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Even with cinema classes, film appreciation and Turner Classic Movies, one thing that is lacking today that we had in the 1960s was Million Dollar Movie. When local stations ran endless streams of classic old Hollywood films instead of reruns of Fear Factor and Fresh Prince. For years it was an effortless daily seminar of Hollywood’s greatest filmmaking techniques, all for free. Small wonder you hear animators my age speaking of the technique of John Ford and the antics of the Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers, even when they did their thing long before many of us were born.

As if it’s not hard enough learning to be an animator, you have to learn new software programs, study acting and the Disney features and Ren & Stimpy. Today’s audience demands filmmaking on a par with the best live action movies have to offer. Wacky wabbits and cuddly bears aren’t enough any more. Our performances, art direction and cutting have to compete with the best a Speilberg and Tarantino can do.

So as a service to my animation students and various sundry others who think I have anything informative to say, here are some ideas for films you should make it a point of seeing at least once in your filmic life. I’ll post some more ideas tomorrow.

STAGECOACH (1939) John Ford- Akira Kurosawa and Francois Truffault both said they taught themselves film technique by watching this film over and over. Kurosawa said he watched the Indian attack sequence at least 50 times!
While you’re at it, see FORT APACHE (1948) and THE SEARCHERS (1956), two of the best Ford films. Fort Apache is a masterpiece of giving us the backstory of the characters, without beating us over the head with long explanations or crawls of type. Instead of watching a players in a play, we feel we are intruding in one moment of these characters lives.
By the way, go see Kurosawa’s RASHOMON (1950) to understand what the term means.

See BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1923) by Sergei Eisenstein so you can see what all the jokes about the staircase sequence are about.

For screwball comedy see DUCK SOUP (1934), the Marx Brothers at their finest, THE MUSIC BOX - Laurel and Hardy on another type of staircase, as well as BRINGING UP BABY (1938), ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944), SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941) Preston Sturges, and TWENTIETH CENTURY (1934) the last features John Barrymore and Carol Lombard, two of the greatest actors America has ever produced, doing broad comedy beautifully.

For more comedy see THE GENERAL (1927) Buster Keaton, SAFETY LAST (1923), Harold Lloyd and THE CIRCUS (1928) Charlie Chaplin.

For art direction, see THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1939), CITIZEN KANE (1941) and for noir WHITE HEAT (1949). For suspense see PSYCHO (1960), and NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) both by Alfred Hitchcock.

Of course these are by no means a complete list. Some are obvious and some are my opinion. I hope some of these ideas inspire further searching of these film masterworks on your part. I was in Nagoya recently on a panel with Mamaru Oshii, the director of the GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995). He said he’s getting a lot of inspiration lately by studying the films of the European New Wave Cinema of the 1960’s- Godard, Antonioni and Truffault.
Disney animator Art Babbitt said to be an animator is to be a student of everything.

Laurel & Hardy in THE MUSIC BOX- shot at the staircase at 923 Vendome Ave. in Silverlake

Go exploring for yourself and enjoy!
Birthdays: John Paul Jones, Josephine Baker,Tony Curtis is 81, Allen Ginsburg, Collen Dewhurst, Alain Renais, Curtis Mayfield, Paulette Goddard, Maurice Evans, Jack Oakey, John Dykstra, Tom Arnold, Chuck Barris

1888-The poem: "Casey at the Bat" by Edward Lawrence Taylor published in the San Francisco Examiner.

1939- Movie director Alexander Korda married movie star Merle Oberon.

1946- A consumer study finds there are only 10,000 television sets in America.
A follow up study five years later finds the number at 12 million.

1949 - Dragnet is 1st broadcast on radio ( KFI in Los Angeles ). Creator Jack Webb wanted to capture the dry, non-theatrical delivery he heard real cops use. He ordered his actors to “stop acting, just read the lines”. Webb wrote the scripts from real LAPD cases and starred as well.

1967 - Aretha Franklin's "Respect" reaches #1. Sockittome,sockittome,sockittome.

1968- Artist Andy Warhol was shot in the gut three times by Valerie Solanas, author of the "SCUM Manifesto". Warhol barely survived. Solanas was institutionalized.

1971- The First artificial gene created.

1976 –Galileo-Galileo Fig-a-ro! Queen's single "Bohemian Rhapsody" goes gold.

1980- President Jimmy Carter announced the United States would boycott the 1980 summer Olympic Games in Moscow because of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The Russians boycotted the LA Olympics in 1984 and left Afghanistan in 1989.
One result of the embargo was NBC dropped it's animated feature Animalympics, a toon spoof of the Olympics directed by Steve Lissberger (TRON). Artists involved included Bill Kroyer, Randy Cartwright, Roger Allers, Andy Gaskill, Dan Haskett and me.