Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Features of The Hubleys

I've now seen all three of the feature films directed by the Hubleys, and my opinions seem to differ quite a bit from those of the masses, with Everybody Rides the Carousel being my initially least favorite of all three. To refresh the memory of readers or let them know for the first time, the other two are Of Stars and Men, and The Cosmic Eye. Time will tell if this remains my opinion, but I found the other two Hubley films to be severely underappreciated while Everybody Rides the Carousel feels a little bit overpraised.

Of Stars and Men was my favorite film of all three, the most inspiring, entertaining, and ethereal. It was a collaboration between John and Faith Hubley, directed by John. It's an analysis of humans as a species and our nature in space, time, and size. I'll admit that the material didn't feel completely new, and the treatment of the subjects was rather simplistic and dated, but it felt the most coherent and well developed of all three Hubley films. The narration provided an amount of structure that the other films didn't have and needed. It should also be noted that of all three films, this was the one with the least amount of character development and the one most accessible to younger children. It was the oldest, from 1964, eleven years before Everybody Rides the Carousel, and twenty two years before the completion of The Cosmic Eye.

Everybody Rides the Carousel was also a collaboration between John and Faith, a television film made for CBS, inspired by Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Man theory, and is the most educationally valuable of all three. It's the most artistically restrained and minimalistic, which I found rather refreshing after seeing the other two. The biggest problem in my view, as that the movie is much too akward in the initial stages and end where it could have had some of the most impact. The scene of birth just doesn't feel right, and not because of the akward feeling but the lackluster execution. Near the end of the movie, too many shots are reused which gives the whole film a cheap TV feeling that starts to ruin the mood. Nevertheless, the theory in the film is very compelling and the animation is suited for it, and few animated films revolve around such a valuable but relatable concept. It's certainly a very good film, but my least favorite of the three.

The Cosmic Eye is a genuine oddity, probably the most whacked out unusual animated film I've ever seen, and I've seen enough to make a long list which I'll post when I add a couple more titles to top it off. The film uses a large amount of prior footage, short films intended to become part of the feature, but made many years beforehand to gain funding for a large project. By the time of the film's completion, John Hubley had unfortunately died prematurely in 1977, though many of the segments he worked on beforehand, so his influence is still felt. Of all three, this film is the most artistically unrestrained, and is guaranteed to leave the average viewer very cold. The film deals with myths, environmentalism, pacifism, and doesn't have a strong plot, but for the keen viewer, it's a goldmine of semi-abstract interpretation and deep, personal thought. The film feels incredibly dated and doesn't succeed completely as a serious piece of work, but if you take it with a grain of salt, you'll be more than satisfied. The audio is quite akward, but that's part of what I like about the movie The film's faults are what makes it so enjoyable or completely throw you for a curve if you're easily bored and not paying serious attention.

In my opinion, all three films are worth seeing, but the better films here are the ones that get less respect. It's also quite clear just how underappreciated Faith Hubley's work is, that it gets such little respect in comparison while having such comparable artistic merit and its own charm.

Everybody Rides the Carousel is available on a disc with A Doonesbury Special and Faith Hubley's short film My Universe Inside Out. The Cosmic Eye and Of Stars and Men are available on a disc called Art and Jazz in Animation. Both are going for rip-off prices on Amazon, but you can get the latter through Netflix if you have an account or likely through your library.

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