Monday, February 28, 2011

Jason spends the day at the Red Vic with the Film on Film Foundation

Embarrassing confession. I've lived in the Bay Area over 10 years now, and have never made it out to the Red Vic. It's kind of a schlep from my home in Fremont, but I make it to other SF theaters (e.g., the Roxie) all the time. I don't know, maybe it's the extra transit from BART, or that they don't host the big film festivals. Doesn't matter, I busted my cherry there last Saturday, with the good folks at the Film on Film Foundation, and it was a blast of animated fun.

First up was GUMBY 1, the optimistically titles first (and only) feature length Gumby film. It came out in 1995, same year as TOY STORY. I remember hearing rumors that Art Clokey was offered substantial money for Gumby to appear in TOY STORY, and passed to make his own money. You can argue the business wisdom of his decision, but something as weird as GUMBY 1 could only come from one man's vision unfettered from committee decisions. A weird tale in which the Blockheads foreclose on the family farmers' lands, and Gumby and his band hold a benefit concert. The Blockheads kidnap Gumby's friends and make duplicate robots to wreak havoc...and then things get weird. He's green, he's clay, he's a cosmic display, he's Gumby. And by far the highlight has to be the Gumby vs. Robogumby lightsaber battle (incidentally, the sound was done by Skywalker sound, so you know George Lucas had to know about this and give it the okay). Wow!

While Gumby was trippy for the simple, handmade charm that celebrated Gumby as a clay-based space alien (with a sad-sack pony and a dog that cries tears), the second movie was a claymation masterpiece of complexity by Will Vinton, the man who coined the term "claymation." Based on the life and works of Mark Twain, the framing device is Twain travelling in a steamboat/airship to reach Haley's comet for his final act. Along the way are stowaways Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher. It starts out with very childlike whimsy, but quickly transitions into some rather mature, adult whimsy (The Diary of Adam and Eve) and even a little darkness with (The Stranger), until a conclusion that explicates and celebrates the necessary existence of everyone's dark side. I don't know why I had never heard of this film. It's an absolute masterpiece.

And finally, things went full adults-only with Peter Jackson's early bad taste puppet extravaganza, MEET THE FEEBLES. I've seen it many times before, and it's still fun (if crudely structured and lacking a narrative flow). In a Muppets-esque variety act, the star bunny (oh yeah, there were bunnies in all three films, which of course tickled my fancy) has V.D., the knife-throwing frog has a drug problem (brought on by his experiences in Nam), the diva hippo has a weight problem, her producer boyfriend Bletch the walrus is banging some pussy (an actual cat) on the side and taking part in the shady business of drugs and pornography. And that's just the tip of the sleazeberg. The only thing that would make it better is if we had an impromptu sing-along to the Sodomy Song.

So yeah, that happened.

Total Running Time: 270 minutes
My Total Minutes: 224,430

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