Come for the latest Liane Moriarty adaptation starring Nicole Kidman, shot in Byron Bay and also starring Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans, Tiffany Boone, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, Asher Keddie, Grace Van Patten and Samara Weaving, stay for Michael Shannon gyrating on a bed in boxer shorts.
If you’re not aware of animator Will Vinton’s filmography, there’s a good chance that humming a few bars of Heard it Through the Grapevine will conjure up images of the anthropomorphic California Raisins, who went from being a PSA to becoming a huge merchandise commodity, incorporating computer games, albums, t-shirts and even a syndicated Saturday morning cartoon show. That’s big money, right there. Unfortunately for Vinton’s employees, who worked tirelessly to animate the musical dried grapes, their boss didn’t negotiate a better contract. As such, all the profits went to their client, California Raisin Advisory Board.
This is just one story of several in Claydream, directed by Marq Evans (The Glamour and the Squalor), which shows Vinton’s passion for animation overshadowed by his business aptitude. Wait till you hear about his story with the then fledgling company, Pixar.
Started prior to Vinton’s death from blood cancer in 2018, Evans interviews his subject and various employees about the journey from being a fledgling animation studio running on good-will, to being a slightly bigger animation studio running on good-will.
For Vinton, the goal was to be the Walt Disney of Claymation – just take a look at that company logo! – to the detriment of everything else. Not in a bloodthirsty, cutthroat kind of way though. Vinton is portrayed as a man who was perpetually hopeful to the point that if things weren’t going too well, it was best to just ignore it till it fixed itself or went away. Something his ex-wife testifies to on behalf of herself and his first wife. Oh, and there was that one time his first partner in crime, with whom he won an Oscar, threatened to assassinate him.
Working solely in clay, Evans suggests there was a myopic view of Vinton’s work by the public and entertainment industry. Vinton wanted to experiment with his art, pushing it beyond the limited scope of Gumby. However, his first foray into feature films, The Adventures of Mark Twain, despite all its surreal scenes sure to terrify the young, was pushed as a family film. A family film with warnings that it might be too full-on for the kiddies. Unsurprisingly, it tanked.
Vinton was seemingly too innocent for a world that was becoming increasingly monetised and business-oriented. As Evans charts the ‘rise’ of Vinton’s success, he cuts back and forth to the legal case between the claydreamer and Nike CEO, Phil Knight.
Knight saw Vinton’s studio as a profitable investment and became a shareholder in 1998. Unbeknownst to Vinton, Knight soon began buying out other shareholders before finally introducing a clause into his contract which gave the majority shareholder the right to fire Vinton from his own company.
Evans uses footage from the legal dispositions and, to paraphrase The Simpsons, if you pause it just right you can see Vinton’s heart break as he realises the world around him is collapsing. Knowing that Knight’s power grab, and putting his son Travis on the board of directors, led to Laika Studios, will certainly sour Kubo and the Two strings for many.
At its heart though, Claydream doesn’t mourn a talent, but celebrates it. Punctuated with clips from his work, Vinton’s employees have nothing but good things to say about their boss. Even if his contracts with them weren’t legally binding to begin with, they can’t fault someone for wanting to maintain the joy he got from animation. You just wish someone had tapped him on the shoulder and whispered, ‘Will, don’t forget to employ lawyers.’
Sketch comedy has been a staple of Australian television for decades, from Comedy Company and Full Frontal to Skithouse and more recently, Black Comedy. TV sketch has launched the careers of some of Australia’s finest talent (Eric Bana, Jane Turner, Shaun Micallef) and the source of countless quotable characters over the years.
This month, Amazon Prime Video is bringing the next instalment of Aussie sketch comedy to our screens with The Moth Effect, a 6-part series filmed in Sydney. Series creators Nick Boshier (Beached Az, Soul Mates, Bondi Hipsters) and Jazz Twemlow (The Roast) bring together a cast of Australian and New Zealand talent including comedians and co-writers Mark Humphries, Nazeem Hussain, Dave Woodhead, and Sarah Bishop.
Poking fun at corporations, reality TV, and society as a whole, The Moth Effect revels in absurdity. Social and political issues are mocked with a cheeky blend of pop culture parodies and subversive satire, all with an impressive line-up of guest stars the likes of which is rarely seen in sketch TV outside of The Muppet Show. Names like Bryan Brown, Vincent D’Onofrio, David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Miranda Otto, Ben Lawson, Peter O’Brien, Kate Box, Zoe Terakes, Miranda Tapsell and Jake Ryan all show up to make fools of themselves.
There’s little narrative coherence here, each episode has a run time of about 17 minutes, so the jokes fly hard and fast, though not all of them stick the landing. The sketches intertwine, looping back on themselves for a second go, then suddenly give way for a fake commercial or mini music video.
The show lives up to its name, like a moth circling a flickering lightbulb, we’re constantly side-tracked by shiny things, giving us the feel of flicking between channels and circling back around again just in time to catch the punchline.
While the humour itself might be hit and miss, the rapid-fire pace means that even before you’ve had a chance to roll your eyes, we’re moving on to the next skit and suddenly there’s a Godzilla-sized David Attenborough or mother-loving time-traveller to distract you.
Price Waterhouse’s (PwC) annual report demonstrates that our appetite for content changed dramatically over the course of the pandemic, and the increased willingness to try new products and services spells positivity for some sectors and potential disaster for others.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt creates, showruns, directs and stars in this 10 episode first series, which also features Apple TV fave Juno Temple, Debra Winger and that's an uncredited Hugo Weaving, are we right?!
Twenty years after Billy Crystal and John Goodman – as their not-so-scary animated monster alter-egos Mike and Sulley – discovered how laughing kids create ten times more energy than screaming kids, the lovable furry duo return with their own ten-part series, Monsters at Work.