Saturday, 21 February 2009

Frankenstein - German Expressionism Review


Directed by James Whale

Released in 1931, James Whale's Frankenstein has all of the key elements of a German Expressionist inspired film. The film follows the story of Dr Frankenstein, a scientist who is obsessed with creating a living being from human body parts. He eventually succeeds by creating a man and subjecting the body to an electric current. His successful experiment eventually turns into a dangerous situation as the monster escapes and tragedies begin to occur. The film is a horror classic which has inspired many films since, from its style to the monster that Frankenstein has created.

The films follows the German Expressionist key themes very closely - for example the main character is a mad, obsessive scientist which is a key character trait in German Expressionist films. Although he is the main character, Frankenstein is the anti-hero as his actions throughout the film all have negative results. Another key influence of German Expressionism that can be seen in the film is the architecture of Frankenstein's castle. The castle has sharp angles in the interior, with a spiral staircase leading up to his laboratory. Also, shadows play an important part in the film, particularly concerning the monster. The monster is revealed slowly by walking out of a shadow, to build up tension and fear upon his revelation.

Overall, this film is a good example of German Expressionist cinema and a classic cult horror film. It clearly demonstrates key elements and themes of both genres very well, and has had a great influence on modern films today.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Literary Review 4 - Cartoon Modern - Style and Design in Fifties Animation

Cartoon Modern – Style and Design in Fifties Animation

Amid Amidi

Cartoon Modern is a fascinating book which looks at animation in the fifties, and how modern design has affected the animation of development in this era. The book looks at each of the major studios and animators of this time, and discusses their unique styles and how each has created distinctive and memorable animation throughout the years. The author discusses how studios in this era overcame the financial challenges that they faced by embracing cheaper design techniques, creating cartoony-designs in their animations. However, rather than creating sub-standard animation, the animators featured in this book successfully created memorable characters and designs which have influenced the vision of animation today.

It is very much a visually-inspiring book, and would appeal to any fan who appreciates the original works of studios like MGM, Hanna-Barbera and Disney. The book has a lot of high-quality images of each respective studios work, from concept sketches to stills from their films, and discusses the design process behind each, and what makes them so distinctive. Although it does not specifically discuss Tom and Jerry in particular, I found this quite helpful and interesting to read when researching for my essay as the author discusses both Hanna-Barbera and MGM, and the style and work of each studio. I found it helpful to further understand the history behind each studio, and their particular design choices, as the designs of the characters in their films are important to create comedy in their films.

Literary Review 3 - Monty Python : Lust For Glory

Monty Python: Lust for Glory
Cineaste 26, Fall 2001
By David Sterritt and Lucille Rhodes

Monty Python: Lust for Glory is an in-depth magazine review of the works of the Monty Python group and their collection of works throughout the years, discussing their various films and TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The article discusses each of the Python’s contributions to their work, but more importantly what their work has contributed to the world of comedy, arguing that "This is not an enormous body of work, but it’s had enormous influence on large- and small screen- comedy thanks partly to its high laugh content and partly to its innovations in comic writing and performance." The article moves on to discuss their unique humour and influence upon British comedy, but also different sources that have influenced their work aswell.

The article covers the important areas of the Python films, but what I found to be most helpful and interesting in the article was the discussion of the animated segments in the Flying Circus series. The article discusses why Terry Gilliam chose to insert animated segments into the series, and how they add to the comedy built up in each episode. I found this article particularly helpful regarding my essay as it has helped me to understand that the animation in the series was not just created to create comedy but also work alongside the comedy created by the live-action sequences in the series.

Literary Review 2 – Chuck Jones and MGM – Re-evaluating Tom and Jerry (Kevin O’Brien)

Chuck Jones and MGM – Re-evaluating Tom and Jerry
Animation Journal Fall 1996
By Kevin O’Brien

This journal article discusses the Tom and Jerry works by Chuck Jones and the differing positive, but mostly negative attitudes towards his work. The article attempts to discuss as to why Chuck Jones’ Tom and Jerry Works have been shunned into the shadow of the Hanna-Barbera shorts.

Many writers have split the Tom and Jerry series into three categories rather than viewing them as an entirety. The categories are the Hanna-Barbera films, the Gene Deitch films and the Chuck Jones films. Chuck Jones’ films are often viewed by writers and animators as being less funny and characterised. Kevin O’Brien discusses in the article that we should be able to appreciate Chuck Jones’ work for its own merits and values, looking at how and why the essence of Tom and Jerry has been kept in his films. O’Brien comments "The criteria for a positive evaluation should not be limited to how funny the stories may or may not be or whether each film is a masterpiece when compared to the Hanna-Barbera films or Jones’s other animation work."

This article was really interesting to read, and was helpful as to further understand the depths of the Tom and Jerry series, however I do not think it has provided me with any understanding the comdy of the series, only the history and background of it. Therefore, I think this article will only help me to form arguments concerning the difference between particular Tom and Jerry series.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Literary Review 1 - Understanding Animation (Paul Wells)

Understanding Animation
Paul Wells

Understanding Animation is a thorough analysis of all areas of animation, discussing its history, social and political contexts, developments and audiences. The book begins by discussing the very fundamentals of animation - what it is, what techniques can be used and the key stylistic approaches, such as Disney’s realist approach - and leads into discussing the audiences of animation and their responses. The author supports and develops his arguments by using case studies which further explain his discussions.

I have decided to write my essay about comedy in Animation, and the reason that I have chosen this book is because it has a large chapter dedicated to the area of comedy in animation. This book in particular thoroughly covers comedic animation from its very beginning, discussing different types of comedy and the key conventions of each. In the chapter the author has discussed visual gags (such as the subversion of the surroundings to create humour), black humour, repetition and more. The author attempts to discuss as to why we find particular things funny, and how animators have responded to this and adapted their characters and stories to make us laugh, discussing what is successful and what is not.

What I really like about this book is how easy it is to read, the arguments are well structured, and the language is precise and uncomplicated. While it is formal and factual, it is also very enjoyable and fascinating and each argument leads on well into the next.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Llantony Abbey (1942) - John Craxton

This painting caught my eye because of its unusual composition and sketchy, textured detail. Although I’m not really a big fan of landscape paintings, I really like this one because it has an almost cartoon-like quality, like the sort of illustrations you would see in the Cartoon Museum.

The painting is of Llanthony Abbey, an Augustinian house in Wales. The artist was part of the Neo-Romantic movement, inspired by artists like William Blake. The Neo-Romantic art movement depicted Britain in a romantic vision during World War 2. To me this image feels poetic, like it is trying to tell a story about the building which is something the artist often tried to create through his paintings. The composition is interesting, as although the painting is entitled “Llanthony Abbey” the tree almost seems to be the central focus of the image. I think this is a poetic approach to depicting the building rather than showing only the building on its own, it is attempting to describe to us the beautiful natural life that surrounds it as well.

In this painting the artist has used ink and watercolour on board. The use of black and white rather than colour is interesting, as it gives a nostalgic and mythical feeling, almost like an old black and white photograph; I think the absence of colour adds to the image rather than detracts from it. I also like how the artist has used cross hatching and different lines to create tone and shading as well as different tones of watercolour, as this adds texture to the image. The contrast between the tree and the background detail creates an instant depth in the image; it really creates the feeling of the tree being much closer to us.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Telling Lies - Film Review

Directed by Simon Ellis

When we watched Telling Lies in our first lecture I was thoroughly stunned and amused by the film. Not only was it a great concept, the film style complimented it so well and it was made brilliantly, adding to the overall experience.

Telling Lies is a short film where we hear one man’s phone conversations after a night out. However, the twist is that there are animated words which show the distinction between thought and speech. For example, at one point in the film the main character is asked when he split up with his girlfriend and he says “last night at the club”, but the text reads “none of your business”. As the man slowly remembers his antics from the night before, and faces more and more phone calls, his frustration and lies are shown on screen by the animated text. The film progresses with the main character being disturbed by prying phone calls from his mother, his ex-girlfriend phoning to make him jealous because he left with another woman, and then finally the woman he slept with phoning saying that she didn’t want to see him anymore.

The film is very comical because although we are not able to see the character’s emotions, we are able to hear their tone of voice and the animated text very cleverly captures their moods and emphasises them further. The colour and style of the typography is used to show his growing anger and lies. Simple little lies are represented in white text, suggesting it’s a simple “white lie”, while as he gets angrier and yells the text changes to red. While these seem like simple or insignificant points on their own, in context of the film they add great meaning to what is happening.

Overall the film works very well, it’s very much based on a simple, everyday happenings, therefore there is no music used in the film as it does not need any. The most important part of the film is the relationship between the speech and the visual text. The text is animated in such a way that no other visuals are needed and overall it has worked very well.