Commentary 28 Apr 2012 07:57 am


Poe & Indiegogo

- Tomorrow, we will be opening our new Indiegogo page reintroducing the Poe Project to you. We’ll start with much the same offering we did for the Kickstarter run. However for the length of time this is up, we’ll be writing about the film and Edgar Allan Poe on our site on Sundays. Our goal is about half of what we aimed for last time, but we’re encouraged that we’ll be able to get there this time and will be working on POE soon.


Stark Raven Mad

- The Raven makes its way into theaters this week, and I saw it last Tuesday. This is a film starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe. He’s pulled into service consulting with the police on a serial murderer’s killing of numerous people using ideas copied from Poe’s own stories. If Poe wants to save his young fiancée, he has to work hard at producing several new stories built on ideas he gets from the work of the killer. The flilm is ridiculous and tries to be a variant of the Robert Downey jr. Sherlock Holmes movies. Action, action, action with erroneous snippets about Poe and his life.

The film starts with an inaccuracy and goes wildly from there. The title card reads that Poe was found dying on a park bench. In fact, he was found acting wildly outside of a tavern known as Gunner’s Hall or Ryan’s Tavern. With this false premise the film is allowed to end with E.A.Poe dying, in the fresh snow, on a park bench, alone. In fact, he died another four days later after being placed in a pauper’s hospital where he wasn’t allowed visitors.

I noticed the Rotten Tomatoes average of 20% positive reviews for this film. Not good at all, but I’d expect that’s accurate.

The death of Poe has become a real mystery thanks to the poor reporting of his biographer, Rufus Wilmot Griswold. He had published a couple of Poe’s poems, received a very negative review from Poe, and the two became strong rivals. Griswold later published the first biography of Poe picturing him as a depraved drunkard and a drug-addicted madman. Despite objections from those who knew the truth, this negativ image of Poe remains even to this film in 2012.

Poe spent the evening of his death having dinner with three friends, during which he did not drink alcohol. He then went to the train station where he bought a ticket for a later train to Philadelphia, which he was to catch that evening. From this point to that, when he was found delirious on the streets outside Gunner’s Hall, there is nothing known for sure.



- On the Academy’s double bill with The Raven was the new Aardman animated feature, The Pirates: Band of Misfits. The film is well executed; the models are attractive, the detail in the sets is exceptional, and the animation is first rate (although there was something odd going on at times which made me wonder if they’d shot it at the European gauge of 25 fps.). Just the same, it was nice to see 3D puppets as opposed to 3D cgi. The look of this film was so much better than the slick Arthur’s Christmas. One can only hope that Aardman sticks to what they do best – stop motion.

The film is funny. In fact, that was a bit of a complaint I had. It was gag, gag, gag, so that you end up laughing fewer and fewer times. Yet, the big story was inconsequential and felt, to me, as though it had no real drive. The film revolves around the “Pirate Captain” (that’s his name) who wants to win the “Pirate of the Year” award and has to meet a self-imposed challenge to win the award. (Sort of like wanting to win an “Oscar” and making a film with that goal in mind.) This makes for too small a story to keep me captivated, and I felt outside the film for the entire time watching. I checked my watch often enough for this 90 minute movie. Essentially, I found the film is OK, but not necessary. Not quite as strong as Chicken Run.


ASIFA East Fest

Tomorrow, April 29th, Sunday 7pm, ASIFA-East presents
The 43rd ASIFA-East Animation Awards

The Awards will be presented, followed by a free food & drink reception.

Again, the admission is FREE! And it’s open to all!

The New School
Tishman Auditorium
66 W. 12th Street
(bet. 5th/6th Aves)


UPA On Line

- Adam Abraham is the author of the new and brilliant book, When Magoo Flew, the history of UPA. He wrote me to introduce his new site, also named When Magoo Flew. The site acts as an archive of his UPA research material, and it’s a new an attractive addition to the animation net. I’ve added a link to my blogroll on the right.



RIchard O’Connor of Ace and Son sent me this link to a film they just completed and which debuted this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Richard wrote this about the animation:

    It was an interesting project and we were pretty much given a video edit of the talking head footage and left to our devices to make it work. There was a need to have a “historical” look countered with the need for fluidity/looseness and I think we came up with a good middle ground. Everything is painted on paper with the line on a separate level (I wanted to do it all on one piece of paper but we ran out of Ingram bond and the cheap stuff caused horrible bleeding AND Cartoon Colour took a month to get us another shipment). You can see where sometimes the tracebacks aren’t there for the paint level.

The coloring looks more like marker on cel, to me, than color on paper. Quite a difficult look to pull off. I’d be curious to see what it looks like on the big screen.

An ArtsEngine, Inc. Production
EDITED BY – Gabriel Rhodes
MUSIC COMPOSED BY – John Kimbrough
ANIMATION BY – Ace & Son Moving Picture Company
CAMERA – William Rexer II
SOUND – John Zecca
RESEARCHER – Danielle Varga
SPECIAL THANKS – Kwame Anthony Appiah

8 Responses to “Busyness”

  1. on 28 Apr 2012 at 8:45 am 1.Brett McCoy said …

    Thanks for the review of “The Raven”. I had no interest in seeing and now I REALLY have no interest in seeing it. Besides, the 1963 Corman film with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre can’t be topped! It had Jack Nicholson in it, too!

    Glad you are rekicking your own POE project. Ready and willing!

  2. on 28 Apr 2012 at 3:13 pm 2.The Gee said …

    That description of The Raven movie sounds horrible.

    That’s the trend that at best belongs in Cracked magazine movie parodies.

    Historical/Literary figure SolvesCrimes/FightsMonsters while using the framework of their Times/their Books.

    There’s so many of them being made. I guess I should be happy you didn’t say there are zombies or vampires in it. But, if the movie does well, why not just make Poe a zombie who comes back from the dead to solve crimes?

    (hopefully, me writing it will either:
    a)prevent it from happening,
    or, b) allow a future income from the lame idea of zombie E. A. Poe when the producers if and when they do greenlight a sequel.)

  3. on 28 Apr 2012 at 8:17 pm 3.Brett McCoy said …

    I am sure the film was primarily teal and orange as well.

  4. on 28 Apr 2012 at 8:37 pm 4.The Gee said …

    Actually, it is too bad the movie is already being shown.

    It would have been great to make fun of it by saying that Poe had to face his arch-nemesis, Doctor Cacaw, who has an army….no, a murder of mechanical, clockwork crows…no…ravens and their goal is the carry away a bridge just in time for marking the celebration of…hmmm….the Crossing of the Delaware River by George Washington.

    And, I guess to add a little Poe-ish flavor, the ghost of Geo. Washington could make an appearance. Fun, fun.

  5. on 28 Apr 2012 at 8:44 pm 5.The Gee said …

    On a serious note, so, the legend that Poe was found outside of an election hall on election day, rip-roaring drunk isn’t something that was verified?

    I recall reading or hearing that somehow he was more or less bought much to drink and was sent into the polling place again and again to vote. Apparently, this type of thing did happen where people where paid or plied into voting multiple times. It was supposedly easy to make them vote if the participant was intoxicated.

    What I heard gibes with him being found on a park bench and subsequently, briefly, hospitalized prior to death.

    I’ll hold off on reading about his life and wait for the animated version. But, from what is written in the post, I guess I was under the false impression due to a very shady legend.

  6. on 29 Apr 2012 at 12:47 am 6.Michael said …

    The voting place WAS the tavern in 1850. The story of Poe’s last night you have half right. It’s called “cooping”. Literate people, those who could write, were often kidnapped. They were imprisoned and forced to drink alcohol and take drugs. They were dressed in others clothes and brought to vote under a name they were given (usually someone who had died.) Then the were brought back to incarceration, given more alcohol and/or drugs, Dressed in new clothes and sent out to vote under another name. Again and again and again all evening. Finally they were dumped, as Poe was found, delirious outside the tavern reciting an odd name over and over.It’s presumed this was the name of the next person he was supposed to be voting as.

    He was recognized by someone who got him to the pauper’s hospital where he eventually died. Out of sight of his family and friends. There were only two or three people at his burial.

  7. on 29 Apr 2012 at 6:41 pm 7.The Gee said …

    Like I wrote, I wasn’t going to look into to it much further. However, I do appreciate you clearing that up with your explanation.

    I remember studying Poe in high school. Beyond that, a poem here and a story there was all that I really encountered. And, biography didn’t come up much when it pertained to him.

    That said, this vote fraud scheme specifically targeted literate people? I suppose that was necessary, wasn’t it? If a person could not read the ballots then what did the ballots mean to them? That’s horrible because it meant many couldn’t vote at all.

    The aspect of the wardrobe changes is something which I knew about but didn’t mention because I couldn’t explain it simply enough. It seems like such an elaborate part of the plan. Since this is fraud and different names were used, it would almost seem like it would be easier to keep a person drunk and then take them to different polling places instead of revisiting the same one.

    The only thing that makes sense is that there was only one in that precinct. Which only makes sense if they were only trying to influence on local race/issue. If it were a city wide or broader election then why settle on one voting place?

    I presume many taverns were used as polling places back then and probably as late as the 20 C.
    (pardon me if this is sloppily written; hope it makes sense and isn’t error-riddled)

    Best to you on this next Poe film fundraiser.

  8. on 29 Apr 2012 at 6:50 pm 8.The Gee said …

    On another point, the name he repeated uttered when found in disarray:

    do you think that influenced the Rosebud bit in “Citizen Kane”?

    Perhaps it is coincidental but this just dawned on me and I can’t think of other famous last words which lent dying breathes to invoke legendary mysteries. Perhaps there are other instances when well-known people have but my brain ain’t pulling up any.

    No reply needed.

    I was just pointing out something potentially interesting (and pointing out the possible pun I just made in this badly written sentence…man, that Letter P is a rascally character.).

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