I had a blast as always at the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society, which includes comic strip artists, gag/one-panel cartoonists, animators, web comic artists, caricaturists, political cartoonists, and greeting card artists. The top award, the Reuben (named for Rube Goldberg) went to Glen Keane, animator of Disney classics like “Tangled, ” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Rapunzel.” His dad created one of the all-time comic classics, “Family Circus,” now drawn by his brother, Jeff (yes, that’s Jeffy from the strip.)
Tina Fey hosted the season finale of “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which means many months until the next opportunity to see their take on the news. If that seems like a very long time to wait, you can visit the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago to see the SNL Experience, a wildly entertaining interactive exhibit that takes visitors through a week of creating an episode and the 41-year history of the show as well.
The exhibit, which covers two floors of the museum, includes iconic props and sets from the show’s history, taped interviews, and clips. It is a lot of fun to see items that bring back memories of classic SNL moments but it is fascinating to peek behind the scenes (literally) and see interviews with the writers, costume designers, and set designers who start with a blank page every week and somehow put together 90 minutes of material. Highly recommended!
Rolly Crump is a true Disney Legend, an artist and designer who helped create some of Disneyland’s most iconic images in attractions like the Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion, and It’s a Small World. His lifelong collection of Disney treasures is being auctioned April 28, 2018 by Van Eaton Galleries and the gorgeous catalogue can be viewed online. It includes animation cells, drawings, posters, correspondence, props, and Crump’s own stories about the objects.
Netflix co-founder and former president of Redbox Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, chief executive of Helios and Matheson Analytics bought a controlling stake in MoviePass in August for $27 million and have made improvements that have led to (1) a surge in participation and (2) fury from theater owners. For $9.95 a month, customers get an app that gets them as much as a movie ticket a day. The new owners reduced the monthly fee and membership skyrocketed. But theater owners are not happy, refusing to sign up, and have even threatened a lawsuit — it’s not clear what the basis would be as they get paid full ticket price when a member uses the app. And it’s not clear Moviepass can sustain the new price if, as one happy member told the New York Times, the app has increased his monthly movie-going from once to 12 times.
How can you not be attracted to home movies? Just about every home movie is unique and exists in a single copy. And while many of them picture similar events (birthdays, holidays, trips to the lake, honeymooning at Niagara Falls), each has its own look and emotional feel. I’ve started to think that maybe the essential story of the 20th century is really the composite story made from identical events shown slightly differently.
They’re also structurally unique. Most documentary films these days are built as narratives — stories with a beginning, middle and end; stories with some kind of conflict and resolution; stories with “compelling” characters. But home movies bypass this artificial layer. Home movies are stories all by themselves. There are many small dramas we might imagine about the people, places and activities we see. But in themselves they’re little narratives about the unfolding dynamic between the person shooting and the person shot; about performing for the camera and watching people perform; about family mysteries we may never solve.
Then there’s the element of unpredictability. What will the next shot be? What will these people do? Where will the camera shoot next? You can find anything from close-ups of ears of new sweet corn to covert shots of President Roosevelt walking down a ramp from his private railroad car, shot from behind a baggage cart so that the Secret Service wouldn’t notice and take the film.
And just as there is unexpected beauty in daily life, there is real beauty in films made by ordinary, nonprofessional shooters. It can be intentional or accidental, but I am constantly struck by the wonderful images I find that would be extremely difficult to shoot on purpose. Strange juxtapositions, unpredictable camera angles, mistakes that make perfection look boring.