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COONSKIN (1975)

American live action/animated crime film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, about an African American rabbitfox, and bear who rise to the top of the organized crime racket in Harlem, encountering corrupt law enforcementcon artists, and the Mafia. The film, which combines live-action with animation, stars Philip ThomasCharles GordoneBarry White, and Scatman Crothers, all of whom appear in both live-action and animated sequences. 

Why was it forgotten?: INITIALLY THOUGHT TO BE RACIST AND AT THIS POINT IS MORE OF AN ART FILM RATHER THAN AN ENTERTAINING FILM.

This is one of the big ones folks, one of the most prolific of forgotten animated films. A cult hit by legendary animation god, Ralph Bakshi that is unmatched by any other animated film in its style or its portrayal of its subject matter.

I could do a whole week dedicated to the works of this animator but I feel I should spotlight one of his works sooner rather than later. Why not rush in, guns a-blazing with one of his most controversial and personal of films, Coonskin.

Now with that title, and this trailer I shouldn’t have to explain why the film was met with a mountain of controversy both pre-and-post-release. I shouldn’t, but I will. The movie shows a massive amount of depictions of “black” characters as violent gangsters, con-men, sociopathic monsters, drug addicts, etc, etc and doesn’t shy away from blackface caricatures, and stereotypes that have aided in marginalizing Blacks in America for several decades. 

Some people out there will argue that even though Bakshi grown up in the epicenter of Harlem, New York during the time of segregation in America, lived and worked with Black Americans his whole life, specifically wanted black artists, animators, and voice actors that the film is bad for showing such imagery.

Even if it’s all presented in a satirical way (which it is), it’s still bad to show these caricatures and black characters acting in a stereotypical way because it only helps to reinforce those stereotypes and keep them alive. That’s pretty nonsensical since the entire point of the movie is to show that these types of things manufactured by Hollywood and ingrained in the popular culture are bad. They’re thrown in your face in a way that’s striking and horrible and you can’t believe it exists, or that such a thing was ever ok. Its meant to be raw, gritty, and spit in the face of White America that doesn’t know what Blacks have had to contend with and what their culture has been forced to be like.

Then again, nobody is really depicted in a positive light; White people in this movie are stereotyped, Gays, and Jews are HEAVILY stereotyped, and cops… well, cops are cops, ain’t no changing that.

Despite the controversy, and how it received a limited release it became a cult classic among animation fans and is heralded by Bakshi as one of his best works, if not his best work.

Nowadays– in all honesty while the film should be watched by everyone as a genius work of satire, it’s more on the artistic side rather than the entertaining side. Bakshi is one of those directors who is in love with his rough and gritty style and loves to linger on his visuals for the audience to absorb.  In every one of his movies he has this problem with pacing; drawing out some scenes that look great or are meant to convey a message. Other scenes just kind of get zipped past or don’t have much to them, making the movies feel longer than they actually are.

This makes his movies, particularly Coonskin more along the lines of something to be enjoyed for the art rather than the story, which isn’t a bad thing but kind of kills rewatchability. 

TRIVIA

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I dig this movie, I dig it a lot. I saw it for the first time years ago when I took a course in college about The History of Writing & Cartooning In American Culture.

In short, I would definitely recommend it. Go see this movie, in fact, go hunt it up on youtube right now, you owe it to yourself.

Go on.

Get a move on

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We viewers can resuscitate a generation of iconic filmmakers and unleash a young generation of would-be iconic filmmakers by proving to the film industry that there is a want and a need for creative and original content, that there is an audience willing to spend money on those films and filmmakers studios believe would be risks. It is important to support the art of cinema, to financially support it while also spreading an appreciation for original films and filmmakers by sharing them in conversation.

F. Scott Fitgerald said about literature: That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong. I truly believe the same can be said of cinema. Film has the power to change life, to open awareness, to give us a greater connection to this time spent in the world. But, only we can save it by showing more love to it.

Creative Inspiration: Unleashing a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers

I'm a bit of a film buff

I’m familiar of all the great directors:

Darren Anonofsky

Paul Tizzy Anderson

Marty Scorseas

Quendell Tortellini

Christophan Noler

Stanley “The Cube” Kubrick

Alyandro Godzilla Inarotatta

and, of course, the late great Davin Fincher

The relationship I enjoy with Paul is my most cherished relationship with another filmmaker. The way we look at it is we have a Marlon Brando/Montgomery Clift-like relationship. I’m Marlon Brando; Paul is Montgomery Clift. And the reality is, Brando was better because Montgomery Clift existed, and Montgomery Clift was better because Brando existed.
—  Quentin Tarantino on his friendship with Paul Thomas Anderson
Undead Dogs.

Robert E. Cornish (December 21, 1903 – March 6, 1963) was a child prodigy graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with honors at the age of eighteen and receiving a doctorate by the time he was twenty-two. He worked on various projects including one that allowed for reading newspapers under water with special lenses. In 1932 he became interested in the idea that he could restore life to the dead. The cornerstone of his plan consisted of a teeter board or see-saw that was used to get the blood flowing in the recently deceased patients. In 1933 he attempted to revive victims of heart attack, drowning, and electrocution with the teeter board, but had no success. Cornish decided to perfect his method on animals and managed to revive two dogs (Lazarus IV and V) clinically put to death on May 22, 1934 and in 1935. He was seesawing corpses up and down to circulate the blood while injecting a mixture of epinephrine (adrenaline) and anticoagulants.

As his experiments were successful on his dogs, Cornish wished to expand his clinical trials to include human testing. San Quentin Death-row inmate Thomas McMonigle contacted Cornish, offering his body for possible reanimation following his execution. California law enforcement refused Cornish and McMonigle’s petition, however, due to concerns a reanimated murderer would have to be freed under the “double jeopardy” clause. After denial of the petition, McMonigle was executed in San Quentin’s gas chamber on 20 February 1948.  Afterward many people have tried to duplicate the procedure but none have succeeded yet.