Chuck Jones

Warner Bros.

There is no better art form for space travel than cinema. Sure, there are plenty of excellent high flying science fiction novels, and television has had plenty of great interplanetary adventures over the years, but nothing really holds a candle to the movies. One can even compare a cinema to a spaceship, the theater going experience a less hokey version of a ride at Disneyland. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the intergalactic elephant of the genre, of course, but audiences have been captivated by space travel at least since Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon. That’s over a century of grand, bombastic and enormously ambitious films that explore the breadth and depth of the universe. And now we have Interstellar, equally convinced of the magic of cinema and the essential task of maintaining its majesty on 70mm, while extending its reach into IMAX. It follows in the large, distant footsteps of 2001 and Solaris, as well as the more recent space boot prints of Gravity. These films all use special effects to blend live actors into a mostly fantastical background, a strategy that has increasingly intruded into the realm of animation over the years. What, then, about animation itself, its practitioners approaching space travel from the other direction, creating new galaxies from scratch?

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One Froggy Evening

Why Watch? Well, because Steven Spielberg calls it the “Citizen Kane of animated film.” That’s not enough for you? Here goes. One Froggy Evening is among the best of Chuck Jones‘s cartoons, recognized by the National Film Registry along with Duck Amuck and What’s Opera, Doc? It’s the first appearance of Michigan J. Frog, American cinema’s most influential singing and dancing amphibian. The top-hat wearing vaudevillian toad starts out in a box, hidden in the cornerstone of a just-demolished building. The innocent construction worker who finds him can the piles of cash waiting to be collected before his eyes (literally, because this is a Chuck Jones cartoon), and rushes him off to an entertainment agency. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We all know the story: the frog never performs when he needs to, and everyone thinks that the poor sap selling him is a lunatic. It’s almost like Raoul Servais’s Harpya, though nowhere near as viscerally disturbing. In the end, Michigan’s cakewalk through the tunes of the Ragtime era and Tin Pan Alley become grating reminders of the man’s failure, and he tosses him back where he came from. Yet as an audience, we can’t forget him. The songs themselves, especially “Hello! Ma Baby” are indelibly linked to this short and its dancing frog. It’s been spoofed a number of times, including by Mel Brooks in SpaceBalls. Whether it’s actually the “Citizen Kane of animated film,” I’m not sure. I think I’d rather give that title to Duck Amuck. Yet no matter how you rank it, One Froggy Evening […]

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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