Reviews

The Animation Show: Vol. 3

Collage (partial) of Rabbit and James Fox by Run Wrake

For all the computer-generate animation, puppetry, line drawings, and stop-motion work, these are straightforward tales.


The Animation Show: Vol. 3

Distributor: MTV / Paramount
MPAA rating: Unrated
Studio: www.animationshow.com
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2008-06-03

I had the pleasure of watching the first Animation Show in an actual theatre. At the time, I didn't know the Mike Judge/Don Hertzfeld-curated collection from any other collection of cartoons. And you had to wonder what kind of animation Judge, the mind behind Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill, would select. But that first Animation Show was a bit of an eye-opener, including material that ranged from crass to elegant, from numerous parts of the globe.

Still, the experience of watching them was pretty much like other anthologies I'd viewed. Some of it worked for me, and some of it didn't. And the crowd around me felt the same way. You could feel their attention lagging during shorts that just didn't hit the mark, and some people laughed at work that left others stonefaced. Occasionally, something would seem to grab everyone, such as Hertzfeld's own Billy's Balloon, a hilarious and black-hearted depiction of malicious revenge visited upon stick-figure children by their balloons.

Things haven't changed with Volume 3, but that's not necessarily a negative. In the process of compiling the best work from the Animation Show's 2007 theatrical run, this latest collection seeks intriguing animation without losing its overall accessibility. So envelope-pushing technique and what-the-hell? weirdness aren't the point. Instead, story takes the forefront on many of the animated shorts featured here.

Granted, Volume 3 kicks off in surreal style, with the one-two punch of Run Wrake's Rabbit and Gaelle Denis' City Paradise. City Paradise, a mix of live action and animation, has all the feel of a Technicolor dreamworld where it's never clear what's real and what's imagined, while Rabbit, done in the style of an old children's book, tells the tale of two children scheming to get rich off of a jam-loving idol they find inside of a cut-open rabbit.

The highlights, for this viewer, at least, come from the more leisurely pieces. Stretching out for more than 15-minutes, Hertzfeld's sad tale of modern ennui and sickness, Everything Will Be OK, is the polar opposite of Billy's Balloon. Everything Will Be OK teems with dream imagery, medicine-induced hallucinations, and stick figure faces displaying a surprising range of emotions.

Likewise, Matthew Walker's Astronauts doesn't quite adopt the snail's pace of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, but its gentle humor effectively conveys quiet and isolation of floating through space. No Room for Gerold depicts a roommate conflict between a rhino, a hippo, a water buffalo, and an alligator that turns out to have an all too human theme. The William Blake-inspired Tyger is a stately mix of puppetry and animation that presents a city and its residents blossoming into a golden-lit jungle as the tiger passes.

Humor is well-represented by Versus, the tale of two samurai clans that concoct increasingly elaborate plots to control a sliver of land between their island fortresses. Carlitopolis meets the sick humor quota, depicting bizarre experiments on a (computer-generated) mouse in a box. Naturally, mainstay Bill Plympton is here as well, with the manic tale of a hapless mutt who aspires to be a seeing eye dog, with disastrous results.

Overall, the Animation Show's stories are a case of what you see is what you get. For all the computer-generate animation, puppetry, line drawings, and stop-motion work, these are straightforward tales. There are very few hidden messages or subtexts to be found. Chris Harding's Learn Self Defense, however, does set its satiric sights firmly on President George W. Bush with its tale of a man getting mugged, then learning very questionable self-defense tactics such as God is On Your Side and Preemptive Self Defense. Max Hattler's Collision, a commentary on the current conflicts in the Middle East, is far more abstract with kaleidoscopic clashes of noises and patterns.

Three volumes in, the Animation Show is still finding satisfying, quirky animation to share. Unfortunately, Volume 3 doesn't do all it could to help viewers understand the artists' techniques and thought processes. Three short video interviews help shine a little light on things (especially an entertaining piece with Joanna Quinn, which helps explain the continuum of her work that led to Dreams and Desires), but the majority of information must be found in text interviews in .pdf format, which must be viewed on your computer -- better than nothing, but a little unwieldy.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image