Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Beasts of No Nation"

As I was attending the Telluride Festival in September, one of the hot tickets there was "Beasts of No Nation", directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.  It's a film about young boys in central African countries being recruited to fight in their rampant civil wars.

Now, this is not the kind of film I'm usually going to rush out and watch.  I prefer wacky comedies, so this subject matter was at the opposite end of my usual entertainment spectrum.

However, I'm glad I saw it - first of all, it is very well made, almost like a documentary.  All the acting, by a mostly amateur cast, is superb.  What realistic performances!

But, similar to the story from "Room", it focuses on a young boy forced into a very dangerous situation by events that are beyond his control.  So you empathize with his terrible situation, as this young black boy is recruited by a rebel colonel and forced to take drugs and murder people. 

Even though it does have a relatively happy ending, the experiences of this young, 11-year old kid create a total horror show.  I hope it gets recognition as the Oscars.  I give it an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Monday, November 23, 2015


One of the most talked-about films from the Telluride Festival is a kidnapping film called "Room".  But please, don't confuse it with the "so bad, it's camp" film called "The Room" by Tommy Wiseau.  The two films are at opposite ends of the scale.

"Room" is directed by Lenny Abrahamson and stars the great Brie Larson as a girl kidnapped at the age of 16 and used as a sex slave.  Her son, played by Jacob Tremblay, is fathered by the kidnapper - it's one of the most powerful and haunting films of the year.

The mother and son are isolated in the kidnapper's shed, where they set up a home in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. room, with only a small skylight for any connection to the outside world.  They also have an old TV set and the young boy assumes that everything he sees on the TV is not real. It's all make-believe to him, since he was born in the shelter and knows nothing about real life.

The film does not deal with graphic sex or violence - the horror is more of a psychological nature.  How cruel it is that this mother and son are forced to live in captivity and have such a minimal life experience.

The film begins when the young boy turns five, and it is at this stage that the mother tells him exactly what happened six years ago.  They then plan an escape, so about halfway through the film, the boy is able to get free and get help. 

The second half of the film deals with them confronting the real world and handling the media.  Just because they've escaped the horror chamber, that doesn't mean that their pain is over.  There are a lot of terrible after-effects from their terrible ordeal.  And the small boy even misses his time in slavery.

The screenplay by Emma Donoghue is so well written and wrenching, it deserves an Oscar.  And the acting by everyone, especially the young boy, is amazing. 

If you get a chance, please go out and see "Room".  I give it an "A". 

--Bill Plympton

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Revengeance" update

Dear readers,

Even though I've been swamped with commercial work lately, I still have to find time to continue production of my next feature film, "Revengeance". 

As most of you know already, it's a fabulous dark story, written by the great Jim Lujan, he's also doing the character design and a lot of the voices.  I'm producing the animation for the film, and I'm having a ball.

Jim's characters are so compelling and fascinating that it's a shame some of them are on-screen for short periods and then gone so quickly.  Jim has a real talent for observation and design.

In any case, I wanted to show you some of the recent work that's been done for the film.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through the script, and barring any major interruption, I'm hoping to finish the animation in the late winter or early spring of 2016.  I'll be posting occasional updates here in the blog, showing off new designs and animation.

I hope you like the new stuff -

Bill Plympton

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Last Days of Coney Island"

As most of you may know, Ralph Bakshi is one of my heroes.  He really pioneered the whole adult animation genre - I wouldn't be making the films that I make without the influence of Mr. Bakshi.

I'm a big fan of his work, especially his music-based films like "American Pop". 

Well, now he has a new short online, called "Last Days of Coney Island" and I know he's been working on this film for a long time.

I just saw it this morning, and was totally seduced by his great artwork.  The drawing is very loose and stylized, and the backgrounds are powerful collages of Coney Island imagery. 

He could have done without the multiple views of Kennedy's death, and the story could be a bit more coherent.

But his style of filmmaking is unique and so personal that I totally got sucked into this visuals.  I think you will, too.  Check it out at:

--Bill Plympton

Friday, November 13, 2015

Virginia Film Festival

About three months ago, I got an e-mail from one of my heroes, Leonard Maltin - he was invited to the Virginia Film Festival and they gave him the chance to invite some filmmakers to participate in some screenings and workshops, so he asked me to come along.  How could I say no to Mr. Maltin?

So, last week I flew to Charlottesville, Virginia - in a tiny plane with Oliver Stone just a few seats in front of me.

After checking in, I was joined by my producer, James Hancock (a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the festival's sponsors) to take a guided tour of Monticello, the fable home built by Thomas Jefferson.  My old friend Mary Burress was our guide, so we got a private tour of the dome room (I hope that doesn't get Mary in trouble).

We then took a tour of the Monticello Museum, where we got to see a lot of Jefferson's genius - his writings, his collections and his inventions.

But back to the festival - my screening of "Cheatin'" was a big success, and I was totally excited about being interviewed on stage by Leonard.  After all, he's interviewed everyone who's anyone in show biz!

That night, I went to see some films.  I had some free time, so I randomly stopped in to a Norwegian film called "The Wave" by Roar Uthaug.  This is a fictional story about a common danger in Norway, where there are a lot of sheer rock cliffs overlooking the fjords, and these cliffs often break off, causing massive landslides that then cause tsunamis that race the entire length of the fjords, causing massive death and destruction.

"The Wave" has no big stars and the budget seemed relatively low by U.S. standards - yet I've never seen a film so powerful and terrifying.  After a 20-minute set-up, waiting for the inevitable avalanche, I was gripping the armrest so tight, I thought my fingernails might tear off.

The terror was relentless.  This is how a disaster film should be made.  The small crowd in the theater gave it a huge ovation.  "The Wave" is eligible for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and I pray it gets nominated, because it should be seen by everybody.

As for the Virginia Film Festival, it's Southern hospitality at its finest.  I was never taken care of or fed so well before.  And Charlottesville is a beautiful historic college town - Mr. Jefferson even designed the original campus.   I give the festival an "A".

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Academy Awards anniversary

It's been just over 10 years since I was nominated for an Oscar for my 2004 short film "Guard Dog".

Biljana Labovic, my producer at the time, recently found a clip of the ceremonies on the web, and for those of you who have never seen it - perhaps you were taking a bathroom break during the show - I present the short clip of the animated shorts nominees, by Laura Linney. 

Spoiler alert - the award was won by Chris Landreth for his fantastic and very deserving film, "Ryan".

I was just happy to be there since my film had about 1/100th of the budget of the other films.

By the way, if you're wondering what all that sign language I did with my hands was, I was saying "I love you" to my mother.  What a good son I am!

--Bill Plympton

(Skip ahead to 2:39 on the video below if you want to go straight to the animation nominees)