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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
| Friday, 05.17.2024, 09:16 PM |   (163 views)

Admittedly, I've never been on a skateboard or a surfboard in my life, but I was drawn in by the film, Art and Life: The Story of Jim Phillips, which recently ran at the Florida Film Festival.  Not only because of the creativity of Jim Phillips, the artist, but also because of the style filmmaker/Director John Makens uses to illustrate the story.

The film is more than just a biopic of an artist.  It's a dive into the culture of both aforementioned sports, from the youngest grom to the most advanced shredder.  And you can look those terms up, just like I did.  

Phillips was captivated by surfing; he and his buddies, living in Santa Cruz, CA in the 1960's made catching the next wave their reason for being.  "Surf all day, party all night" is how Phillips puts it.  Jim put more time into catching a wave than into finishing his education, and that eventually caught up with him.  Always creative, Jim was designing contest-winning cartoons and doodles from an early age.  In fact, his talent led to him winning a scholarship at a University where he thrived. That is, until the administration found out he didn't have a H.S. diploma, rescinding the scholarship and Jim's dreams of earning a living creating art.  Or so he assumed.

Now, you still may not know the name, Jim Phillips, but perhaps you're familiar with the "screaming hand".  That definitely rang some bells with me.  It's iconic.  I remember seeing it on stickers and tee-shirts.  I just didn't know where it came from .... until now.  The screaming hand image is depicted here.  

This refreshing and stylish film takes you deep into Phillips' archives, lovingly animating many of Jim's cartoons and art.  It is the animation of the original artwork that I was referring to when I mentioned Maken's filmmaking artistry.  It may be digital manipulation 101, but it provides visual texturizing, bringing a sense of movement to Phillips' art.  

Many of the original designs are intricately detailed.  Jim's co-workers attest to the fact that, at times, he spent hours working on just one project.  They would leave for the day, and he'd be at his table.  When they arrived in the morning, he'd just be leaving the studio. When you go to an art show and you wonder why the work is so expensive - this is why!  The artists time is worth something.  The film also gives us a taste of Jim's extensive library of beautiful poster art; for decades, top bands have used Jim's creations to advertise their road tours.  We also see how incisive marketing strategies, creating collectible, annual updates to screaming hand designs on skateboards, rolled Phillips work to the top of that industry for years.  

As I mentioned, Jim's art was used for years on surfboards and skateboards as well as on motorcycles.  But I'm not going to go into details here.  That's what Makens' film is for - to introduce us to the man behind the art, to show why he is still revered by those most familiar with his contributions.  

Suffice it to say that the twists and turns Jim's life takes are as varied as the waves themselves.  If the one he was riding caused him to bail, he eventually caught one that was bitchin'.  Nugs to all. 

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor / Movie Reviewer for In and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida.  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for NBC and CBS News affiliates.  She also edits national promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the #1 nationally syndicated news & information program.  For 30+ years she has covered the Florida Film Festival & the World Peace Film Festival, and has additional award-winning experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events with MTV Networks

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