Friday, March 24, 2006

Brokeback Mouse and more on South Park

Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

Brokeback Mouse

Cartoon Brew is one of our favorite sources for animation news on the web, and a couple of days ago, brewmaster Jerry Beck posted a short compilation of clips that confirmed what many people have suspected for years.

Joe Barbera's Birthday

Today is approximately the 95th birthday of animation legend Joe Barbera, co-creator of the above-mentioned cat-and-mouse, as well as the Hanna Barbera studio, home of the Flintstones, Jetsons, Scooby Doo and thousands of other cartoon characters. Barbera is one of the last surviving directors from the Golden Age of animation. Mark Evanier has a nice write up here.

South Park conspiracy Theories

Last week, we wrote about the controversy surrounding the battle between South Park and Scientology that saw Isaac Hayes (the voice of Chef) leave the show, and a controversial rerun episode pulled from the schedule. Since that time, there have been more developments, contradicting reports, and conspiracy theories out the wazoo. According to this report, Isaac Hayes suffered a debilitating stroke in January, and is unable to speak. The report further claims that Hayes' resignation letter was actually written and released without his input by Scientology PR people. Matt Parker and Trey Stone have been accused of asking Comedy Central to pull the repeat of the "Trapped In The Closet" episode as part of a stunt, so that they could say Tom Cruise did it, and get tons of free publicity for the new season of South Park. Finally, there are murmurings that this week's episode, where they killed Chef, but used old clips of Isaac Hayes voice, was a way that the duo were able to keep paying Hayes, who is reportedly in poor health, and has a new baby to take care of.

All we know for sure is that the "Return Of Chef" episode, where the lovable character joined the "Super Adventure Club," was brainwashed into becoming a pedophile, and was then killed off, was one of the funniest episodes of South Park in a long time. And it did killer ratings, too.

Next week, we preview ICE AGE 2: The Meltdown

Monday, March 20, 2006

V For Vapid

For the first time in years, I actually went to the theater to see a live-action movie this weekend. I went to see V For Vendetta, despite my misgivings about the way the original comic book's writer, Alan Moore, has been treated. Moore had his name taken off the movie after a series of bad experiences with Hollywood mangling his work while translating it to the big screen. He was right to do it here.

I've read a few reviews that actually claim that this movie is a faithful adaptation of the original comic book. Those reviews can only have been written by people who have never been within a hundred yards of an actual copy of this comic book. The wire service review that ran here in The Gazz was evidently written by someone who was completely unfamiliar with the comic. Obviously just relying on what Warner Brothers had put in the press kit, the reviewer attributed the "graphic novel" to artist, David Lloyd, with no mention of Moore at all.

The movie, "V For Vendetta," is a total bastardization of the original comic book. I know. I read the original back in the early '80s when it was serialized in an obscure British comic magazine called Warrior. I remember the three-year wait after Warrior ceased publication with the last third of "V For Vendetta" unfinished. In 1988, Alan Moore and his artist, David Lloyd, sold the rights to DC Comics, and finished their story. It was an astonishing work--challenging, compelling, deep. It personified the philosophical struggle between fascism and anarchy, and did so with a wicked comment on Thatcher's England.

The movie adaptation, written by the Wachowski brothers of "Matrix" fame, is typical Hollywood claptrap that rapes and pillages the original work for its settings and imagery, perverts the original theme into a hackneyed parable about the Bush Administration, and totally ignores the core portrayal of anarchy as a viable political alternative. The poetry of Moore's original work is replaced with insipid, hack sitcom-level dialogue. Instead of a struggle between fascism and anarchy, we get a "plucky underdog brings down the big bad guys" formulaic piece of tripe. Only about half the original work turns up in the movie, but they did manage to crowbar in lots of extra explosions, "Matrix-y" fight scenes, an idiotic and inappropriate love story, and loads of currently fashionable political subtexts that weren't in the comic.

This should forever end the use of the phrase "comic book-y" as an insult. This comic book had to be so dumbed-down to make it to the big screen that it's clear that movies are the medium for lowbrow, banal, melodrama, not comic books. Comic books like "V For Vendetta"are way too complex to be translated to film. The Wachowski brothers should never be allowed near another comic book again. Their scripts are too "movie-like" to be taken seriously. The movie is junk.

Of course, it topped the box office this weekend.

Monday Art: Post (Office) Op Art

This week's Monday Art is a digitally assaulted photograph titled, "The Wall." It was shot on Washington Street, behind the post office in downtown Charleston back in January. I altered it in the computer this past weekend. It's disorienting on purpose. (Click to enlarge)

Song Of The Week: "Radiation"

THE SONG: "Radiation" by The Epoxies. This song warns about the evil radiation emanating from your TV set -- you know, stuff like Fox News. Just released last May, this cut from The Epoxies' "Stop The Future" CD sounds like a blast of pure New Wave power pop from the early 80s. Imagine a cross between New Romantics and Blondie, with just a little So Cal punk thrown in. Best of all, you can click on the song title for a free listen. If you like what you hear, go buy the album from Fat Wreck Chords.

Cool Website Watch: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles!'

My cool website recommendation for this week is The Beatles Internet Album, a repository of myths, trivia, and links about the Fab Four. In other Beatles news, Mark Brown from the Rocky Mountain News has a great article about the frustrating lack of remastered Beatles CDs here. Finally, in barely-related Beatles news, the fate of the Capitol Records building, one of the most notable landmarks in Los Angeles, and a place the Beatles used for the occasional recording session, is up in the air, according to this report from the Associated Press.

Local TV News Update

WHCP, the plucky little TV station that bravely carries on, despite not having any technical proficiency, has signed on with the new network, The CW. This development thus ensures that area viewers will still get to see their favorite surviving UPN and WB programs -- albeit not with a decent broadcast signal.

Despite having plenty of advanced notice, WHCP did not change their schedule to move last Saturday's airing of "Friday Night Smackdown!" to another time. So, local viewers had to choose whether to watch "Smackdown!" or "Saturday Night Main Event", a heavily-promoted WWE special that aired locally on WSAZ.

In related news, there are reports that Mark Hunt and the other investors in the failed WHCP newscast are going to try again in establishing a new, Charleston-based newscast, this time with a real TV station. If they can get this project off the ground, it'll be interesting to see how good a newscast they can put on the air without the technical albatross that was the WHCP Portsmouth crew around their neck.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

An Evening of Art and Theater

Last Thursday night, I had the joy of experiencing two fun cultural events in one evening. Melanie appeared in Kanawha Players' March Briefs and Shorts presentation, "Scenes From An Irish Pub, Part Two" at Capitol Roasters. And before that I briefly popped in to see the "30 Artists Think Yellow" exhibit at the Taylor Books Annex Gallery.

The "30 Artists Think Yellow" exhibit is a great idea. I like thematic art shows that bring a variety of different artists together, but sometimes the themes can be a little contrived. In this case, the simple use of the color yellow, which is perfect for a springtime show, works perfectly to unify the disparate works, rather than act as a straight jacket to force the artists to conform. I hope my fellow Gazz blogger Amy Williams will be able to reinstall her yellow clothesline outside Taylor Books before the exhibit is over. (It's back up! Ed. note) If you get a chance, you should pop into the Taylor Books Annex Gallery and check out this great cross-section of local artists.

"Scenes From An Irish Pub, Part Two" was another fun entry in Kanawha Player's "Briefs and Shorts" program. We were treated to three short plays with an Irish theme, in observance of St. Patrick's Day, with some extra musical performances and lots of audience participation. Since I'm not a coffee drinker, this was my first time in Capitol Roasters on the corner of Quarrier and Summers street. It's a great little space, and I'm hoping that I get the chance to see more events there. The place was packed, and a grand time was had by all.