Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankfully...

At this time of grateful reflection, how can we not give thanks for the internets?

My storyboarding co-workers and I were talking just the other day about the days of old when illustrators and artists had to hoard huge filing cabinets filled with images clipped from magazines and books, photographs etc for the need of reference... How demanding that was on the time and space of an artist, not to mention the anxious sense that almost any new image might be worth capturing for the library and that you were constantly on the prowl. A few years ago one of the studios I was at inherited a legendary film artist's files and they were  vast, requiring months of shipping, storing and organizing boxes and cabinets filled with photos and slides, enough to fill an the equivalent of a one bedroom apartment.

Now we have literally a world of reference merely a click away. A few more clicks and you can save hundreds of such images to a hard drive as small as a keychain.  The only downside is that there are no real excuses anymore for not being able to make a viable sketch of whatever assignment you've been given. The only other caveat is that if you can get firsthand experience of something you have to draw, there still really is no substitute for that.

Here are two image examples that popped up on Facebook recently.

This image of Hitchcock pointing directly on axis at the camera is a beautifully taken shot. The finger point on axis is one of the hardest things to draw, in my opinion, especially since the key element of the pointing index finger is by necessity not in clear silhouette. The fingers obscure the hand proper, except for the oblique area in the web of the thumb and forefinger... It's a toughie, but this excellent photo helps... (although the shadow cast by the finger muddies the image a bit)

A few days later this shot of "Chris" from TOTAL DRAMA ISLAND coincidentally popped up in an unrelated comment. It has to be one of my most favorite solutions to this difficult graphic problem (sorry James Montgomery Flagg!) The graphic style of this show looks a lot simpler than it is, there is a good deal of careful subtlety going on in what appear to be simple shapes. The Picassoesque perspective on the pointing fingernail is in pure genius IMO.

Granted, this is the sort of reference you could readily use a mirror for, but the're both keepers for me. Thanks internet, don't ever change...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

GOOD GODFREY!

There have been a number of movies about  contemporary presidents (real and imagined)  but my favorite remains THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, a 1967 satire starring the late James Coburn as the title character and the late great Godfrey Cambridge (below) as the secret agent who is both his protector and an ex-patient. Coburn plays a hipster shrink who gets tapped to be the POTUS's private confessor, but the pressure of the job gets to him and before long he becomes hopelessly paranoid, yet unable to quit due to the security risks. When he goes AWOL he soon finds himself the target of the CIA, FBI, Soviet spies, international kidnappers and even sinister forces in the private sector. As goes the old joke goes: 'just  because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you...'

My caricature of Godfrey Cambridge, done in 2008, probably last time I watched the movie...

It's a fun and sometimes surprisingly salient movie, portions of which are kind of daring for the time. The audience never sees the actual un-named president, but the dialog suggests a JFK type (not LBJ or Nixon for sure). Warning: The relationship scenes are painfully bad, but they at least attempt something out of the norm. Worse are the scenes set in a hippie commune, which I can vouch for as being embarrassing even back when the film was new…(think Dick Shawn in THE PRODUCERS but without the wink). There also appears to be some labored post-dubbing to re-name the CIA and FBI as ersatz surrogates, which is both funny and depressing at the same time.

Still the good outweighs the bad. The script is frequently funny, smart, subversive, surreal and dark by turns. There's a  groovy (and sometimes parodistic) music score by Lalo Schifrin of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE fame. Some of the cameos include Barry ("Eve of Destruction") McGuire, Will Geer (Gran'pa Walton) and LAUGH-IN's Artie Johnson. Another highlight features the inimitable William ("plastics") Daniels as the head of a "normal" suburban family Coburn uses for cover in his beltway escape. The climactic sequence is remarkably relevant today, and boasts the dual bonus of a wry, icy turn by Pat Harrington ("Schnieder" on the 70's sitcom ONE DAY AT A TIME) played against some perky animation by DePatie/Freleng studios (who were co-incidentally employing Harrington as the voice of THE INSPECTOR right around the same time).  And throughout the movie you get to see Godfrey Cambridge and the also brilliant Severn Darden (as a Russian counter-spy) in two of their best and most featured roles. Both died way too young and are not as widely remembered as they should be. Cambridge's amazing voice and expressive acting grew out of his years as a ground-breaking counter-culture standup comic, one of the best of the best. Darden, whose deft, versatile characterizations pop up on a number of sitcoms from the era, was one of the original Second City players, as was T.J. Flicker, the writer-director of this movie.

Captive Coburn contemplates cute cartoon. Cool!