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Watch ‘Angel,’ the 1966 Canadian government-funded art film starring Leonard Cohen


 
Before Leonard Cohen became known as a singer-songwriter, he was a trust-fund kid struggling to be a writer and poet. This is why the 1966 short Angel (a product of the National Film Board of Canada), credits him with, “Music by poet Leonard Cohen, played by The Stormy Clovers”; The Stormy Clovers were one of Cohen’s early musical projects—here’s their version of “Suzanne”. I’ve seen the film once before, but was excited to see it on Vimeo in high definition—the clarity really highlights the the stark contrast of what looks to be overexposed film that’s been run through an old school analog video switcher.

The premise isn’t elaborate; a woman in decorative wings frolics with a man (an uncredited Cohen), and a dog. The man then tries on the wings, before they are put on the dog. A tryst is implied, then the woman leaves, much to both their resigned dismay. It’s all incredibly lovely, with a striking minimalist aesthetic and an intimate soundtrack. The film received Honourable Mention at the (Canadian) International Annual Film Festival, a Chris Certificate Award in the Graphic Arts Category at the International Film and Video Festival (US), First Prize in the Arts and Experimental category at the Genie Awards (Canada) and Special Mention at the Festival of Canadian Films.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Crack Master’: Rarely seen 1975 ‘Sesame Street’ cartoon supposedly too dark for kids
11.07.2014
01:39 pm

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
Sesame Street


The Crack Master watches you as you sleep…
 
The premise of the 1975 Sesame Street cartoon “Crack Master” AKA “Cracks” sounds like a bad trip. A girl lays on her bed staring at cracks on the wall. She imagines them into a menagerie of playmates—a camel, a monkey and a hen become her new friends. But wait—there is another animated crack—The Crack Master—who bears only ill will towards our protagonist and her comrades! The Crack Master eventually collapses from his own hatred, but it’s hardly a resolution that inspires optimism. A girl lives in a dilapidated building full of animated, sometimes malevolent indicators of rot, and her only hope for defeating these monsters is the further deterioration of her home? What the hell?

The short developed an infamous reputation, due to both the impression it made on a myriad of distressed young viewers, and the early withdrawal of the cartoon—it was only shown eleven times before disappearing from public view for years, breeding rumors that it had been banned. In 2009, a dedicated citizen named Jon Armond managed to get a copy from a very anonymous source under two conditions: the source’s identity must be kept an absolute secret, and the cartoon must never be distributed. In a (pretty funny) audio narrative Armond says the source claimed the cartoon wasn’t banned for its ominousness, merely retired. Sesame Street has a bit of a reputation for litigiousness when it comes to copyright, but they’re a product of public television, so why all the cloak and dagger? It’s possible the show is still a little embarrassed by the short’s inadvertently dark tone.

Now of course, the infamous is available on YouTube, so watch—if you dare.
 

 
Via Watch This Thing

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The last words of Dutch Schultz, the cartoon
11.07.2014
07:36 am

Topics:
Animation
History
Movies

Tags:
Gerrit van Dijk
Dutch Schultz


 
People throw around the word “sociopath” a lot these days, but Dutch Schultz was a man who could commit murder “just as casually as if he were picking his teeth”—or so his own lawyer said. Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York tells how the gangster and his partner hung an uncooperative bootlegger “by his thumbs from a meat hook and beat him viciously,” wrapping a bandage around his eyes that “had been liberally coated with discharge from a gonorrhoeal sore.” The bootlegger went blind; Dutch went to the top of the world, ma! Then there’s this heartwarming anecdote about the Dutchman from Five Families:

When he suspected that one of his long-time trusted lieutenants, Bo Weinberg, was plotting against him with Italian mobsters, Schultz personally encased Weinberg’s legs in cement and dumped him into the Hudson River while still alive.

 

 
At the time of his death, Schultz was planning to murder special prosecutor Thomas Dewey in defiance of the wishes of the other major figures in organized crime, a hubristic move that likely resulted in the gangster’s own demise. On October 23, 1935, gunmen shot down Schultz and his men in Newark’s Palace Chop House. As he lay dying in the hospital with a 106-degree fever and bullet holes in his trunk, a police stenographer transcribed his ravings.

It is no use to stage a riot. The sidewalk was in trouble and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up. Please put me in that room. Please keep him in control. My gilt-edged stuff and those dirty rats have tuned in.

Please get me up my friends; I know what I speak of. Please, look out, the shooting is a bit wild, and that kind of shooting. Saved a man’s life. Oh, Elmer was. No, everything frightening; yes, no payrolls, no walls, no coupons.

Oh, sir, get the doll a roofing. You can play jacks and girls do that with a softball and do tricks with it. I take all events into consideration. No. No. And it is no. It is confused and it says no. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim.

French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.

 

 
These utterances were then scrutinized for all kinds of hidden meanings—not least for clues to the location of Dutch’s buried millions. Authors William S. Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, however, found something else fascinating in the transcript; both men spoke as if it was at once the coded prophecy of a gangland oracle and a high modernist poem. Burroughs wrote a screenplay, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, which was never filmed despite his efforts to sell it in Hollywood, and Schultz’s last words feature in Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy.
 

 
Victor Bockris records how Burroughs described the deathbed scene, and its relationship to the modernists, to Lou Reed in 1978:

You don’t know about the last words of Dutch Schultz? You obviously don’t know. They had a stenographer at his bedside in the hospital taking down everything he said. These cops are sitting around asking him questions, sending out for sandwiches, it went on for 24 hours. He’s saying things like, “A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim,” and the cops are saying, “C’mon, don’t give us that. Who shot ya?” It’s incredible. Gertrude Stein said that he outdid her. Gertrude really liked Dutch Schultz.

 

 
In 2003, Dutch filmmaker Gerrit van Dijk used Schultz’s last words as the basis for an animated film, intercut with TV-style live-action dramatizations of the Palace Chop House shooting. Rutger Hauer, Schultz’s voice in the short, gives a surprisingly understated performance. The animated portion of the film represents Dutch’s subjectivity roaming freely through time and space, hallucinating past and future. Anachronisms slip into the 1930s world of newsboys, gangsters and gun molls: while Dutch rambles, Mike Tyson bites off Evander Holyfield’s ear, John F. Kennedy’s head explodes, O.J. Simpson is declared not guilty, and the first plane hits the World Trade Center. Even if none of this is up your street, the rotoscoping is quite beautiful, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll crack the code and find the Dutchman’s buried millions.
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Extremely dark Soviet-era Stephen King animation
10.30.2014
01:29 pm

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
animation
Soviet
Stephen King


 
There are some amazing cinematic adaptations of Stephen King’s writing. There are also some… less impressive examples. This 1986 animated short, “Battle,” is not only a fine example of the former, it has the distinction of being the only Stephen King adaptation produced in the famously dark genre of Soviet animation. Based on King’s short story, “Battleground” (first published in a magazine in 1972, then compiled in his 1978 Night Shift anthology), the story is a classic revenge tale with a supernatural twist. A hitman is hired to kill a toymaker, and toy soldiers come to life in the murderer’s home to avenge their father’s death. Their artillery is tiny, but their warfare is relentless, and the hitman meets a brutal end.

“Battle” touches on the fear of the small, and “golem terror”—a sort of childlike anxiety around anthropomorphic objects and the irrational fear that they will become both animate and malevolent. You can see thematic similarities in both the third installment of King’s 1985 trilogy, Cat’s Eye, (where the titular cat protects a young Drew Barrymore from a tiny troll), and the brilliant “Amelia” tale from the 1975 TV movie Trilogy of Terror, where Karen Black is terrorized in her home by a Zuni fetish doll come to life. (A 2006 adaptation of “Battleground,” (starring William Hurt, and also quite good/intense), actually shows the Zuni fetish doll in the background of Hurt’s apartment multiple times as a sort of Hidden Mickey.)

The cartoon itself is a beautiful horror-noir, much of it done via rotoscoping, which gives it the fast-action fear it needs without sacrificing great animation. At any rate, you could definitely use it to scare children into putting their toys away, right?
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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John Butler: Changing the world one animation at a time
10.23.2014
10:37 am

Topics:
Animation
Politics

Tags:
Marxism
John Butler

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Award-winning speculative fiction animator John Butler, one half of the Butler Brothers, will be making a rare appearance at the Exchange Rates Expo in Brooklyn, New York from October 23rd to 26th. John will be exhibiting alongside artist and filmmaker Patrick Jameson and artist Ellis Luxemburg, as part of the Glasgow’s Queen’s Park Railway Club at the Fuchs Projects, 56 Bogart Street.

Exchange Rates is an international expo of art and art galleries in around the Bushwick area of Brooklyn presenting work by exchange artists from around the world:

Conceived and produced by arts organizations helmed by artists and curators in Bushwick, Brooklyn and London, England, Exchange Rates—known also in this inaugural iteration as The Bushwick Expo—is an international exposition of artworks and curatorial programs in which host spaces in one art community open their doors and share their walls with kindred spaces on visit from elsewhere.

Some exhibits will be integrated, some collaborative yet autonomous, some even spontaneous or virtual.

The rates of exchange, as such, will fluctuate, while the currencies of exchange—ideas and culture—remain fixed.

 
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As regular readers to Dangerous MInds know, I am a big fan of John Butler’s work and have been banging the drum for his speculative animations for some considerable time. For those who don’t know his work, Butler, to give a snapshot, is a hybrid of J. G. Ballard, John Carpenter via Stanley Kubrick—an imaginative and intelligent dystopian, who has an exacting and precise style to his animated films.

Today, Butler will be premiering his recently completed speculative science fiction animation, the so-called Amazon cycle of four films (a reference to working practices of the company rather than the South American river) contained in Descention along with The Terminal Node. Butler’s recent work examines the processes by which capitalism uses technology to dehumanize a workforce.
 
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As Butler explained via email:

Descention draws a straight line from military robotics to retail cybernetics, from DARPA to Amazon.

Refusnik, G.O.L.E.M., M.O.N.A.D. and Mutator are all episodes in an adaptive odyssey that evaluates human utility in the age of artificial indifference.

Through a series of mutations, the human candidate is gradually purged of all non-essential attributes in an attempt to meet the imperatives of growth.

This process of adaptive degradation eventually leads to the distillation of human demand into an intelligent algorithm, fully able to realise it’s own destiny.

It is similar to The Incredible Shrinking Man except that his mutation is driven by the market rather than radiation.

 
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Below the Butler Brothers Descention which will be screened at Exchange Rates. More information here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Beatboxing classic album covers come to life
10.20.2014
02:03 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
album covers


 
Israeli artist and director Vania Heymann started creating videos when he was a student at Bezalal Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He has been praised by the likes of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and atheist author Sam Harris. His latest video (made with his frequent collaborator Israeli musician Roy Kafri who provides the beatboxing with his song “Mayokero”) has a series of classic albums covers from bands like The Smiths, ABBA, David Bowie and Prince move their “mouths” and sing along.
 

Posted by Cherrybomb | Discussion
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The Fleshtones rock out in ‘Soul City’ (co-written by a young Lou Reed)


 
Animator and all around 3-D mad scientist/genius M. Henry Jones has long been a fixture of the East Village. With his street level art studio allowing passersby to see his fantastic creations since 1992 (he’s recently had to move) the friendly Jones is one of the last bohemian artists still left in the neighborhood. Jones has also helped keep the work of his friend Harry Smith alive with “magic lantern” screenings of Smith’s animated films utilizing multiple projectors, mounted the world over with DJ Spooky.

During the late 1970s, while both were students at the School of Visual Arts, Jones became friends with Peter Zaremba, leader of garage rockers The Fleshtones (and later the host of MTV’s The Cutting Edge series) and they teamed up to make a music video marrying Jones’ strobelight animation technique to a number titled “Soul City” (a song originally recorded by the Hi Lifes and co-written by a young Lou Reed).
 

 
Marc H. Miller’s Gallery 98 is currently exhibiting ten hand-colored cutout photographs that M. Henry Jones created for the film:

The emergence of digital photography during the last decade has provided a new perspective on photographs from the pre-digital era. The photographs that M. Henry Jones created in the late 1970s for the animated film “Soul City” have a special place in this story of technological change.

Sometimes the urge to create precedes the technology that makes it practical. That was certainly true for Jones’ 2 ½-minute photo animation of a performance by the rock group Fleshtones, enhanced with stroboscopic effects. Created before the widespread use of computers, digitization, and tools like Photoshop (1988), Jones’ special effects were created solely through tedious analog techniques. It took nearly two years but there was an unexpected bonus: 1700 individually printed photographs, each hand-cut with an X-acto knife and then hand-colored. This was the raw material for the film, re-shot frame-by-frame with changing backgrounds. Today these photographs stand on their own both as beautiful objects and as an artistic record of the creative toils that preceded the digital revolution.

 

 
The making of this elaborate, time-consuming piece was apparently quite legendary at S.V.A. The exhibit also makes a bit clearer the connections between that school and not only the nascent East Village art scene, but also the punk and New Wave era in New York City as well. After all it was artists and art students who were the ones making the scene (man). Aside from Jones and Zaremba, S.V.A. counted among its students Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, and for a short while, the great painter Joe Coleman, who left in disgust when one of the instructors told him that he was painting “wrong.”
 

 
As someone who has made my own share of work and time intensive low budget East Village music videos, I doff my hat to the maniac workaholic who put this puppy together…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘South Park’ hilariously rips on today’s music in last night’s episode
10.09.2014
08:54 am

Topics:
Amusing
Animation
Television

Tags:
South Park


 
Here’s a little cut from last night’s South Park—episode 3 of season 18 titled “The Cissy”—where Randy shows his son Stan how it’s really done in the music world today.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker nail it as usual. Nail it.

 
h/t Peter Serafinowicz

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘I am being followed by a Moonshadow’: Cat Stevens cartoon with Spike Milligan’s voice
09.17.2014
12:03 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
Spike Milligan
Cat Stevens


 
Although there will always be people who will want to bitch and moan about Cat Stevens and some very regrettable remarks he made (more than once), these comments were uttered a very long time ago, he’s apologized (convincingly) a gazillion times for them since and it’s not like anyone died, so kindly move along if you are one of them. On point, the man has done a whole lot more good for the world than bad with his music, who is going to deny this?

For me, the news yesterday that Cat Stevens/Yusuf would be releasing a new R&B influenced album, Tell ‘Em I’m Gone and making an unexpected US tour sent me immediately to the website to buy tickets (but they weren’t on sale yet).

No surprise that the North American tour includes no southern states, the brief sprint will include five American dates in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles and one Canadian stop at Toronto’s Massey Hall that kicks the tour off on December 1.

It also reminded me that I wanted to post the animated “Moonshadow” short based on Stevens’ own drawings and voiced by British comedian Spike Milligan. The film was made in 1972 by an animator named Charles Jenkins (who had also worked on Yellow Submarine) from Stevens’ original drawings to promote the Teaser and the Firecat album. It was not widely seen however until it was made part of the Fantastic Animation Festival feature film in 1977. Cat Stevens also put out a Teaser and the Firecat book in 1972, which is where these illustrations are from. It’s the story of tophat-wearing Teaser and his pet, the Firecat and their adventures trying to put the moon back in the sky after it plops onto the roof of a barn one night.
 

 

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Where Are They Now?’: Bleak animation about the current lives of 80s cartoon characters
09.16.2014
08:25 am

Topics:
Amusing
Animation

Tags:
80s cartoons


 
Being an aging rockstar is bad enough, but there are always the “oldies” package tours that play state fairs and casinos. Ever wonder what happened to your favorite 80s cartoon characters once the cartoon work dried up? Animator Steve Cutts gives you a bleak look into the current lives of Roger and Jessica Rabbit, He-Man, The Thunder Cats, ALF, Garfield, The Smurfs and so on. It ain’t pretty.

He-Man’s life is pretty rockin’, tho. He seems to have been smart with his money, something that cannot be said of most cartoon characters. I saw Underdog in a Starbucks recently, he looked like shit. Hasn’t worked steadily since 1967. I overheard him bitching about how Lorne Michaels had ruined his career…

 
via Laughing Squid

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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