Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Hateful Eight

As most of you know, I've been a fan and friend of Mr. Quentin Tarantino for a long time - since he screened "Reservoir Dogs" at Sundance.  I got a special invitation to see "The Hateful Eight" in 70mm at the huge Ziegfeld Theatre in NYC. 

As you would expect, it was a packed house and an excited crowd, there to see Quentin introduce the cast (all except Samuel L. Jackson), and Quentin's one of the best introducers in the business.

The film opened with a still piece of art of a stagecoach, set against the Rocky Mountains, as 10 minutes of Ennio Morricone music played.  Then the film began - it starts off pretty slow, with lots of dialogue as the various characters are introduced to the story.

I could have done without a lot of the extra exposition - let's get to the anticipated conflict!

Finally, all of the Hateful Eight were assembled in the haberdashery and the bloody standoff was put into motion.  And what a bloody standoff is was - heads exploded, hands were blown off, testicles were eviscerated and bodies were hung.  And it's all done with a dose of Tarantino black humor, it's wonderful -

My only suggestion would be to cut a lot of the early redundant dialogue and bring it down from a three-hour epic to a more manageable two hours.

Somehow, I didn't mind a film like "The Revenant" being three hours long, I wasn't bored for the entire length of that film. 

I'm happy, though, to give "The Hateful Eight" an "A-" - it's vintage Tarantino.

--Bill P.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa Fe de la Antioquia, Colombia

Alexy Budovsky is a great Russian animator and a good friend, and he stopped by my studio a few months ago to give me an update on his life and travels. It seems he's now married to a Colombian woman and living in Bogota.

I asked him how life was there, and he said it's fantastic!  The weather's perfect and they have all different types of landscape - desert, rainforest, beautiful plains, snow-peaked mountains, and beaches that are to die for - well, that sold me.

So when I recently got invited to a festival in Santa Fe de la Antioquia, Colombia, I said, "Sign me up!"  The festival is small but it's been around for 15 years, and Santa Fe is also small, but very quaint.  It's an old, colonial city with charming cobblestones and horses and weird scooter-taxis in the streets. 

The Festicine Antioquia opened with a screening of "Cheatin'" in the town center.  Apparently they neglected to check the film for adult material first, so all the kids in the audience got a great education on human anatomy. 

But the screening started late, because a few of the dignitaries were still preparing for the event.  So instead of waiting for them to show up, I introduced the film one hour before the delayed screening started.  (I'd been up since 4 am and I was dead tired.)

It seems that in Colombia, people don't put much meaning to what the clock says - and that was a theme throughout my stay.  My master class the next day was well-attended, but again, it started late.

They put me up in a fabulous colonial hotel with a beautiful tropical pool, where I swam to the sounds of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas".  Weird.

Unfortunately for me, it's a big party town, and every night is like Mardi Gras - so I had a big problem catching up on my sleep. 

On my trip back to the airport, I had time to stop off in Medellin, to visit the Museum de Antioquia.  Since the great painter Fernando Botero grew up there, they are the repository of a large collection of his work - pencil art, sketches, sculptures, and of course his fantastic paintings. 

I've been a big fan of Botero's work since college, and I was surprised to learn that he's still alive, and painting in Italy.  I think he fled Colombia when Pablo Escobar sort of took over the country.  In fact, there's a wonderful painting of the death of the infamous drug lord included in the show.

Medellin once had a reputation for being a lawless city of 3 million, but since the death of Escobar, it's become much safer - though still a little rough around the edges.  They said I shouldn't walk around alone because I looked like such a "gringo".

Anyway, I give the festival an "A" because I had such a great time, despite the late starting times.

--Bill P. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday offer from the Plymptoons store

Things don't always go as planned. We released my latest animated feature, "CHEATIN'"  on Blu-Ray, and we made an initial run of discs to sell at San Diego Comic-Con.  Then I had plane troubles and I missed the first day of the convention, so we didn't sell as many as we could have.  Then New York Comic-Con came around, and I accidentally scheduled myself to be in Argentina at the same time - so we didn't sell very many of them there, either.

Bottom line - I've got a stack of boxes full of Blu-Rays here in the studio, and my office manager says I'll have a "Blu" Christmas if I don't start selling some of them.  So I lowered the price for the holidays to try to increase sales.  From now until the end of the year, you can get the Blu-Ray from my web-site for $20 instead of $25 - that's 20% off!

As an incentive, I'll include with every Blu-Ray a signed copy of my annual Christmas card, featuring a very irreverent holiday tale about some very unlucky carolers.  This is the card I send out to all my friends and family - I've done this for many years, and this is the first time I've made this offer to customers, too. 

Some people may remember that I did a Christmas special for Cartoon Network some years ago, it was called "12 Tiny Christmas Tales".  Those little animated stories started out as my Christmas cards, I adapted them into that TV special, and Maureen McElheron composed some great music for the show, like the rockabilly "Plucky Present", "Cecil the Snowman", and the beautiful "Remember Christmas". 

So if you want some extra Christmas fun, please consider my DVD called "Bill Plympton's Dog Days", because we included the "12 Tiny Christmas Tales" show as a special bonus on that DVD.  It's not listed on the box, you have to play the DVD and look for it in the "extras" section.  But it's there, and I hope you enjoy finding it.  My short film "Santa, the Fascist Years" is also on that DVD, so you get two films about Christmas!

--Bill Plympton

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


In case you hadn't noticed, I've been running a lot of movie reviews, because it's getting close to the end of the year and every studio is in a rush to get their films out on the screen to be eligible for the upcoming awards season.  As a member of the Academy, I've been invited to so many screenings, luncheons, dinners, and tea parties it's starting to seem excessive. 

Jay Roach's new film "Trumbo", starring Bryan Cranston, is a well-made, well-acted historical retelling of Dalton Trumbo's survival of the infamous Hollywood blacklist from the 1940's and 50's.  However, it's pure propaganda.  Even though Mr. Trumbo was a great writer ("Spartacus", "Roman Holiday"), he was a member of the Communist Party, and in the film we never see any Communist meetings or rallies, or Russian agents, and very little mention of Stalin.

The film bases its philosophy on freedom of speech issues, not Communism itself.  However, if Mr. Trumbo had lived in Russia, a country he loved and aspired to and had mentioned freedom of speech, he would have had a bullet in his brain within weeks.

It's my feeling that there were only two reasons that Americans at the time became Communist Party members.  The first was that they were uninformed and naive (which is ironic because they labelled themselves as intellectuals), or the other was that they wholeheartedly supported Josef Stalin and his mass murders.

Someone told me that during Stalin's regime, there was no press about his mass murders, or about the true situation in the Soviet Union.  However, many U.S. papers covered the terrible Stalin-enforced famine in Ukraine (in the early 1930's) that killed a large percentage of the farmers there through starvation.  In fact, when the Nazis invaded Eastern Europe, the Germans were treated as liberators by the Russians and Ukrainians.

And then there were the infamous Purge trials of 1936-38, which were widely reported on in the NY Times and other international papers.  Check out Robert Conquest's informative book "The Great Terror" for more details. 

Another good example is the great 1939 Hollywood film "Ninotchka", directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Greta Garbo, where they bring up the terrible political situation in the Soviet Union many times - the purges, the assassinations and the Siberian gulags.

Another issue with "Trumbo" is that they talk about the tragedy of people being out of work, families falling apart, and even suicides because of the blacklist.  Why didn't these talented writers move to New York, where there was plenty of work for them in TV, magazines, books and theater, and no one really cared about the blacklist?  A lot of writers and directors did move to Europe during this time, where Communism was much more popular and accepted. 

I would have loved to see an explanation for why Mr. Trumbo became a Communist, what he thought of the German-Russian Pact, and why he never renounced Communism, once it began to enslave Eastern Europeans after the war. 

Because of the recent fall of Communism, a lot of the correspondence and writings of Stalin have come to light, and it's been revealed that the courageous Americans who joined the famous Lincoln Brigade to fight fascism in Spain would have all been liquidated after the Communists had won the Spanish Civil War.  Fortunately for the Lincoln Brigade, Franco was victorious there.

The film "Trumbo" makes its issues about artistic freedom and the First Amendment - when it should really be about the evils of Stalin and Communism.  I wonder what all the Communist sympathizers would feel about the blacklist if, instead of Trumbo being labelled a Commie, he was, say, revealed to be a member of the Nazi Party. 

Please let me know what you think of my scandalous comments.  I give "Trumbo" a "C-".

--Bill Plympton