Saturday, May 31, 2008

Benny's Bathtub

While searching for information on films that were listed on Wikipedia's List of animated feature length films, I found one film which I'd consider more unusual than good. This film isn't exactly what I'd call unique, either as it is quite unique in concept, but borrows quite heavily from other films and popular culture. From clips posted on youtube, Benny's Bathtub, a popular 1971 Danish film that's virtually unknown outside of Scandinavia and perhaps rightfully so, strikes me as a bizarre psychological but pop cultural children's film with references that go a little over the edge. There's a bizarre starfish character that changes colors like Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire Cat, some unexpected bits of abstract animation that scream Norman McLaren, references to what seems to be The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and probably eons more I've missed. The whole film is posted on You Tube, but is untranslated(don't let that stop you, because nothing I've seen suggests any sort of comprehensible plot). The film is based off of an also popular Danish children's book, and that's about as far as words can describe this movie, unless somebody bilingual in English and Danish translates it. Here's a song from the movie on You Tube in what seems to be one of the more interesting segments: link

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Right Under the Nose of He who Knows

There are all sorts of well made and original animated classics that are available now on DVD, but that nobody seems to notice. Here is a list which will be updated that points to as many films as possible which are available on DVD right now. Forget that Disney movie you've been thinking of buying that likely a masterpiece as the ads suggest, or that derivative, overpriced anime show that nobody will care about in 20 years and instead buy something of real value. I have no affiliations with any distribution or production company, nor am I personally accquainted with any animator or filmmaker, or relative of theirs who may have worked on any of these films. If such a situation should arise in the future as I continually update this list, it will be declared upfront.

All of the films on this list are available with English subtitles or language dubbing, though not all are both region 1, region 0, or NTSC format. Should anybody know of any superior, legal versions, I shall acknowledge them on the list, but only should the person give their legitimate e-mail and all contributions will be listed in a separate category under their authority, not under mine.

 Should anyone reading this blog discover that a film that I or somebody else has posted on this list be an illegitimately released, copied, fake, or nonexistent DVD unwittingly, and in their case possibly willingly, that incident will personally be noted on this blog under an errors section. Back up your case with solid evidence, or you'll be ignored and unable to post, make suggestions, or in any other way take part in this blog . That is all and if you are unsure of a release's legality, please refrain from mentioning it here or inquire further from a more trustworthy source. That is all for now, though I reserve the right to change these rules at any time with the acknowledgment of change, and here is the current list of films below:

For Now:
Available directly through an Amazon site:

Jiri Barta's Labyrinth of Darkness (contains feature film Krysar)

The Puppet Films of Jiri Trnka (contains shorter version of feature The Emperor's Nightingale with narration by Boris Karloff)

On Amazon UK:

Rene Laloux's Time Masters

Amazon Japan:

Masaaki Yuasa's Mind Game (has English subtitles and is also available on YesAsia)

Updated below: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

On YesAsia

The Wan Brothers' Uproar in Heaven (English fan-subtitles can be found with a quick online search)

Tomomi Mochizuki's Ocean Waves

Isao Takahata's Gauche the Cellist

That's all for the present time, as I need to do some more digging and have several other parts of the blog to update. Thanks for not visiting my blog! I guess it's time to start actually mentioning this blog on some animation websites so I can get some regular readers and other animation obsessed fans who can help to contribute.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When you're out of cash, but want something to watch

Thanks to a large scale search through the entire Crunchy Roll anime index which I took the liberty of doing several weeks ago due to boredom, here are the feature films which I consider to be good as well as rare. As far as good films go, the database won't last you long, before descending into incredible amounts of derivative mainstream junk. I had nightmares for a week after searching through this hellish geek fetish of a database hoping for a masterpiece or two. Without registering, you'll be able to get through about a movie or two in a day period before you're cut off and forced to register, but the system is easily foiled, so long as you have another nearby computer. 

This obsession with rare films is one that takes a huge toll on your wallet, so here are some good films which you can easily and semi-legally view online for free. All of these films seem to be unlicensed for an English market, except for Robot Carnival which has a company that owns the rights but hasn't bothered to release the film on DVD. If I missed any that have less than 2,000 IMDB votes and are both unusual and well regarded, I'll make sure to update the list. This will probably be the last time I ever link to so many films directly on my blog, but that's what this blog was created for, revealing obscure animated films to readers and discussing them.

Belladonna of Sadness
This film is for mature viewers only and revolves around Belladonna, a woman in the middle ages who is tempted by witchcraft after being sexually abused by her town's Baron on her wedding day as payment for the ceremony. The film relies quite heavily on still images, with full animation sparingly used, which works quite well.
Legend of Sirius
A dark childrens film, the movie is based loosely on Romeo and Juliet as well as Western mythology. A prince of the sea, Sirius, falls in love with a daughter of fire, Malta, and despite the inevitable ending, the movie is beautiful along the way.
Mind Game
You can read a synopsis and reviews at the Internet Movie Database that describe it better than I could: IMDB Page
Ocean Waves
This Studio Ghibli movie, originally made for television, is a slice of life story centering on the life of a high school aged boy. The movie is casual in both technique and ambition, but proves to be a surprisingly engaging film.
Princess Arete
The one movie from Studio 4ÂșC that isn't especially experimental, this movie is a refreshing change of pace from the zany creativity of Mind Game. In contradiction of Disney principles, a young princess is tired of being in her position. In a plot revolving suitors, magic, and quiet personal reflection, Princess Arete reexamines her life.
Robot Carnival
This animator's compilation film has a wide variety of segments, most without dialogue, and all revolving around some sort of robot. The movie is quite a mixed bag, but contains many interesting segments, the best ones seeming to come from the lesser known animators who have attracted little attention since.

That's all for this update, and thanks to all of you for not reading my blog!

Obscure Animated Films I didn't Like

Sometimes, as my potential readers are well aware, you'll become excited about a rare animated feature which turns out to be heavily disappointing. Here are a couple more obscure animated films that I don't like, despite good ratings and general high regard:

The Cat who Walked by Herself 

This movie is an experimental Russian feature presumably based on Russian folklore which relies on too many techniques to name offhand. The film takes the viewer through the history of nature and mankind, with a cat who was there all the way since the dawn of time. For the most part, this is a great movie, but is brought down in my opinion, by a seemingly ever present narration which seems downright militant in crucial dramatic scenes, as the preachy environmental tones are shoved down your throats during the scariest moments of the film. The movie starts off well enough, but at the end seems like a prehistoric bad trip version of Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind.

The Girl who Leapt through Time

You're probably already aware of the basic plot, seeing the popularity that this movie has gained and the fact that a DVD release is due out in the U.S. next fall. Sometimes a popular film isn't a truly good one, and I think this film is better than most anime, but still an overpraised incoherent soap opera with a pretentious pseudo-poetic ending. The characters are rather typical of anime and despite attempts to broaden their two dimensional personalities with secret crushes and repressed angst, none of the characters ever feels very human. The script clearly needed a few more drafts, and the attempt to combine science fiction with a slice of life story simply didn't work. There are interesting segments of genuine emotion, but they don't fit into the actual movie or come together to reveal any sort of actual message. All the interesting animation is truly wasted and the musical score is mostly Beethoven which only emphasizes the fact that every element of the story has been used better somewhere else.

If you want to see a fast paced movie with drama that combines time travel with adrenaline, watch Run Lola Run.
If you're looking for a casual romance story revolving around a young girl, watch Whisper of the Heart.
For an anime or two that combine romance and science fiction successfully, watch Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, both directed by Makoto Shinkai.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Twice upon a Time uncut on Youtube

For those of you who've heard of Twice upon a Time but haven't seen it or have only watched the awful John Korty version, the uncut version is available on youtube, albeit with a different ending song during the credits. A brief synopsis and more information can be found on the IMDB page here: Twice upon a Time.

Quick Cocktail Party Notes:
Directed by John Korty, Twice Upon a Time was made using a technique called Lumage, which used backlit paper cutouts and was a very time consuming process. This is the only feature film ever created using the technique, though some clearly similar design can be found in Monsters Inc. as Harley Jessup was the art director for Twice and a production designer for Monsters Inc.

The film is a bizarre parody of fairy tales, and while dated will still certainly appeal to those who enjoyed Shrek and Monsters Inc. The dialogue is quite heavily improvised, and the characters are incredibly abnormal, which might make this film appeal to Yellow Submarine fans. Here's the link, so decide for yourself: Uncut Version