May 21, 2007
I've been remiss, because I haven't yet mentioned that Bitter Films Volume One: 1995-2005, the collected films of Don Hertzfeldt, is one of the funniest and most enjoyable DVDs I've watched in a while. You could make a convincing argument that shorts like Billy's Balloon (in which a rogue balloon beats the tar out of its toddler owner) and catchphrase-inspiring lines like "My anus is bleeding!" place Hertzfeldt's work squarely in the frat-boy demographic, and I'd have a hard time disagreeing with you. The thing is, Hertzfeldt combines delightfully deadpan dialogue with a minimalist (read: stick-figure) yet expressive drawing style and a real talent for planning technically elaborate sequences that fit the story without screaming "Aren't I awesome?" Dive in to the copious extras and you'll probably come away more impressed than when you went in.
Speaking of DVD compilations and independent animators, you don't want to miss Liquid Tales, the collection of Patrick Smith's work. In some ways Smith's work is the opposite of Hertzfeldt's—it's colourful and scratchy and distinctively rendered—but it's no less enjoyable or personal. But hey, what say I show rather than tell: check out Puppet, his latest film, on Yahoo.
I've always said that a key difference between live-action filmmaking and animation filmmaking is that it's possible, though unlikely, that a live-action director can shoot a ten-minute film in ten minutes, while it's utterly impossible for an animation director to do so. J.Walt Adamczyk, who contributed to our January 2006 issue, insists on proving me wrong. His Spontaneous Fantasia, a one-hour animated program that he creates live, will be showing in a 180° full-dome theatre at the Glendale Community College Planetarium for four days in June, for a mere ten bucks ($6 for the under-twelves).
Don't know how this book slipped under my radar, but it looks fascinating. Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm digs into the CIA's hand in the creation of Halas and Batchelor's 1954 feature adaptation of George Orwell's novel. Author Daniel Leab not only dug through production archives and interviews, but CIA papers uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act. By the way, you can get 20% off the rather hefty $55 list price if you call 1-800-326-9180 (it's toll free) and mention the code OSRC.