Tag Archives: academy award nominations

Interview: FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY: Brad Bernstein, director and writer; Rick Cikowski, lead editor and lead animator

"Doctor Strangelove"  Movie Poster. Artwork by Tomi Ungerer.

“Doctor Strangelove” Movie Poster. Artwork by Tomi Ungerer.

FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY is a masterfully created documentary that will hit you on many levels. It is eligible for an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary and deserves that level of recognition for being so careful to detail with its subject, artist Tomi Ungerer.

I had the honor of speaking with both Brad Bernstein, the film’s director and writer, and Rick Cikowski, the film’s lead editor and lead animator. Both men expressed their love for Tomi Ungerer and provide insight into the making of this impressive documentary, distributed by First Run Features.

For me, I can appreciate what happened to Tomi Ungerer when I look at the iconic poster he created for “Doctor Strangelove.” That poster, much like his “Black Power, White Power” poster are forever part of one’s psyche. And yet, in America, Ungerer’s work in children’s books is not widely known today. That work is just as powerful and was just as well known in its day, as anything else he has created. Thanks to Phaidon, we have many of his great works being reprinted in the United States. But, for decades, it was as if he’d been wiped out of memory in America. How could that be? That is a big part of the fascinating story that unfolds in this documentary.

Tomi Ungerer is a great talent and, for a man who has had a lifelong battle with fear, he is a most courageous man. For someone who grew up under the horror of the Nazis, and went on to conquer the world of illustration in its heydey in New York City, that alone is remarkable. But going that far out, wasn’t far enough for Ungerer.

“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough” brings together a seamless narrative boiling down numerous hours of interviews with Tomi Ungerer, Jules Feiffer, the late great Maurice Sendak, as well as other notable figures like art director and critic Steven Heller. Throughout the film you are treated to very deftly purposed animation that strikes the right cord, whether humorous or somber.

As Brad Bernstein explains, the initial attraction to Tomi Ungerer was his spirited expressions like, “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough.” That really says it all. Ungerer is a man who speaks his mind and does it quite well. His life and work are a testament to a strong will and this documentary honors that spirit very well.

You can listen to the interview with Brad Bernstein and Rick Cikowski by clicking the link below:

far_out_isnt_far_enough_the_tomi_ungerer_story_2013

And, as the say, tell your friends and spread the word about this documentary. You can visit the official site here and also follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Filed under 1960s, Art, Art books, Children's Books, Design, Documentaries, Erotica, Illustration, movies, pop culture, Protest, Social Commentary, Tomi Ungerer

INTERVIEW: Filmmaker Steven-Charles Jaffe and ‘Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird’

Gahan-Wilson-Steven-Charles-Jaffe-2013

“If Crumb can have a documentary, then so can Gahan Wilson!” The decision had been made.

Gahan Wilson is a force of nature. And so is filmmaker Steven-Charles Jaffe. Wilson found in Jaffe someone who would do justice to his legendary career that spans over 50 years of cartoons for The New Yorker, Playboy, and National Lampoon. Who else even comes close to such an output? That’s why a documentary had to be made. It is called, “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird.” Yes, you read that right, “Born Dead, Still Weird,” and it is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign that you can join here.

It was upon seeing “Crumb,” Terry Zwigoff’s landmark 1995 documentary on underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, that Jaffe resolved he needed to create a similarly worthy documentary of his friend and idol, Gahan Wilson. The idea of Jaffe and Wilson working together had already been kicking around for a few years. One plan that continues to interest them is a feature length animated movie based on Wilson’s illustrated book, “Eddy Deco’s Last Caper.” Jaffe and director Nicholas Meyer have approached IMAX about the project so we shall see. A Gahan Wilson animated movie in 3-D would be worth the wait.

For a taste of what it’s like for Wilson and Jaffe to work together, you can view the 2008 animated short, “It Was a Dark and Silly Night.” A story about children determined to have a jello war, even if it’s in a cemetery, this animated short is based on a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Gathan Wilson for an illustrated anthology, compiled and edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, “Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night.”

There is so much to a Gahan Wilson cartoon: it is entertaining, memorable, scary, and above all else, it won’t let go. “I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a Gahan Wilson cartoon that relates right back to his own life.” Jaffe makes the observation with awe and admiration. An artist of the caliber of Wilson has both a keen sense of whimsy and a backbone made of steel. He was a child of two out of control alcoholic parents. For him, he had to grow up fast while holding on ever tighter to his dreams.

The dream behind “Born Dead, Still Weird” is to give it as wide an audience as possible. Much in the same way that “Crumb” was transcendent, so too this documentary aims to show you the real man and artist. “That’s what struck such a chord with people, to see Robert Crumb on a human level,” says Jaffe. Both Crumb and Wilson climbed their ways out of adversity to unprecedented success. If Jaffe can accomplish his goal of stirring up the pot and getting his documentary considered for an Academy Award nomination, it will go a long way in securing a high profile for “Born Dead, Still Weird.” The essential stage, getting the documentary made is done. But the last stage, marketing and distribution, and just making sure the documentary is known about, is still ahead.

Jaffe recalls the kind words from Robert Redford in support of “Born Dead, Still Weird.” After viewing it, Redford wrote back to Jaffe, “I’m a huge proponent of art not only getting into the educational system but for its ability to save some lives and enhance some lives. It is a fine piece of work and I thank you.” Saving lives. What a joy to be able to make such a difference. This is something that has genuinely stuck with Jaffe. He’s the first to say that he did not set out to make an inspirational film and yet Gahan’s life attracts just that.

From Jaffe’s first encounter with a Gahan Wilson cartoon in Playboy at the tender age of 10, up to today, Jaffe’s felt his own life enriched by Wilson. “He is a total nonconformist,” Jaffe says with delight. In a world where being different can have harsh consequences, as with bullies in school, Gahan Wilson is a shining example of someone who is going to live his life his way.

I hope you enjoy the podcast below that includes the entire interview with Steven-Charles Jaffe. Just click below:

Steven-Charles Jaffe

Be sure to stop by and visit the Kickstarter campaign for “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird” right here.

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Filed under Art, Cartoons, Comics, Documentaries, Gahan Wilson, Humor, Illustration, Kickstarter, National Lampoon, Playboy, Steven-Charles Jaffe, The New Yorker

ACADEMY AWARDS: HEAD OVER HEELS WINS 2013 ANNIE AWARD

Head Over Heels animated short 2013

Academy Award-nominated animated short, “Head Over Heels” has won a 2013 Annie Award, the most prestigious animation award in the world, and could very well be on its way to an Oscar. The story about a most unusual old married couple is decidedly original and twisted good fun. It is a major achievement for its director, Timothy Reckart. See the trailer here. This is a student film that has made a spectacular debut onto the entertainment scene. Learn more about the National Film and Television School here.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Academy Awards, animation, Oscars

Review: ZERO DARK THIRTY

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Hollywood welcomes sending a message to the world. That is why “Zero Dark Thirty” is a formidable contender for Best Picture. But, the night I went to see it, I had a man next to me perpetually munching on popcorn, even during the waterboarding scene. How do you munch your way through popcorn during something like that? You have to wonder if that may say something about our collective confusion over 9/11 and its aftermath. Anything can be turned into entertainment. “Zero Dark Thirty,” despite boorish popcorn munchers, is a different kind of entertainment. It is the kind of activist entertainment intended to spur action and thought, in the same spirit as “All The President’s Men.”

Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal are up to the task of presenting to the world the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and what happened along the way to finding and killing him. Just as they captured the sense of what was going on in the U.S. invasion of Iraq with “The Hurt Locker,” Bigelow and Boal again give shape to recent history with the powerful medium of cinema.

Zero Dark Thirty 2013 Best Picture

In order to make better sense of a complex issue, the film focuses on two CIA officers that represent the Central Intelligence Agency through this process. There is Dan, played by Jason Clarke, who vigorously pursues “enhanced interrogation techniques,” in other words, torture, to gain information. And then there is Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, who transitions from torture to a better way, in other words, persistent detective work. The film has its share of controversy. Complaints have come from U.S. senators and the CIA, that the film inaccurately shows torture as resulting in useful information towards finding Osama bin Laden. Perhaps the CIA felt that torture had its place.

The fact is that this film objectively shows Dan and Maya essentially failing with the torture route. If it coughed up any information, it was insignificant. It’s enough to make a red meat true believer like Dan decide it’s time to quit. “You don’t want to be the last one holding the dog collar when the oversight committee comes,” he advises Maya. Maybe to hedge its bet, the film implies that any specs of info that Maya gleaned off the backs of detainees may have helped to narrow down her search for the legendary mystery man, the infamous “Abu Ahmed,” the trusted courier of Osama bin Laden. But, more to the point, the film gives human error its own title card for playing the role of inadvertently suppressing vital information, information that could have been found without any torture in the first place.

If there is too much of an air of ambiguity for the first part of this film, you could hear a pin drop and not one munch of popcorn when we get down to crunch time. We reach zero hour about two thirds in once bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad is confirmed: the skeptics at the White House are satisfied, special super secret choppers are untethered at Area 51, and SEAL Team 6 is assembled, locked, and loaded. The definition of “zero dark thirty” is a military term describing a time between midnight and dawn. While it is a unspecified time, it inspires certainty and resolve. The good guys are moving at a sure pace under the cover of dark. The chopper will, at first, fail, as we all know. There will be casualties. But, on that fateful night in Pakistan, despite the Pakistani air force ready to fire in retaliation, the United States regained much lost ground and turned a page of history. It’s enough, for that moment, to keep the popcorn untouched.

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Filed under 9/11, Movie Reviews, movies

FIRST INSIDE LOOK AT STEVEN SPIELBERG’S “LINCOLN” ONLINE TODAY

Lincoln Spielberg Day Lewis 2013

“Lincoln: An American Journey,” a behind-the-scenes special debuts on Apple iTunes today. You can view it here.

“Lincoln,” at its core, is a thrilling and inspiring story about a man doing what he must do. In this behind-the-scenes feature, you see what is involved in getting it right when telling the story of the 16th President of the United States.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, movies, Steven Spielberg