Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske & Jack Kinney (1948)

Melody Time is a 1948 American live-action/animated musical film produced by Walt Disney. The tenth Disney animated feature film, it was released to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on May 27, 1948. Made up of seven segments set to popular music and folk music, the film is, like Make Mine Music before it, the popular music version of Fantasia. Melody Time, while not meeting the artistic accomplishments of Fantasia, was mildly successful. It is the fifth Disney package film following Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, and Fun and Fancy Free.

“In the grand tradition of Disney’s greatest musical classics, such as Fantasia, Melody Time features seven classic stories, each enhanced with high-spirited music and unforgettable characters. A feast for the eyes and ears full of wit and charm. A delightful Disney classic with something for everyone”.

Walt Disney

Melody Time is considered to be the last anthology feature made by the Walt Disney Animation Studios. These package features were little-known short-film compilations that Disney produced and released as feature films during World War II. They were financially and artistically lightweight productions meant to bring in profits to allow the studio to return to fairy tale single-narrative feature form, an endeavour which they successfully completed two years later with Cinderella. While the shorts contrast in length, form, and style, a common thread throughout is that each is accompanied by songs from musicians and vocalists of the ’40s. This sets it apart from the similarly structured Fantasia, whose segments were set to classical music instead. As opposed to Fun and Fancy Free, whose story was bound to the tales of Bongo and Jack and the Beanstalk, in this film Walt Disney has let his animators and his color magicians have free rein.

Rose Pelswick, in a 1948 review for The News-Sentinel, described the film as an ‘adventure into the intriguing make-believe world peopled by Walt Disney’s Cartoon characters”. It also explains that “with the off-screen voice of Buddy Clark doing the introductions, the episodes include fantasy, folklore, South American rhythms, poetry, and slapstick”. A 1948 review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described it as a “mixture of fantasy, abstraction, parable, music, color, and movement”.

Once Upon a Wintertime

This segment features Frances Langford singing the title song about two romantic young lovers on a winter day in December, during the late 19th century. The couple are Jenny and Joe (unlike most Disney cartoons, Jenny and Joe lack spoken dialogue). Joe shows off on the ice for Jenny, and near-tragedy and a timely rescue ensues. This is intertwined with a similar rabbit couple.

Bumble Boogie

This segment presents a surrealistic battle for a solitary bumblebee as he tries to ward off a visual and musical frenzy. The music, courtesy of Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (with Jack Fina playing the piano), is a swing-jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, which was one of the many pieces considered for inclusion in Fantasia.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

A retelling of the story of John Chapman, who spent most of his life roaming the Midwestern United States (mainly Ohio and Indiana) in the pioneer days, and planting apple trees, thus earning his famous nickname. He also spread Christianity. Dennis Day narrates (as an “old settler who knew Johnny well”) and provides the voices of both Johnny and his guardian angel.

Little Toot

The story of Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky, in which the title protagonist, a small tugboat in New York City, wanted to be just like his father Big Toot, but could not seem to stay out of trouble. The Andrews Sisters provide vocals.

Trees

A recitation of the 1913 poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer, featuring music by Oscar Rasbach and performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. The lyrical setting accompanies animation of bucolic scenes seen through the changing of the seasons. To preserve the look of the original story sketches, layout artist Ken O’Connor came up with the idea of using frosted cels and rendering the pastel images right onto the cel. Before being photographed each cel was laminated in clear lacquer to protect the pastel. The result was a look that had never been seen in animation before.

Blame it on the Samba

Donald Duck and José Carioca meet the Aracuan Bird, who introduces them to the pleasures of the samba. The accompanying music is the 1914 polka Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho by Ernesto Nazareth, fitted with English lyrics. The Dinning Sisters provide vocals while organist Ethel Smith appears in a live-action role.

Pecos Bill

The finale follows about Texas’ famous hero Pecos Bill. Raised by coyotes, he became the biggest and best cowboy that ever lived. He out hissed the Rattlesnake. And learned about all of the animals. It also features his horse Widowmaker, who’s been saved by the vultures that try to eat him. He brought the rain from California to save Texas from the drought. But when he woke up from the river, he heard a cow mooing. There was the band of evil rustlers stealing the herd of cattle. But they didn’t know the herd they stole was Bill’s. So he lassoed them and knocked out all of their teeth one by one. The Rustlers were now finally reformed and started to sing, “Yippee-I-Yay!” Then, Bill and Widowmaker traveled through the desert. He got a stick and then he dug the rio grande. And it recounts the ill-fated romance between Bill and a beautiful cowgirl named Slue Foot Sue, with whom he fell in love at first sight until a jealous Widowmaker made Sue to get literally stranded at the Moon at their wedding day. This retelling features Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, the former’s horse Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers telling the story to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten in a live-action frame story.

Fleischer Studios (1935)

Betty flies to Japan to do a show, and sings the title number. She then dons a kimono, and sings it again in Japanese.

Got a language all my own known in every foreign home! You surely know it is Boop-Doopy-Doopy-Doo-Boop-Oopy-Doop-Bop!

Betty Boop

Betty Boop flies to Japan and takes her stage act on the road, and plays to great acclaim, and sings the title number “A Language All My Own” in both English and Japanese. After singing to a cheering New York audience, Betty sets off in her plane for the Land of the Rising Sun, depicted literally as such with an emblematic sunrise over Mt. Fuji. When Betty arrives in Japan she sings for her cheering Japanese fans.

Mae Questel as Betty Boop

Animation by Myron Waldman and Hicks Lokey

Music by Sammy Timberg

Patrick Smith (1985)

“There’s a way we talk and it includes profanity. We never figured we’d be arrested for it.”

– Mike D

Interview by Rocci Fisch for ABC News Radio 1985, Washington, D.C. Cassette Tape

More Beasties: http://blankonblank.org/interviews/be…

Executive Producer: David Gerlach

Animator: Patrick Smith

Beastie Boys were an American rap group from New York City, formed in 1981. The group was composed of Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz. Beastie Boys were formed out of members of experimental hardcore punk band the Young Aborigines in 1978, with Diamond as vocalist, Jeremy Shatan on bass guitar, John Berry on guitar, and Kate Schellenbach on drums. When Shatan left in 1981, Yauch replaced him on bass and the band changed their name to Beastie Boys. Berry left shortly thereafter and was replaced by Horovitz.

Vitist https://beastieboys.com/ for more Beastie Boys!

James Brown & Betty Jean Newsome (1966)

Animated music video by James Brown performing It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World

Directed by Xavier Fauthoux

The world may be run and operated by men, but without women, none of it would be possible.

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World is a song written by James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome. Brown recorded it on February 16, 1966, in a New York City studio and released it as a single later that year. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its title is a word play on the 1963 comedy film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The song is written in the key of E-flat minor. The lyrics attribute all the works of modern civilization to the efforts of men, but claim that it all would “mean nothing without a woman or a girl”. Brown’s co-writer and onetime girlfriend, Betty Jean Newsome, wrote the lyrics based on her own observations of the relations between the sexes. Newsome claimed in later years that Brown did not write any part of the song, and she argued in court that he sometimes forgot to pay her royalties.

Animation Department

Marion Brunettoanimator
Thomas Buroncharacter designer
Martial CoulonCompositing
Matthieu Fouchieranimator
Liza Lussiezcharacter designer
Milan Starcevicanimator
Alexandre Tissotconcept art

Nina Simone (1965)

Watch the visualizer for Rudimental’s Remix of “Take Care Of Business” by Nina Simone from the album Feeling Good: Her Greatest & Remixes (2022)

In honor of Nina Simone’s birthday, born on this day in 1933, I present to you Nina Simone!

Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel and pop.

The sixth of eight children born to a poor family in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone initially aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of a few supporters in her hometown, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well received audition, which she attributed to racism. In 2003, just days before her death, the Institute awarded her an honorary degree.

To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to “Nina Simone” to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play “the devil’s music” or so-called “cocktail piano”. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with Little Girl Blue. She had a hit single in the United States in 1958 with “I Loves You, Porgy”. Her musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.

Animated video directed by Sharon Liu and Aaron Lampert (2022).

Happy Birthday, Nina Simone!

Fleischer Studios (1932)

Minnie the Moocher is a  1932 Betty Boop cartoon produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures.

Happy Halloween!

What better way to kick off this Halloween than with the Betty Boop classic Minnie the Moocher. Enjoy!

The cartoon opens with a live action sequence of Cab Calloway and his orchestra performing an instrumental rendition of the song St. James Infirmary. Then Betty Boop gets into a fight with her strict, Yiddish speaking, Jewish parents, and as a result, runs away from home with her boyfriend Bimbo, and sings excerpts of the Harry Von Tilzer song They Always Pick on Me and the song Mean to Me.

Betty and Bimbo end up in a cave with a walrus, who has Cab Calloway’s voice, and sings Minnie the Moocher and dances to the melancholy song. Calloway is joined in the performance by various ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and other frightening things. Betty and Bimbo are subjected to skeletons drinking at a bar, ghost prisoners sitting in electric chairs, and a cat with empty eye-sockets feeding her equally empty-eyed kittens. Betty and Bimbo both change their minds about running away and rush back home with every ghost right behind them. Betty makes it safely back to her home and hides under the blankets of her bed. As she shakes in terror, the note she earlier wrote to her parents tears, leaving “Home Sweet Home” on it. The film ends with Calloway performing the instrumental Vine Street Blues.

History of Fleischer Studios

Fleischer Studios was an American corporation which originated as an animation studio located at 1600 Broadway, New York City, New York. It was founded in 1921 as Inkwell Studios by brothers Ma Fleischer and Dave Fleischer who ran the pioneering company from its inception until Paramount Pictures, the studio’s parent company and the distributor of its films, acquired ownership. In its prime, Fleischer Studios was a premier producer of animated cartoons for theaters, with Walt Disney Productions becoming its chief competitor in the 1930s.

Fleischer Studios is notable for Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. Unlike other studios, whose characters were anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers’ most successful characters were humans (With the exception of Bimbo in the 1930s.). The cartoons of the Fleischer Studio were very different from the Disney product, both in concept and in execution. As a result, the Fleischer cartoons were rough rather than refined, commercial rather than consciously artistic. But in their unique way, their artistry was expressed through a culmination of the arts and sciences. This approach focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements, and sexuality, and the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Depression as well as German Expressionism.

The Fleischer Studio was built on Max Fleischer’s novelty film series, Out of the Inkwell (1919-1927). The “novelty” was based largely on the results of the rotoscope, invented by Fleischer to produce realistic animation. The first Out of the Inkwell films were produced through The Bray Studio, and featured Fleischer’s first character, “The Clown,” which became known as Ko-Ko the Clown in 1924.

In 1921, The Bray Studio ran afoul with legal issues, having contracted for more films than it could deliver to its distributor, The Goldwyn Company. The Fleischer Brothers left and began their own studio with Dave as Director and Production Supervisor, and Max as Producer. In 1924, Veteran Animator, Dick Huemer came to The Inkwell Studio and redesigned “The Clown” for more efficient animation. Huemer’s new design and experience as an Animator moved them away from their dependency on The Rotoscope for fluid animation. In addition to defining the clown, Huemer established the Fleischer style with its distinctive thick and thin ink lines. In addition, Huemer created Ko-Ko’s companion, Fitz the Dog, who would evolve into Bimbo in 1930.

Throughout the 1920s, Fleischer was one of the leading producers of animation with clever moments and numerous innovations including the “Rotograph”, an early “Aerial Image” photographic process for compositing animation with live action backgrounds. Other innovations included Ko-Ko Song Car-Tunes and sing-along shorts featuring the famous bouncing ball, a precursor to Karaoke.

L.A. Witch (2020)

Play With Fire out August 21, 2020, on Suicide Squeeze

Animation and motion design by Bradley Hale. Artwork by Future Shock.

LA garage punk trio L.A.Witch have shared their new single I Wanna Lose.

The three-piece band will release their new album Play With Fire on August 21st, and it finds the band draping their guitar pop distortion in waves of reverb.

Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen, Don’t fear mistakes or the future. Take a chance. Say and do what you really feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas. These are feelings that have stopped me in the past. I want to inspire others to be freethinkers even if it causes a little burn.”

-Sade Sanchez

The new single I Wanna Lose is online now, and it’s about letting everything burn down, if only to find a forward path.

A song about sucking up punches. It’s a potent, biting single. Sade continues:

I Wanna Lose is about feeling free and feeling stronger because you’ve lost everything and now you’ve got everything to win. It’s about being a punching bag in a martyr-like way, and losing a fight to move on.”

Bradley Hale animates the video for ‘I Wanna Lose’ – tune in now.

L.A. Witch is a garage-rock trio formed in Los Angeles, California in 2011. Founded by L.A. natives Sade Sanchez and Irita Pai, the band’s sound has been described as a “mix of forlorn psych folk, lethargic lo-fi blues, and boozy garage rock drones steeped in moody, drugged-out surf reverb.” The group’s influences include Black Sabbath, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and seminal L.A. punk rock bands X and the Gun Club.

Asked to come up with a name, the band chose its current name after discovering its first choice, Witch, was taken. Drummer Ellie English replaced original drummer Crystal Nava after the latter left for New York City and didn’t return.

Harry Bailey & John Foster (1930)

Traditional Animation from Van Beuren Studios Aesop’s Fables

Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures

Directed By John Foster, Harry Bailey & Produced By Amadee J. Van Beuren

Animated by Vet Anderson, Harry Bailey, Eddie Donnelly, and Jim Tyer

Van Beuren Studios was a New York City-based animation studio that produced theatrical cartoons as well as live action short-subjects from the 1920s to 1936.

Felix Da Housecat (2003)

Happy Pride Month!

Money, Success, Fame, Glamour is a song performed by musical artist Felix da Housecat for the movie Party Monster starring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green.

Felix da Housecat is an American DJ and record producer, mostly known for house music and electro. Felix is regarded as a member of the second wave of Chicago house and has produced an eclectic mix of sound since, from resolute acid and techno warrior to avant-garde nu-skool electro-disco.

Party Monster is a 2003 American biographical drama film directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, and starring Macaulay Culkin as the drug-addled “king of the Club Kids”. The film tells the story of the rise and fall of the infamous New York City party promoter Michael Alig.

The Club Kids were a group of young New York City dance club personalities popularized by Michael Alig, James St. James, Julie Jewels, DJ Keoki, and Ernie Glam in the late 1980s, and throughout the 1990s would grow to include Amanda Lepore, Waltpaper, Christopher Comp, It Twins, Jennytalia, Desi Monster, Keda, Kabuki Starshine, and Richie Rich.

Happy Bob Dylan Day, 2021!

“I‘m never going to become rich and famous” – Bob Dylan in 1962.

Today we celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. Thank you for the meaningful and relatable music and for the inspiration when I needed it most.

Dylan was just 20 years old when he appeared on the Folksingers Choice radio program on WBAI FM in New York City. He’d arrived in Manhattan just a few years earlier and was playing in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, at one in particular he was paid “a dollar plus a cheeseburger.”

During this hour-long interview with Cynthia Gooding, Dylan played some of his own songs (“The Death of Emmett Till”, “Standing on the Highway”) and covers of classics by Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie. We scored this Blank on Blank with Dylan tuning up his guitar and playing his harmonica.

It’s a wonderful snapshot in time, with a young Dylan before he was famous and before he even released his debut album. He’s nervous and funny. He’s just a guy with a guitar with a little mischief underneath.

Listen to the full interview and hear some rarely heard songs on our website: http://blankonblank.org/bob-dylan/

Animated by Patrick Smith

The Night WE CALLED IT a Day from Bob Dylan’s album Shadows In The Night, directed by Nash Edgerton.

Ub Iwerks (1931)

Flip the Frog is an animated cartoon character created by American animator Ub Iwerks. He starred in a series of cartoons produced by Celebrity Pictures and distributed through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1930 to 1933. The series had many recurring characters besides Flip; including Flip’s dog, the mule Orace, and a dizzy neighborhood spinster.

Flip was created by Ub Iwerks, animator for the Walt Disney Studios and a personal friend of Walt Disney in 1930, at the Iwerks Studios. After a series of disputes between the two, Iwerks left Disney and went on to accept an offer from Pat Powers to open a cartoon studio of his own and receive a salary of $300 a week, an offer that Disney was unable to match at the time. Iwerks was to produce new cartoons under Powers’ Celebrity Pictures auspices and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The first series he was to produce was to feature a character called Tony the Frog, but Iwerks disliked the name and it was subsequently changed to Flip.

Iwerks’ studio quickly began accumulating new talent, such as animators Fred Kopietz, Irv Spence, Grim Natwick, and Chuck Jones. After the first two cartoons, the appearance of Flip the Frog gradually became less froglike. This was done under the encouragement of MGM, who thought that the series would sell better if the character were more humanized. Flip’s major redesign is attributed to Grim Natwick, who made a name for himself at Fleischer Studios with the creation of Betty Boop. Natwick also had a hand in changing Flip’s girlfriend. In earlier films, she was consistently a cat, but Natwick made Flip’s new girlfriend, Fifi, a human who shared distinct similarities with Betty.

The frog’s personality also began to develop. As the series progressed, Flip became more of a down-and-out, Chaplin-esque character who always found himself in everyday conflicts surrounding the poverty-stricken atmosphere of the Great Depression. Owing to the influx of New York City animators to Iwerks’s studio, the shorts became increasingly risquĂ©.

The character eventually wore out his welcome at MGM. His final short was Soda Squirt, released in 1933. Subsequently, Iwerks replaced the series with a new one starring an imaginative liar named Willie Whopper. Flip became largely forgotten by the public in the ensuing years. However, the character would make a small comeback when animation enthusiasts and historians began digging up the old Iwerks shorts.

Paul Terry (1928)

Dinner Time was one of the first publicly shown sound-on-film cartoons and premiered in New York City in August 1928, three months before Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie, which premiered on November 18th, 1928. However, Dinner Time was unsuccessful and Disney’s film would go on to be widely touted as the first synchronized sound cartoon.

Dinner Time is an American animated short cartoon produced by Van Beuren Studios. The musical score was composed by Josiah Zuro. The film is part of a series entitled Aesop’s Fables and features the Paul Terry creation Farmer Al Falfa who works as a butcher, fending off a group of pesky dogs.

Walter Lantz (1941)

Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat is a 1941 popular boogie-woogie song written by Don Raye. A bawdy, jazzy tune, the song describes a laundry woman from Harlem, New York whose technique is so unusual that people come from all around just to watch her scrub. The Andrews Sisters and Will Bradley & His Orchestra recorded the most successful pop versions of the song.

The animated short was released on March 28, 1941 by Universal Pictures and features no director credit. However, Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz claims to have directed the cartoon himself. The story was written by Ben Hardaway, animation by Alex Lovy and Frank Tipper, and voiceover work by Mel Blanc and Nellie Lutcher. The short uses blackface stereotypes of African-American people and culture, and of life in the rural Southern United States.

The Scrub Me Mama short is today in the public domain.

Fleischer Studios (1930)

Seymour Kneitel along with Dave Fleischer directed this animated short film, but was uncredited.

Screen Songs are animated cartoons featuring the famous “bouncing ball” produced by Max Fleischer and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. The cartoons are sing-alongs featuring popular song hits of the day along with the ethnic stereotypes and humor typical of the era in which they were produced. In the 1930s, the series began to feature current popular musical guest stars such as Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, and Ethel Merman.

Fleischer Studios was an American corporation that originated as an animation studio located at 1600 Broadway, New York City, New York. It was founded in 1921 as Inkwell Studios, Inc. and Out of the Inkwell Films by brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer who ran the pioneering company from its inception until Paramount Pictures, the studio’s parent company and the distributor of its films, acquired ownership. In its prime, Fleischer Studios was a premier producer of animated cartoons for theaters, with Walt Disney Productions becoming its chief competitor in the 1930s.

Fleischer Studios characters included Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. Unlike other studios, whose characters were anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers’ most successful characters were humans (with the exception of Bimbo, who was a black-and-white cartoon dog). The cartoons of the Fleischer Studio were very different from the Disney product, both in concept and in execution. As a result, the Fleischer cartoons were rough rather than refined, consciously artistic rather than commercial. But in their unique way, their artistry was expressed through a culmination of the arts and sciences. This approach focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements, and sexuality. Furthermore, the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Great Depression as well as German Expressionism.

Ralph Bakshi (1972)

Fritz speaks the truth.

Fritz the Cat is a 1972 American adult animated black comedy film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi in his directorial debut. Based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb and starring Skip Hinnant, the film focuses on Fritz, a glib, womanizing, and fraudulent cat in an anthropomorphic animal version of New York City during the mid-to-late 1960s. Fritz decides on a whim to drop out of college, interacts with inner city African American crows, unintentionally starts a race riot, and becomes a leftist revolutionary. The film is a satire focusing on American college life of the era, race relations, the free love movement and serves as a criticism of the countercultural political revolution and dishonest political activists.

The film had a troubled production history, as Crumb, who is politically left-wing, had disagreements with the filmmakers over the film’s political content, which he saw as being critical of the political left. Produced on a budget of $700,000, the film was intended by Bakshi to broaden the animation market. At that time period, animation was seen predominantly as a children’s medium. Bakshi envisioned animation as being a medium that could tell more dramatic or satirical storylines with larger scopes, dealing with more mature and diverse themes that would resonate with adults. Bakshi also wanted to establish an independent alternative to the films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, which dominated the animation market due to a lack of independent competition.

The intention of featuring profanity, sex, and drug use provoked criticism from more conservative members of the animation industry, who accused Bakshi of attempting to produce a pornographic animated film, as the concept of adult animation was not widely understood at the time. The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an X rating, making it the first American animated film to receive the rating, which was then predominantly associated with more arthouse films. The film was highly successful and also earned significant critical acclaim for its satire, social commentary, and animation innovations. The film’s use of satire and mature themes is seen as paving the way for future animated works for adults, including The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy. A sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974), was produced without Crumb’s or Bakshi’s involvement.

Bruce Bickford and Frank Zappa (1979)

Baby Snakes is a film which includes footage from Frank Zappa’s 1977 Halloween concert at New York City’s Palladium Theater, backstage antics from the crew, and stop-motion claymation from award-winning animator Bruce Bickford.

Jordana Moore Saggese & HĂ©loĂŻse Dorsan Rachet (2019)

Learn about the life of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, from his start as part of graffiti duo SAMO to his rise as an internationally renowned painter.

Like Beat writers who composed their work by shredding and reassembling scraps of writing, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat used similar techniques to remix his materials. Pulling in splintered anatomy, reimagined historical scenes and skulls, he repurposed present day experiences and art history into an inventive visual language. Jordana Moore Saggese explores the chaotic and prolific art of Basquiat.

SAMO was a graffiti tag which started as an inside joke when Jean-Michel Basquiat and a few of his friends were still teenagers. They tagged funny, thought-provoking lines all over New York City from 1977 to 1980. It accompanied short phrases, in turns poetic and sarcastic, mainly painted on the streets of downtown Manhattan.

Ken Jacobs (1960)

A film in four parts. In In the Room, a man and a woman in outlandish garb are sitting in a claw-foot bathtub smoking, while the man abuses a doll in various ways. In They Stopped to Think, the filmmaker focuses on a woman trying to position a stool upon which to sit next to a wall. The filmmaker talks in voice-over about filming the scene, and his current relationship with the people shown in the film. The scene shifts to a pier where a man and woman are filmed, playing to the camera. In It Began to Drizzle, a man and woman are lounging in a street-side patio. The scene then shifts to a man and some children doing chalk drawings on the sidewalk, and how others respond to what they are doing. In The Spirit of Listlessness, a man lounging on an urban rooftop is playing with balloons while he plays to the camera.

Outrageous yet tender, the film begins with the skip of a cracked 78 rpm record and a handmade title festooned with streamers and lettered in dripping red. In vignettes continuing in this vein, characters occasionally stumble on glimmers of beauty in their bleak existence: a view from the roof and kids drawing on the sidewalk. The scenes are unsettling in their immediacy. Jacobs embraces the New York City streets as his stage and improvises props and costumes from castoffs. The characters, including Jack Smith and Jerry Sims, are completely at ease with the camera. They cavort, they pose, they affront, and they demand our attention. Like it or not, we are made part of the scene.

For many years Jacobs played 78s at screenings, again transforming poverty into a live-performance asset. A grant from Jerome Hill facilitated by Jonas Mekas enabled Jacobs to add voice-over to the middle section and create a sound print. By this time, his relationship with Smith had soured, and he had lost touch with most of those pictured. Jacob’s narration, presented self-consciously as anything to distract you from talking to each other, acts as a remembrance of things past. The closing vignette, shot on a New York rooftop on a crystalline day, shows Smith clowning with a balloon to the tune of Happy Bird. In Little Stabs at Happiness, moments in the sun do not last.

Ken Jacobs is an experimental filmmaker, who, along with Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Maya Deren and others, helped spearhead the American avant-garde film movement. His impressive filmography spans more than 60 years and 45 films, utilizing just about every experimental technique imaginable. In the ’60s, he helped redefine the notion of domestic (home) movies, and along with it, domestic space—pioneering work that expanded the parameters of art cinema, and also, coincidentally, the gender expectations of male artists. Jacobs has also experimented with found footage, creating such memorable works as Star Spangled to Death, a nearly seven-hour epic charting an alternative U.S. history. Most recently, he has been reformatting, reworking, and altering silent films to give illusions of depth, creating experimental, heavily stroboscopic abstract cinema, and 3D. At every stage of his career, Jacobs has sought to push the technology as far as it can go and to challenge his audiences to think about politics, gender, class, race, documentary, and movies differently. This series provides a rare opportunity to see the work of one of the greatest living American filmmakers.

Ralph Bakshi (1972)

Fritz the Cat is a 1972 American adult animated comedy film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb and starring Skip Hinnant. The film focuses on Fritz (Hinnant), a glib, womanizing and fraudulent cat in an anthropomorphic animal version of New York City during the mid-1960s. Fritz decides on a whim to drop out of college, interacts with inner city African American crows, unintentionally starts a race riot, and becomes a leftist revolutionary. The film is a satire focusing on American college life of the era, race relations, the free love movement and serves as a criticism of political revolution and dishonest political activists.