April 20, 2012

Stooges, Lupin and Genius Party

I've been working hard on my student film, the freelance gig and the next Fester Fish short (which I'll be posting some work from shortly). But as always, I've also been watching things. Specifically...

The Three Stooges
I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm a huge fan of the original shorts (at least the Curly ones) and I knew it was a passion project for everyone involved, so I wasn't worried about the intentions behind the movie. It just seemed like such a terrible idea-- a full-length movie with one-dimensional characters created for shorts over 50 years ago, with new actors? Another factor was simply that modern life isn't as physical as it used to be, so there isn't as much to work with in coming up with physical comedy. I thought it might just regurgitate old jokes or feel out-of-date. But I was pleasantly surprised.
First of all, it was very funny. I couldn't stop laughing throughout the entire movie, and it was all original material! No jokes were recycled other than the general eye-pokes, double-slaps and Stooge shtick. Secondly, the impersonations and likenesses of the characters were spot-on. Third, it didn't feel too out-of-date or striving to be timely, except for a cameo by the Jersey Shore cast. But almost all of their screen-time consisted of them getting physically abused, so I didn't mind. I had a great time with this movie, and if you like the Stooges, or slapstick in general, you will too.

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine
I like this new series for the most part, although there's not enough comedy so far for me to agree with the people saying this is the closest the anime has ever come to the Monkey Punch comics. I still think the Yuzo Aoki stuff came closer, but this series does capture some other aspects of the early manga very well.
It has great exaggerated designs (although a little over-detailed for my taste; as an an animator I prefer less pencil mileage). The music, while not as memorable as Yuji Ohno's work, is fitting. I do love the opening theme, a sort of neo-classical/ 60s psychedelic piece called "New Wuthering Heights." I hate the visuals that accompany it though, and that's actually my biggest problem with the series-- way too much nudity. I don't mind a little bit of fan service, but Fujiko is naked almost half the time in this series, often for no discernable reason in the story. It just becomes embarassing to watch after a while. I'd have trouble recommending the show because of this, but if you can get past the nudity, it's pretty enjoyable so far (only the first three episodes have come out). There are talks of the production falling seriously behind schedule, which is worrying. The third episode did look pretty poor compared to the other two, but hopefully this is an isolated incident rather than a sign of things to come.

Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond
A few months ago I watched the anime anthology Genius Party. Yesterday I finally got around to seeing Genius Party Beyond, which I liked overall a lot more than the first one. I was slightly disappointed with the first GP film as a whole, but since all the shorts were all created as part of one big project rather than two separate anthologies, I prefer to look at it that way. It was pretty uneven, as most anthologies are, but I really enjoyed Happy Machine, MoonDrive, Wanwa the Doggy and Tojin Kit.

Here are a couple of screenshots from MoonDrive. All four of the shorts I listed had really great art and animation, but I think this one translates the best into still images. For instance, a picture of Wanwa wouldn't even give a hint as to what makes it so amazing.
Anybody who's interested in animation should find at least one short they really like in the Genius Party films, given the huge variety of art styles, subject matter and storytelling techniques.


Zoran Taylor said...

I haven't seen the Stooges movie, but you raise an extremely good point about physical comedy, which I think explains a lot. However, I do believe that there are numerous instances where situations that are specific to our time offer great opportunities for highly original physical comedy that simply haven't been fully exploited yet. Consider, for instance:

*People who will walk down a busy street having boisterous conversations on their bluetooth headsets. (There are more of them than ever, or so it would seem...)

*People who (will) use those Google Glasses. (Speculation on what will happen has already produced some pretty funny results.)

*People who try to do secret/"gansta" handshakes, but do it wrong, or don't know when it ends. (Picnicface did this already and sure enough, it's hilarious. Skip to 2:16.)

Zoran Taylor said...

That said, there are certainly fewer instances in our everyday lives that involve heavy lifting, tough balancing acts and/or overhead trasportation, in spite of the fact that construction is still done in largely the same way it was in the forties and earlier, just with more sophisticated technology. Also, what we would call "props" (or what average people would simply call "objects") have gotten smaller overall, which generally makes them less interesting to work with. But again, like I suggested, this just may be the new frontier of physical comedy: playing off people's increasing obliviousness to the attentional needs of a device that they no longer "FEEL distracted by", and the incongruity of a "real world" outside which refuses to magically change its physical properties to accomodate this sort of behavior....

Zoran Taylor said...

One thing which gives me hope is that what I've described suggests the possibility of what we might call "anti-prop humour" - Instead of playing off the burden of everyday objects needing to act as extensions of our bodies, (think of the classic "guy carrying a long/large object hears suprising news, exclaims "he did WHAT?!!", spins around, knocks the messenger to the ground") we instead investigate the new, lassiez-faire attitude towards body language that occurs when A) you can't be seen by the person you're talking to, and/or B) you don't need to hold anything in your arms/hands. Now, I know the former is as old as the telephone, or the written word delivered by mail, or even simpy the act of standing behind a wall and shouting "OUCH!" while banging a hammer on a table, but as for possible COMBINATIONS of A and B, there are cetainly many new one to be disovered. I think, anyway....We must hold out hope !

Aaron Long said...

Oh yeah, you're totally right about the largely-untapped possibilities for modern-day slapstick. I was thinking more of the kind of thing that involves multiple people interacting with each other in person a la Stooges though. But as the movie proved, it can still be done.

busterbeam said...

I hate not being good at making super quick gifs on the spot, because Wanwa the Doggy is something you simply can't do any justice in stills. sure you can see the nice color use, composition and generally super-creative child's drawing look it has, but it's the movement that elevates Ohira's stuff to 'absolutely fantastic' status.

Aaron Long said...

Absolutely. And it's almost impossible to pick specific sections that are more worthy than others, because it's ALL so good. It's like the only way to really explain to others how amazing it is, is to just show them the whole thing.

RedTail said...

Yeah, I imported Siren's "Genius Party" and "GP Beyond" DVDs a while back too. Both have real impressive visuals, but they just didn't exactly click with me. It's all a little too experimental without enough focus on writing for my tastes. One short in particular, "Limit Cycle," has to be the biggest piece of garbage I've watched in years.

Anyway, if you haven't seen them already, I'd recommend checking out these anthologies: "Neo-Tokyo," "Robot Carnival," and "Memories."

Rintaro, Kawajiri, and a younger Otomo direct "Neo-Tokyo." All turn in a fantastic effort. IMO, the real standout in Robot Carnival is Kitakubo's "Tale of Two Robots," but there's plenty in there to like all-around. "Memories" was a project that scripted and overseen by Otomo (although he actually only directed one of the three shorts), but also has some other notable names attached to it. For instance, Satoshi Kon is the animation director for "Magnetic Rose." Personally, I like "Stink Bomb" better though.

Aaron Long said...

Hey RedTail! Thanks for checking out my blog.

Yeah, Limit Cycle is completely unwatchable. I just ended up skipping it after I realized it was going to be like that all the way through.

I've seen Neo-Tokyo and Memories, but not Robot Carnival. I like all three shorts in Neo-Toyko. In Memories, "Stink Bomb" was definitely my favourite, although the third short was also pretty cool, mostly because of all the different ways they fudged the perspective changes and cuts.

I keep meaning to see Robot Carnival, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Animation anthologies are always interesting to me because of the variety of styles and approaches on display.