Friday night movie

>> Friday, January 09, 2009

Two classics this evening. You've almost definitely seen Chuck Jones' 1953 "Duck Amuck" and you've probably already seen Alan Becker's 2006 "Animator Vs. Animation," but they're always fun to watch it again, and if you haven't seen one or the other or both, well, you're in for a treat.

One of the things that's wonderful about both shorts is that they exist specifically as animated movies--that is, the plots and gags in each are completely dependent on the fact they're animated movies: you couldn't really do some kind of live equivalent to either movie because it wouldn't make sense. In that regard, you could describe these two films as "pure" or "perfect" examples of their medium; Disney's 1937 Snow White, by way of a contrast, might be a perfectly-animated and technically magnificent piece of movie making, but you could turn it into a live-action movie, picture book, novel, opera, ballet, Ice Capades, TV sitcom or whatever and it would still be essentially the same thing (and, of course, people have done several of the things I listed). An adaptation of "Duck Amuck" in which, I don't know, Brad Pitt, say, is tortured by a film director isn't inconceivable, it's just not a concept that makes a whole lot of sense.

"Duck Amuck" is a classic--it regularly makes "best of" lists compiled by critics, pros and fans (e.g. it was called the second greatest cartoon of all time in Jerry Beck's The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals) and it easily rates as one of Chuck Jones' several masterpieces (I still consider "One Froggy Evening" to be Jones' definitive masterpiece, but that's a matter for another post).

"Modern classic" sounds like an oxymoron at best and a cliché at worst, but Becker's short does seem to fit the bill. It's well-known, technically adept, and makes the most out of tools and a context that didn't exist a decade ago. In a way, it's a sort of update to the Jones' classic (indeed, I started to simply post Becker's short, but realized it would be only too perfect to pair it with Jones' earlier work). But rather than simply recapitulating the Jones film (as Jones himself did several times over the course of his career), Becker does a clever job fitting the conceit into the contemporary setting of the computer desktop and GUI, with the aptly-and-anonymously named "Victim" managing to hold his/their own, at least for awhile. It's a fun bit of work, and deserves the attention it's received over the past two years.


Kathy Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 10:50:00 AM EST  

That first one brings back some memories, and the second one is also, yes, brilliant.

mattw Monday, January 12, 2009 at 8:06:00 AM EST  

I haven't seen either of those in a while, and of course your commentary is spot on.

Our Friday night movie was supposed to be The Terminator, but of course I forgot to take the locking security bar out of the case before I brought it home.

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