Monday, August 20, 2007

Animation Criticism 2.5 - The Onion AV Club reviews Popeye

Like Slant Magazine's inadequate expectations for the medium, here's another example of an obviously intelligent reviewer only half-understanding the purpose of animation in their professional critical review - August 15th's review of the Popeye The Sailor: 1933 - 1938 DVD

"Because of the repetitive nature of early sound animation, Popeye cartoons are best consumed in small doses. But the Fleischers' frequent experiments with mixed media and forced perspectives—which strove to bring cinematic depth to a moving comic strip—hold up to scrutiny decades later."

By "mixed media" the reviewer may simply be referring to some moments that incorporated live action, but "forced perspectives" bringing "cinematic depth" to "a moving comic strip" is the dead giveaway language of someone with low standards attempting to describe an obviously high quality work and not really knowing how, except to describe it as "cinematic." Well, duh. Popeye was animated on film, and shown in movie theaters. The reason they have "depth" is that they were made by real animators and not "cartoon writers" or alterna-hipster comedians who view drawings as dialogue mannequins.

Here's the review's byline:

"All the fighting on these early sound-era cartoons gets repetitive, but the terrific DVD special features help reveal their artistry."

"All the fighting" being the content of the cartoons and not the form, the reviewer needs to distance himself from the unsophisticated plots and dialogue by restating that because of the "repetitive nature of early sound animation" (early sound not providing enough Simpsons level dialogue,) the cartoons "are best consumed in small doses." Again, DUH. They were created as theatrical shorts. Are we to infer that the faux-clever hipster bait Aqua Teen Hunger Force is easier on the brain and eyeballs if watched for an hour or so?

A quick look at their review of the Aqua Teen movie gushes over "balls-to-the-wall smartass surrealism" which takes "randomness and pop-culture geekdom dominating contemporary comedy to delirious new levels" and contains "bizarre non sequiturs, stoned pop-culture riffing, and some of the weirdest gags ever to make it into a studio-released film."

I take back what I said in the last post, most reviews of animated films and television don't bother mentioning the word itself even once, since a near-total lack thereof is considered irrelevant and can be taken for granted.

DVD features about the Popeye cartoons don't "help reveal their artistry." The art itself reveals its artistry. And the cartoons "hold up to scrutiny decades later" because of what they are: Good. Animation.

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