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4586 reviews in total 
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Curiosity (1967)
mind your own business, 8 October 2015

Borivoj Dovnikovic-Bordo's "Znatiželja" ("Curiosity" in English) looks at humanity's proclivity to look into trivial topics. The main character suffers repeated interruptions as passersby try to find out what he has in a paper bag.

I've seen a number of cartoons from the Eastern Bloc over the years, mostly the Czech ones. But I've recently started watching a number of Yugoslavian cartoons. I've liked all the ones that I've seen. It goes to show that talent is all that a cartoon needs to be good, and that cartoons don't always have to be cute stuff for children. Indeed, cartoons are one of the best ways to satirize society's shortcomings. Watching these cartoons, one gets the feeling that people's day-to-day lives weren't much different in the communist countries than they were in the Western Bloc.

As for Croatian cinema, I also recommend "A Wonderful Night in Split", about some stories centering on a concert.

The Diary (1974)
life as work, 7 October 2015

Nedeljko Dragić's "Dnevnik" ("The Diary" in English) looks to me like a satire on day-to-day drudgery. It features a man walking and turning into all sorts of shapes: a city, a cat and mouse, and others. Like some of Terry Gilliam's movies, "The Diary" gives the viewer the feeling of a person who wants to escape from society's excesses.

Another thing that this cartoon shows is that animation doesn't simply have to be cute stuff for children. Animation is just another kind of filmmaking. Indeed, animation is one of the best ways to hold society's shortcomings up to ridicule. What we see here is that many of the downsides that western countries had were just as applicable in the communist countries. I've only seen a few cartoons from the former Yugoslavia but I've found them all impressive. After all, art doesn't need a lot of resources or a high budget to be good; it needs the talent. "The Diary" isn't the best cartoon that I've seen, but it's more interesting than these animated features voiced by the celebrities of the moment.

We want everything so convenient, don't we?, 7 October 2015

Dušan Vukotić's "Surogat" (alternately called "The Substitute" or "Ersatz" in English) is a satire on civilization's superficiality and humanity's preference for convenience at every turn. The cartoon features a man who brings a collection of inflatable objects to the beach. Literally everything is a blow-up object.

Part of what this short demonstrates is that animation doesn't have to simply be cute stuff for children. It's merely another form of filmmaking. Indeed, animation is one of the best mediums for holding society's problems and shortcomings up to ridicule. But also, the short shows that a cartoon doesn't need a high budget to be good. You can bet money that Vukotić didn't get to spend as much on this short as, say, Walt Disney spent on his average cartoon. Nonetheless, Vukotić had the talent necessary to make a good cartoon. The former Yugoslavia turned out some impressive cinema (as have its breakaway countries). Here we get a sense of how the Western Bloc's shortcomings were just as prevalent in the communist countries. It definitely deserved its Oscar win for Best Animated Short.

I hope to see more of Dušan Vukotić's cartoons.

the year of living philosophically, 4 October 2015

Tomasz Bagiński's "Katedra" ("The Cathedral" in English) is a movie whose ultimate meaning is a matter of interpretation. Whether you see it as an indictment of religion or as a plain science fiction story, this adaptation of Jacek Dukaj's short story is one of the most impressive things that you'll ever see.

I haven't seen any of the other nominees for Best Animated Short Film at the 75th Academy Awards. Even so, the others - including the winner - will be hard-pressed to be as impressive as "The Cathedral". Once again, Poland gives the world a fine piece of cinema. I hope to see more movies from Tomasz Bagiński.

Definitely see it.

instead of only showing this to farmers, the government should have shown it to everyone, 3 October 2015

"Hemp for Victory" would usually be a typical hokey propaganda film from WWII, but its focus on Cannabis sativa makes it a surprise. Yes, that plant that the government spent years telling us was a dangerous drug gets full praise here. The short looks at hemp's numerous usages, emphasizing its potential to help us win the war. If only all those drug warriors had watched this short. As it stands, mass arrests for non-violent drug offenses have given the US the highest prison population on Earth, devastating entire communities in the process, while turning Mexico into a near failed state. This is especially ironic since George Washington grew hemp and called for mass cultivation thereof. Even Bill Clinton and Barack Obama admit to having smoked marijuana.

So, although this is a rather hokey short, it stands in stark contrast to the laughable "Reefer Madness" (which only succeeded in making marijuana look fun). The ban on marijuana was Dupont's handiwork, since they didn't want anyone to have an alternate way to make paper. Moreover, it was mostly African-Americans and Mexican-Americans smoking marijuana, so there was a racial element to the ban. Billie Holliday became one of the feds' main targets. Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" philosophy culminated in the 1990 PSA "Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue" (in which Garfield, the Smurfs, Bugs Bunny, etc band together to save a boy from a life of addiction; the PSA got everything wrong). Well, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana and it's served their economies well. Bob Marley said that "herb" is meant to get smoked. Susan Sarandon recalled reading scripts while high. Willie Nelson once said something to the effect of "Sure, I'll go to jail for smoking it. And when I get out I'll smoke some more of it."

Anyway, it's nothing great, but an interesting look at the changing attitudes towards hemp.

park your carcass in the park, 2 October 2015

Charlie Chaplin's directorial debut casts him as a man who interrupts people's makeout sessions in a park. There were no feature films by this point, so it makes sense that the movie has a simple plot. It was still going to be a few years before Chaplin started incorporating political issues into his movies. Chaplin's early movies were all about physical comedy, and he makes good use of that here. Co-star Edgar Kennedy (the lover) later played the lemonade vendor in "Duck Soup", while Chester Conklin (the pickpocket) played a mechanic in "Modern Times".

It must've been weird for Charlie Chaplin, how he went from being a boy growing up in an orphanage to being an international superstar.

I wonder what ever became of the Maitlands, 30 September 2015

A noticeable difference between the movie and the series is the absence of the house's original owners. But we can ignore that and luxuriate in the sheer weirdness that "Beetlejuice" celebrates. I always got the feeling that BJ was the only person who truly understood Lydia; her emotionally vacant dad and empty-headed stepmother never pay attention to anything, so it makes sense that Lydia befriends BJ.

Anyway, it's always fun to see BJ's and Lydia's adventures in the domain of everything that's creepy, gross, and otherwise undesirable. And you gotta love the references to pop culture, although the tykes won't get those.

Lots of fun.

meet the Tramp, 29 September 2015

The debut of the Little Tramp casts Charlie Chaplin as a man who runs into an elegant woman in a hotel. The movie makes ample use of Chaplin's flair for physical comedy. Like many flicks from cinema's early days, "Mabel's Strange Predicament" shows that a movie doesn't need words to be good (indeed, the action here is far more complex than anything in a Michael Bay movie). The best scenes here are the dog leash, and the running in and out of rooms.

The producer is Mack Sennett, who directed Chaplin in a few movies early on. Dan Aykroyd played him in Richard Attenborough's movie about Chaplin.

Pretty enjoyable movie.

Long live exploitation cinema!, 28 September 2015

I stopped short of giving "Bikers, Blondes and Blood" ten stars since it starts to run out of steam towards the end. For the most part, it's fun all the way through. We get to watch scenes from various and sundry exploitation flicks featuring the types of people referenced in the title (along with a number of horror flicks). If "The Queen of Blood" is any indication, Basil Rathbone sure hit the bottom at the end of his career.

A similar compilation that I've seen is "Battle of the Bombs", which includes some scenes from a movie co-written by Ed Wood. The main point to take away from these is that B movies are some of the most fun, and we should appreciate them forever. Certainly more fun than any Michael Bay flick.


strangers in a strange land that essentially repeats "Evil Angels", 27 September 2015

The 1988 movie "Evil Angels" (aka "A Cry in the Dark") told the story of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, an Australian couple suspected of killing their baby. Meryl Streep got a chance to one again show off her accent skills, affecting an Aussie one.

Well, we now have "Strangerland", which has a similar plot. Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes play a couple whose children disappear right before a sandstorm hits, only to see the townspeople turn against them. It turns out that the sandstorm itself is the most interesting part of the movie. After that, the movie becomes a talkfest. The main stars and Hugo Weaving have appeared in far better movies. In fact, editor Veronika Jenet also edited "The Piano", which I do recommend. There are quite a few movies from down under that I recommend, but I don't recommend "Strangerland".

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