Cartoon tradition

It is the tradition for my Christmas vacations to read and watch lots of cartoons. Sometimes I read again the complete collection of Astérix or of Tintin. And, at this time of the year, there’s plenty of cartoon on TV. This year, since I am already reading plenty of manga, I decided to go in the documentary way. I’ve found and watched two interesting documentaries about famous cartoon artists (and I read a book of each for good mesure).

Who are you, Charlie Brown?

WhoAreYouCharlieBrown-posterThis documentary, narrated by Lupita Nyong’o, is covering three subjects. First, it brings us a new animated story where Charlie Brown agonize on the fact that he must write an essay about himself for school and he goes on a quest of self-discovery. Also, with the help of old interviews with Charles M Schulz (aka “Sparky”) and some of his close friends and family members we learn about who was the creator of Peanuts and about the genesis of the comics. Finally, fans, actors and other creators discuss the influence the comics had on them and on the global culture. 

The documentary is interesting and also very entertaining, but also a little short and somewhat superficial. We see some early drawings of the Peanuts’ gang (a comic strip called Lil’ Folks) but it never mentions his other comic series, like Young Pillars (which I commented in 2015) or It’s Only a Game. It also doesn’t mention the fact that Schulz’ house was burned down during the Santa Rosa’s fire in October 2017. Fortunately, the nearby Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, where the original illustrations are stored, was spared.  Nevertheless, this documentary is a great way to celebrate the cultural icon that Charlie Brown is and introduce him to a new generation of comic readers.

Who are you, Charlie Brown? : USA, 2021, 54 min.; Dir.: Michael Bonfiglio; Scr.: Michael Bonfiglio & Marcella Steingart; Ed.: Tim K. Smith; Music: Jeff Morrow; Rated PG. It has received a score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes (91% from the audience) and 7.2/10 on IMDb. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AppleGoogleIMDbWikipedia ]

NiceShotSnoopy-covOf course, after viewing this documentary I was feeling like reading some old Charlie Brown comics. I chose a short one and got lost in nostalgia. When I was a kid, having outgrown the school library, I was making regular trips to one of the city’s libraries to borrow Peanuts’ compilations (the library was located on top of an old fire-station and it reeked of gaz and engine’ oil — for years after that the idea of a library was evoking in me a mix of awe and nauseous feelings!)

This book offers a selection of cartoons from the compilation The Way of the fussbudget is not easy, vol. III. Part of the Peanuts Coronet collection (#79), it was meant to provide a shorter and more affordable sampling of the Peanuts’ world. It present a single four-panel strip per page. The volume doesn’t have a particular thematic and I don’t know if the strips are in chronological order. It is simply a variety of stories involving all characters (Snoopy and Woodstock, Linus and Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Marcie, Schroeder, Pig-Pen, Spike, and, of course, Sally and Charlie Brown). It is a light reading that provides mindless vintage entertainment.

NiceShotSnoopy-p024-025

Page 24-25

Nice shot, Snoopy!, by Charles M Schulz. New York: Fawcett Crest (Ballantine Books/Random House), May 1988. 128 pages, 4.25 x 7 in., $US 2.95 / $C 3.95, ISBN 0-449-21404-4. For readership of all ages. stars-3-0

For more information you can check the following websites:

[ AmazonGoodreadsGoogleNelliganWikipediaWorldCat ]

© 1983, 1984 by United Feature Syndicate, Inc

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Dear Mr. Watterson

DearMrWatterson-posterThis is an older documentary but I just discovered it. It explores the phenomenon that is the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, interview lots of people (fans, actor Seth Green, editor Lee Salem and other artists) who pay tribute to its popularity and talk about how it influenced them and the global culture. It also talks a little about its creator, Bill Watterson, who NEVER appears in the documentary (apparently he is a very shy and private person). 

It is a very interesting documentary and it reminded me of all the reasons why Calvin and Hobbes was my favourite comic strip. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t learn more about its creator (although I can understand why someone who’s such a purist about his art would shy away fame and a fortune in licensing). However, the documentary also talk about the cartoon world in general and, if I couldn’t see Mr. Watterson, I could hear from many of the artists who created other strips that I like a lot too: Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Jan Eliot (Stone Soup), Bill Amend (FoxTrot), Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur), Dan Piraro (Bizarro), etc. It was definitively worth watching.

Dear Mr. Watterson : USA, 2013, 89 min.; Dir.: Joel Allen Schroeder; Phot.: Andrew Waruszewski; Ed.: Joel Allen Schroeder; Music: Mike Boggs; Prod.: Chris Browne & Matt McUsic; Rated PG. It has received a score of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes (51% from the audience), 54% on Metacritic and 6.4/10 on IMDb. stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ Apple TVGoogleIMDbOfficialPrime VideoWikipedia ]

EssentialCalvinAndHobbes-covAgain, watching this documentary made me want to read the comic again. I have a little less than a dozen compilations and I chose to read the one that I thought would be the most representative: The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, which includes all strips from the first two compilations (Calvin and Hobbes and Something Under the Bed Is Drooling). In this strip we enviously follow the (mis)adventures of an over-imaginative boy with his pet (stuffed?) tiger. It is superbly drawn in a simple, clean but descriptive style. The humour is brilliant. It is both entertaining and full of meaning. A must read.

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. Kansas City: Andrews & McMeel (Universal Press Syndicate), March 1989. 256 pages, 8.5 x 10.7 in., $US $18.99 / $C 37.99, ISBN 0-8362-1805-1. For teenage readership (12+). stars-4-0

For more information you can check the following websites:

[ AmazonGoodreadsGoogleNelliganWikipediaWorldCat ]

© 1988 by Universal Press Syndicate.

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The Bill Murray Stories

billmurraystoryApparently there are lots of stories on the internet about Bill Murray doing some crazy spontaneous things where he crashes a party or a wedding picture session, comes behind someone in a public toilet and puts his hands on the person eyes saying “No one will ever believe you”, or ends up doing the dishes in some kid’s apartment. He just shows up out of the blue, acts like he is just a normal guy (not a celebrity) but in a way that touches people’s life. Could those stories be true? That’s the question which Tommy Avallone asked himself and decided to make a documentary about it. 

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man is a documentary that retells those stories and interviews the people who experienced them. It really seems that most stories — at least those told in the documentary — are true and there is pictorial or video evidences to prove it. Avallone then goes on asking himself: why? Why someone like Bill Murray would do such things? To goof around? As a publicity stunt? Not at all. It is just who Bill Murray is. It is part of an improv thing and part of a life philosophy (something like taoism or zen). He just like to live in the moment and make people happy.

Personally, I am just wondering what makes people wake up in the morning and decides to make a documentary about Bill Murray. You are in movie school and need to do one as an assignment? Or really want answers to those questions and decide to just films everything and try to make money out of it? Or you just have the “reporter” gene in your blood? I guess someone should make a documentary about that.

It’s not a very good documentary (it’s clumsy, particularly toward the end, and I dislike when someone makes a documentary about themselves looking for something) but I enjoyed it because I not only learned a lot about who is Bill Murray, but it was also quite entertaining (lots of funny anecdotes and movie excerpts). It reminds me of this book that I once saw in the library: The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing, by Gavin Edwards and R. Sikoryak, which was basically asking the same questions. [ Amazon / Goodreads / Library ]

Apparently, Bill Murray is quite an interesting person. But whether you are interested or not, whether you like documentaries or not, it doesn’t matter: if you just take the moment to watch this sixty-seven minutes movies you will certainly enjoy it. And maybe, maybe, you’ll take something out if it and wonder, like me, could I ever be that spontaneous and really live in the moment? stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonGoogleIMDbNetflixRotten TomatoesWikipedia ]

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RBG

RBG-covI just watched this CNN documentary about the life of judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is really a historical crash course about the other side of the fight for civil rights: the legal aspect of the women’s lib movement in which RBG played an essential role. The film is composed of extracts of hearing and court proceedings as well as interviews with RBG, friends, family and some legal or political experts. We first learn how she became a lawyer in 1959 (Harvard and then Columbia) but couldn’t find employment because she was a woman. She taught law at Rutgers. Within the ACLU she co-founded in 1972 the Women’s Rights Project which oversaw hundreds of gender discrimination cases, RBG personally arguing six of them before the Supreme Court (winning five). It is incredible how such a small and frail woman could be so dedicated and determined to fight gender discrimination in any way necessary in order to slowly build up precedents and find justice.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter nominated her as judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.. In 1993, Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court where she played an iconic role. With the retirement of Justice O’Connor in 2006, she became the only woman on the court, until the nomination of Justice Sotomayor in 2009. First considered a moderate, she shifted toward the Left to preserve the balance as the court became more conservative. She is known for her dissenting opinion. She could be the last line of defence against the civil rights roll back by the Trump administration. Strangely, the appeal of her work and personality — through an Internet meme named Notorious R.B.G., which was comparing her to rapper Notorious B.I.G. — has given her great pop culture fame.

This is a great documentary that is fun to watch, but also very informative. I’ve learned a lot about American history. It is also a nice introduction to another movie about RBG’s life, this time a fictionalized account of her early days, titled On the Basis of Sex and which was just released this Christmas. RBG was well received as it earned a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.6 on IMDb. Therefore, it is highly recommended. I recorded it when it aired on CNN in September, but it is now available on Dvd (from Amazon or your local library) and can also be streamed on iTunes or Amazon Primestars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ Amazon PrimeGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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SDL: Entrevue capsule avec Francine Pelletier

entete-communique-02-300x148Dans le cadre du Salon du livre de Montreal 2018, je voulais faire une série de mini (capsules) entrevues avec des auteurs (surtout de science-fiction) de chez nous. Malheureusement, l’ambiance sonore du salon n’était pas adéquate pour des entrevues, alors celles-ci ont été faite hors-site. Le principe de l’entrevue capsule est de s’en tenir à deux ou trois questions de base et que l’entrevue ne dure pas plus que trois à cinq minutes. Cela doit être compacte et bien se digérer!

Voici donc la première de ces entrevues capsules, réalisée avec Francine Pelletier. Pour en savoir plus sur cette auteure de science-fiction — à ne pas confondre avec la journaliste homonyme — et de polar (sous le pseudonyme de Catherine Sylvestre) vous pouvez consulter sa bio/bibliographie sur le site des Éditions Alire ou sur Wikipedia.

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Ex-Libris: The New York Public Library

Ex-libris-dvd“Frederick Wiseman’s film, Ex Libris – The New York Public Library, goes behind the scenes of one of the greatest knowledge institutions in the world and reveals it as a place of welcome, cultural exchange and learning. With 92 branches throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, the library is a resource for all the inhabitants of this multifaceted and cosmopolitan city, and beyond. The New York Public Library exemplifies the deeply rooted American belief in the individual’s right to know and be informed. It is one of the most democratic institutions in America – everyone is welcome. The Library strives to inspire learning, advance knowledge and strengthen communities.”

Earlier this week I stumble upon this enormous documentary on PBS. If you are into books and libraries, you’ll just love this movie that gives us an extensive tour of the New York Library and demonstrates how dedicated and welcoming the staff of its 92 branches are, what are the challenges they face in order to keep up with the demands and needs of their patrons, and particularly how important libraries can be to foster the diffusion of culture & knowledge as well as artistic creativity. It’s certainly one of the best examples of what an ideal library should be (as I recently discussed).

It is amazing how our local libraries look insignificant and puny in comparison of the behemoth collection and the huge diversity of services offered by the New York Public Library… With 53 millions documents, it is the second largest public library in the U.S. (third largest in the world after the British Library and the Library of Congress). Surprisingly, despite its name, it is a private, non-profit library, but it’s using public/private partnership (and funding) to work in collaboration with local governments (city, state, federal) in providing a large array of services… It is quite interesting (and serendipitous) that, with our imminent provincial elections, a librarian and teacher at the U de M Library Science School has been very recently questioning the commitment of the government in regards of libraries. Will the government create a strategic plan for the development of libraries (like the PLA recently did) ? It is direly needed at a time when the usefulness of libraries (and even our society’s fundamental concepts of knowledge and truth) are being challenged  (NYT, The Guardian) !

Of course, for such an enormous documentary, the reception has been rather mixed (with a critical response at 97%, but with only a 61% audience score, on Rotten Tomatoes) with reviews going from bad (Globe & Mail), to good (Variety) to excellent (The Guardian).

For me it was very interesting to watch and compare (seeing the similarities and differences) our library work here, in relatively small municipal library branches, to what’s done in NYC. However, even with the mastery of legendary documentarist Frederick Wiseman, I do think that 3h17 is really too long for any documentary to keep the attention of the viewers (at least in one sitting)! Many sequences are unnecessarily long. Also someone can get easily annoyed by Wiseman’s “no-comment” documentary style where he just show the scene as it happens without much editing or information (like not telling us who is talking!). In the end, despite those faults, this documentary is definitely worth watching for anyone (with spare time) who’s interested in the realm of books and libraries.

Ex Libris – The New York Public Library : USA, 2017, 197 mins; Dir./Ed./Sound/Prod.: Frederick Wiseman; Phot.: John Davey; Exec. Prod.: Karen Konicek; Cast: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Elvis Costello, Richard Dawkins and the very dedicated staff of all NYL branches. The DVD will be available soon from the producing company, PBS or Amazon (UK / FR). It can also be streamed online (legally?)… stars-3-0

[ IMDbOfficialPBSWikipediaYoutube ]

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