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Cosmic Ray 

Wednesday, Aug 18 2010
The Achilles heel of computer-generated visual effects, once you get past the initial ooh-aah of watching a 50-story tidal wave crest over Los Angeles, is the inability to discern a human hand behind the marvel. There’s no funkiness, no soul, just the ghost in the machine. Hence the undying affection among cognoscenti and children alike for Ray Harryhausen’s effects work in such matinee masterpieces as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and 20 Million Miles to Earth. The series "Harryhausen 90," an affectionate birthday salute to the master as he glides into his nonagenarian years, offers two days of witty, giddy triple features. The man’s métier was stop-motion model animation, a time- and labor-intensive process distinguished by a charming herky-jerkyness. The defining sequence in his oeuvre, which spans epic odysseys and science-fiction spectaculars, is the clattering skeleton swordfight in Jason and the Argonauts, but every film he worked on boasts delightful bits. Harryhausen called his technique “DynaMation,” but we prefer “puppet animation,” with its tacit acknowledgement that a human being is literally pulling the strings.
Aug. 21-22, 2010

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Michael Fox


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