From The Movie, Chapter 33 (1980). -– J.R.
It was in 1940 that a brisk, buck-toothed city rabbit first sank teeth into carrot. briefly paused, gazed with indifferent aplomb at a lisping country rabbit-hunter with a shotgun and coolly inquired: ‘What’s up, Doc?’ This official debut of Bugs Bunny occurred at the beginning of A Wild Hare, one of nine cartoons that were supervised that year by Fred (known as ‘Tex’) Avery, a brilliant animator from Dallas who was working for Warner Brothers. The cartoon won an Academy Award nomination and the durable comedy team of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd promptly went into business.
‘That darn wabbit!’
Bugs Bunny, first seen in Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938), had a complicated cross-bred genealogy. Remembering the ‘What’s up, Doc?’ expression from his high-school days in Texas, Avery had decided to place it in the mouth of a sharp Brooklynese rabbit who knew everything. Avery later recalled in an interview:
‘So when we hit on the rabbit we decided he was going to be a smart-aleck rabbit, but casual about it, and I think the opening line in the first one was, “Eh, what’s up, Doc?,’ And gee, it floored ‘em! They expected the rabbit to scream, or anything but make a casual remark — here’s a guy with a gun in his face!… Read more »
From The Soho News (June 11, 1980). I’m sorry I haven’t had better luck in finding illustrations for the experimental and independent animated shorts reviewed here. But at least if you hit the first illustration, you can see it move. — J.R.
New American Animation
Film Forum, June 12-15 and l9-22
Thalia, Mondays (June through August)
Did you ever step out of a movie theater in the good old days and exclaim, “Gee, that cartoon was better than the feature”? Whether you did or not, there’s precious little chance of such a thing happening today. Thanks to some of the packaging principles that currently dominate media, short animation is often treated like a ghetto art – quarantined in its own little category and asked to stay there, mind its manners and keep a low profile, in such out-of-the-way corners as kiddie matinees and museums.
Consequently, to write about the New American Animation series at Film Forum — the last program for the season — is a bit like having to write about the Third World (another Film Forum specialty), rather than, say, simply Brazil or Algeria. And Greg Ford’s massive “Cartoonal Knowledge” series at the Thalia – encompassing 13 Mondays this summer, and billed as “probably the largest and most comprehensive cartoon festival ever mounted in a straight ‘theatrical’ context” — etches out an umbrella subject that is equally daunting to nonspecialists.… Read more »
From The Soho News (June 11, 1980). — J.R.
A film by Eric Mitchell
St. Mark’s Cinema, midnight
“Sometimes I think most of the ’70s is being spent in
cars, discussing remakes,” a Hollywood assistant once
woefully remarked to me. She didn’t know how lucky she
was. Sometimes, in my less happy moods, I think that
most of the 80s will be spent in theaters, watching the
same remakes that were being discussed in the ’70s.
Willie & Phil -- Paul Mazursky’s remake of Jules and
Jim, set in the American ’70s — isn’t opening for a couple
of months yet. John Carpenter’s The Fog and several
other recent quickies have already remade Carpenter’s
Halloween, which was itself a partial remake of The Thing
(which Carpenter is now planning to remake more directly).
And to round off this minisurvey of new, original
thinking (if you want to exalt the conventional, call it
classical), the new Eric Mitchell film, the l6mm
Underground U.S.A., which already sounds like a remake
of Sam Fuller’s Underworld U.S.A. — is actually
described in its own pressbook as a remake of a remake:
“Taking the classic theme of Sunset Boulevard seen
through Heat,” Underground U.S.A.… Read more »
From the June 1982 American Film. — J.R.
Fans of the brilliant, eccentric, and pioneering film critic Manny Farber who have been regretting his recent absence from the scene simply haven’t been looking in the right places. In fact, the sixty-five-year-old writer, teacher, and former carpenter has been a painter even longer than he’s been a critic, and over the past few years he’s been doing what he calls “auteur” paintings — canvases that recast the subjects and methods of his criticism in a number of fascinating ways.
Using a bird’s-eye view of small objects on a stagelike platform, his paintings, paens to such directors as Howard Hawks [see Howard Hawks II, 1977, 472 x 500, above], Sam Peckinpah, Marguerite Duras, and William Wellman illuminate the filmmakers’ styles and themes. “The compositions and structures are always always based on my take on the directors,” Farber says. “And they’re critical in the fact that I’m usually going away from what I think is known territory, in painting as well as in movies.”
One example of Farber’s oddball approach is his Stan & Ollie, which is full of references to the comedies of Laurel and Hardy, but scarcely uses their faces at all.… Read more »
From The Soho News (June 4, 1980). In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that Jackie Raynal was and is one of my dearest friends. — J.R.
A Film by Jackie Raynal
Bleecker Street Cinema, June 9
Debt Begins at Twenty
A Film by Stephanie Beroes
Millennium, May 24
Recalling my four successive visits to the Cannes Film Festival in the early ’70s — when the daily glut of movies and accompanying hardsell was already enough to turn a hardened film freak into a deflated beachball — I still harbor fond memories of the kind of movies that used to spend my days looking for, and the ones that would savor for days more, days on end, once I found them. They were movies that allowed me and Cannes to slow down and linger a bit and regain our strength, and afforded us that pleasure by refusing to hype us into or out of anything that denied either of us the solipsistic joy of total self-absorption.
By taking their own sweet time (all the time in the world) to explore their own bittersweet fantasies, and allowing us to follow them only if we insisted, these movies were like little self-contained oases conjured up and plunked down improbably in the midst of camel stampedes, which is probably why so many of my colleagues hated them — and why most of you, in turn, have heard of so few of them, if any at all.… Read more »