I haven't been posting enough lately, but here are links to some things I've read:
- Thad has another animator breakdown, of the Friz Freleng classic "His Bitter Half" (aka "the one that got remade with Yosemite Sam replacing Daffy")
- A four-part series on the films of Nicholas Ray from the point of someone who doesn't particularly like Nicholas Ray. I don't necessarily agree with all or even most of it. (I think, for example, that it's often a mistake to look for Ray's "expressionistic" style in the shot setups and lighting, when that's only a part -- and not the biggest part, in the old studio-system days -- of what creates the over-the-top emotionalism of Ray's work.) But I found it interesting reading anyway.
- Speaking of Nicholas Ray, Bigger Than Life gets Criterion'd on March 23. I have to wonder how it plays in movie theatres -- it really does border on camp, and I've heard that the most famous line, "God was wrong!!!", gets laughs in revival showings these days. But it's perfect for the home viewing format, especially since it has a lot in common with modern TV dramas (in its combination of social commentary and over-ripe melodrama, it would fit right in on HBO).
- A blog entirely devoted to comics stories by John Stanley. And not just "Little Lulu," though there's lots of that, but also some obscure Stanley projects like "Linda Lark, Student Nurse."
- While I'm on the subject of comics, here's one of the few complete stories I could find online from Stan Lee and Al Hartley's run on "Patsy Walker." Marvel doesn't give its non-superhero characters nearly enough respect -- remember, Patsy is the character the company actually turned into a superhero, on the assumption that she isn't worth following if she doesn't wear a stupid costume. But I can never make up my mind how I feel about their non-superhero comics. I feel, for one thing, like Stan Lee's writing was never quite funny enough; when he did action-adventure, he was a lot funnier than your average superhero writer, but Millie the Model and Patsy needed better jokes. And with Patsy, while Al Hartley's art was a lot more consistent than it later became, he still indulges in the two habits that always made his art look scary to me: the weird facial lines, and the blank stares in the characters' wide eyes. He always looks like he's drawing zombies. Pretty, shapely zombies. Among the non-superhero Marvel artists, though, I still prefer Hartley to Stan Goldberg.
- I'm kind of enjoying this week of Family Circus reprints from 1960. Not enough to make me want to go out and buy the book of reprints, but enough to make me think the strip used to be better. I don't think the jokes were that much better, but the cartoony look of the characters (particularly the dad) and the manic expressions of the kids made it better. It's always been, basically, a strip about what destructive idiots children are, but back then the art didn't try to make us believe that these kids were cute.
- One death I missed last year was that of TV director Linda Day, who died of cancer at age 71. Day started directing TV in 1979, at a time when there were very few female directors in TV or movies. She started as Jay Sandrich's assistant, and became associate director for the first two and a half seasons of WKRP in Cincinnati. During the second season, Hugh Wilson gave her her first directing assignment, on a very difficult episode: "In Concert" the famous Who concert tragedy show. After that she directed many TV episodes, mostly sitcoms but also some hour-long shows like St. Elsewhere.
- I have no idea why this should be, but I was kind of happy to find the original, pre-Toni Basil version of "Hey Mickey," when it was called "Kitty." At least that name rhymes with "pity" and "pretty."
- The most famous documentary ever made about a classical recording, Humphrey Burton's "The Golden Ring" (about conductor Georg Solti, producer John Culshaw and his team recording Gotterdammerung in Vienna), has been posted on YouTube in nine parts. It's hard to imagine a modern classical recording being taken quite so seriously as a production in its own right; most classical records are made during live concerts, and the producer's job is to get the music sounding as good as it can. But Culshaw, like Glenn Gould, saw the recording as a completely separate experience from the live concert (he hated live recordings and said there was "no excuse" for making them), and his recordings remain a more involving experience than the average record -- or the average concert.