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Two construction workers - one Black, one White - engage in
wide-ranging discussion during their shift in THE HOLE of
New York City building project.
John & Faith Hubley (creators of MOONBIRD) strike pay dirt once more with this very engaging and thought provoking little film which makes astute observations about nuclear proliferation. The limited animation format is the perfect medium to illustrate the unscripted remarks of the two characters, voiced by Dizzy Gillespie & George Mathews.
Winner of the 1962 Oscar for Best Animated Short.
I've really grown to like the films of John and Faith Hubley, and
something about their style always struck me as familiar, but I could
never quite put my finger on it. Then I saw the introductory title "an
observation by John and Faith Hubley," and it came to me this film is
a precursor to "Seinfeld!" Don't lambast me just yet, I'll explain.
Anybody who has seen the series' DVD releases would undoubtedly be
familiar with the bonus "Seinimations," directed by Eric Yahnker, which
presented crude animations that synchronised with the many bizarre
conversations of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. These snippets are
worthwhile, not for their visuals, but for the vocal interplay between
the contributing characters, and the essence of this idea was already
entrenched in the films of the Hubleys, who typically constructed
visuals around a spontaneous, free-flowing conversation between two
people. 'The Hole (1962),' John Hubley's second Oscar-winning short,
tackles, among other things, the nature of accidents, and whether the
notion applies to nuclear war.
Two construction workers (voiced by Dizzy Gillepsie and George Matthews) are engaged in conversation as they work. The pair's interaction, as was the Hubleys' style, doesn't feel scripted in the least, following a natural pathway that begins with discussion of everyday issues and ends with the reality of nuclear war. Citizens in the early 1960s were, of course, faced with the height of the Cold War, and this is very much reflected in the cinema of the day. The characters in 'The Hole' reflect upon the possibility of nuclear war being caused by a technical glitch a scenario terrifyingly brought to life in Sidney Lumet's 'Fail-Safe (1964),' but one contends that even this can't be considered a passive, blameless "accident," as it is we who knowingly possess such a dangerous weapon with willingness to use it. Though the film's animation is not particularly handsome, lacking the bright, fresh colours of 'Windy Day (1968),' the conversation is most definitely worth hearing, and the ideas raised deserve more than a few seconds' contemplation.
This is a very, very simply drawn cartoon that features animation that
is somewhat reminiscent of the children's story books by Ezra Jack
Keats. It sure isn't like Disney or Looney Toons but is a much earthier
and urban style of animation. It does give it an artsy look, but I
prefer traditional animation.
As for the story, two co-workers (as voiced by Dizzy Gillespie and George Mathews) talk about a wide variety of things and ultimately talk about nuclear war. These guys talk and sound like New Yorkers and are just working class guy talking. Then, suddenly, at the end, there is a bit of a shocker.
What I appreciated about the film is that Jazz great Gillespie and veteran supporting actor Mathews both seem to like each other and talk incessantly. Nothing is made about the fact that one is Black and the other is White--it's not important to them. Socially, such a casting decision was an interesting choice and the best part of the film.
What I didn't particularly like, other than the animation, was that the story itself was only okay and the talking became rather monotonous. I really wish they'd trimmed a few minutes from the thing to make it flow better. Still, it does get points for being different.
This cartoon won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 1962. It deserved the award and is still well worth watching almost 40 years later. It's a very simple cartoon in its execution and in the devices used to carry the action forward, but conveys its subject matter-the nature of accidents and nuclear arms-in a most compelling and engaging manner. The cartoon is fascinating and the ending will stay with most viewers a good long while. Deserves as wide an audience as possible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And apparently, back in the 1960s, that was enough for an Oscar win. For John Hubley, it was his second of 3 triumphs. At least this time, we do not have to listen to the rambling of the Hubley kids, but of two grown men, voiced by a musician and an actor. I guess this was so appreciated back then because of what the two are talking about. I know the charm should come from how it is a conversation we could have ourselves or listen at every corner, but in the end it is just random rambling. Nothing more. The animation is not to my liking either, even if it is admittedly better than some other Hubley stuff I have seen in the past. Overall, a very forgettable short film, certainly not worthy of winning an Oscar, but the 1960s weren't exactly a great decade for animation. I do not recommend "The Hole". Thumbs down.
John and Faith Hubley's Oscar-winning cartoon "The Hole" features a
pair of construction workers (voiced by George Mathews and Dizzy
Gillespie) talking about accidents. They start by discussing the things
that could happen in a construction site but then branch out into the
possibility of a nuclear holocaust. One of them always imagines a
worst-case scenario (which we see depicted).
At once a funny cartoon and a "Dr. Strangelove"-style warning about nuclear proliferation, this is a clever cartoon. The unpolished animation helps emphasize the working-class nature of the characters. It just goes to show that cartoons don't have to be "cute". After all, animation is simply another type of filmmaking, and it's one of the best ways to point out society's faults. I recommend "The Hole".
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