Sunday, August 27, 2023

A Tribute to the UPA Cartoons (1943-1970)

This article is really best thought of as a sequel, of sorts.  For a while now, I've been on something of a self-reflective kick here on The Club.  It's not anything like a mid-life crisis sort of deal.  Instead, it's more a case of a critic being reminded of a lot of the reasons for why this blog ever got started in the first place.  I've been reviewing a lot of films and books on this site for a while now.  What I'm not so sure I've done quite as good a job at, however, is laying out, or getting readers to see the vantage point from which all of this stuff is critiqued.  In other words, whenever I've looked at a book or movie on this informal digital diary, everything I write, and all the judgment calls I make (whether it be a major blockbuster like Ready Player One, or an out of the way episode of an obscure radio show, or forgotten short story), all of it is based on an aesthetic philosophy, or at least a rough idea of what Art or storytelling is, and what it can accomplish.  To be fair, though, none of this is anything that any of the best critics out there have to work with.  Even Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert tend to give away hints of their ideas about movies and films over the course of their careers.  Kind of like an open secret.

What I'd like to do now is not just toss off the occasional hint in the midst of talking about something else.  That's something every critic winds up doing over the course of any review.  However, my focus today is going to be just a little bit different from all of that  Instead, I'd like to take some time to actually share one of the tenets that underlies the work done on this blog.  And the interesting thing is I know just the subject that will help me share all of this with you. It all has to do with a cartoon studio.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Rated K For Kids (1986-88).

This next entry in The Scriblerus Club is somewhat unique, and calls for a special kind of introduction.  I'll have to backtrack just a bit in order for any of what I say next to make sense.  A good way to start out is by stating the simple facts.  This article is written in something of a reflective mood.  No need to worry, however.  There's not going to be any grand, Wordsworthain rhapsodies here.  I may be a sentimentalist, yet I'm also smart enough to know when to reign it in.  Instead, it's more that the last review I did contained a lot of food for thought.  It was enough to get me thinking on my role as a blogger, and what that means in terms of wanting to be the kind of critic who reviews books and films for a living.  I have Martin Scorsese to thank for this (believe it or not as you will, I'm telling nothing less than the truth here).  His work on The King of Comedy, with its cautionary fable about the wages of fame and notoriety made me aware of how much of an ethical responsibility is needed on the part of not just the artist.  It's a moral imperative which appears to also be demanded of both the audience in general, and of any actual, legitimate critics there might be somewhere in the aisles.

I'm not sure I can even pretend to fit the role of a legitimate critic by any stretch of the imagination just yet.  It's the job description I want to have someday.  Until that moment arrives I'm just a journeyman, at best.  However, what Scorsese's film made me realize is that even a trainee isn't exempt for seeing if they can do a proper job well, even if it's just at the beginner's level.  Scorsese seems to be arguing that there's a lot of responsibilities that comes with being a critic, just as much as there is with being a storyteller.  And it is with this brief moment of insight that the last film I reviewed set off a spark in my mind.  Because a lot of the themes he and De Niro tackled in their little comedy project goes right to the heart of what a blog like this is all about.  The Scriblerus Club is a digital space concerned with a number of interlocking topics.  The first is relatively straightforward.  This is just a place where I can satisfy my own myriad fascinations about the making and telling of stories.  This includes what they are, where they come from, and what they mean to both writer and reader.  The other part of this blog concerns the latter half of the equation mentioned in the previous sentence.  In addition to an incurable wondering about stories, I've grown increasingly aware over the years of the role of the audience.

This was a topic whose importance I first began to realize maybe as soon as 2015 or 14.  The irony is it was an exposure to online troll culture that brought this to my attention more than anything else.  It was through stumbling across the work of "internet personalities" like Doug Walker and a host of copycat imitators that first made me aware of the various kinds of roles and outlooks that the audience can adopt or embrace in their dosing or intake of art.  It also brought me to a slow growing realization of just how much of a problem this kind of toxicity is for any possible discussion of the arts.  The good news is that it does at least seem as if the vast majority of the audience is aware of the issue as well, and really does wish for a healthier social space in which to discuss our enthusiasms for the art of stories.  So that's been one aspect of my concerns as a reviewer.  The other one has sort of taken me by surprise.  I also don't seem to be the only face in the crowd whose noticed a kind of collective fumbling when it comes to something like telling a mere story on the silver screen.  I can't even begin to give you explanation for why Hollywood in general seems to be going through its own moment of  existential crisis.

As of this writing, there is a mass walkout strike in all of the major motion picture studios, and television companies.  There seems to be talk and rumors on the street and in various chat forums that the American film industry is headed for a collapse of some kind.  At the very least, it won't surprise me if the entertainment complex undergoes some kind of shake-up transformation as a result of all of these events.  What the fallout of the Hollywood strikes will be, whether it will reshape American filmmaking, and what new form (if any) this next phase of cinematic storytelling may take, I couldn't really say.  If I had to go out on a limb, then I do wonder if one possible result could be a new democratization of making movies.  In other words, one potential outcome could be the either reduction or rebirth of motion pictures on a worldwide independent basis.  In other words, we could see all movies in the future as the product of a worldwide indie filmmaking model.  One with no real studio system to speak of anymore, and instead its all just various artists, actors, and crew coming together to create what they can on an open, crowdfunded environment.  At least this is one possibility out there.

This article, however, can't hope to begin to address all of these matters; or at least not all at once.  Instead, for this entry, I've decided to tackle another issue, and set my sights more on the way audiences take in the art and stories that they enjoy.  Part of the reason for a blog like this is a growing curiosity about what people are thinking when they either enjoy or dislike an offered story, and what this information might be able to tell on a broader level.  I'm wondering if maybe a review of the audience can help us figure out what kind of stories we like to tell ourselves, and see if this, in turn, can tell us something about the state of the arts.  Now, in order to do that, I've chosen the help of an old TV show.