Monthly Archives: January 2006

RIP Norm McCabe

Just a quick post to note the passing of Norm McCabe, who died on 18 January aged 94. McCabe was the last of the directors from the Warner Bros animation studio in its classic era: a handful of animators are left alive (Bill Melendez pops up looking very sprightly in interviews on the Looney Tunes DVD sets, for example) but now all the directors and notable story artists are gone.

I’m not terribly familiar with McCabe’s cartoons: he certainly wasn’t a major director, and like Arthur Davis only got a short spell as director (he left the position for military service). Unlike Davis, who is pretty well regarded by Warners fans, his cartoons aren’t very frequently revived. However, like Joe Grant, the guy had staying power: he was doing work on Tiny Toon Adventures in his eighties.

A little more about McCabe can be found here, here, and here.

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Brokeback Mountain and al-Qaeda: The Hidden Connection

It’s really too soon to be editorialising on Brokeback Mountain again – particularly as I haven’t seen it and probably won’t have a chance to review it this weekend. There almost isn’t any point arguing about this – from what I can gather, the film doesn’t seem to say anything terribly controversial: when Fred Nile decries it, he’s really just suggesting that he thinks a film about gay cowboys shouldn’t exist, and if someone’s that far gone there’s not really much arguing that you can do with them. So I should just move on.

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Journey Up the Nile

I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain, but I’m already glad it won the Golden Globe for Best Drama. Why? Because it will upset people such as the conservative politician Fred Nile, who in this story on (Australian) ABC radio spoke out against the film.

But he has our interests at heart: he’s trying to spare us from confusion. To quote from the ABC’s story:

FRED NILE: I think it’s causing a great confusion to have two homosexual cowboys after all the popularity of the cowboy theme in American themes [sic].

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Serkis Performer

The animation directors on Peter Jackson’s King Kong were Christian Rivers and Eric Leighton.

I mention this because from all the media coverage, you might assume that Andy Serkis was the single-handed creator of the character of Kong, just as many sources suggest that he was the single-handed creator of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. It has been suggested, for example, that Serkis’ work on both characters was worthy of Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (and, indeed, Serkis did win several acting awards for Gollum, as listed on his website). Yet, as should be obvious, Serkis is not the sole creator of either performance: both Gollum and Kong represent a blend of the performances by Serkis and the various animators at Weta Digital. Even an article as informative as this one at ComingSoon.Net – which does discuss the split between Serkis’ work and the animators in some detail – is based only on Serkis’ account and runs under the headline “Andy Serkis IS King Kong.” And of course the credits of the movie include a credit reading simply “Andy Serkis as Kong.”

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All Kongquering

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933) and

King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005)

If you ever wanted to be reassured that it’s okay to like big special effects blockbusters, have a look at the reputation of the 1933 version of King Kong. The film is a solid, rolled-gold classic, and makes a strong showing in any of the dubious-but-fun movie popularity contests: it is in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 List; Christopher Tookey’s The Critics Film Guide cites it has having an average critical rating of 9.53 out of 10; the Internet Movie Database has it in its top 250 user-rated films; and so on. Received wisdom is a wonderful thing: once a film is a famous classic, and several decades old, it is easy to accept its status, and not think about why the film is so revered. Yet with King Kong it pays to ask the question. For the original King Kong is a forerunner to all the light-on-plot, big-on-special-effects blockbusters of recent years: as such, its continuing fame is something of a challenge to conventional critical wisdom, which tends to be dismissive of this kind of filmmaking.

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