Monthly Archives: April 2012

Short Animation Blogathon: Day 4

Today we reach the end of our Short Animation Blogathon! Thanks so much to everyone who contributed–you all wrote amazing things about a huge variety of animation. One of our more selfish goals with this blogathon was to introduce ourselves to more short animation and, thanks to all of you, it was a complete success! To close out the week, here’s my own write up on some of my favorite short animation and the last of the links!

Ashley’s Hour of Short Animation

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (Chuck Jones, 1965, 10 minutes). When I would watch Looney Tunes, as I invariably did every single day in my early childhood (especially in my pre-kindergarten days), I would hope and pray for The Dot and the Line to come on. The straight-edged Line, vivacious Dot, and coarse Squiggle star in a tale of unrequited love, despair, self-discovery, and triumph, smoothly narrated by Robert Morley. I was drawn in by the soft colors and shapes, captivated by the intricate, delicate designs used by the Line to woo the Dot, and most importantly, intrigued by the abstract form of storytelling, which seemed so starkly unique when set beside the very straightforward, blunt stories of Bugs Bunny and the like. It was unlike everything else in the Looney Tunes lineup and as a result, it was (and still is) my favorite.

Susie the Little Blue Coupe (Clyde Geronimi, 1952, 7 minutes). Unlike The Dot and the Line, this is not a cartoon from my childhood, though it feels like one. I was first introduced to this cartoon last summer by Pussy Goes Grrr’s friend and contributor Jacob Canfield, who designed our lovely banner for this blogathon. I couldn’t get over how blatant the metaphors in this story were: we watch as Susie, a bright little blue car who symbolizes a ’50s trophy wife, rises, falls, and is reborn. I don’t want to get too into the details since I’m working on a larger, more in-depth post about this cartoon but suffice it to say that if you haven’t seen this, you should definitely check it out.

What’s Opera, Doc? (Chuck Jones, 1957, 7 minutes). Back to Chuck Jones and the cartoons of my youth—what is there to say about What’s Opera, Doc? that hasn’t been said countless times? It’s one of the best cartoons ever, possibly Jones’ and co.’s best, and definitely my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon. So much passion and emotion packed into 7 little minutes, while still maintaining the lightness and frivolity of the average Merrie Melodies toon (even with its darkly funny ending).

Harvie Krumpet (Adam Elliot, 2003, 22 minutes). After I watched the heartbreaking Mary and Max (2009), I sought out Adam Elliot’s earlier short Harvie Krumpet and was pleased to find the same quirky storytelling and humor that made me love Mary and Max so much. Elliot’s strange claymation worlds have a certain charm and darkness to them that seem to tug and pull at each other until they find a perfect balance—as in the case of Harvie Krumpet, who, despite calamity after calamity disrupting his life, develops an optimistic and supremely eccentric outlook. Harvie Krumpet manages to successfully and profoundly tackle broad themes of life, death, self-fulfillment, aging, happiness, and fate more effectively in 22 minutes than many films could ever hope to with a feature-length running time.

Bob’s Birthday (Alison Snowden and David Fine, 1993, 12 minutes) This is a cartoon that, despite being so obviously intended for adults, is still a cartoon from my childhood. When I was a kid, I had trouble sleeping, and I also had a television with cable in my room, which meant if I wanted to I could stay up all night watching TV. In Cartoon Network’s pre-Adult Swim days, they ran a show of adult animation called O Canada at midnight and I watched it a lot. Bob’s Birthday, the Academy Award-winning short that led to the Bob and Margaret TV series, is the short I remember most vividly from those late nights. I was hyper-aware of the fact that this was not meant for kids and yet here I was, watching this mundanely funny toon about Bob’s embarrassing midlife crisis—and just imagine my sense of wonder and rebellion when Bob walked on screen with no fucking pants on. I was like, ten. And here was animated, extremely non-sexual penis on cable television. It definitely altered my little brain, for the better.

And now to conclude Pussy Goes Grrr’s Short Animation Blogathon, here are the final links:

  • Stacia from She Blogged by Night writes “A Delightful Hour of Animated Shorts (Not the Kind You Wear) (Probably),” a fantastic write-up about Adult Swim-era animation. She gives some history and insight on the ways Cartoon Network attempted to grow up with it’s demographic, cashing in on the nostalgic yearnings of twentysomething college students who grew up with Looney Tunes, plus a little X-rated, animated fun thrown in for good measure.
  • And we end, appropriately, with one more dose of the Fleischer Brothers. KC from Classic Movies has “Random Picks” for us, including a salacious line-up of Betty Boop cartoons, an early animated short, and a personal favorite of mine, Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart as narrated by James Mason.

If you have any additional posts for the blogathon, please send them to us and they will get linked. Otherwise, this concludes our fun week of celebrating animation. Thanks to all our lovely contributors and readers! We hope you saw some great cartoons.

  • Sure enough, we had one last submission: the estimable David Cairns also took on Chuck Jones’ The Dot and the Line, unexpectedly positioning it vis-à-vis Vertigo. I couldn’t have asked for a better blogathon coda.

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Short Animation Blogathon: Day 3

After a brief pause, the blogathon train is back on the tracks and rushing forward at full speed. Here are four to-die-for links, just bursting with animated goodness:

  • To start off, Tim Bryton from Antagony & Ecstasy (one of my very favorite movie blogs) gives us “Canadian Animation: A Primer.” I don’t know what to say about it other than click, read, watch. His picks range across a variety of tones and styles, but all of them attest to the beauty of government-subsidized filmmaking.
  • Brandie from True Classics has written a post after my own heart, “Wait ’til you get a view of sweet Betty,” delving into the lascivious history of pre-Code Betty Boop. Some of these cartoons have to be seen to be believed; sexual violence was everywhere.
  • Trish from Tricia’s Obligatory Art Blog! has a smorgasbord of Warner Bros. shorts by Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, and Tex Avery. It’s a wonderful selection—I mean, duh—and it brought my attention to the impossible cuteness of Feed the Kitty. So cute.
  • Our last link for the day is to Chris from Recently Viewed Movies, who highlights a series of “Aesop’s Fables” shorts by Paul Terry. They’re new to me, but Chris’s sample involves bootlegging and hallucinations. What’s not to love?

These contributors really went above and beyond, picking out a fun, diverse array of cartoons. So thanks to Tim, Brandie, Trish, and Chris! We’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up the blogathon and, of course, recommend a whole lot more cartoons…

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Brotherly Love

[This is my second entry in the Blind Spot Series hosted by Ryan of The Matinee.]

Family sucks. Seriously. You’re born into it—no choice, no argument—and it shapes you, for better or worse. You’re totally dependent on it. It cultivates a sense of responsibility in you, of loyalty and debt. No matter how flawed or fucked up or frustrating your family members are, you still have to accept them as a fundamental part of your life. Your family can please or pain you, but (even through their absence) they are always there.

These truths are at the core of Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Luchino Visconti’s epic of family dysfunction. In its representation of the Parondi brothers, the film captures the thorny coupling of love and hate that characterizes most sibling relationships. The brothers brawl, then reconcile; they hold one another up, then let one another down. Suffocated by poverty, each brother maps out his own dreams: a new apartment, a steady paycheck, fame in the boxing ring. But none can avoid the downward pull of family obligation.

The brother who pulls the most is Simone. As played by Renato Salvatori, he’s a model of blinkered machismo, incapable of adjusting his ambitions (both as boxer and ladies’ man) to fit reality. Initially charming, he quickly outs himself as a manipulative lecher, then slides into delusion and depravity throughout the remainder of the film. He’s the family instigator, knocking down his brothers and ex-girlfriend like dominoes, letting his resentment for Rocco destroy him from the inside.

Rocco’s played by beautiful French star Alain Delon, and he’s the family dark horse. Initially modest and hard-working, his star rises while Simone’s fades: he gets the boxing career, the pride, and (for a time) the girl. But like the rest of his brothers—the newlywed Vincenzo, the peacemaker Ciro, and the preteen Luca—he’s dragged into Simone’s toxic orbit. Violence flows between them like a contagion as, courtesy of the film’s precise structure, we watch their respective subplots grow and intertwine for three rich hours.

For all its fixation on family values, Rocco and His Brothers is never sentimental. In Visconti’s Neorealist vision, Milan is a greasy collection of piazzas and housing complexes; economic mobility is a pleasant myth; and the Parondi brothers are typically clad in wifebeaters and their own sweat. Discontent germinates out of cramped apartment life to the tune of Nino Rota’s often tense, sometimes warm, always sensual score. It’s a seamy, uncomfortable depiction of working-class life that’s brimming with uncomfortable truths.

With this radical honesty and thematic breadth, it’s no surprise that Rocco was a huge influence on the cinema of New Hollywood. Descendants of the Parondi brothers are everywhere, most visibly in The Godfather—a film whose Rota score also has a leitmotif in common with Rocco’s—and Raging Bull, another film about boxing, self-destruction, and sibling rivalry that couldn’t exist without Visconti. Following in Rocco’s stead, these films present unvarnished family life, with all its respites and tragedies, where the only fate worse than being together is being apart.

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Short Animation Blogathon: Day 2

For the second day of the blogathon, I have the privilege of linking to some diverse, informative pieces. Enjoy!

  • First, friend-of-Pussy-Goes-Grrr Jake from Not Just Movies wrote a really sophisticated appreciation of a single short, Pixar’s “Day & Night.” Thanks to this post, I revisited the short, and can say that Jake is dead-on: it’s a sweet, funny story and a dazzling spatial/temporal experiment, totally worthy of his insightful prose.
  • Next up, Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights reviewed four “DC Showcase Short Films”—shorts packaged with DVDs, featuring DC superheroes. Judging by the reviews, they sound like a mixed bag, but I’m still always curious to hear about superhero properties being developed in ways other than “bland live-action feature.” So kudos to Bubbawheat for the reviews.
  • Finally, David from An Empire of One contributes not just one post, but a whole tag, “Cartoons: Themes and Variations.” His subjects run the gamut from Tex Avery and Woody Woodpecker to a Canadian short called To Be, which he declares a good substitute for watching The Prestige. So get thee hence and read!

We’ll be back throughout the week with more links and animated surprises…

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Short Animation Blogathon: Day 1

The Short Animation Blogathon is here!

Two weeks ago, we announced it; now it’s time to follow through. All this week, we’ll be accepting submissions at p.g.grrr@gmail.com and posting links to your lists of favorite animated shorts. And what better way to start out the blogathon than with a live demonstration?

Andreas’s Hour of Short Animation

Let’s watch some cartoons! This is my attempt to mix a variety of styles, moods, and time periods into an hour-long mini-festival of beloved animation. Let’s see how well I fare…

  • The Wrong Trousers (Nick Park, 1993, 30 minutes). All three of Park’s Wallace and Gromit shorts are absolute delights; they’re charming, ultra-British, and visually witty. But The Wrong Trousers is in a category of its own. It’s a master class in short-form screenwriting, it features the most heartbreaking dog/human relationship this side of Umberto D., and its meticulous chains of cause and effect capitalize so well on the unique powers of animation. I could seriously watch it day in, day out, on a loop.
  • Frank Film (Frank and Caroline Mouris, 1973, 9 minutes). This Oscar winner compensates for its brevity with sheer density as it pours out a deluge of audovisual information about Frank Mouris’s life. It races from facet to facet, from childhood to maturity, through cars, food, sex, and socializing. Its breakneck visuals are complemented by Mouris’s deadpan narration, resulting in a painfully honest mini-macro-memoir.
  • Feline Fantasies (Bruno Bozzetto, 1976, ~6 minutes). This one’s a chapter from Bozzetto’s Fantasia spoof Allegro Non Troppo. Set to Sibelius’s “Valse Triste,” it’s a dagger to the heart of every cat lover in the audience. It can be colorful and frisky, sure, but it’s also brutally tearjerking. In fact, I don’t know if I can keep writing about it without splashing tears all over my keyboard…
  • Betty Boop’s May Party (Dave Fleischer, 1933, 7 minutes). After that emotional ordeal, you’ll want to watch something peppy. Thankfully, May Party is a dose of raw pep. It’s nearly plotless and has little to do with Betty Boop; instead, it’s a catalog of abuses, mutilations, and natural disasters turned into one big, frenetic, ritualized dance. And it’s hilarious.
  • Quasi at the Quackadero (Sally Cruikshank, 1975, 10 minutes). Sporting a heavy Fleischer Bros. influence, Cruikshank’s cult cartoon is as compulsively rewatchable as it is incomprehensible. It’s a tour through a series of impossible fair attractions—a thought illustrator, dream reader, past life viewer, time machine, etc.—courtesy of man-child/duck Quasi, his wife, and her robot paramour. Between this fundamental weirdness, the idiosyncratic line readings, and the hyperactive animation, Quasi is a sort of wacky, acid-drenched Double Indemnity that doubles as a tribute to animated shorts past and future.

I’ll wrap up with the first of our submissions. It’s “5 Best Lego Stop Motion Horror Films” by Bodhi of Old Horror Movies. I was only vaguely aware of the “brickfilm” genre before this, and Bodhi’s list is a great introduction. These block-by-block, shot-by-shot recreations are a testament to the low-budget imagination of some dedicated horror fans. So check out those videos, and stay tuned for updates throughout the week!

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Dreams I Have Had About Pregnancy

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Pussy Goes “Three Whole Years!”

Can you believe it’s been three years? Three years since Ashley and I started posting embarrassing, self-indulgent rants that gradually evolved into coherent essays and arguments. Three years since that fateful Earth Day in 2009, when we staked out this little plot of Internet and called it our own. And you know what? They’ve been three enlightening, satisfying years. We’ve felt a sense of community both here and on social media, we’ve exchanged ideas, and we’ve really grown as writers/people.

So basically, thank you. Thank you for reading or commenting or linking or supporting us in any way. You are the reason for Pussy Goes Grrr.

And now that I’ve dispensed with this year’s requisite sappiness, I have a fun opportunity to share with you: the Short Animation Blogathon runs from tomorrow to Friday! So between now and then, you can post a list of your favorite animated shorts online somewhere, send a link to p.g.grrr@gmail.com, and we’ll include it in our round-ups! More details here.

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