Cat film festival sells twice as many tickets as the dog festival

The New York Cat Film Festival for this year starts tomorrow. The dog version starts at the same time. Just to be fair ✔️. Although the cat film festival is a more recent innovation. Both were founded by Tracie Hotchner, a leading authority on cats and dogs (and human pregnancy 👍). She said: “I didn’t understand this [but] cat lovers are much more passionate than dog lovers. No one’s talking to them. They are eager for an audience. The cat festival sells twice as many tickets as the dog festival.”

NYC Cat Film Festival 2022
NYC Cat Film Festival 2022. Image: NYC Cat Film Festival.

I guess she was saying that the news media where hovering around the dog lovers and avoiding the shunning people. This did not reflect the popularity of the cat films at this year’s festival.

It is nice to know as cats often get a bad rap. There are more studies on dog behaviour as they are more manageable. This means people understand dogs better than cats and cats are seen as aloof and ‘weird’. No, they are not weird. Every feline behaviour is entirely logical and has a sensible cause.

The film festivals start in NYC and tour the country. Hotchner says that one of the festival’s highlights this year is “and extraordinary documentary with no subtitles and dialogue, about a man in Turkey who drives into the middle of nowhere and feeds wild dogs”. She said that the dogs “are magnificent. They are Anatolian shepherds. They follow his truck and be puts out big bags of stale loves.”

The cat festival includes a film by Chilean director called “L’ Histoire de Liliput”. According to The Times journalist, Will Pavia, it is shot in the style of French film noire, and it is about his cat. Hotchner said that “it is artistic and hilarious”.

Hotchner got the idea for the film festivals when 10 years ago she watched cat videos at an art gallery in Minneapolis. It attracted ten thousand people. She watched with interest and decided that people wanted this kind of experience.

Although I am pleased to see that she did not like some of the videos! Me too. The so called “funny cat videos” can be a little abusive of the cats which I don’t find so funny. She did not approve of the videos showing cats falling off shelves or getting stuck in a dog door. Or a cat with a Kleenex tissue box stuck on their head.

She thinks these videos don’t do much for the animal-human bond. My point exactly.

But the idea was firmly implanted in her head and she became the founder of this annual cat and dog film gala.

Hotchner has written cat and dog books such as The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You To Know and The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You To Know. She was encouraged to write them by her father after she wrote the highly successful Pregnancy and Child Birth.

Her father said to her “Why don’t you do for dogs what you do for people with human children?”

The flim festival is a further extension of that process. There is a clear appetite for cat and dog films on the big screen in cinemas and cats are more popular than dogs because cat lovers are more passionate than dog lovers ✔️😉💓.

I will speculate that this is because more women like cats than men and women are more passionate than men. Dangerous words. But I can’t think of any other obvious reason.

Orangey Film Cat

Salma Hayek put catnip in her boots to attract cats while filming House of Gucci scene

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What type or breed of cat was Bagpuss?

Bagpuss was a striped tabby moggy. In other words, a mackerel tabby random bred or mixed breed cat. He was not a purebred cat. It is rare for the creators of fictional cats to think of specific cat breeds. Bagpuss was meant to be a marmalade cat (red tabby) but the business that manufactured him made him pink because something went wrong with the dying process. The creators of Bagpuss, Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate, accepted the error. I guess they thought it looked just fine although of course pink cats don’t exist in real life. They thought it was a fortuitous mistake which made Bagpuss stand out more and made him look more interesting.

An important point is that Bagpuss was a real cat rather than an animated cartoon. He was made and you can see him with Postgate.

Oliver Postgate being advised by Bagpuss in the studio, 1974
Oliver Postgate being advised by Bagpuss in the studio, 1974. Image: BBC.
Bagpuss
Bagpuss. Photo in the public domain.

“It should have been a ginger marmalade cat but the company in Folkestone dyeing the material made a mistake and it turned out pink and cream. It was the best thing that ever happened,” said Firmin.

Bagpuss was first aired on February 12, 1974. The filming was created with “stop motion animation”. This is animation in which the objects in front of the camera are moved very slightly and photographed. The photographs are then strung together to make a film and the objects appear to move. It creates a charming innocence in my opinion.

Bagpuss, as the name tells us, was a cat made from “saggy old cloth”. He lived in a shop owned by a little girl called Emily. The shop did not sell anything. It was a home for lost property.

Only 13 episodes were made but it has retained his popularity down the generations. The BBC tells us that it was voted the all-time favourite children’s programme in 1999.

https://youtu.be/zqGqQ8AdYCs

The creators of Bagpuss set up the production company Smallfilms. This business produced other favourite children’s program such as The Clangers (969), Ivor the Engine (1958) and Noggin the Nog (1959).

Emily was not a fictional character but Peter Firmin’s daughter. She wore a dress made by her mother, Joan. In real life Emily worked as an artist.

The professor in the films, woodpecker professor Yaffle, was based on the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Postgate had once met Bertrand Russell.

The Smallfilms website says:

“Bagpuss is a magical cat. When he wakes up, all his friends come to life.”

And:

All in all, he’s just an old, saggy cloth cat. Baggy, and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him.

Bagpuss and characters
Bagpuss and characters. Photo in public domain.

The long title sequence to the Bagpuss series of animated films was designed to look like it was a set at the turn of the 20th century. It was filmed in 1974 when Emily was aged eight.

Bagpuss was filmed in Peter Firmin’s barn in Blean just outside Canterbury, UK.

The opening shot of each episode is in sepia with Emily in clothes that appear to be from Edwardian times. After Emily leaves Bagpuss comes to life with Postgate providing his voice. The film changes to colour.

Below are some articles about cartoon cats.

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The clicker trained cats of Benedict Cumberbatch’s new film

Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy in the film about Louis Wain
Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy in the film about Louis Wain

It is nice to hear that Will Sharpe, the director of Benedict Cumberbatch’s new film, ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ did not use CGI for the cats. Apparently, all the cats in the film are the genuine article, the real deal. The film’s crew used patience and apparently clicker training based on what Benedict Cumberbatch has said in an interview reported in Vanity Fair. Cumberbatch said:

“The minute they get to adolescence, you can kiss a few hours goodbye. It was quite difficult sometimes. One of the ways of Pavlovianly triggering them is just have this clicker, which is tied in with the food reward, so I’d go home in the car and I’d just be still hearing this clicking. We talked about getting a clicker for me.”

His statement implies that the cat trainer on set used a clicker all the time to get the cats to do what the director wanted them to do.

Louis Wain
Louis Wain. Photo in public domain.

ASSOCIATED PAGE: Who was Louis William Wain?

About forty cats were employed in the film. Sharpe said that the crew had to be quiet when the cats were on set:

“We had a sort of cat mode, where whenever a cat was brought in to set, we’d need to be very quiet. No sudden movements. No loud noises.”

The Vanity Fair interview reports that Cumberbatch and the crew fell in love with the kittens. A couple of them were rehomed by the co-founder, Adam Ackland, of the production company behind the film, SunnyMarch.

Cumberbatch implied that the kittens were more pliable than the adolescent cats:

“The minute they get to adolescence, you can kiss a few hours goodbye.”

The director said that when you “get something from them, it really it feels like magic, and there are some moments in this film where cats are being cats.”

Louis Wain painting
Louis Wain painting. A classic style for the great man.

Louis Wain was a talented artist and much celebrated in his time and today in this new film. He had a difficult life it seems to me. It is reported that he become schizophrenic but this is disputed. One expert believes that he suffered from Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). His art changed as he got older but his skill and talent did not. This would not be possible in a schizophrenic person. He spent the last 15 years of his life at a mental hospital in Hertfordshire. There was a colony of cats at the hospital. It had very large grounds.

The Wikipedia authors have scurrilously stated that his schizophrenia may have been trigged by toxoplasmosis caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondhii being transmitted to him via oocysts in cats’ faeces. The author who wrote that is planting misleading information about cats on the internet because they dislike cats. It’s a side point but Wikipedia can be used to disseminate lies. The statement tries to make it a fact that Wain suffered from schizophrenia when it is not fact and them mischievously states that the cats that he loved gave the disease to him. Not good.

Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.


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Chomel, a cat, stars in an inspirational story about the importance of cherishing family members

Yes, Chomel, a cat, is the lead character in a film by filmmaker Jason Chong who is the man behind Malaysian Film Festival 29 winner Adiwiraku. Reading between the lines I sense that this film was motivated by the Covid pandemic. As we all know, it was and remains a time when people work at home in isolation allowing more time with family. Family includes companion animals.

Chomel a film starring a tabby-and-white cat about family life
Chomel a film starring a tabby-and-white cat about family life. Photo: New Straits Times

The film views family life through the eyes of a domestic cat. The filmmakers worked in Kuala Lumpur. They had to comply with rules put in place to limit the spread of Covid such as the Movement Control Order (MCO). In addition, the filmmakers had to strictly adhere to what is called “standard operating procedures” (SOP). No doubt these are rules put in place to ensure that people making films and doing other workplace activities minimise the spread of the disease.

Jason Chong who won Best Original Story for Adiwiraku at the festival said that Chomel was the first time that he has directed a cat and a cat has been the hero of the story.

He said that it’s a story about family values as seen through the eyes of the family cat. The film was aired on June 24. It has a duration of 90 minutes. It’s being screened on Astro First. It’ll be interesting to see Chong’s interpretation on how cats think.

Chong wants the film to help people deal with the restrictions of Covid. He said that it carries a lesson of spending quality time with family “and appreciating what we all have”.

The vice president of Astro Show & Nusantra, Raja Jastina Raja Arshad, said that Chomel was a motivational and inspirational story. He believes that having a cat as the hero is a beautiful idea. A lot of people have companion animals living with them and it’s an interesting idea to view family life through the eyes of a domestic cat who, by the way, appears to be a grey tabby-and-white. How did they select Chomel, I wonder?

The film also stars Zahiril Adzim who was awarded the most promising actor at the Malaysian Film Festival 22. The cast also includes Airiezara Yasmin, Yuyun Hikmah, Aniq Suhair, Azizah Mahzan, Aziz M Osman, Adibah Noor, Douglas Lim, Gavin Yap and Era radio announcer Zahier Yusoff.

The film tells the story of Mimi who becomes lonely after the death of her mother. She becomes withdrawn but finds her newfound companion, Chomel, is a constant companion. Her father has to surrender custody of his two daughters to his mother-in-law. He refuses to do so.

It’s unusual for a non-animated film to feature a domestic cat as its star. I don’t know what kind of agonies the director went through to get Chomel to do what he should do but they managed using tricks and a knowledge of feline behaviour. You can always get cats to do things you want them to do in a subtle and clever way which is far more effective than trying to use force of any kind. That always fails.

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Why is the Siamese cat song racist?

The lyrics of the Siamese cat song are not racist in my view but the part of the film that shows two Siamese cats singing the song has been deemed to be racist and I can understand that.

Siamese cat song is racist
Siamese cat song is racist. Screenshot from YouTube video and deemed to be acceptable in terms of copyright.

The two Siamese cats who sing the song in the film Lady and the Tramp are named Si and Am. We know that Siamese cats come from Thailand which was once called Siam. It is argued that Si and Am represent stereotypical Thai people. The argument is that they are drawn (this is an animated i.e. drawn film) in a way which portrays them as feline versions of stereotypical human Thais in the minds of racist people. For example, their eyes are slanted like the eyes of Asian people and their canine teeth are very prominent in the film and perhaps this was a take on the way Westerners viewed Asians with buck teeth in an extremely derogatory stereotypical way. It is not clear whether the animators did this deliberately and knowingly or whether inherent racist instincts drove them to do it.

So their appearance is arguably a derogatory portrayal of Asian people to which you have to had their behaviour. In the film they behave very badly and by trickery portray to their owner that they are nice, sweet cats and that the damage that they do to the household possessions was in fact caused by the dog, a Cocker Spaniel, whose name is “Lady”.

It is said that this portrays the Thai people as dangerous and not to be trusted. I don’t know whether you can argue that the dog is meant to represent the West but if so she’s innocent and is easily tricked and fooled. Another observation is that the voices of the cats is very Asian in tone and character. There is this sinister trickery and unhand nature of the Siamese cats all of which is ostensibly a form of racism.

Lady and the Tramp is a 1955 Walt Disney animated film. It was made, therefore, not long after the end of the Second World War. Perhaps the derogatory portrayal of the people from the Far East was due to the legacy of the Second World War. Perhaps there is a reference there to the way the Japanese ill treated prisoners. I don’t know. I’m speculating.

Note: Sometimes video stop working. If this one has stopped I am sorry but I have on control over this.

The film itself is a classic and was highly popular and still is. It is a very successful film and I think you have to really look at the Siamese cats and their song in the film and ask yourself about whether they are racist and whether the song is racist. I am not sure that you immediately decide that they are. However, if you read an article such as the one written by Marcus Hunter in June 2013 on the website FlavorWire you have to come to the conclusion that it is racist. Although his argument is incredibly complicated and almost unintelligible but he does put into an historical context. However, I think he exaggerates the racist connotations of the song.

At the end of the day, arguably, everyone is racist. You could argue that racism is a form of tribalism and tribalism is inherent in all humans. People might not know that they are racist and they might not feel it but arguably they are. The most non-racist people have the discipline and integrity to suppress their inherent tendency to be racist. And racism comes from all races. It is stereotyping and racist to say that white people are the only ones who are racist. Although the most visible and predominant racism is from whites on people of colour. It is a minefield though in an era of snowflakes and political correctness.

P.S. The Siamese cat song was ditched when a remake was created and aired on 24 Mar 2020 (United Kingdom) and 12 Nov 2019 (United States). It achieved a modest 6.3/10 on the imdb.com website.

P.P.S.

The song is called, “We Are Siamese (If You Please)”. Here are the lyrics:

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you don’t please
We are from a residence of Siam
There is no finer cat than I am

Do you see that thing swimming round and round
Maybe we can reach on in and make it drown
If we sneaking up upon it carefully
There will be head for you and a tail for me

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you please
Now we’re looking over our new domicile
If we like we stay for maybe quite a while

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you don’t please
We are from a residence of Siam
There is no finer cat than I am

Do you hear what I hear a baby cry
Where we finding baby there’s milk near by
And if we look in baby buggy there could be
Plenty of milk for you and also some for me

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you please
Now we’re looking over our new domicile
If we like we stay for maybe quite a while

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you don’t please
We are from a residence of Siam
There is no finer cat than I am

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you don’t please
We are from a residence of Siam
There is no finer cat than I am

We are Siamese if you please
We are Siamese if you don’t please
We are from a residence of Siam
There is no finer cat than I am

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Andrew Lloyd Webber is wrong to criticise the movie version of “Cats” the musical

It’s all over the news, Andrew Lloyd Webber criticising the movie version of his “Cats” musical which is one of the longest running theatre shows ever. It was highly successful as a theatre show and apparently a complete disaster as a film.

Lloyd Webber at premier
Photo: Theo Wargo / WireImage/Getty Images. I have taken the liberty to publish it here and plead fair use.

The director Tom Hooper has almost been vilified. There has been a degree of mockery about the failure of this film even before it was aired. The critics were out to get it and I’m not sure why. I don’t think that Andrew Lloyd Webber should now be criticising the film and calling it ridiculous. His use of the word “ridiculous” is a reference to the fact that Tom Hooper apparently didn’t want anybody involved in the making of the film who were involved in the theatre version. The press has used the word out of context implying that the entire film is ridiculous which is unethical and as far as I can tell not what Lloyd Webber said.

I suspect that Hooper wanted a complete break from the theatre version to inject a fresh look into the project. I can’t see anything wrong with that idea. What I don’t like about Andrew Lloyd Webber is that during the making of the film and at its premiere he was all smiles but when the film is a failure he wants to distance himself from it. I think that this is his purpose. He is doing his best to distance himself from the making of the film. He doesn’t want failure attached to him because most of his working career has been a great success.

However, as I recall, he was involved in the making of this film. He allowed, as did Tom Hooper, the introduction of a new song composed by Taylor Swift who starred in the film. It must have been approved by Andrew Lloyd Webber which supports the argument that he was involved. It doesn’t look that he now wants to be free of the connection.

I am told that Universal Pictures lost an estimated $113 million from this film. It should be noted that Tom Hooper successfully directed “Les Miserables” which was a great success. It was nominated for 12 Oscars, more than any other film that year (2012) and it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay. Tom Hooper is a great director. Let’s not slag off the guy by implication or tarnish his name.

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Netflix film about the battle between Big Cat Rescue and Joe Exotic is a big hit

It’s been reported that the feud over big cats between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Big Cat Rescue (BCR), as documented by Netflix in their film “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is the most watched show in the UK and the US only weeks after being launched with minimal publicity (The Times).

Carole Baskin versus Joe Exotic
Photo of Exotic: Netflix. Photo of Baskin: BCR.

Its success is one reason why, and I did not realise this, that my articles on BCR have been getting a lot more hits than usual. It has to be said that Carole Baskin does not like the documentary because she says that it is salacious and sensationalised. It appears that she said that she was promised it would be balanced documentary but became a hyped up story in which apparently (and I’ve not seen it) she is painted in a similar light to her adversary, Joe Exotic, who conspired to murder her and who now languishes in jail having been convicted of that conspiracy.

Baskin claimed that she had been misled into cooperating with the show which she says was pitched to her as a big cat version of ‘Blackfish’ a critique of commercial exploitation of orcas in captivity. The show’s producers deny that Baskin was coerced in any way or that they misled her.

The show’s popularity may in part be due to the fact that it has attracted controversy. Another aspect of the Netflix film that Baskin dislikes is the fact that she is painted as having been involved in the death of her former husband Don who went missing in 1997.

As I recall, it’s a complicated story but Baskin never faced criminal proceedings although the documentary refers to rumours that he was fed to their rescued wild cats. Baskin said on her website’s blog, Big Cat Rescue:

The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims.

An important point that needs to be made is that Joe Exotic hated Baskin and is the protagonist in this saga. Baskin was minding her own business saving cats. She defended herself and the cat’s welfare. That’s how I read the story.

I have never met Baskin and I’ve never been to BCR but I have done quite a lot of research in and around her story and I’m convinced that she is believable. I believe her story is credible and I also believe that Netflix have hyped up the story to make the film more successful. It has achieved its goal at, arguably, the price of Carole Baskin’s reputation. But Baskin continues to save the lives of abused big cats and other wild cats while Joe Exotic has been banged up for life. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of reputation. Joe Exotic was always a very dodgy person who said that he’d rather kill all his animals (a huge number) than close his private zoo. A morally compromised person at best.

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It’s not Cats the movie that is mad, it’s the journalists writing about it

For the past few weeks or more, every time I searched for ‘cats’ in Bing News a good half of the search results are about Cats the movie and in everyone of those articles the bloody reporters are heavily critical of it.

Cats the movie
Cats the movie. Screenshot.

They love to take the piss out of the movie. They love to jump on the bandwagon to try and bury the movie. It is a feeding frenzy by bored journalists who have nothing better to say.

This movie can’t be that bad. It was carefully crafted and has a fabulous cast. I have seen the trailer. It looks fine to me. The theatrical version was enormously successful so it is highly unlikely that this movie would be unsuccessful but for the mad reporters acting like mad African wild dogs chasing down a lame wildebeest on the dry Serengeti plains.

Their incessant criticisms have hurt the film. It is doing badly and has been pulled from seeking an Oscar nomination or so I have read.

The criticisms started while the film was being made. The mad journos said it looked mad. They could not understand it. Well, they could but they said they couldn’t because that sort of language sells papers.

They are still slanging off the movie. It’s coming thick and fast. The piss taking. The clever words and journalistic gimmicks.

It is cheap stuff. Bad news day efforts by hacks. It is time to leave the film alone and start writing about real cat news: stuff to enhance animal welfare. Information about climate change and how it is killing wild cats. The real world stuff not cheapskate reporting on a film they have already destroyed.

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