Sunday, April 28, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Animated April Finale - Spicy City

Welcome to the final entry for Animated April! We end this journey with an anthology series brought to us by the legendary Ralph Bakshi...Spicy City.

Title: Spicy City
Year: 1997
Starring: Barry Stigler, Mary Mara, Michelle Phillips, Charlie Adler, Letitia Hicks, Tuesday Knight
Director: Ralph Bakshi, John Kafka, Ennio Torresan Jr
Synopsis: An anthology of sexy and risque animated stories in a futuristic city with a seamy side.
Why it is Notable: Is said to be the first Adult's Only animated series. Created by animation legend, Ralph Bakshi.

"You know, it's a shame a thing of beauty such as this should go to waste. If only there was some way to get rid of the bitch inside."

Planning for Animated April was a surprisingly difficult thing. One would think that it pretty much plans itself, but I completely forgot Easter was a thing. Also originally Fritz the Cat was on the list but it's more politics than porn and I just wasn't feeling it. Besides, the last time I watched it a certain scene left me feeling gross. So it was cut from the lineup.

I could have done another infamous Bakshi film: Cool World, which has aged incredibly poorly, is clomping over the footprints of greatness, and is too softcore for my needs.

And I doubt many people remember Spicy City anyway.

Spicy City was a 6 episode animated anthology Bakshi created for HBO. It was the first adult animated series, predating South Park. It claims that, anyway, but we all remember AEon Flux, right? That came out in 1991, as a series of shorts, then the half hour episodes came in 1995. Spicy City came out in 1997.

I remember seeing magazine ads for Spicy City in comic books, or perhaps Wizard Magazine. And I had to watch it. While we didn't have HBO, the show was aired on Teletoon, a Canadian cartoon network. I watched every episode in 1997 and I've come now to revisit it. Does it hold up?

The whole series is such a product of its time. It's post Cool World Bakshi, and it feels like it's trying to be a continuation of that film in some ways. Raven, our narrator, is, in a way, a smarter, classier version of Holli Would.

Some of the shorts hit, some miss. One episode I find myself coming back to every once and a while, is Love is a Download. It is by far the best episode, and represents the era well. In 1997, the Internet was still new, and the 5 FPS style of animation for the 'digital' scenes is really reminiscent of watching fucking .gifs on a crappy Geocities website.
The story is good, the character designs are fun. For a cartoon, Alice is beautiful, and Mary Mara gives her a soft, breathy voice. This episode has no actual smut, but Alice walks around in a sheer robe, nipples aplenty. It ends on a hopeful, but bittersweet note. It's Ready Player One, but, y'know...good.

Manos Hands is probably my least favourite episode. It goes off on weird tangents, is questionable in how it portrays certain characters, and has a conclusion that comes out of nowhere. However, the voice acting of the villain in this episode is really, really good. Too good for this cartoon, actually.
Character design-wise, it's very Bakshi.
There's a voodoo lady who fucks a stupid fat guy and she can do so much better. There's a timely Lion King reference. Okay.

Tears of a Clone starts off slow but ends really, really well. Once more, the character designers did their best to make a beautiful girl. And Melissa is beautiful, almost ethereal. A long neck and big eyes and and pixie-ish, almost alien face. But the episode suffers from Cool, Edgy, Cyberpunk! A lot of words are just thrown about, lingo of the world with no definition, barely even context clues. While the plot twist was spoiled by the episode title, the ending is still very effective. It's an uneven episode but it at least culminates into something. It tried.
Each episode has a cold open by Raven who introduces the story, and closes it off. Like the Crypt Keeper. The animation in the cold open for Tears of a Clone is superior to anything else seen thus far in the show. Once again, they tried hard with this episode. They wanted to make something special here. I can feel it. It just meanders too much.

Eye for an Eye would be better with better character design. The main female character has a really annoying design. Her hair is all in her face and when she's in profile, her eye is almond shaped, not a sideways V. So basically she should look like a fish, with her eyes on the side of her head and not forward facing. I learned this is grade 9 art class. Come on. If I recall correctly, no other realistically drawn character in this series suffers from this design choice.
The episode itself is complete 90's edge. Girls are frenching because isn't that edgy? So edgy! The plot is driven by the father of all cliches: a cop has a bad partner, but he's only got 2 months before retirement with a pension!
It has an ambiguous, cruel ending which I dug and it lifts the episode's quality somewhat.

Sex Drive ...kind of annoys me. It's poorly written, and the character designs don't mesh well. The character of Nisa is too cute and twee, which I suppose is meant to add to her spunky personality but she's too much an Archie character. She looks like Betty and Veronica had a baby. The cops are too much of a caricature and the prostitute is too perfect.  Nothing looks like it's from the same world.
The prostitute, Virus, is trying to pick up johns inside a cybersex cafe, claiming she's real and the genuine article. To me that's like selling girl scout cookies outside of a bakery. Pick somewhere else you dumb ass. It's obviously not working for you.
Meanwhile two cops rough her up, asking for money she owes them. Nisa captures this on camera and says it's proof that the cops are behind the rash of disappearing prostitutes. What? Roughing up a prostitute for protection money doesn't mean they're abducting or killing anybody. That's quite the jump, Nisa.
Anyway, somehow Nisa is right, Virus becomes a sex robot, and the two girls live happily ever after. It's a dumb episode.

Raven's Revenge is the final episode and it is my second least favourite, or maybe tied for second least with Sex Drive. So, this episode is all about Raven. Yes, the narrator. It's a flashback and we learn that in the world of Spicy City, there are future Nazi's who are trying to keep the world free of mutants. Raven is a mutant who has some sort of virus but she was actually manufactured to spread the virus for profiting off the cure. We're introduced to conjoined twins, and a man that's an anthro duck, Raven sings a knock-off of Jessica Rabbit's rendition of Why Don't You Do Right, with a character who looks suspiciously like Jessica Rabbit looking bored in the audience and...just...what?

The backgrounds are just solid colours half the time, a lot of shots are reused, it's not great. It's obvious that they wanted to continue this plot into the second season, which was cancelled but it was too much, too late. We were told this is an anthology, not an origin story. The more I think about this episode, the more annoyed I become. It was a poor ending to the series.

So, did it hold up? Oh, god no. It barely registers as a blip on the adult animation landscape, 90's animation, and Bakshi's portfolio. There are some good stories here, some ambition, a want to bring something to the adult masses.

But I'm older now, wiser, and have indulged in more adult material in my time. This doesn't even have nostalgia to fall back on. There's higher quality than Spicy City out there. Maybe the second season would have been better. Maybe Spicy City deserves a remake. Maybe we should all just quietly forget it existed at all.

You can watch all of Spicy City on Youtube below.

Well, that was Animated April. I hope I helped you discover new adult animation to venture toward. What's your favourite animated porno?

LILITH'S SCORE: 2.5/5

NEXT TIME: He might be a dick, but he makes good movies. We're returning to the work of Radley Metzger with The Private Afternoon of Pamela Mann.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Animated April Part 2 - Heavy Metal

Welcome back to Animated April where we discuss classic animation for adults. Today, louder and nastier than ever...Heavy Metal!


Title: Heavy Metal
Year: 1981
Starring: John Candy, Eugene Levy, Roger Bumpass
Director: Gerald Potterton
Synopsis: A glowing green orb - which embodies ultimate evil - terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.
Why it is Notable: It's fucking Heavy Metal, fuck you.

"You stand here accused of 12 counts of murder in the 1st degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 counts of piracy in high space, 18 counts of fraud, 37 counts of rape...and one moving violation."

With the release of LOVE, DEATH +ROBOTS, you might have heard the name Heavy Metal bandied about. LOVE, DEATH +ROBOTS was originally conceived as a re-imagining of Heavy Metal for the 2019 crowd. I can't help but wonder how much of the 2019 crowd knows that this movie exists.

In the Duat household? This movie is a family movie!

When I was a kid, we had something called Super Channel, which was a premium package of TV channels with different movies every month. It came with it's own personal TV Guide. I realize I'm saying words that are basically extinct now, think of the TV Guide as that little schedule thing on your digital TV box or the sidebar in r/Television, but in magazine form, with ratings, synopsis and sometimes pictures. In the Super Channel guide was listing for Heavy Metal, but the final airing of the movie had already passed. But, it was also being released on home video.

So, naturally I acquired a copy, and watched it. Then I watched it again and again through the years. For a short while, in my mid-teens, this was my favourite movie.

I've watched it when it's aired on television, I've watched it on tape, on DVD, I've watched it when home sick, when bored, I own the soundtrack and the CD is so well worn that it's scratched to shit and skips like a little girl.

I have foisted this movie onto family, friends, and significant others. This is one of my Deal Breaker movies. If you do not like this movie or at least the soundtrack, then we can never be more than casual acquaintances.

Admittedly it's been years since I've watched it. For obvious reasons, I felt it was time to revisit it.

So, does it hold up?

Eeeehhh?

It's adolescent, juvenile, sophomoric, dated, chauvinistic, uneven and damn soft core by today's standards. Some of the animation and rotoscoping is clunky. Yet, once those first few musical notes float from the speakers, I'm filled with nostalgia.

Heavy Metal is a little like Pac-Man. Innovative in it's time but quaint now.

Ask anyone and probably their favourite, or at least most memorable short is the least sexy one of them, B-17. The animation is great, the atmosphere is chilling and the sound editing is pretty masterful for the era. For the longest time it was my least favourite. Mostly because this is not what I signed up for. I wanted cartoon sex, damnit! But I've come to appreciate it.

My least favourite short is probably the first official one, Harry Canyon. It's gritty and grimy with unsympathetic characters and wastes a Stevie Nicks song. But it sets the tone for the rest of the movie pretty well, and features the most amazing Blue Oyster Cult song this side of Don't Fear (The Reaper).

I feel I'm probably the only person who's favourite story is actually Captain Sternn. It's a simple, funny story with a great featured song, and very well written with a lot of quotable lines. I often find myself saying, "Relax, Charlie, I got an angle." for no reason. Also, it looks damn good in the same way Sonnie's Edge from LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS does. The characters are caricatures so the movements flow better than the rotoscoped stuff from, say, the opening animation from Heavy Metal. The stretch-and-bend technique is welcomed, especially since it's sandwiched between a lot of semi-realism.

What makes Heavy Metal work in a way that LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS doesn't is that it's short. It's short. It's a clean, tight hour and 30 minutes. No story drags on too long, or looks for excuses to linger, not even when it's trying to show off the animation techniques or turn itself into a music video. You're not exhausted by the end. Maybe a bit grimy, but not exhausted.

I hope you seek out this movie, if only to feel educated in your animated smut history.

LILITH'S SCORE: 4.5/5

NEXT TIME: We delve into the mind of Ralph Bakshi with his own animated anthology series, Spicy City.


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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Animated April Part 1 - Love, Death & Robots

Welcome to Animated April! where we talk about notable adult animated films for the month....First up, because the algorithm demands it....LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS

Title: LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS
Year: 2019
Starring: Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Nolan North, Samira Wiley
Director: Many
Synopsis: A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. - Via IMDB
Why it is Notable: A Netflix exclusive animated anthology for adults brought to us by Tim Miller and David Fincher.

"Show me what you got, big boy."

Porn is the mother of invention. We make it, then immediately wonder how we can have sex with it, or watch it have sex. Millions of dollars is poured into tech, just to watch 1s and 0s fuck, or moving drawings fuck, breathing life to fetishes all across the world.

LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS is an anthology of 18 animated stories ranging from the sexy, to the horrific, to the amusing. Boobs jiggle, guns blast, and animals do battle. And, boy, is it divisive.

This movie exhausted me. It's too long, with too many stories. I know one could easily say "Lilith, just stop and watch more later.", but that's not how people watch things anymore. We live in the era of binge watching, of having to shove everything into your eyes before anyone else just to avoid the spoilers. I feel bad for the people who actually care about Avengers: Endgame and don't manage to score tickets.

This series has gotten some negative reviews over the level of violence toward women, with plenty of talking points about how you don't need boobs and butts and gore to be 'for adults'. And you don't, but sometimes it helps.

Case in point: There are two specific episodes I feel are receiving the most blow back: The Witness and Good Hunting. Most are saying The Witness is just an excuse for a woman to run around a city while wearing nothing. Good Hunting is just gratuitous violence against women.

The Witness has artistry beyond compare. It has animation that I have never, ever, ever seen before and I genuinely don't know how they did it. Rotoscope, it has to be, but, is it? It's jaw droppingly, impossibly beautiful. It has wonderful set pieces, a deeply designed city they really try to show off, inventive 'breaks' or 'inserts' in the animation where it gets all frantic and sketchy and abstract, it's beautiful. While others were rolling their eyes at the boobs, I was wondering how the fuck they animated her silk robe. I find it so happily refreshing to wonder how something was created without having to just shrug and answer "Computers."

The story was predictable but I found it an absolute joy to watch.

Good Hunting is actually my second favorite of the whole series. It's beautiful, and a welcome sight of more traditional 2D animation. I think. I'm not an expert. I love the way this story builds on the relationships of the two characters from two different worlds. It's a story about perspective, about the same situations told from different points of view. Again, I feel some people are overlooking the writing of the story, the character building, and just become scandalized at the sexual violence. Yes, what happens is horrible, nightmarish, and maybe pretty gratuitous but I feel the writing and the art earned the horror, and the payoff. It's a beautiful story of the juxtaposition of magic and technology and I adored it.

Meanwhile, out of the 6 photo realistic CGI tales, I only enjoyed 2 of them.

Sonnie's Edge worked for me because while photo-realistic in skin and movement, they still had exaggerated, caricature designs. It took away the uncanny valley effect. The short had an really cool look and style, with some creative creature designs. It was way too front loaded with exposition, but over all, it was a good opening.

Shape-Shifters was just fun. Gory, pretty, with amazing photo-realism on the creatures and it did well to build up sympathy for all the characters. The dialog is pretty corny but it's a good effort and I liked it.

Lucky 13 and Beyond the Aquila Rift were distracting in their photo-realism. The CGI boobies were weird. Especially when compared to The Witness. Though I did like the song in the Aquila Rift episode, and it had a really cool reveal.

By the time we got to Secret War I was just tired. The series had worn out its welcome and they already told this story in an earlier episode called Suits. Although holy fuck how did they animate those horses? The horses looked real.

But, my absolute least favourite episode was Helping Hand. Distracting uncanny valley, an idiot for a main character, and not one, not two, but three unearned Alien references. The woman didn't even tether herself to her ship! She's a moron and I felt no sympathy.

The other episodes run the gamut from good to fine to meh. All in all I was expecting greatness and just got...hours of content, which is Netflix's job.

This series started life as a new version of Heavy Metal, which is a film I actually grew up with... I'll tell you that story...next time.

LILITH'S SCORE: 3.5/5

NEXT TIME: The film to which LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS owes everything...Heavy Metal.