing with solo dancing and Jim's sense of film. I started this post before I began the others (then saved what I'd done as a draft) and now, when I try to publish it, it will only post beneath the others where it won't be seen. The only thing I could do was to delete the top posts. My deepest apologies to commenters on the two deleted posts.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"THE LATE-NIGHT INTRUDER"



Wow! Here's the video I did with Jim Arnold, the amazing guy who did the YouTube video I posted about called "Robber's Apprentice." We never actually met, this whole video was done via emails and shared Quicktime footage. What an age we live in!

Next time I'll put up some of Jim's raw footage. You won't believe how skilled this guy is!

BTW, the video might look compressed on some computers. I don't know why that happened, but if you click on it the right way it should take you to YouTube where you can see it in a normal format. If you hear two soundtracks at once just ...well, just fiddle with it. it'll turn out OK.

Monday, June 16, 2008

RUBE GOLDBERG: GENIUS (PART 3)

Just fooling around on the net I found myself once again immersed in the bottomless well of creativity called Rube Goldberg. Forget the mature Goldberg who did all the invention drawings; I'm interested in the young artist who did his best work before 1925.



Twins are funny and two twins getting hit on the head at the same time (above) are funnier still. Nobody in Goldber's universe stays in center screen very long. The world around funny people is funny too.  Weird people are always passing in the foreground and background.


Goldberg's generation knew that  suits with tails (above) are funny.  Even normal business suit jackets had a high, tight-fitting waist line that flaired out below the waist and had a big center cut in the back...perfect for interesting back shots.

 
Nobody in Goldberg's strips looked dignified from the back.



Goldberg was fond of kibbitzers who stood around commenting on other people (above). Sometimes a ridiculous number of kibbitzers and loafers would show up.  They'd lean against walls, help themselves to your chewing tobacco, and argue with each other, all the time making sarcastic comments about you.

Notice the twins at the window.  Twins with beards are God's gift to cartoonists.
   


The Olive Oyl head (above) is a great template for funny characters of both sexes. I love little, beady eyes on a ball with a low nose and mouth. Goldberg correctly adds to the effect by giving men suit jackets made with Cliff Sterret-type drapery patterns.
 

This (above) is from my favorite Goldberg period. He seemed incapable of doing a drawing that was less than hilarious. Nobody in the Goldberg world of that time fit the chairs and vehicles they used. Even their clothes didn't fit. People were always out of sync with their enviornment but they were all so obsessed with what they were doing that they didn't seem to notice. 



Goldberg eventually did more normal kinds of strips like the one above, but you get the feeling that he considered them to be a burden.

I wonder if he was influenced by the plague that overtook silent live-action comedies in this period. Even before the invention of sound films the studios began to show disdain for gag shorts. They increasingly turned out comedies that told a story and more or less followed the rules of dramatic story telling.  Why the studios chose to commit comedic suicide is beyond my understanding.





Saturday, June 14, 2008

SOME LEFT-OVER PICTURES

I just threw away a lot of unpublished pictures I've been saving, mostly ones from old photo essays. Here's a few that I decided to keep.

Here's (above) Uriah Heep or maybe Ichabod Crane.



The Farm Hand Too Often Kicked by Mules (above).



The Romance Reader (above).


The Nudist (above).


Cowboy Bob (above).








The Critic (above).





The Evil Puppet (above).


The Smoker (above).






Tuesday, June 10, 2008

THE HORRIFIC STORY BEHIND "THE ROMANCE READER"


I was disappointed to see that Theory Cornerites didn't seem to like "The Romance Reader", but, truth to tell, I didn't really like it much myself. I didn't exactly dislike it, but it just didn't grab me. I spent half the day worrying about this and I thought I'd share what I came up with.

Well, there were lots of flaws in the execution, but that's inevitable when you blog frequently. No, the thing that really bugged me was that my facial expressions were beginning to be repetitious. Close repeated expressions are fine but you have to earn them by doing whole-body stuff. Videos that are all expressions are like a cake that's all icing. It's just too much! Aaaargh! A painful lesson, but a necessary one. I'll see what I can do about it. I can't stop making videos in front of the computer because it's too much fun, but I'll try to widen the repertoire.






Talking about lessons learned, I thought you might be interested to know the painful, horrific story about the making of the romance film. Brace yourself, it's not for the squeamish.

My original idea was for a sketch about a romance reader who compulsively eats liquid-filled chocolates while she's reading. She's so absorbed in the book that she doesn't notice how sticky she's getting till it's too late. She tries to wipe off the goo and only succeeds in spreading the stickiness to her face and hair, the book...everything. Her hair sticks to the book and it begins disintegrate as she tries to peal apart the sticky pages. As the song ends we see her dirty and dishevelled and covered with sticky, raggedy kleenexes and book pages, but amazingly she's still absorbed in the story! I was really happy. It seemed like a fun idea.



Well, little did I know that it was the idea from hell. Those liquidy chocolates you saw in the video were real, and they really were sticky. I mean REALLY, REALLY sticky...sticky as in made with equal parts of super glue and molasses! I got 15 for a dollar and I wondered how the store could afford to sell them so cheap. Now I know. They destroy every room that they're in, and you have to spend forever in the shower to get the stuff off. The keyboard I'm typing this on is still sticking to my fingers. Half the things on my desk are still stuck together, and there are stains on my carpet that just won't go away. Those chocolates were nasty!!!!!!






(I'd be curious to know what happened to these destructive chocolates after I threw them in the trash. Maybe the curse continued with a new set of people, like in Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp.")








Now you see the problem. I started filming and was amazed to find that the chocolates from hell really were as bad as I was portraying them. I had to keep turning off the computer when I realized the stuff was oozing onto the floor and all over my pants (sorry to disappoint but I had guy clothes on under the old lady gown). I accidentally spilled and stepped on the chocolates and that led to no end of problems. Finally I had to stop filming and tack on a phony ending just to finish it.

Now, I know what you're thinking...that I'm a wimp because a real actor would have allowed everything to get covered with goo for the sake of the film. If you write me a comment with that idealistic opinion, I hope you'll accompany it with a check for my carpet cleaning.





Anyway, now you know the saga of the romance story. I learned a lot in the making of this video, mostly about coming up with ideas that are actually do-able.





THE ROMANCE READER



I'm posting this for Forgettable, the genius who did "Robber's Apprentice," which I posted about last week. We're doing a YouTube video together and I thought he'd need to see the type of character I was thinking of doing.

There are a lot of flaws in this video, but it was a great learning experience and I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

NAKED POETRY READING




Greetingth again, poetry loverth!!!!!! Once again it's Naked Poetry Corner!

To get the effect you have to WATCH BOTH VIDEOS AT THE SAME TIME, so keep them both in frame.

Turn on the bottom (b&W) video, then wait three seconds and turn on the top (color) video!

Thanks to Lalalizabeth, whose videos can be viewed on YouTube.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

TWO VERSIONS OF "THE FOUR YORKSHIREMEN"



Here's a question for you: which of the two versions of this routine works best,
and why? If you're like me you'll prefer the top version with John Cleese and Graham Chapman, who also wrote it...but why is their performance better? No fair saying "Because they're geniuses," because that only begs the question. Of what does that genius consist?

Watch both videos and try to make an answer before you read what I've written below.





I'll be interested to see if anyone has a thought about this. I can't really answer my own question. Certainly the one on the bottom which, you have to admit, is still professional, lacks a musical sensibility. I always see ensembles of actors as a jazz combo with the sound of each voice being a separate and distinct musical instrument. There's no variety among these lesser actors.

Also you don't get the feeling that the guys on the bottom are really friends, or that any of them care what the others are saying. They all seem to be in a rush to start their dialogue right on the heels of the last guy. That, and their readings lack emphasis.

Last but not least, none of the bottom actors seem to realize the value of a good set-up. Why didn't they do what the top actors did and walk in as if they were tired from having eaten a big meal? They should have flopped down and spoken wistfully, as if they were in a rare philosophical mood. Of course I only know that because I saw Cleese and friends do it that way.

The problem is, that this isn't all. There's clearly a big difference that I'm not getting. What do you think?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

GWEETINGTH, POETRY LOVERTH! (#5)

WARNING: THIS IS A READING OF POETRY BY JOHN MILTON BUT IT'S NOT FOR LITTLE KIDS, AND IT'S NOT EXACTLY OFFICE SAFE!




*****



*****



*****



*****






OK, this is an experiment! To get the effect YOU HAVE TO PLAY BOTH VIDEOS AT THE SAME TIME! You also have to keep both clearly in the frame where you can see them!

Start the top video (the color one) first. Let it play for exactly 30 seconds, then turn on the bottom one (the black and white one). The top video should be louder than the other.

That's it! Boy, I hope this works!


BTW, many thanks to the inventer of this technique, Mike Fontanelli!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

ONE MORE THOUGHT ABOUT "THE RINK"



There's more to say about "The Rink," if you're up for it! I thought it would be fun to talk about the story. I don't have much space, so I'll just talk about the first half.

You could almost have called the story "The Restaurant" because so much of the first half takes place there. Why the split locales? Shouldn't a story about a rink take place mostly in a rink? Maybe there was some practical reason. Anyway, I have a pragmatic view about it. Doing it this way resulted in a great film, end of argument.

The story in the restaurant sets up the conflict between Chaplin (the waiter) and Eric Cambell (the big, burly customer). Actually the conflict was Chaplin's fault because he tried to cheat Cambell out of his change, but it doesn't matter. We sympathize with Chaplin because he's cute. I guess the logic of the heart is what counts here, not the logic of the mind.

The writer could have written to heavily favor the main conflict between Chaplin and Cambell, instead there were constant digressions into funny subplots about secondary characters like the cook and the head waiter. In a way this sequence is about the zany life in the restaurant as much as it's about Chaplin. The action is fast and furious with people getting into fights, flirting, getting fired, etc. at a rapid pace. A modern writer would simplify the story to focus on the Chaplin/Cambell conflict...and he'd be wrong. Subtext means a lot.

The full name of the film is something like, "The Rink: The Story of an Amorous Waiter." That's odd because the first half of the story hardly ever puts Chaplin in a romantic situation. You get the feeling that Chaplin had trouble deciding what the film was about. The scene that starts the film sets up the girl in the story but it feels tacked on, as if it was added later as an afterthought. Amazingly, faults like this don't seem to harm the film at all. The pace, the acting, and the strong intuition of the director carries it.