SHERDOG MOVIE CLUB: Week 13 Discussion - American Pop

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by Guestx, Jul 27, 2016.

  1. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    NOTE to NON-MEMBERS: Confused about what's going on in here? See the following thread:

    http://forums.sherdog.com/threads/could-a-sherdog-movie-watching-club-work.3237221/


    Thanks to @DaDamn, the club has for the first time wandered into the world of animation. So many things could've taken us in another direction. @TheRuthlessOne could have realized that there was a Robin Williams movie in the list. @Caveat and @jeicex could've not been assholes about Jumper. But when the smoke cleared, at the end of the day, it was American Pop that stood victorious.


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    Director Bio


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    American Pop is directed by RALPH BAKSHI. Born into a Jewish family in 1938 in Mandatory Palestine, his family immigrated to New York City just one year later in an attempt to escape World War II.

    At the age of 15 he began cartooning and just a few years later he graduated from Manhattan's School of Industrial Art. Soon after he got a low-level job removing dust and dirt from animation cells at the cartoon studio Terrytoons, where he received mentoring from established animators. This all set the foundation for him to found his own animation studio and eventually produce the first film Fritz the Cat, an adult-themed "X-rated and animated" feature.

    Other high profile films followed, including The Lord of the Rings, American Pop, Wizards, Fire and Ice and Cool World. After Cool World, which was a critical and financial disappointment, Bakshi shifted his focus first to television and then to painting and teaching.

    In 2013, he launched a successful Kickstarter project to fund his latest film, the 22-minute short The Last Days of Coney Island, which is currently available on Vimeo on Demand.



    Film Overview and YouTube Videos
    Premise: The story of four generations of a Russian Jewish immigrant family of musicians whose careers parallel the history of American popular music in the 20th century.

    Budget: ?
    Box Office: $6 Million









    Trivia
    (courtesy of IMDB)

    * Except for a few bits of live-action stock footage and the still drawings in the opening credits, the movie is entirely rotoscoped.

    * Some of the gangland scenes are rotoscoped footage from The Public Enemy (1931).

    * The incident in which Zalmie's mother dies is the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, one of the worst industrial disasters in New York City's history. 146 garment workers, mostly immigrant women, died either in the fire, or by jumping from the windows of the 8th-10th floors because the doors were locked shut. The fire prompted legislative and union action to improve safety and working conditions in garment sweatshops. The words "Triangle Shirtwaist" can be briefly seen on the wall of the sweatshop during the first scene of the sequence.

    * Although all of the characters are fictional, many were partially inspired by real people. The character of Frankie, for instance, was based on Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane) and Janis Joplin (of Big Brother and the Holding Company).

    * Ralph Bakshi: as the voice of the piano player who tells a pregnant Bella that her song "is going to be a big hit. I think you should try it out."

    * As the result of his reputation as an innovator of adult animation, Bakshi was able to acquire the rights to an extensive soundtrack, including songs by Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Doors, George Gershwin, The Mamas & the Papas, Herbie Hancock, Lou Reed and Louis Prima, for under US$1 million in permissions fees. Due to music clearance issues, the film was not released on home video until 1998.



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    Members: @shadow_priest_x @europe1 @Mondo Freaks @Luke Rockhard @TheRuthlessOne @EL CORINTHIAN @mb23100 @HUNTERMANIA @iThrillhouse @Zer @DaDamn @chickenluver @gorgonon @jeicex @INTERL0PER @Cptn1NSAN0 @D Train @MusterX @Scott Parker 27 @BeardotheWeirdo @RoryFan @Caveat @method115
     
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  2. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    I had only seen one other Bakshi film in the past, Cool World, and I didn't even realize he was the director until I started researching him for American Pop. So it was interesting to get more familiar with his work.

    I thought the animation style was also interesting, if dated, in the way that the entire film was rotoscoped. You can really tell that Bakshi is also a painter, as I often felt that this movie seemed like a painting that was brought to life. Especially if you pay attention to the backgrounds, they really struck me as more like a watercolor than something you're going to find in a traditional cartoon.

    Regarding the actual story, it wasn't really what I expected. The first half of the movie is basically an animated version of The Godfather. And then the second half is something totally different. But the theme of the music of the era, and how the evolution of the musical scene parallels the evolution of this one particular family, runs throughout. It's an original concept, I have to say that. I've never seen a film quite like this one.

    But at the same time, as compelling as the concept is, I had a real problem with the characters. Other than the son who got iced in WWII, I really didn't give a fuck about ANY of these guys. In fact, I found them abrasive and unlikable and was probably even rooting against them a little. I'm not sure what exactly Bakshi was thinking with his characterization here, but if he wanted us to give a shit I do think he could've worked a little harder to make them sympathetic.

    All in all, I found this viewing experience at the very least to be something different from what I'm used to, and on that level the Club has delivered once again. I might check out some more of Bakshi's stuff in the future.
     
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  3. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Everybody just decide to take this week off?
     
  4. BisexualMMA

    BisexualMMA Don't Put My Name in the Name of Steroids!

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    Is this the one that ends with the guy playing Heart's "Crazy on You"?

    If so, that made the whole thing worth it.
     
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  5. BisexualMMA

    BisexualMMA Don't Put My Name in the Name of Steroids!

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    Have you not even seen his Lord of the Rings?
     
  6. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    I remember my brother tried to show it to me years ago, when I was about 14 or so. We both concluded that it was not good and turned it off.
     
  7. BisexualMMA

    BisexualMMA Don't Put My Name in the Name of Steroids!

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    Then I think you definitely won't like his fantasy stuff like Wizards or Fire and Ice. Maybe you'll like his urban adult stuff like Heavy Traffic or Fritz the Cat, if you do end up trying another Bakshi movie.
     
  8. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Actually, it's only the fantasy stuff that interests me. I've heard Fire and Ice is like an extended He-Man episode. That seems cool.
     
  9. BisexualMMA

    BisexualMMA Don't Put My Name in the Name of Steroids!

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    By all means, give it a try then. I think Lord of the Rings was better than his other fantasy work, but the only way to form an opinion is to watch them.
     
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  10. DaDamn

    DaDamn Purple Belt

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    In the early 90’s I was dating a girl that work at a video store. She turned me on to several movies that were popular among her co-workers, this being one and the other I remember was Reservoir Dogs. (cool chic) American Pop has stuck with over the years and I finally got a chance to re-watch it a few years ago. As soon as I joined this club I knew this would be one of my nominations.


    I love everything about this movie. The music, the story, the characters and the animation, there’s really not much else out like this. (that I know of) I connected with all the main characters and enjoyed the ride through the decades. It starts off with what seems a simpler time then continuously escalates up to the drug filled 60’s and 70’s. The music is incredible and I’m sure the reason why I like this movie so much, but I also really enjoyed watching the 4 generations and the way it ended. Pete becomes a superstar and all gets wrapped up nicely.


    Sometimes time and place can affect our movie experiences and I thought this might be the case with this film but it wasn’t, I’ve enjoyed the re-watches just as much as I did the first time I watched it.


    Also: this is the movie I was hoping would win so thanks to all who voted for it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016
  11. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    American Pop : Americana through the Ages

    Call me crazy. I would like to emphazise the "American" part of the title more than the "Pop" part. The film is basically a series of Americana. Four peoples life stories and how they relate to the American experience.

    This time, I've decided to do more of a stream-of-conciousness approach. Going through the film narratively. This way, you can talk about the characters one-by-one. Get your reading-glasses ready. It's going to be a long, messy post.





    1th Belinksy

    I think there is a missing reel of this character. His childhood is incredibly traumatic. Fleeing religious persecution in Russia. Arriving to a new continent in impoverishment. Has to experience his mother burning to death.

    His eventual fate is one of a gangsters. This seems like a logical progression for this character. He is emotionally scarred as a child and ends up in a violent profession. However, he doesn't feel as "damaged" as he should have been. He doesn't seem to have those demons that people with this background usually have. I guess you could attitbute this to the wide support-network that he had, growing up among these entertainment-people that work as his surrogate family.

    Also, isn't it intrsting how this first guy is basically "adopted" by American Pop? He comes as an immigrant, losses his parent, and is then raised by pop-artists?

    Why is there gangsters in his story... because prohibition, that's why! I feel that there is a bit disconnect between the guy that wanted to be an entertainer and the guy who went into a lucrative life of crime. We can intone that he achieved those connects through the criminal underbelly of the entertainment world, but I can't feel how he as a *character* went through that change.

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    Sigh... I really wish this movie was live-action.:rolleyes:

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    This is a great frame. A perfect mood-setter. It feels cold, lived-in, you can feel the stuffy clothing that they are wearing. And all this without excessive details that are painstaking to animate. Their body-language and what they are wearing communicates this.

    2nd Belinksy

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    This image says everything about the marriage. It isn't a marriage. It's an alliance. We've already been told that First Belinsky wishes Second Belinsky to marry this girl. Notice the lack of females. Or the scarcity of smiling faces. Instead we get men looking very business like, which is what it is, buisness. The joining of these two youths connects their fathers more than it connects themselves. The brides father even says "I'm gaining a brother"!

    Another sign of this comes directly afterwards. Belinsky askes his bride questions about herself. He asks her what she wants to do. She replies "Whatever you want to do". This indicates how she was raised. She wasn't raised to be an independed person. She was raised to be a bride that her father could give away. Her rather ditzy lack of self-awareness underscores this.

    Also... no Jewish wedding?


    I would say that the 2nd Belinsky is the most consciously idealistic and principled of the four. 1th and 3rd had their demons. Meanwhile, the 2nd Belinsky volunteers for service. He seems really cool about it, too. Even when the Nazi (got to love the uber-unrealistic uniforming of the Nazi:D) ambushes him he keeps cooly playing the piano. That speaks of a mental fortitude, a steadfastness that the others lacked.

    Why is this? Well... compared to the other Belinskys, his upbringing was rather unproblematic. This is relative of course (his mother got blown up after all). But he was still well-fed, he had a caring father that looked after him. Basic living was never a problem for him. All Belinsky's are on a quest to find their positions in life. But 2nd Belinsky's quest is more specific than that. He wants to come out of living under his father's thumb.

    He mastered music, becuse of his father. He married, becuse of his father. Enlisting was his way of trying to forge an identity of his own.


    Lastly, here is one of the feutures that I find rather odd about American Pop overall. There is a distinct lack of inter-continuity between the Belinsky's. The only thing that connects them truly is music. Why did not Belinsky number 1 and Belinsky number 2 discuss their experiences of war togheter? Why did not Belinsky number 1 tell his son about his war experience?


    3rd Belinsky

    "A man that thinks little, but feels strongly"

    [​IMG]

    All Belinsky's are essentially searching for their place in life. But no-one more so than Belinsky number 3. This chapter especially, feels like a dreamlike journey. Belinsky number 3 journey doesn't only feel geographical, it feels emotional. He is a drifter not only in where his feet lands, but where his thoughts and emotions wander. He is living in a emotional haze. Fitting for the 60's.

    Of course, this makes him come off as rather ditzy.

    I think this "haze" comes up in his relation to the blond-haired waitress that he has a fling with.

    Notice that when he is still in New York, there is a scene where he stops and lingers on a couple kissing. The female has long, blonde hair. Coincident? I think not! That is what he lusts after. Her blond hair is the specific reason he decided to stop and look at them specifically.

    Consider his relation with the blond-haired waitress. It is bodily. It is passion. It is sexual. He has one wonderful night with her and then he is back on the road. There is no relation establish except that of the romantic-high which you gain from such an encounter. 3rd Belinsky is after experiences. It is part of the haze of stimuli he lives in.

    Contrast this with the first and second Belinsky. The first Belinsky relationship was also filled with passion. But he was after a relationship. He wanted the emotional stability that a relationship brings. He loved his bride as a soul-mate. 3rd Belinsky was only after the passion, not the relationship. Second Belinsky meanwhile could never engage with his woman because their marriage was an alliance, and her personality was tantamount to obedient housewife that will follow your orders. No passion there.

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    Otherwise, 3rd Belinsky's journey mirrors that of America's attitude towards drugs and the hippi movement in general. It starts out in innocence. The hippies have a warm, inclusive, experimentential aura about them. However, the drugs and their lifestyle quickly take their tool. The drugs destroy their bodies and minds. Their personalities become more abrasive. Darkness overtakes them. Suddenly, they aren't so innocent anymore.



    Also, to go more meta. I think that there is a storytelling-shift occuring in the 3rd Belinsky's story. It begins to feel more personal. And probably becuse this is the era that writer/directer Ralph Bakshi lived through himself, this is the era he can personally relate too.

    Take this image as an example.

    [​IMG]

    Contrast this with the event where 1th Belinsky lost his mother (or the Russian pogroms for that matter). Both of those where actual historical events. There actually was an apartment-building fire that killed of a lot of poor imigrants which Bakshi based the event on. However, those where all historical events that impacted 1th Belinsky directly. In contrast, this excecution is not something 3rd Belinsky saw for himself. It is merely something that informed the culture of the time. It is mood-setter. It teels something about the culture that Belinsky nr 3 lived in, and how it informed the mood and disposition of the culture.

    I think this shift in storytelling is becuse Bakshi personally lived through this. He could remember feeling when he saw it on TV. He could remember how just seeing it informed his thoughts and feelings. In contrast, 1th and 2nd Bakshi interact with their historical events on a personal level. Bakshi's lack of direct conntact with these events forced him to make them more directly involved with the characters he was writting about.


    It also starts feeling more-and-more like a montage movie during the life of the 3rd Belinsky.


    4th Belinsky

    Belinsky the Fourth is not a character.

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    Belinsky the Fourth is wish-fulfillment. He succedes and he succeeded easy. After his story begins, we do not really see him struggle (we hear about it though, but that is definitively not the same). He enters a room and he dominates the scene. The dark eyeglasses, the constant music and his suave mannerism strenghtens this, they prevents us from engaging with him like a human being with problems and tribulations and ensnares us into looking at him like a symbol, a film-character, a media image.

    This feels rather odd considering his childhood. You'd think a guy with a father like that would have more demons to him. But Belinsky the Fourth is a film character, he is above the trauma that plauged the 3rd Belinsky.

    Also, to return to the lack of inter-continuity between the Belinsky's, it is odd that we never seem to get the 3rd Belinsky's reaction to his sons mega-success.


    This moment I feel was rather muddled in its mesage.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    So Belinsky nr 4 goes by a Rabbi. He uses his middle-finger to pull down his glasses and seems to be giving a contemptious glare (though somehow I think that's how he looks at most people). But then he starts to move a little in rythm to the rabbis chanting, which hints at a much more positve dispossion.

    So what is it? What does Belinsky number 4 thinks about this guy and judaism? What is the message.

    It's also intresting to note how this scene communicates how dejected the Belinsky's have become from Judaism at this point. Even Belinsky number 1 seemed really apart from Judaism, not even having a jewish wedding for his son. Does Belinsky number 4 even know that he has Jewish blood in his veins?
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016
  12. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    In the opening scenes a boys father is killed by the Cossacks in Russia and his mother takes him to America. America is the land of opportunity. Scenes in this movie are littered with the ideas of freedom and opportunity juxtaposed with the turmoil of the world, war, poverty, and drugs. The boys mother is then killed by a factory fire. When the kid is 19 he falls in love with a stripper and instead of showing them meet the scene shows them undress. It was a brilliant sequence. The scene with them on a date is secondary to their introductory scene which shows the stripper slowly undress.

    They have a son named Benny and instead of stripping, Benny's mom becomes a singer which is fitting with the theme of opportunity and second chances but she is then later killed by a letter bomb during what appears to be a mafia war between families. Benny grows up to disappoint his father, illustrated in a scene where Benny is fraternizing with a black band. His father wants him to marry into the Palumbo crime family, which he does. Benny then goes off to fight in the war and is ultimately killed by his love for music, or rather his fathers love for music, when he sits down to play the piano and a German soldier shoots him in the back.

    Benny's father turns states evidence and testifies against the Palumbo family and the old man says now he's gonna sing and the kids mentor says "yea, sing, that's all he ever wanted." That's a cruel twist of fate because he wanted to sing songs but instead sang like a canary. Tommy is Benny's son. Tommy eventually goes west to try to make it in show business. The entire film seems to be a commentary on the pursuit of happiness in a brutal landscape of war and chance and drugs.

    Tommy has a one night stand in Kansas before ending up in California as a song writer and a junky. He has all the ups and downs of that sort of life and then on a trip back to Kansas sees what might be his son from that one night stand. He then laments what life could have been, full of anguish. His facial expression reminded me of an animated version of "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire. Here is the scene that makes his pain real set to the song Summertime. His one night stand in a cornfield produced Little Pete but in this scene all the corn is dead, and long gone, just a memory, like the Summertime of his life.



    In the end, its his son little Pete that makes it in show business but not before experiencing a terrible childhood, being abandoned by his father, and becoming a drug dealer set to the tune Hell is for Children by Pat Benatar.



    I'm not sure what the message is with all the dead and absentee parents in this film but its in there. In fact, I found the film difficult to follow at times. It seemed to be a dark commentary on life full of unexpected death, war, sorrow, and drugs seasoned with the idea that America is the land of opportunity, freedom, and second chances. It was the bitter sweet of the film that got to me. All the story lines contained marriages, and fresh starts, and happiness, followed by death and disappointment.
     
  13. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    It's interesting how working at a video store (or I guess knowing someone who does) can bring you along as a film lover and get you to the next level. Way back when--this would've been around 2000 or so--I was a shift leader at a Hollywood Video. Before that job, I knew that I loved movies, but I didn't have much in the way of thoughts about the people who were making them aside from the actors. I just knew that I liked movies and could tell you which ones I was into.

    But I had a manager there who would be like, "Who's your favorite director?" or "Did you hear the new David Fincher movie is coming out?" and so on and so forth and that really got me to thinking about the people behind any given movie's creation. I started paying attention to directors for the first time. If I had never had that job, it would be interesting to know how my relationship to film might be different today.
     
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  14. DaDamn

    DaDamn Purple Belt

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    Tony was a piece of shit junkie who left his son on a bench, I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sympathetic.
     
  15. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Do not speak about my beloved Fire and Ice in such base terms. That movie is a series of Frazetta paintings come to life. If you do not cease these vulgar transgressions I will go full Aguirre: Wrath of God on you ass and chop you up into 148 pieces.:p
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016
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  16. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    I think time and place did effect your movie experience. It never starts off, for example, during a "simpler time". The movie opens with the "kid" running for his life as his father is killed by Cossacks and his mother flees with him to America where she is killed horrifically in a fire. The kid then becomes a teen, marries a stripper who has his baby, and then she is killed by a letter bomb at her front door. That's the "simpler" time that was placed in your mind from viewing the film at a different time in your life.
     
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  17. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Rotoscope is perfect for those fascinated by movement. It enables artists to highlight the movement of a body. Expressions on faces become more pronounced yet never cartoony in the way that other animation-styles induce. It is a purebreed focus on these things.

    For me, there is a sort of purity in watching a rotoscoped body move. The bending of ligaments, the flailling of limbs. It is movement taken to an expressionistic plane.

    Well I guess the easy answer would be that they weren't meant to be sympathetic.

    Artists usually are tortured souls. They have demons that leads them towards being self-destructive. Tony is a perfect representation of that. His mind is like an emotional haze that is perfect for songwriting but lacks the wisdom and discipline to create a wholesome life for himself or others.

    We are to sympathize with what their demons elicit them to become, how their life stories are induced by what is going on in their head from the start, not their actions in-and-of-themselves.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016
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  18. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    GOAT Cagney movie.

    That is something really interesting you touched on. This method of starting out with something traumatic strengthens the cyclical nature of the story. Starting of in simpler time would have made it feel more like a narrative, instead of a cycle.
     
  19. DaDamn

    DaDamn Purple Belt

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    I think it’s more of an idea of the early 1900’s being a simpler place, leading up to the hustle and bustle of the late 70’s. You’re right though, nothing was simple for young Benny. (I think that was his name)
     
  20. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Hey man, I'm just repeating what I've heard. . .

     

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