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Tag Archives: 1990s

Look What I Found: Two from Raymond Briggs

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I spent the last quarter of 2015 delving into the work of Raymond Briggs, the indubitably British cartoonist, graphic novelist – and it’s taken me this long to do a post about him!

It started last October, when I received the birthday gift of a Blu-ray edition of When the Wind Blows, the 1986 movie adaptation of Briggs’ story of an elderly British couple preparing their rural home for a nuclear attack. James and Hilda Bloggs (voiced by Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft) are a typical, kindly and even-tempered duo who greet the upcoming bombings with a mixture of cheerful optimism and pragmatic naiveté (“There’s no need to forget your manners just because there’s a war on,” Hilda cautions her husband during a rare outburst). With bone-dry, observant humor, Briggs points out the absurdity of this quaint couple preparing for nuclear annihilation as if it were a minor inconvenience in the simple routine of their lives. The movie itself is one of the most unique animated efforts ever made – director Jimmy Murakami stages the action with traditional animated cels photographed against miniature sets of the Bloggs’ home. Most of it preserves the colored-pencil shadings of Briggs’ work, although other scenes are done with expressionistic methods more in keeping with the anxious soundtrack from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. This is an amazing movie with perfect voice-acting from Richardson and Ashcroft. Twilight Time included a lot of worthwhile extras on the Blu-ray, although the main one – a feature-length documentary with Murakami returning to the site where he was interred as a child in World War II – was a disappointment.

Viewing When the Wind Blows sparked an interest in the book which piqued my interest in Briggs in the first place – his acclaimed 1998 graphic novel, Ethel and Ernest: A True Story. This was Briggs’ poignant chronicle of his own parents’ courtship, marriage and deaths, told chronologically from when they met in 1928 up through the early ’70s. Mr. and Mrs. Briggs greet war, child-rearing, labor and politics with a typically British “cheerio, can-do” unflappability – the fact that they so closely resemble Mr. and Mrs. Bloggs is no coincidence. This couple seems much more real, however – Briggs captures them as quirky and all-too-human, yet worthy of admiration. I read this book last December, around the same time that I got to check out Briggs’ classic TV special The Snowman for the first time. Briggs’ elegantly shaded pencil lines have roughened up into jagged chicken scratches over the years, yet this book shows how his parents’ ordinary lives – facing incredible societal changes with grace and good humor – reflects the very spirit of the United Kingdom.

When the Wind Blows is available at Twilight Time’s website, while Ethel & Ernest can be had cheaply at AbeBooks.com.

Film still from When the Wind Blows.

Film still from When the Wind Blows.

Animation drawing from When the Wind Blows.

Animation drawing from When the Wind Blows.

Picture disc single of David Bowie's "When the Wind Blows," 1986.

Picture disc single of David Bowie’s “When the Wind Blows,” 1986.

Page from Ethel & Ernest.

Page from Ethel & Ernest.

Panel from Ethel & Ernest.

Panel from Ethel & Ernest.

Sister Lovers

For Your Musical Entertainment: Swing Out Sister’s groovy music video for their 1992 single “Notgonnachange,” from the album Get In Touch with Yourself. They sure used a lot of washed out photography in ’90s videos, didn’t they? As huge S.O.S. fan, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t heard this particular effort of theirs until… earlier today.

The Wikipedia entry for that album quotes singer Corinne Drewery: “I find it difficult to form opinions about a lot of modern music because my head’s buried in the past. A lot of my favourite records seem to have been picked up in the discount rack at Woolworth’s. I’ll be quite happy if our records end up in the Woollies bargain bin in 10 years time.” I find this funny (and quite true, actually), since my copy of Get In Touch With Yourself came from trawling the 75 cent bin at the local F.Y.E. store (which also netted ’90s goodies by k.d. lang and Shakespear’s Sister). Your wish came true, Corinne!

The Right Kind of Mom Jeans

Made me laugh — the literal reinterpretation of the music video for Jeremy Jordan’s 1992 single “The Right Kind of Love.” Blonde Jordan was a Marky Markish teen idol of the era, with his one hit riding on the coattails of the Beverly Hills 90210 soundtrack. The song itself is a pretty fly groove, but the captions on the video (very of-its-time) are hilarious!

My First Modem

I recently came across a true artifact of its time while cleaning out the garage. This Hayes Accura 1140 modem was purchased after I moved into my first apartment in 1994. Armed with it, a Macintosh IIci, and a new America Online membership, I was ready to blaze the Information Superhighway — at 56K per second! Listen, I even had my place equipped with a separate phone line to enable websurfing and talking on the phone simultaneously (considering my pathetic social life at the time, not really necessary). I’m also not afraid to admit that the AOL membership was mostly used to find dates and look at porn. This was back when it took 15-20 minutes to download one photo, mind you. Thank our lucky stars that the internet has grown up since then, and so have I.

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Dig this early AOL commercial from 1995. “A friend of mine told me ‘Try America Online.’ I said ‘Why? I’ve got a computer.'” That line always seemed so bizarre to me, even back then. What, were they selling to complete idiots?

The Lovely Bones

Let’s take a look at one of the TV series that was a by-product of the early years of The Simpsons, shall we? Family Dog originated as an episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories. CBS commissioned a full-fledged series based on the success of that episode, but after sitting in the can for two years the network wound up airing only a few episodes in the summer of 1993. As seen in the “Show Dog” opening below, the project bears the charming creative imprint of Brad Bird (The Incredibles). Having only seen the Amazing Stories segment, I’m really curious as to what this entire series was like.