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The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of

Less then well known movies that I think are worth checking out.

SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST (1997)

The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of

sick_01

The goal of this blog, very simply, is to bring to light movies that either weren’t widely seen during their release or films that have somewhat fallen into obscurity.  The hope is that someone who hasn’t seen these films will take a look at them.  I certainly can’t promise that you’ll like them and I’m sure that if the movie being profiled doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then you’ll probably skip that one.  I certainly hope you’ll watch every film that I write about but hey, we’ve all got things to do.

When compiling a list of potential films to write about I inevitably started to list some titles that I’m well aware aren’t for everybody.  I imagine that some of my past entries will have their detractors.  I know that there are people who gave Return to Oz a shot and just didn’t like it.  Some will…

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SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST (1997)

The goal of this blog, very simply, is to bring to light movies that either weren’t widely seen during their release or films that have somewhat fallen into obscurity.  The hope is that someo…

Source: SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST (1997)

SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST (1997)

sick_01

The goal of this blog, very simply, is to bring to light movies that either weren’t widely seen during their release or films that have somewhat fallen into obscurity.  The hope is that someone who hasn’t seen these films will take a look at them.  I certainly can’t promise that you’ll like them and I’m sure that if the movie being profiled doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then you’ll probably skip that one.  I certainly hope you’ll watch every film that I write about but hey, we’ve all got things to do.

When compiling a list of potential films to write about I inevitably started to list some titles that I’m well aware aren’t for everybody.  I imagine that some of my past entries will have their detractors.  I know that there are people who gave Return to Oz a shot and just didn’t like it.  Some will dismiss Beyond the Valley of the Dolls as a cheesy sex comedy and not appreciate the its off-the-wall humor and craftsmanship.  XXY, a film about a transgender teenager might sound unusual to some but I do feel that if you give the film a chance you’ll not only like it but understand transgender people better, which is important in our current political climate.

Sick:  The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist is definitely not for the squeamish.  It features some extremely graphic imagery and has a subject matter, namely hard-core S&M, that will simply be too off-putting for some.  But if you are willing to look beyond the films more shocking moments you’ll be rewarded with a documentary about the triumph of the human spirit, the healing power of art and humor and, above all else, a bona fide love story.

Bob Flanagan, the subject of the film, was the worlds oldest known survivor of cystic fibrosis.  A horrible disease for which there is currently no known cure, cystic fibrosis, or CF as it’s sometimes known in short-hand, causes frequent inflammation in the lungs.  This results in an abundance of mucus and can lead to all kinds of breathing problems.  It can also cause problems in the liver, pancreas, kidneys and intestines, often resulting in uncontrollable bowl and urine production.  Most people with CF die in childhood.  Few have ever lived past seventeen.  At the time of the documentary Flanagan was already in his forties.

Flanagan had to endure a childhood filled with pain and discomfort.  At some point though he grew to realize that by inflicting pain onto himself he actually was able to not only elevate the pain caused by the disease but that it also brought with it an erotic rush.

In one scene we see him telling a story about his childhood.  When he was in high school he used to tie himself up by the wrists when everyone else in the house was asleep.  He also talks about whipping himself with a belt that he had stuck pins into and getting blood all over the bathroom wall.  “I always had this terrible Catholic guilt,” he says during the monologue.  “My Mom would knock on the door and I’d think to myself ‘you see, you do this kind of stuff and bad things happen.'”  Bob’s gleefully dark sense of humor is a big part of his M.O.

Eventually Bob fused his love of S&M and his dark sense of humor together and became a performance artist – Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.  He would appear on stage wearing nothing a but a cape and a pair of underwear over his frail and bruised body.  Along with the IV tubes sticking out of his arms and torso are various piercings, tattoos and other bruises brought about by his self-inflicted masochism.  At one point he sings a parody of “Supercalofridgulasticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, which he renames “Super Masochistic Bob with Cystic Fibrosis/ Just how long he’s gonna live is anyones prognosis.”  He then sings a chorus that goes “umdidalittle dittle, I’m gonna die, umdidalittle dittle I’m gonna die…”

Along with this self deprecating humor Flanagan also puts his body through some very painful rituals right on stage.  These range from shackling his arms and hoisting himself up, to taking off a bathrobe and revealing a free weight tied to his penis to actually driving a nail through his johnson.  This scene is showed in graphic detail during the film.  I hope I haven’t lost you by now but if you were to look away during that scene I would not judge you.

Bob also has a number of fine art instilations that he puts together for a private show.  These include “the wall of pain” which comprises of several video monitors showing parts of Bobs body going through various bondage rituals and a coffin with a note saying “sorry to be late” hanging from the door of the casket.  One particularly clever little piece of fine art is an “invisible man”, one of those plastic anatomy sculptures depicting a man with a plastic epidermis that allows us to see the anatomy within.  Bob rigs the little plastic sculpture up with tubes to depict it secreting mucus, fecal matter and semen, all made mostly from hair care products and all secreting at abnormally high rates.

Bob also makes performance art films with Sheree Rose, his partner of fifteen years.  Sheree, who is also a photographer, is a true dominatrix.  She’s not an actress or prostitute who dresses up in a tight leather outfit and gives guys spankings.  She’s a true blue sadist.  She admits how as a child she was very bossy and combative and would lead other children down to the basement and touch them in places she shouldn’t.  Somehow she and Bob got together and it proved to be an unusually compatible match.  She was willing to work on his art projects and to help take care of him while Bob was willing to submit to whatever type of hardcore bondage Sheree yearned to try.  He even drew up a “contract” that gave her complete dominion over his body.

Whereas Bob usually comes across as humorous and even kind of carefree (at least when his CF isn’t acting up), Sheree seems more aloof.  She doesn’t seem like a mean person but she does seem to harbor a great deal of hostility.  We get an idea why when we see a home video from a recent Thanksgiving visit with her parents.  They fight and squabble worse than Frank and Estelle Costanza and you just sit there wishing you can leave the room.  Who knows?  Maybe if she didn’t find Bob she would be as outwardly miserable as her parents.

Bob’s home life seems to have been the polar opposite.  We meet his parents, both of whom look like the nicest, most straight-laced people on earth.  His mother reflects that “I read some of his book and I just wondered ‘where was I?'”  The Dad claims that they were the most tight-knit family imaginable.  We later see Bob with his brother Tim who says that Bob was a sort of moral cop when they were younger.  Tim, who is gay, thought he was the one with unusual sexual appetites.  Things are never as they appear.  This might also be true of the Flanagan’s home life.  Happy as they may seem it couldn’t have been easy raising a child with cystic fibrosis.  We learn that Bob had a sister who died at twenty-one and another sister who died in infancy.

While Bob’s unusually dark sense of humor and his artistic streak may have helped him get through life it’s clear throughout the film that he has a very big heart and genuinely wants to help others with this horrid disease.  We learn that when he was young he went to a camp for young children with CF.  Once he was old enough he became a councilor, a job he held well up until the time of this documentary.

Also in the course of the film we meet a young girl from Ontario named Sarah who is also afflicted with CF.  She had read Bob’s memoirs and felt a kinship with him and through the Make-a-Wish foundation was able to meet Bob.  She bonded with both Bob and Sheree, who wonders if she might want to try S&M herself.  Bob talks Sheree out of it.  Sarah admits that she can understand Bob’s attraction to S&M because for once it allows him to be in control of his body.  Sarah later returns to L.A. to see Bob and Sheree again.  No, she doesn’t get into bondage but they do take her to get one of her nipples pierced.  A special feature on the DVD shows Sarah in 2003.  She’s married and raises horses.  I did a google search to find out about her today.  I’m sorry to say that she passed away early in 2016.  Still, she seems like she lived an eventful life.

As the film progresses, Flanagan’s health deteriorates.  Eventually his breathing problems become unbearable.  Sheree tries to convince Bob to take part in some bondage exercises but it’s soon clear that he’s too sick for any sex games.

I don’t think a spoiler alert is necessary since the subtitle of the film is The Life AND DEATH of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.  Sure enough, at age forty-three, the cystic fibrosis gets the better of him.  Director Kirby Dick happened to be present during his demise.  We see Sheree as her cold hard exterior erodes and as she tearfully begs Bob to stay alive.  The final moments of his life are captured in still photographs as his body perishes and is removed from the hospital room.  This might seem unusually macabre but so was Bob.  At one point he says that he would like to be buried with a video camera in his coffin so that one of his collectors can watch his deterioration.  I’m quite sure that due to the embalming process it now takes many years before a body decomposes but then I’m not an undertaker.  Still, I can see the humor in such a notion.  I can also see how Bob Flanagan can and should be looked upon as a hero, a man who found a way to express himself and (for the most part) enjoy his life despite a crippling, painful and messy illness.  It also can be looked upon as a true blue love story.  Sure, Bob and Sheree are an unusual couple but it’s clear at the end of the film that their love was genuine.  Hell, watching Bob die from CF was a hundred times more poignant then watching Ali McGraw die of nothing in that other Love Story.

The film’s director, Kirby Dick, has pretty much made a career out of exploring human sexuality in it’s many facets, both positive and negative and everything in between.  One of his first films was Private Practice:  The Story of a Sex Surrogate.  His later films include Twist of Fate, which explores the child abuse cases within the Catholic Church;  Outrage, which explores repressed homosexuality within the Republican party; The Invisible War which centers on the epidemic of rape within the U.S. Arms services and his flawed but often informative This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which explores the clandestine way that the MPAA rates movies.  One thing we learn (surprise, surprise) is that their far harder on films for depicting sex and nudity than violence.

We live in a very curious time when it comes to human sexuality.  I’m quite amazed and delighted that people have accepted the idea of gay marriage and that the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  I think it’s very good that we’re beginning to understand that some people are transgender, that someone can identify themselves as being of a different gender then the one they were born with.  I do think that Katlyn Jenner’s public transition, while partially done to boost ratings of that dumb TV show has helped the public at large to understand transgender people better.  And yes, I am completely against any law that bars people from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

I also must point out the fact that during the nineties we had a president who was nearly brought down due to an extramarital affair with a consenting adult.  Among those who lead the Clinton impeachment were Newt Gingrich, who twice divorced a sick wife to be with a younger woman and Dennis Hassert, now serving time for pedophilia.  Right now we have a president who was caught bragging about how he likes to “grab (women) by the pussy” and can walk in on beauty pageant contestants while they’re changing.  Bob Flanagan might seem “sick” to some in a figurative sense, but he only ever wanted to inflict pain onto his own body and receive pain from a consensual, adult life partner.  I can only speak for myself but if one were to compare Bob Flanagan to Donald Trump I can tell you right away which one of them is truly sick.

 

R.I.P. BILL PAXTON

I just read about the recent passing of the fine actor/director Bill Paxton.  In honor of him I thought it might be nice to show you one of the more obscure but by all means unique films in …

Source: R.I.P. BILL PAXTON

R.I.P. BILL PAXTON

fish-heads

 

I just read about the recent passing of the fine actor/director Bill Paxton.  In honor of him I thought it might be nice to show you one of the more obscure but by all means unique films in his canon.

In 1978 the underground music duo Barnes & Barnes recorded a strange little ditty called “Fish Heads”.  Bill Paxton, a friend of theirs, produced a quirky little low budget music video based on their song.  It aired on Saturday Night Live on Dec. 6, 1980, admittedly a very low point in the programs history.  The video was also occasionally shown on the upstart Mtv network while the “Fish Heads” single was frequently played on the Dr. Demento radio program.

Enjoy.

 

THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982)

The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of

thesecretofnimhscreen

 

As you can see from the masthead the name of this blog is “The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of”. That parenthetic “probably” is important. I have no way of knowing what movies you the reader have heard of, let alone have seen. On more then one occasion I received a post from someone saying that they loved one of the films I profiled. Also I sometimes just want to re-watch and write about a movie I loved and haven’t seen in some time.

If you were a kid in the eighties like I was then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of and have also seen The Secret of NIMH. If you grew up in an earlier or later time period you probably haven’t. The Secret of NIMH was the first animated feature directed by Don Bluth, a Disney ex-patriot who left the House of Mouse and brought…

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THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982)

As you can see from the masthead the name of this blog is “The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of”. That parenthetic “probably” is important. I have no way of knowing what movies you the r…

Source: THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982)

THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982)

thesecretofnimhscreen

 

As you can see from the masthead the name of this blog is “The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of”. That parenthetic “probably” is important. I have no way of knowing what movies you the reader have heard of, let alone have seen. On more then one occasion I received a post from someone saying that they loved one of the films I profiled. Also I sometimes just want to re-watch and write about a movie I loved and haven’t seen in some time.

If you were a kid in the eighties like I was then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of and have also seen The Secret of NIMH. If you grew up in an earlier or later time period you probably haven’t. The Secret of NIMH was the first animated feature directed by Don Bluth, a Disney ex-patriot who left the House of Mouse and brought a team of animators with him to start his own studio. NIMH wasn’t a hit at the box office but thanks to the growing home video market and HBO, many kids and families saw The Secret of NIMH. Even my Dad, who normally ignored whatever my sister and I were watching on TV loved the film.

Don Bluth, a native of El Paso, Texas first worked for the Disney studios in the mid-fifties, working as an assistant animator on Sleeping Beauty. He then spent several years in Argentina doing missionary work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. When he returned to the states he first went to work for Filmation, a low-budget animation studio that produced Saturday Morning cartoons. Bluth’s first assignment was drawing layouts for a cartoon based on the Archie comics.

He then went to Disney where he worked on The Adventures of Robin Hood and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. He later was one of the key animators on The Rescuers and was principally responsible for animating Elliot, the title character in Pete’s Dragon. On the one hand Bluth was able to learn from the masters. Some of Disney’s “nine old men” such as Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson were still working at the studio and were eager to pass down their expertise. There were also a number of new animators coming in such as Ron Clements, John Musker, Brad Bird and the man who would co-found Pixar and is now the president of Disney animation, the great John Lasseter. Bluth had a hand in training these future masters.

Alas, Bluth was also frustrated. Hard as it is to believe now, Disney was only producing an animated feature every four years and while there are people who fondly remember Robin Hood and The Rescuers it’s pretty hard to argue that they don’t hold up as well as the great animated classics such as Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi and others, or even such latter day hits as 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book. Fact is, by the late seventies/early eighties it looked as if the animated feature was on the verge of extinction. Fact is not many animated films that weren’t produced by the Disney studio were ever hits. There were a few, of course. Yellow Submarine was a hit thanks to the Beatles and the fact that it was a delightful film. Ralph Bakshi opened the door to “adult” or “underground” animation with his X-rated Fritz the Cat. While it looks pretty tame compared to your average South Park episode it’s still a wickedly funny film. Films like Watership Down and Bakshi’s abbreviated version of Lord of the Rings never achieved a big audience. Frankly it was starting to look like the only outlet for animation was Saturday Morning and commercials.

And so, shortly after The Rescuers was release, Bluth and eleven other animators left the Disney studio and opened their own studio. Their first film was a short called Banjo the Woodpile Cat. By now animated shorts were pretty much just relegated to the festival circuit, but it was a start. Next they created some delightful animated sequences for the notoriously campy Olivia Newton-John roller-skating musical Xanadu. It was then that he got the financing to make his first feature.

For his first film Bluth and his crew chose to adapt the Newberry Award winning book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. The film centers on Mrs. Brisby (the protagonists name was changed to avoid a lawsuit from Wham-O) a field mouse with a major problem. Her youngest son, Timothy, is sick with pneumonia. She goes to visit Mr. Ages, a crusty old mouse who lives in an abandoned wheat thrasher. He seems to be a chemist of some sort and mixes up some medicine for sick little Timothy. He also warns her that Timmy must be kept in bed for three weeks. This poses a new problem. Moving day is coming. That refers to a day when all of the animals that live in the field take temporary refuge while the farmer starts plowing the field.

On her way home we meet Jeremy, a crow, and a clumsy one at that. He claims that he’s building a love nest but hasn’t gotten a girl. Mrs. Brisby takes a shine to Jeremy but she can’t help but also be a little bit exasperated by him, especially when he attracts the attention of Dragon, the farmer’s cat. You may wonder why anyone would give such a name to his or her cat, but you’ll know once you see him. Frankly, Dragon looks more like some kind of gargoyle then a housecat, and he seems to be the size of a pig. Dragon is, quite frankly, the most ghastly feline I’ve ever seen in the movies. Does he curl up with the farmer and his family and purr at night?

At home, we meet her other three children. Her precocious son Martin, her somewhat goody goody daughter Teresa and her young daughter Cynthia. Real child actors voiced all the kids.  Will Wheaton who voiced Martin would later act in Stand by Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation and now has a recurring role as himself on The Big Bang Theory. Shannon Doherty (Teresa) went on to star in Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed.

When Mrs. Brisby comes home she gently gives Timmy some broth mixed with the medicine Mr. Ages gave her while a lullaby called “Flying Dreams”, sung off camera by Sally Stevens. The number was written by Paul Williams, who sings it again during the closing credits (not as well if you ask me) and Jerry Goldsmith, who also scored the film. One of the greatest film composers of all time, Jerry Goldsmith scored countless films during his career, including Patton, Chinatown, Alien, Gremlins and many, many more. Writing a score for an animated film was not something that A-list film composers did back then but Goldsmith rose to the occasion.

The next morning Mrs. Brisby and her family are awoken by a terrible sound. The plow has come early this year. Both Mrs. Brisby and the comical “Auntie Shrew” manage to stop the machine, but they know it’s only a temporary solution to a permanent problem. If she doesn’t find a way to move her family then there’s nothing she can do. Therefore Mrs. Brisby decides to do something drastic. She decides to visit The Great Owl. A character that is only spoken about in hushed tones.  The owl is thought to be very wise but also very dangerous. And lest we forget, owls eat mice.

Jeremy the crow flies Mrs. Brisby to the owl’s hollow. When she sees the creature with his glowing eyes she’s justly frightened. No doubt many children were too, especially the way he makes his introduction, squashing a giant spider that was about to attack Mrs. Brisby with his mighty talon. When Mrs. Brisby tells him of her plight, the owl is apoplectic. But then he finds out that she’s Mrs. Jonathan Brisby (her own first name is never revealed). He won’t tell her how he knows Jonathan’s name, but he does offer some sage advice. He tells her to go to the rosebush in the farmers yard. There she will find the Rats of NIMH.

When she arrives at the bush she finds to her surprise that Mr. Ages, who now has a broken leg, is there in the rosebush and is a friend with the rats. He also learns that they have something called electricity, which allows them to illuminate their lair. Mrs. Brisby is introduced to the Justin, the dashing leader of the rats. “You are welcome here anytime,” he tells Mrs. Brisby when he learns who her husband was.

Next she’s taken to see Nicodemus, the ancient leader of the rats. He’s an elderly fellow dressed in a regal robe. He appears to be some sort of sorcerer, a sort of rodent Merlin or Gandalf or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Here she learns what the secret of NIMH is, as well as the truth about her late spouse.

As Nicodemus tells it, he and his tribe were once ordinary street rats. They were captured by an organization called the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH. Here they and other animals were placed in cages and “put through the most unspeakable horrors to satisfy some scientific curiosity.” Several rats and mice were given injections. This lead to a change in them. They became intelligent. Nicodemus was the first to realize this when he was able to read a sign on the cage that allowed him to open it’s door and for him and his brethren to escape. Later, when a ventilation grate traps the rats, it was Jonathan, being a mouse and thus much smaller, who was able to climb through the grate and save the other rats. For this reason the rats owe a great deal of debt to Jonathan Brisby and will repay that debt by relocating the Brisby family. Nicodemus also presents Mrs. Brisby with a gift, a magical amulet. “Courage of the heart is very rare,” he says. “The stone has a power when it is there.”

Turns out the rats are planning their own migration. They’ve been stealing their electricity from the farmer. This is a source of shame for them. Well, most of them. There is one rat named Jenner (I doubt that they were referencing Mr. Bruce, now Ms. Katelyn) who has no qualms with staying in the rose bush and stealing electricity. He’s also power crazy and is plotting to kill off Nicodemus so that he can become the new leader of the rats.

The Secret of NIMH received rave reviews when it was released but tepid action at the box office. Bluth’s studio nearly had to file for bankruptcy. They were saved from this fate when Bluth became involved in creating the animation for two laser-disc arcade games – Dragon Slayer and Space Ace. Both were essentially fully animated films that the player could control. Die-hard gamers have told me that the game wasn’t much fun, you basically just had to push a button at the right time. That may be but when I saw these games in the arcade as a kid I was pretty blown away by them.

Visually, The Secret of NIMH is a marvel. The rich, detailed backgrounds and the wonderful movement of the animals, not to mention some jaw dropping visual effects made The Secret of NIMH quite possibly the most beautifully animated film since Bambi. Also like Bambi, The Secret of NIMH has received its fair share of controversy. Many people who grew up watching the film will tell you that they found both Dragon and The Great Owl to be frightening and the flashback scenes at NIMH are particularly disturbing. But I don’t know that this is a drawback. Just about every children’s film that has resonated through the ages had something in it that frightened children. Snow White had the evil queen and plus the heroines terrifying journey through the woods, Bambi had to deal with the death of his mother, The Wizard of Oz had those flying monkeys and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had that bad acid trip of a boat ride. Frankly, I can’t think of a more horrific moment for a child then the seen in Pinocchio when he and his friend Lampwick turn into donkeys. Yet who in there right mind doesn’t treasure these cinematic experiences?  The year before The Secret of NIMH was released Disney came out with The Fox and the Hound, a film that Bluth had started work on. It made more money at the box office and I know that there are some people who remember the movie fondly. For my money it was way to saccharine. Life is full of light and dark and a big part of fairytales and legends is that they help us face our demons rather then hide from them.

Eventually Bluth found a new benefactor with deep pockets – Steven Spielberg. He brokered a deal with Universal Pictures to produce his next film, An American Tale. That picture did well, becoming the highest grossing non-Disney animated film up to that point in time. Two years later Spielberg again, this time with the help of George Lucas, produced Bluth’s next film, The Land Before Time. It was another hit but it arrived the same year that Disney released both Oliver & Company and the Spielberg produced Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Soon Disney’s animated studio was in the throws of another renaissance, with films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King not only winning over family audiences but teenagers and adults as well.

With Disney back on track, Bluth found himself struggling for his share of the audience. His next few films – All Dogs Go to Heaven, Rock-A-Doodle and A Troll in Central Park received miniscule attendance compared to the Disney fare. He signed a new deal with 20th Century Fox and had some success with the animated musical Anastasia in 1997, which is currently being turned into a Broadway musical. His last full-length feature was Titan A.E, an ambitious animated science fiction film that didn’t totally hit the mark but was imaginative and visually stunning nonetheless

Aside from writing two books on animation – The Art of the Storyboard and The Art of Animation Drawing he has also launched a series of tutorials on YouTube to teach the art of hand-drawn animation, an art form that sadly is in danger. I love CGI animation and I think some of the cartoons of the last few years such as Frozen, Inside Out and this year’s Zootopia are among the best-animated films ever made. But there’s nothing quite like the visual luster that one gets from hand painted animation. Computer animation isn’t necessarily easier. The artists at Pixar put just as much care into their animation as the Nine Old Men did at Disney back in the day. But CGI is less time consuming. A computer animator manipulates a characters posing with a click of a mouse. A hand drawn animator must re-draw the character for each pose.

A few years ago Disney revived their ink and paint department to create the animated sequences in Enchanted and to animate all of The Princess and the Frog. I absolutely loved the latter. It did well at the box office, but not phenomenally well.   It would be a tragedy if we lost the art of ink and paint animation forever. If it weren’t for people like Don Bluth the art of animation might have been lost forever. Today we have whole cable networks devoted to animated cartoons and feature films come out practically every month. Even those who do animate on a computer can learn a lot from someone like Don Bluth, a keeper of the flame who learned from the masters how to create animation that was not only beautiful but believable, emotional and entertaining all at once.

One more thing. Special credit must be given to the voice-over actors in the film. Today just about every animated film has a list of big name actors above the title, sometimes for no other reason then apparently to entice grown ups to buy themselves a ticket. In 1982 voice-over work was frowned upon but a number of fine actors lent their talents to The Secret of NIMH. Elizabeth Hartman, who we last spoke about in You’re a Big Boy Now and who received valentines from the critics for A Patch of Blue voices Mrs. Brisby with a perfect blend of warmth and wisdom. Derek Jacobi, one of the founding members of the Royal National Theater in Great Britain voiced Nicodemus while John Carradine, veteran of many classic Hollywood films (and father to Keith and David) voiced The Great Owl. And then there was Dom DeLuise, that cheerful rotund actor well known for acting in both Mel Brooks and Burt Reynolds’s movies. He comes close to stealing the show as Jeremy the crow and would later become one of Don Bluth’s favorite voice over actors, providing his talents for three more Bluth films – An American Tale, All Dogs Go To Heaven and a Troll in Central Park.

 

 

BulWorth (1998)

The Best Movies You (Probably) Never Heard Of

bulworth

Stephen Sondheim once said that the purpose of art was to create order out of chaos.  Well, we certainly are living in a chaotic time right now, so this is a good time to look for a work of fiction that might put some perspective on last weeks election.

First, at the risk of alienating some readers, let me just say that I voted for Hillary Clinton and that I have found Donald Trump to be repugnant for as long as I’ve known who he was, which is most of my life.  Like many I watched the election results first with optimism, then apprehension, then disbelief and finally shock and despair.  Almost every major scientific poll (a bit of an oxymoron given the fact that polling is not an exact science) predicted Clinton the winner, with Trump’s chances of pulling ahead virtually non-existent.  His convention was a disaster; his performance…

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