Though used rarely today, celluloid animation has brought us many cartoons and animated movie classics, such as the Looney Tunes series by Warner Bros, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney Productions, or the first 13 seasons of The Simpsons by 20th Century Fox. The production method of celluloid animation consists of drawings that are made on plastic sheets called cels, which are photographed in sequence in order to provide the illusion of movement. On rare occasions, errors do occur in the photographing of cels; this occurs namely in accidentally taking a photograph of the cel with the camera operator’s fingers in it, reflecting the camera apparatus in the cel so that it is seen in the frame, or improperly placing the cels on top of each other, resulting in colour changes in the frame. Dust and dirt particles can also accumulate on the film, as can the fingerprints of the cameraman. Hannah Frank’s Traces of the World challenges a theory of cinema where it is believed that “the animation camera is only incidental to the cartoon’s production”, rather than being a key part in it (Frank 23). Be it with mistakes or without, celluloid animation is arguably a phenomenon that, per Andrew Wilson’s claim, “reveal[s] traces of the humans and technology that produced them” (Frank 23).
The Moving Image vol. 18 no. 1 is designated the “Spring 2018” issue, but I didn’t receive my hard copy until this week. And, looking online, lo and behold, it’s up on JSTOR and Project Muse. So I guess it officially exists now, and it’s high time to announce it.
There was a flurry of activity I was involved with when Hannah Frank passed away in August 2017. Much of that culminated in the SCMS special event that I co-organized. But most of the contributors to that event also contributed to a special tribute in The Moving Image. Due to the general sluggishness of academic publishing, that’s just coming out now. The tribute contains short appreciations written by Mihaela Mihailova, Jen Bircher, Robert Bird, Mariana Johnson, Ryan Pierson, Alla Gadassik, Tim Palmer, and myself.
A quick heads-up: Awhile back, I announced the SCMS 2018 special event I co-coordinated devoted to the life and work of Hannah Frank. That event is now watchable for those who weren’t able to make it to the conference in March, thanks to the generous videographic assistance of Sean Batton. Please feel free to embed and distribute widely.
(I’d recommend playing this video on the actual YouTube page, rather than its embedded version here: if you look below the fold on the textual description over there, you’ll see that I’ve added bookmarks so that you can easily navigate to each speaker’s presentation, as well as links to a bunch of materials referred to in the presentations.)
Well, now that the “Heaven Is a Place” screening is over and done with (and what a screening it was! my hat goes off to all fellow filmmakers & artists), it’s on to the next announcement.
It’s that time of year again: the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. This year, I forwent presenting a paper myself, and instead opted to act as an organizer for a special event. The event in question is “Unlimited Animation: A Tribute to Hannah Frank,” a celebration of the life and scholarship of one of film studies’ most promising young scholars. It’s scheduled for 7:00 PM on the evening of the first night of the conference, Wednesday, March 14. If you find yourself in Toronto then, I invite you to come.
Today, the friends, family, and colleagues of Hannah Frank held a special Chicago memorial for her, hosted at the University of Chicago. I already wrote quite a bit about Hannah in the past two weeks, so for my presentation at this memorial I decided to do something different: a short found-footage celebration of Hannah’s audiovisual interests.
As you might imagine, this compilation video includes things that Hannah wrote about. But it also includes things Hannah shared on social media that she liked. And things Hannah shared on social media that she made. It includes things Hannah and I shared a mutual love of. It includes things Hannah encouraged me to teach and/or write about. And it includes things I encouraged Hannah to teach and/or write about. I’ve arranged these clips to the tune of “Deeper into Movies,” by Hannah’s fellow Hobokeners Yo La Tengo.
Special thanks to Will Carroll, Chris Carloy, Sierra Wilson, Jordan Schonig, and James Rosenow.
If you’d like to explore Hannah’s own output as a video artist and animator, check out her Vimeo page here.
If you’re curious about the sources for all of the visual bits, a full list is below the fold.
Since the unexpected and shocking death of my friend Hannah Frank last week, I have been thinking a lot about the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back” (Series 2, Episode 1, dir. Owen Harris, 2013). Since the time I first saw it, I’ve thought it was a very good slice of speculative fiction, but it was not until the past week that its insights into 21st century psychology truly hit me.
I began this series as a lark, inspired by my friend Hannah Frank’s Tumblr omgcatrevolution. I linked to her Tumblr here, she reciprocated by posting some of this material over there. We chuckled about trading some of the meager traffic our endeavors attract; it gave us a chance to chat. A chance to chat with Hannah was always welcome.
Today, omgcatrevolution posted its final post. This morning, at 1 AM, Hannah Frank passed away from a sudden illness. Her death has come as an utter shock to her friends.
Last week, I promised another “sad cat tale” in this Monday’s spot. I had planned to reserve this spot for Jonas and Verena Kyratzes’ The Fabulous Screech (2012), a point-and-click tearjerker about a cat’s adventures through heaven and hell, and eventual decline into old age.
I cannot, at the moment, bring myself to write about The Fabulous Screech. But I think I will leave the screenshots in, and leave the title of the post as it was (with a new acknowledgement). I can think of plenty of people who wouldn’t want to be eulogized in a blog post about a cartoon cat. Hannah Frank was not one of those people. And so that is where I have decided to take this post.
By now, every right-thinking person on the internet knows that omgcatrevolution is the most essential Tumblr in existence. (Perhaps even the greatest site, bar none, on the internet.) But although it is an ever-more-exhaustive archive of cats in mainstream cinema, cats in experimental cinema, cats in animation, cats on television, cats in music videos, and cats in porn, there one crucial bit of moving-image culture that remains its blind spot: cats in videogames. I am swooping in to rectify this.
In all seriousness, the summer has hit, classes are over, and I have some big things brewing on my horizon. I’m determined to still post regularly, though, so I’m trying to design some sort of mechanism that forces me to update on a set schedule. It is for this reason that I now announce a new feature on this blog: videogame cat of the week.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m hesitating to call write-ups of classes in the section of “Avant-Garde Film and Video Art” I’m teaching this semester “lesson plans.” The course discussion I’m reporting back on often proceeds more from my students’ on-point engagement with the films than it does from any carefully-planned questions on my part. I still want to post some details on this blog, though, because I’m certainly learning a lot about how to tackle these subjects in the future, and would love to share.
Up today: two animated films, one of which unexpectedly became one of the most contentious things I’ve shown so far in any class.
Since November 9th, I’ve been coasting on lesson plan blog posts that I already had previously finished and scheduled. Now, here we are, with my first real “live” post since the 2016 election.
In the coming months, many peoples’ lives will be disrupted more than mine, and it is on me to make sure I contribute as much as possible to make those people feel welcome in this country, and to oppose the policies, appointment, and general behavior of our new president elect. I acknowledge that the disruption I will be facing is much lesser than the disruption many others will be facing. Nevertheless, my own life has been disrupted in its own small ways—as I’m sure many peoples’ has in this nation, even those who are not undocumented, or Latinx, or Muslim, or women, or disabled, or LGBTQIA, or, well, children (who, after all, will bare the brunt of Trump’s bullish climate denial). For me, the most immediate effects (as small as they may be, in the long run), were grappling with the syllabus I had created for my course “Comedy and the Moving Image” at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.