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September 25, 1989 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-09-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Monday, September 25, 1989

Toe Michigan Daily
Celebration takes few

Page 9

AROUND here, the animation fes-
tivals put together every now and
then by Expanded Entertainment -
that is, the Tourndes, the
Celebrations, and a compilation of
computer-generated films - are seen
as a guaranteed good time, a no-lose
entertainment bet. Generally, this is
a well-deserved label. While the fes-
tivals tend to be a little uneven in
quality, they make up for their less
impressive entries by presenting at
least a couple of knockout classics
that steal the show. Some that come
to mind from previous years are the
brilliant Oscar-winning "Tango,
Tim (Batman) Burton's "Vincent,"
and the manically hysterical "The
Big Snit." The too-cutely-titled The
Second Animation Celebration: The
Movie is unusual in that it is, with
a couple of exceptions, uniformly
mediocre. This is not to say that it
isn't fine entertainment; just don't
walk in expecting any masterpieces.
The Celebration starts off on the
right foot with one of its major as-
sets: the first of six episodes of "The
Simpsons," a series of Matt
Groening shorts that nicely capture
the rebellious spirit of his Life in
Hell comics. This is followed by
one of the fest's longer and more
impressive entries, "Lazar," an anar-
chist's fantasy that plays like
Fantasia meets Batman. The film
makes great use of perspective and
psychedelic color, and has a refresh-
ing spontaneity that is so rare in
these days of Roger Rabbit and
techno-art. In fact, "Beat
Dedication," the computer-animated
film that follows "Lazar," is a shin-
ing example of why such films have
a long way to go in terms of enter-
tainment value.
Pixar's two computer-generated
contributions are a little better. "Tin
Toy," an Oscar-winning rerun from
one of last year's fests, looks amaz-
ing and is technically near-perfect,
but leaves one feeling a bit cold. The
new "Knicknack" is similar to "Tin

Toy" in its slick depiction of house-
hold objects - evidence that human
and animal forms are still a stretch
for the medium. Disturbingly,
"Knicknack" attempts to squeeze
humor out of Benny Hill-style sex
stereotypes; films like this should be
on the cutting edge, not in the stone
The Celebration features a cou-
ple of highly ambitious films.
"Rarg" is a conventionally drawn and
well-conceived fantasy that, though
promising for much of its long run-
ning time, goes nowhere in the end.
"Umbabarauma" is a kinetically im-
pressionistic music video of sorts, a
David Byrne-produced tribute to
Brazil, whose excellent score was
created by Jorge Ben. This is one of
the two best films in the
Celebration, deriving much of its
power from its visual inventiveness
and intense rhythms.
The other first-rate entry comes
from the ever-reliable Bill Plympton
("Your Face," "How to Kiss").
Called "25 Ways to Quit Smoking,"
the film is the usual Plympton fare
- that is, wryly funny, with an
emphasis on the semi-scatalogical
that's reminiscent of Don Martin's
work in Mad magazine. This former
political cartoonist has established
himself as one of the most distinc-
tive animators around. "Evolution"
is a simple, short piece with a sharp
In light of these fine works, it is
a disappointment . that the
Celebration has more than its share
of misguided efforts. "Goodnight
Norma... Goodnight Milton" dies on
its feet, consisting primarily of an
ongoing joke that has no payoff. Its
unattractive look, while perhaps ap-
propriate to its morbid theme, makes
the film unpleasant to watch.
"Fingerwave," a stop-action work
from Hungary (and one of the
Celebration's few non-American en-
tries) promises more than it can de-
liver, and only serves to bring to
mind the far superior "Tango." "The
Marathon," a Soviet tribute to

A highlight of The Second
Animation Celebration: The Movie
is "Lazar"M (above), wherein Lazar is
a prisoner of a walled city. His
crime? Trying, to escape. It's an
anarchist's fantasy and one of the
few innovative entries in the
festival. A less impressive entry is
"Propagandance" (right), in which
Russians and Americans can't
seem to listen to the same music.
Unfortunately, this short is a bit
trite in its quest for friendly Soviet-
American relations. Overall, the
Celebration suffers from a shortage
of spectacular shorts and a
generally lackluster assortment.
Mickey Mouse, suffers under the
weight of its own earnestness, as
does the American "Propagandance,"
an almost-effective but in the end
trite call for U.S.-Soviet understand-
ing. "Scaredy Cat" unsuccessfully
feeds off of the legacy of the classic
"Bambi meets Godzilla."
Even animators have to eat, and,
especially in this country where the

federal budget for the arts is dwarfed
by those of far less wealthy govern-
ments, advertising is a sadly tempt-
ing outlet for creative energies.
During the Celebration, it's disturb-
ing to see flying yogurt cups being
foisted off as art. Yes, they're well-
animated, but work like this cheap-
ens the medium, turning it into a

mere sales tool. Festivals like this
one should exist solely for the sake
of little-seen, non-commercial
works; we are inundated with enough
of the other stuff on TV.
It's too bad that The Animation
Celebration: The Movie is inferior
to its excellent predecessors. It isn't
a terrible compilation; in fact, it's

truly entertaining at times and
should be seen by any fan of anima-
tion in general. The Celebration
disappoints mostly by its failure to
go anywhere new.
showing this week only at the
Michigan Theater.

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F~. 11 r . . ritr-f. iinn.+r ,. .*4,.-. A f - f A t v-i-n c whn wi74fk A w~~


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