June 30, 2016
It’s astonishing to me to think that the Melbourne International Animation Festival has only been running since 2000 – the festival screens up to 400 animations over the length of the festival (which this year ran from 19-26 of June), and is one of the more diverse cultural festivals that Melbourne has on offer. In contrast, the Melbourne International Film Festival was first held in 1952 – a far longer period to establish itself, and as such it often eclipses any other specialty film festival held in this city.
For anyone looking to experience animation outside of the Hollywoods commercial offerings or Japanese anime (although of course they both have their own artistic and cultural merit), an animation festival such as MIAF is the place to go; the animation showcased covers a multitude of styles, techniques, and genres – the world of animation is on display. MIAF also provides the opportunity for students both nationally and internationally to present their work, a priceless experience. My full round-up (or festival diary, whatever you’d like to call it) is available at ReelGood.
At this years festival, animation fans, historians, and scholars alike were gifted a special treat – a screening of classic Disney shorts from the 1930s and 1940s, a seminal period for the Walt Disney and his team. Silly Symphonies, Mickey, Donald, Pluto and Goofy were on show for all to enjoy. Parents brought their children to experience (possibly) the very same cartoons they had grown up with when they were young; I had to smile when I heard one small voice, about half-way through the program, pipe up from a few rows behind me, “I would like to go out now.” I guess sitting still for over an hour with cartoons that aren’t even the ones you’re used to watching is probably a bit much to ask!
There is something so lovely about the idea of parents showing their own children cartoons and films they grew up watching, things that they loved as kids. When I told my parents I’d gone to see some old Disney shorts, they reminisced about watching the Disneyland TV series when they were growing up (better known perhaps as Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colour). I didn’t think I had any memories of Mickey and the others – my strongest memories of childhood cartoons revolved around Dot and the Kangaroo (Yoram Gross; 1977), Peter Pan, and Brave Little Toaster (I was not a “Disney Princess” girl, preferring instead to jump off the bed relying on faith and trust, minus the pixie dust). However, as it turns out I had more experience with these classic shorts than I realised.
A few minutes into Brave Little Tailor (Bill Roberts; 1938) and a strong sense of deja vu began to wash over me – I’ve seen this before? Where? When? It was definitely not recently, but a long time ago. The story goes: Mickey the Tailor, bothered by flies as he tries to work, swats seven at once. He proudly boasts of killing seven at with one blow, but the townsfolk mistakenly believe he has killed seven giants with one blow – how fortuitous for them, as a giant is currently terrorising the countryside. Mickey is taken before the King, tasked with taking down the giant, and is promised the hand of Princess Minnie if he succeeds. Realising too late what is happening, Mickey has no choice but to face the giant.
Little things trigger memories – for me it was the rhythmic buzzing of the flies as Mickey attempted to swat them; the rumbling sound the pumpkins made as the giant tips a cartful down his throat; the rustling sound of the giant rolling a haystack into a cigarette (something you’d never see in today’s cartoons!), and Mickey coughing as he is caught inside. Certain images, drawings and frames of the animation, were familiar too: the giant sitting on a farmhouse; Mickey scrambling from inside the giants mouth, trying to avoid being swallowed; Mickey dangling from a rope inside the giants stomach.
I’ve tried to think where in my life I’ve seen this film, and I can only say it was probably at my Oma and Opa’s house. When I was little we would make the three hour car trip up to see them every school holidays. My Opa mostly watched old British and American sit-coms (I blame Opa for the soft spot I have for Hogan’s Heroes), as well as WWII documentaries, but there was one video tape I remember of old Warner Brother’s cartoons that was brought out whenever I wanted something to watch. Warner Brothers and Disney are of course two different studios, but whilst I have strong memories of watching Bugs Bunny at their house, memories of Mickey elude me. Yet, I can’t think of where else I would have seen this film but there. There was something so affective about the sounds and the images in Brave Little Tailor that it has stuck with me, albeit in a fragmented way. My excitement at seeing classic cartoons on 35mm, from something in which I had only an academic and critical interest, transformed into warm nostalgia.
I think it was my favourite short of that program.
June 22, 2016
Over a year since my last post here, and I’ve posted maybe three times (?) in other places on the web. I’ll think about why that is another time. For now I’m going to post some notes that I scribbled down during yesterdays Criticism Masterclass at the Emerging Writer’s Festival, 2016, at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. It was an engaging, insightful day – I left feeling intellectually rejuvenated. I even sent off a pitch within half an hour of the class ending (trying to capitalise on the momentum).
Also of interest to me (and a bit heartening) is that most of the people who attended (and it was open to all who bought a ticket) were young women. But here are my thoughts (unedited except very slightly for clarity, straight from my handwritten notes):
- From Anwen Crawford‘s keynote address: Does criticism begin in the body?
- for me, film and animation critique and the strong emphasis on the material, is this more true?
- Criticism as the difference between feeling/thinking
- translating from body to mind
- situate the reader in the world
- question why and how the film/work has made you feel this way
- Reach beyond the self
- Crises of confidence (we all have them!)
- is this a gendered phenomenon? Men now seem to occupy the critical voice of reason, objectivity etc. (Cartesian dualism strikes again).
From the “Anatomy of an Essay Panel”
- (Sam van Sweden on the lyric essay) – “gestures” “spirals” “leaves space/makes room for not knowing”
- (Alexandra Heller Nicholas) – “Writing through the gut”
- Writing as practice – the reveal in the act of writing. Messy. (this is eerily reminiscent of the academic writing process for me)
- (Connor Bateman) – What is the video essay? Showing process. You are making the object.
- Ask yourself – why essays?
- I think for myself essays are most closely linked to how I write. The traditional essay. It makes sense to me. It’s easy. It can still be creative and engaging. I get excited when I read a good academic or critical essay.
What is my relationship to film criticism? My history? My tension between the academic and the personal. I need to learn how to push my writing further – take the next step!
There is so much writing in the world, how can I read it all?
From the “Experimental Critics: Critical Experiments” panel
- Emma Marie Jones: We can never really be objective critics. Our own lived experience will always inform one way or another.
- Oscar Schwartz: Academic writing is so different, but personal experiences still effect the writing … in non-academic writing, this can be magnified.
Am I too kind a critic? So many things I mean to do that I “don’t get around to.”
From the workshop, “Ways of Seeing”
- Sarinah Masukor: part of film criticism is “drawing people’s attention” to film and art (think about influences/references to other work).
- let the text inform the writing
- Stephanie van Schilt: Think about where you aim to publish. Keep in mind the context of how/when a film/tv series was released.
Ask: What kind of criticism do you want to publish?