Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tribeca Reviews: the third batch

I'm running behind. Five Flicks a day, then I'm bushed. I managed to get a few written early this morning. I'm not doing as well as I should, but that's life...

The Animated World of John Canemaker (U.S.A.)

There's an old saying that goes: “Those who can't do, teach.” This is the glory and tragedy of John Canemaker. He's been teaching animation at NYU for decades and has written extensively on the subject. His books are excellent for the most part, and those people I know who've taken his classes say he's excellent, that's how he's maintained his reputation, but this retrospective isn't mostly about John Canemaker the historian or John Canemaker the teacher, it's about John Canemaker the animator.

Those who can't do, teach.

There are four films shown here, and for the most part, they're not very good. The first one was a thing called the Sorcerer's Son, and quite frankly, it's mediocre. Less than mediocre, bad. The animation isn't all that fluid, the plot, about a sorcerer teaching his son, who wants to be a musician, how to do magic is neither interesting nor funny. The movement of the characters is jerky, and while it might be okay for a beginner in a college or even high school, it's not up to professional snuff.

Bottom's Dream is a confused mess. In artistic circles, poor draftsmanship was all the rage, and while Canemaker clearly can draw far better than some people who were celebrated in artistic circles back in the early '80s when this was done, the film itself is muddled and makes little sense, it's too clever by half.

Then there's a documentary that Canemaker made about Otto Messmer, who created Felix the Cat. It's a very nice documentary, and a necessary one, if for no other reason that Messmer was very old at the time it was made and some record had to be made before everyone in that generation croaked. However, it's not a GREAT documentary. Nor did it have to be. This is Canemaker the historian, not Canmaker the animator speaking, which is why it sticks out like a sore thumb here.

Finally, there's 2005's The Moon and the Son. This is by far the best in the bunch, mainly because it's a personal film with no real artistic pretensions, just memoir in the only way he knows will get seen.

Those who can't do, teach. That's John Canemaker.

The Bubble, (Israel)

Written and Directed
by Eytan Fox

The title refers to Tel Aviv, which is the heart of an Israel that most in the world is unknown. It's the Israel that has little or nothing to do with the stereotype of a fascist nation founded with one purpose: to oppress the Palestinians and humiliate Islam. No. The Sheikin St. district is where hipsters of the gay persuasion like to hang out and do their thing. It's a bubble where all that is far in the distance.

The film centers on three, Lulu(Daniela Wircer) and her two gay roommates, Yali(Alon Friedmann) and Noam(Ohad Knoller) live in this “bubble” and are stereotypical lefties. Lulu is part of a group that is trying to promote peace by holding demonstrations and raves, and her roommates are primarily about having sex.

Noam is a reservist in the army, and while on checkpoint duty [Fox shows how evil the Jews are by having a poor Arab woman have a miscarriage at the very beginning], he meets Ashraf(Yousef "Joe" Sweid), a gay Palestinian, and takes him home to meet his mates.

We then go forth with a gay Israeli version of “Friends.” Ashraf and Noam have a relationship, Yali has one with a macho soldier named Golan(Zohar Liba), and Lulu has a tempestuous fling with the editor of Tel Aviv's “Time Out” franchise(Oded Leopold).

Everyone is cute and is oblivious to what is going on in “the real world” and when Ashraf goes home to the West Bank for his sister's(Ruba Blal) wedding, things suddenly get serious. Her fiancĂ©e(Shredy Jabarin) is an Islamic Terrorist of course, and his opinion of Gays is far less tolerant than the Israelis. Clearly Eytan Fox and his writing partner Gal Uchovsky are clearly conflicted by the political situation. Otherwise why would they ruin the film with it's atrocious ending, which for the most part negates everything that came before?

If you're not gay or a fan of gay cinema, don't bother.

Invisibles (Spain) - U.S. Premiere.

Written and directed by Mariano Barroso, Isabel Coixet, Javier Corcuera, Fernando Leon de Aranoa and Wim Wenders.

Academy Award nominated actor Javier Bardem teams with Doctors Without Borders to present a series of propaganda shorts, allegedly giving voice to those silenced by international indifference, In other words, it's a series of commercials indirectly asking for money to help various causes and non-governmental organizations.

Yes, there are conflicts in Africa and South America that have been going on for decades, and yes there are diseases which kill thousands in poor countries and are not being fought hard enough. But what are we supposed to do besides give money to Doctors Without Borders?

The shorts are done professionally, although as propaganda they don't really convince the viewers what action we should take. There is, in fact a short which tries. The NGO representatives berate the representative of a major drug firm because they're not doing enough on their own initiative. The debate winds up in a draw. Most of the rest of the films are about armed conflict. How do you end the civil wars in Columbia or Uganda without getting involved militarily? These are questions that are not answered, this is propaganda, after all, and such questions will not bring in the money for Doctors Without Borders, which BTW, is a worthy organization for the most part. Don't bother.

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