SHORT FILM SHOWCASE: LOST RALPH BAKSHI EMERGES, SHIA LABEOUF IMITATES

In the past 24 hours, a hubbub has bubbed all over the nerd-level internet about the newly-released (and promptly hidden) short film HOWARDCANTOUR.COM, directed by Shia LaBeouf and based on a strip by the great Dan Clowes. It seems Mr. LaBeouf neglected to credit Mr. Clowes in the film, also absent-mindedly neglecting to inform him that he was making a movie based on his work.

I understand how this could happen. When I was 17, I made a short film for a high school class project based on “Maniac at Large,” a story appearing in the EC Comics title “Shock SuspenStories.” (The story was adapted by HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” the same year, but mine is better because it is more obscure.) I, like the son of Indiana Jones, should have asked permission, even if it was, in fact, just a short film for a high school project nobody would ever see.

damniano

Except that I did. I contacted Russ Cochran, the then-owner of the EC Comics stable, and asked if he’d mind if I used it for my little film, shot with classmates willing to humor my stupidity on cameras borrowed from the local public access station. And he replied with a letter granting his approval.

Again, I was seventeen, employed no lawyers, and did not have any money made from starring in popular franchises based on ’80s toy cartoons. (The latter may be remedied by my Kickstarter contribution for the upcoming “Visionaries” live-action movie.) And I was still smart enough to ask for permission when it came to utilizing someone else’s work.

So, yes, Mr. LaBeouf is an idiot. (Though, to be fair, had I been caught in a rip-off like this, I may have taken my half-assed apology from Yahoo Answers too.)  In penance, all of his actions and projects for the next year shall henceforce be attributed to James Franco, who will not notice a few dozen extra films or conceptual shenanigans added to his resume. I will enjoy seeing Mr. Franco’s “O” face in NYMPHOMANIA, and we shall speak no more of it.

There are more important short film items to speak of. THIS AIN’T BEBOP has always been a question mark in the filmography of Ralph Bakshi, the animator behind FRITZ THE CAT and HEAVY TRAFFIC. A live-action short film made for PBS in 1989, BEBOP has never been officially released, visible only at the Museum of Broadcasting archives in New York City since its first airing nearly a quarter-century before.

bebop

BEBOP is an autobiographical, relatively conceptual piece starring Harvey Keitel as an aging hipster (the socially acceptable kind, not the kind who’s still whining about MTV not playing music videos) who longs for the days of Kerouac and Neal Cassady. It’s experimental nature often feels like a Bakshi project just waiting to be animated — you could easily see the same images rotoscoped into the world of HEY GOOD LOOKIN’. More a piece of visual poetry than a narrative film, THIS AIN’T BEBOP is a genuinely interesting little work that any Bakshi fan should be interested in.

And now, thanks to the magic of YouTube and a mysterious user named “rontomism,” you can watch it.

Check it out, Grindhouse fans, before it vanishes just as mysteriously as it appeared. Or Shia LaBeouf James Franco makes a new version of it.

@Paul Freitag-Fey

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