With Your Best Shot: Shorts
How many times do I have to say “I’m back” for it to be real? This week in Nathaniel’s Best Shot series, we are doing shorts courtesy of a site called Short of the Week, a site that might just be my new fix. Let us have some good, weird, black and white fun, shall we? First is Mikey Please’s The Eagleman Stag. Let me just begin by saying that it’s either my anxiety or my incoming sleep deprivation but I have no idea what this short is about.
One. Here, the protagonist says “This half pint makes my hands look…huge.” This reminds me of every time I try to take a long shot picture of something, hoping that the camera focuses on the one thing within a huge canvas. And then the lens shut and I see the image I took and everything flattens, my focus being one of many objects instead of THE object. An amalgamation of elements – the dimensional nature of stop motion animation and the protagonists monologue – bridges that connection between our selective eyes and a supposed flat surface.
Two. The protagonist inserts a serum in his brain, leading to a chaos of unpredictable personal consequences. What ensues is a Borzage-eque montage starting with this.
Next is from Ray Tintori, who was the effects guy at Beasts of the Southern Wild and directed music videos for MGMT and the Cool Kids. But let’s talk about Death to the Tin Man. One. The Psycho shot, depicting the silhouette of a man named Bill whose soul now inhabits a Tin Man version of him.
My two best shots for these shorts are companion shots, the first is one of Tin Man’s ways of wooing back his beloved, the hammered in expression surprisingly conveying emotion. I am pairing it with a shot of the beloved trying to paint eyes on zombie-Bill, preferring the soulless body to the heart-equipped human. These characters live in a quirkily-framed bleak world, comparable to Chaplin’s movies about how modernity isolates.
They are driven to obsessive desperation, with no reliable moral centres to guide them to the right path or people. They’re slowly realizing that the characters around them value romanticized appearances over the truth. These shots explore our discomfort with uncanny human ugliness, these characters inadvertently vandalising the human form, trying to recover the original, trying to play God towards the ones we love.
I Participated in a Podcast…
…and I will scream about it from the top of my lungs. It was out yesterday. Topics include (sexy) TIFF, summer movies, the (sexy) part surprisingly not coming from me. I sound so un-feminine I hate it.
The podcast in which I guest hosted is called Critical Mass Cast. And I’m trying to pull a Johnny Depp and not listen to myself but that’s shouldn’t stop you.
The Lion King
Disney’s protagonists have always had to leave home. This is true from Snow White to Belle and even characters in Disney movies that are outsourced from Pixar like Wall-E and the gang from the Toy Story series. But unlike these debutantes and adult inanimate objects, The Lion King‘s Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) an actual child, and a change of environment at such a young age demonstrates how precarious the idea of home really is. He delightfully gasps when he sees the untouched African jungle where Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) live, a place ripe for adult Simba (Matthew Broderick) to be too content to to live. But there is something to be said a carnivore adapting to eating bugs, Fear Factor style.
The jungle didn’t look like emeralds, outdoing that scene in The African Queen in showing how luscious and verdant it could be. The jungle isn’t the only landscape feature here, as we also have the African veld pre and post-Scar, and within desert dunes where Simba does some slow motion running. All of those have the Dinsey glow even though its animators were still working in 90’s technology.
Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) sings “It’s a Small World” to the chagrin of the regicidal and decadent lion Scar (Jeremy Irons) , Simba’s uncle. When Simba and his unlikely crew attack Scar, Poomba does his part, goes on a Travis Bickle rampage and exclaims ‘They call me MR. PIG!’ before doing a number on two unfortunate hyenas (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings). Pop cultural humour happens when a movie allows the supporting cast to talk, and I’m constantly surprised how our generation didn’t invent it. Movies or populist artistic expressions in the turn of the twenty-first century has this insecurity about itself that it references earlier work. Everything else before it seems like a solid text that I forget that these works have their own pasts, and that the people who are behind these older texts might, a bit, have felt the same way. Or that these references exist so that the kids will know that the world they’re watching isn’t exclusive and is actually relate-able to them.
Africa is in new and rougher hands because of Scar and while that is not untrue, it’d be more right to see that outside forces equally let destitution happen and no, hyenas don’t count as outsiders.
Timon sings the first and last verse of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” If only he’s more famous than Elton John, or maybe his already and I just don’t know it yet. During that musical number Simba and Nala grow from friends and much more. Nothing around Timon and Poomba’s jungle would have pushed him to adulthood, but finding love should.
Hakuna Matata – no worries. It seems like an alien concept in a worry-centric world. But this laid back feline only becomes victorious because of two inherent things, his royal lineage – which contributes a lot to his physical prowess, even with eating all those bugs – and his goodness. He doesn’t have a Rocky-esque montage where he trains to beat Scar (Jeremy Irons) and instead, he looks down on a pond to see his father Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) but as himself.
This means two things. First, that there’s a difference between becoming and being and that, despite how Simba makes it looks easy to kick his Claudius-like uncle’s butt, that we have to believe in ourselves first. Although with this interpretation, what’s stopping the Claudius-like Scar from thinking the same way, grumbling to Zazu and the other animals that he IS the king.
The second involves adolescence as a state and the different responses towards becoming an adult. Some of us might be anxious to get the process of growing done already, but Simba partly gives up on it because he’s lost the proper environment to do that. The movie has Timon and Poomba harmlessly yet deliberately laughing at Simba’s interpretation of what stars really are. This shows adolescence as a state when we can be derailed and when our childhood narratives of destiny can be crushed. At least he learns kindness and acceptance towards creatures whom he would have eaten had things gone differently, even if they’re jokey and a bit passive aggressive towards him.It’s not cool to think you’re the king. But on that note their jokes are nothing compared to what would have happened if he stayed in Pride Rock – Scar would have probably subjugated him. Somehow the time off works, as the pressure to be and to have lost the throne is cagier than him slacking off, attaching himself to swinging vines all over the jungle and looking at the stars. Or let’s compromise and say that both suck.
Nonetheless, Simba in the jungle symbolizes a tendency within many of us to be oblivious of our own growth, that we need a good support group like Rafiki, Nala and a mirror to tell us what we can do. Broderick’s voice work as Simba has the gravitas with the roles he’s taken half a decade earlier, but he still has Bueller’s reputation and a boyish demeanour that he could easily switch on, even at thirty-two. He eventually finds himself snarling at Scar as if he’s just learning how to do so, as if he’s surprised that he can do it. It may seem like a compromise to show that he can only reclaim to his kingdom or as his old self but not do both. But he’s returning home because he’s a different being and that greatness is deserved through change.
Ne’erending XMas: Prince Of Egypt
This is a blog post equivalent of Febulights, where I talk about a movie about the emotionally draining festival weeks after the fact. And this isn’t even about Christmas or a non-Christian holiday that also coincides with it. Why can’t the channel I tuned into broadcast one about the Maccabean revolt? I’m sure there’s many of those. Instead, we get the pre-Shrek Dreamworks offering called The Prince of Egypt. It’s a curious title that also hints at the complexities within the Biblical hero, Moses (Val Kilmer) who also happens to be the adopted brother of slave driving Pharaoh Ramses II (Ralph Fiennes). Fiennes lends his voice to a villain contending against the laws of nature, the latter of which is a force powered by good. Ramses also wears a lot of make-up and campy costumes and is sexually and species ambiguous like every other Fiennes character. Anyway, they still have contend with their relationship despite of the ethnic division wedged between them. Ramses is still in close contact with Moses, allowing the latter in his son’s wake, a sign of compassion from both ends. But Moses’ presence is still a reminder of the transaction that must take place in order for his kind of racist God to stop ravaging Ramses’ country.
There are some conventionally sub par parts in the animation like how hair, as beautiful as it looks, is fashioned in clumps as opposed to of strands. How gold looks more yellow. When light or fire comes out of the sky, which looks awesome yet artificial. Speaking of artificial, how about when it’s trying to replicate camera movement? The same artificiality also affects the scene with the parting of the Red Sea, looking like a tenth grade computer assignment. However, that part redeems itself when we see silhouettes of a whale trapped in the water while the Israelites pass through, showing us what they would have seen in this moment. It doesn’t distinguish itself from Disney although Disney movies will almost never have a predominantly dark-skinned characters and will never have Jewish protagonists. There are some new touches like recognizing Orion or how objects touch light or vice versa. But I mainly like how old school the movie looks, where the rocks or buildings are rugged on the foreground but looking painterly as they recede. Or during the Exodus when the Israelites, their carts and tents placed within the picture through brushstrokes. This movie also features the greatest looking eyes ever.
I will always remember this movie for how Moses has more sexual chemistry with his sister Mariam (Sandra Bullock) than with his taller and skinnier wife Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer). The way their big eyes look at each other with the almost sighing expression, different from my experiences of friendly enmity that I see in other siblings. They are estranged and there have been other examples in other movies where people in that situation have the same reaction towards each other or more. Although personally I like the simpler looking Mariam better, Tzipporah looking too glamorous for me, even though her jewellery is a sign of class division within the enslaved Israelites. I don’t know what that says about my preferences about but enough about that.
And because this is an animated musical, Moses and the crew sing a song after being victorious against Ramses. Mariam and Tzipporah sing ‘When You Believe, made more famous by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, who are not the singing voices in the movie. The real character voices sing an octave higher than, what I imagine, the A-list actors would sound like. It’s not necessarily frustration and animation companies, under the veil of their drawn creations as opposed to real actors and sets, can hire as many people as they like to play a character. At the same, I never bought the ‘we chose a different singing voice to fit the character’ argument, even when MGM musicals of yore used the same justification. If they could express emotion through speaking, they can and should be able to do the same in music, and vice versa. I still want to know what Bullock and Pfeiffer’s voices sound like.
The movie ends with Moses with the Ten Commandments, bypassing the Golden Calf section because that scene would have soured the movie’s mood.
Reel Asian: Piercing 1
I tweeted earlier that Liu Jian’s début movie Piercing 1 is like “Beavis and Butthead Do The 2008 Economic Collapse And Its Effects On China.” The animation is like Mike Judge’s early work – gaunt two-dimensional figures, the movements are pretty one-two. But it also adds its own spin to a seemingly primitive, 90’s era take on the visual medium. It’s as if there’s no air in this fictional universe – flags and lamps don’t move but smoke rises up in the air. And the palette, lacking the colours yellow and purple, is dour and dark, which seems right with its depressing and scary subject.
Among the handful of characters that it follows are two men who have moved to Beijing. After a boss beats one of them for allegedly stealing, they hang out on a public space. Their litanies in their first scene together resonate with younger people and/or immigrants, as one of them is more defiant against returning to their small town, not even considering if their lives have been better or stable there. It’s like this refusal of an alternative because it feels like a million steps back. The more defiant youth also seems attracted to the trappings of capitalism. The money, the clothes, the promise of women – of which there are only two in the movie who aren’t sexually pursued – the exciting day and light lives, the population.
It loses steam after that scene, as it’s littered with Kafkaesque accusations and assaults. It’s as if every person they meet is misanthropic because of the anomie-inducting big city. The beaten youth comes back to his boss and asks for ‘mental damages’ and gets beaten. While eating noodles, he sees a woman get hit by a motorcycle only for that woman’s police officer daughter to beat him again. It’s like Jia Zhangke and Sion Sino collaborated and made an animated feature, the former’s portrayal of ghostlike modernity mixes with the latter’s theatrical violence. The last scenes veer into ridiculous heist movie territory since i this movie’s world, all Chinese businessmen are also sketchy money dealers. But I do give the movie credit for going into unexpected places.
Shot: Beauty and the Beast
I don’t get my movies in reputable places, so when I got my copy of Beauty and the Beast and started watching it, I thought it was colourful, suspiciously colourful. The film tells its prologue through a series of stained glass-like representations, my best shot is that of the haggard woman turning into a beautiful fairy. There’s something both pre-Raphaelite about her even if she also anachronistically looks like a 20-year old version of a “Powerpuff Girl,” her flared sleeves suggest a sweeping action just like the cartoons that would come a decade later.
This prologue is also the reverse Snow White, where young people who live by themselves have to be suspicious of old haggard women because they can kill or turn their victims into a half-bulldog, half-lion. The transfiguring women also bring objects that are physical manifestations of sexuality. While the stepmother’s apple overwhelms the daughter who’s too young, the rose can mean many things, reminding him that beauty, just like the rose, can be gradually destroyed by time, or by its own frailty. The haggard woman tires to offer the rose to the prince in exchange of shelter, as a way of saying that beauty can be used as currency and whatever else that implies. And of course, the stained glass medium, normally used for Christian imagery, is now depicting a fairy tale.
I don’t know why I assumed that the colours in this film would be duller. Maybe because the colours feel penciled in. I’d assume that watching this movie for the third time is what it’s like to see the Sistine Chapel after it’s been cleaned off of centuries worth of grime. It’s like seeing something as crisp as it would have been twenty years ago.
This is my second favourite shot. Instead of Belle’s mustard dress, I keep seeing blue throughout this movie. This shot also conveys the palace’s large space. It’s strange to see Belle and Beast within the vast palace, but when not when Gaston is looking for him. As if the couple is overwhelmed or understand that space while Gaston waltzes in without any decency. Speaking of which, I would like to congratulate Disney for being ahead of their time, since this movie’s villain comes from one of the most reviled groups of people for the past decade – juiceheads!
Since I like pictures, here’s a Busby Berkeley-esque musical interlude, the most uptight one getting to sing a few verses.
Gaston’s lynch mob for the Beast, looking Fantasia and all.
And Angela Lansbury. This post is part of Nathaniel R’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot‘ series.
An unnamed chameleon (Johnny Depp) finds fifteen minutes in a film to go from an emptied aquarium inside a car traveling a highway to a small town called Dirt, inhabited by other animals. Trying to blend in with these Westerners, the chameleon comes up with the persona of a mean, bar fighting man from somewhere more west and christens himself as Rango, getting his name from an alcohol bottle from Durango. He finds a love interest in Beans (Isla Fisher), the daughter of a dead bean farmer who’s had better days. Her provenance and femininity means that she’s both strong-willed and scrappy. She’d occasionally roll her eyes at Rango but she’s sometimes vulnerable and needs him.
Rango is about the visuals. We know that our hero is the perpetually domesticated one, unable to change his green coat no matter how many times he sheds his skin, which is ironic since he is a chameleon. We also know that the gamut of cowboys, gunslingers, ranch hands and Southern gentlemen of Dirt are anachronistically Western since they’re mostly grey and furry, their period clothing coated with the sand that might occasionally blow their way. The work in Rango’s scales of the scales of the other reptiles aren’t as intense like the work in How to Train your Dragon. The mammals sometimes look scarily realistic – you can feel the hair in their faces and all.
There are the other visual antics in the film’s mise-en-scene, lights, shadows, arid desert haze, textural rocks on the desert, a gigantic eye overlooking Rango’s posse as they cross through a system of underground burrows, infernal sunset light, Rango drawing on the sky (easily my favourite image of the film). The latter images aren’t oversold, but they are often references to other westerns/neo-westerns/movies set on deserts, the lack of originality is slightly frustrating. I also felt conflicted while watching the film, kicking myself for not seeing it in 3D but also thinking that the animation in itself effectively suggests dimension and depth.
The third conflict in my head, which quickly and surprisingly went away, started when I was seeing the featurettes for the film. The film is shot through ’emotional capturing,’ which is basically the cast in a studio acting the scenes out and there’s a camera involved or something. I always thought that I’d rather watch the actors on set than to see the animated product, a la Dogville. But then I liked watching the valleys where Rango and his posse are being chased. Or watching Depp personify this childlike, imaginative and naive protagonist, a role that would have been a bit old for him. Reminds me of Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox, where both can be goofier and funnier than their real, physical human bodies can allow. And hey, I’m actually liking a Depp performance. When was the last time that happened?
Rango meets a few enemies, his bravado looks laughable. His feeble body also means that he’s agile. His earlier, circumstantial tests of bravery eventually gets him to meet the town’s reclusive mayor (Ned Beatty, playing an animated villain again). They mayor appoints him as the town’s sheriff. His main duty as sheriff is to protect the scarce amount of water in Dirt, a commodity also used as currency. Here we have the biggest flaw of the film, the plot. The town eventually gets disillusioned from Rango, town gets disillusioned from mayor, Rango tries to win town back by finding out how the mayor controls the water and taking that control away from him. The formulaic storyline makes me care less about the outcome, the visuals mostly seeming like window dressing. 3/5.
The Illusionist 2010
The audience can feel the paper where The Illusionist is animated, but on other moments, its colours and shades has its own energy. The film’s usual colour scheme consist of shades of brown, from the titular illusionist Tatischeff’s raincoat to the brownstone streets of the cities where he moves around to do his work. Paris, London, a Scottish town, and Glasgow, where the second half of the film is set. Smoke and cloud travel through the screen weightless like in Miyazaki’s animated films. My favourite part of the film’s aesthetics is when the bluish nights are interrupted by the yellow city lights gleaming from Glasgow’s boulevards. Sylvain Chomet’s film gives us what Impressionist or German painters would have delivered if they knew how to fly. I guess the lines are too fine and colours too full to evade those influences.
Tatischeff and this film becomes a symbol of the uphill climb involved in preserving tradition. His Parisian audience is apathetic towards his tricks. It seems like he isn’t the perfect guy for the stage neither, his head being caught on the curtains. In London, an audience of two, the only ones left after a pre-Beatles band finishes their set. He also has to contend with drunks in parties where he performs. The drunk does give him a card of a pub is Scotland, a long travel through land and water until the fog seamlessly clears, seemingly greeting the man who’s small compared to the mountains. Here they laugh and clap at his jokes, but the crowd, with their pints of beer, look like they’ll cheer on anything. Tatischeff, who seems to have no other job skills, is thankful enough for this full venue.
The llusionist is adapted from the last, unfilmed script from French auteur Jacques Tati, and this film is then technically my second Tati. Instead of a relationship between an older yet childlike man playing innocently with children, this film deals with a surrogate parental relationship between an older man and an ungrateful adolescent girl growing up, finding their way from the small town to Glasgow. Both face the world’s volatility in the late fifties, her moving within the urban, fashionable world and him coping like the other struggling vaudeville acts living in the same hotel. This film differs from my first Tati, Mon Oncle, with this film’s grownup sensibilities. The material even feels sad to have grown up. It’s depressing enough not to make me love the movie, but I respect how it boldly faces this reality nonetheless.
I saw this film in theatres, with a small, weeknight crowd of a handful of post-hipster couples, appreciative of the film’s nostalgia. The film ends with the city lights all slowly turning off, but I know there are people who will hold on to the film and its old-time charms. 4/5
Neverending Christmas: Shreks
I already complained about watching the Shrek trilogy on twitter and did it anyway. The sharp comedy that turned itself into a cliché simply by existing again and again and again. We watched the first one in Grade 9 religion class, I think.
One thing about lobbing off one gag on top of another is that one will eventually make you laugh. Or that on repeated viewings, you’ll actually laugh about the one you forgot about. Such as when the recently rescued Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) opens the new morning with a series of vocalizations. She sings with a beautiful blue bird. We know what’s coming. She intentionally sings with such pitch and volume that the bird explodes. She takes the bird’s eggs, and there’s a mixture of solemnity instead of pushing the gag. And you know, Fiona the 0rge cancels out how this movie’s supposed to be about couples who don’t look good together.
The best in show/scene for the second installment goes to British comedy queen Jennifer Saunders, who plays Fiona’s fairy god mother. In order to get Fiona to marry her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), she locks Shrek up on Fiona’s childhood bedroom. She mocks his cries out for her. Great delivery.
Ooh, Shrek the human’s (Mike Myers) kinda hot. Looking back two paragraphs ago, yes, it’s a sad North American staple for a hot woman to be paired with Kevin James . That got my weird brain to thinking about what my former prof said about masculinity being the absence of performance. Both in ogre and broad-shouldered human form, Shrek is more acceptable as a masculine figure. Especially than his arch nemesis Charming, one of the gags involve the latter whipping his hair, feminizing the character. Even Fiona sees something wrong with Charming, pretending to be the transformed Shrek, mugging for the citizens’ attention at her royal wedding.
The theme of the masculine duality between Shrek and Charming rides on up to the third installment. It makes sense that Charming’s in a fairy tale version of a dive bar until you really think about it. He thus tries to rectify that wrong by getting the other bar patrons, fairy tale villains, to sign up to invade Far Far Away. I mean, what’s stopping him? It’s not like Shrek can function in his royal duties anyway.
I like the first half of the third movie. It was my first time seeing it, so the gags feel fresh. There’s a feminist spin to it – as Charming rounds up the villains, Fiona rallies her fairy tale princess BFF’s, who are normally passive and wait for a…prince charming. This came out when I was in summer school. For a class I was watching some old movie either about the Algerian resistance or one about a depressed Senegalese maid. Yes, I could have rebelliously written an essay about either of those movies AND Shrek 3.
Toy Story 3
Before the main feature, the theatre played a Pixar short called ‘Day and Night,’ written and directed by Teddy Newton. Two dogs, Day and Night, have a non-verbal debate on who is better by showing what happens through their day or night bodies. There’s an NPR-like Deus-ex-machina that helps them through. This deus-ex-machina, as a young adult, is where I start looking at the most banal thing and think ‘Is this appropriate/comprehensible to children?’ And are kids supposed to know that Vegas exists? But those little twerps have ears and do understand the ‘moral’ of the story. Plus there’s Vegas and arm square-dancing and stuff. Oh, and night.
In this installment of the Toy Story series, the toys haven’t been played with in a while since their owner, Andy, is 17 and 17-year-olds don’t play with toys anymore. A mix-up gets the toys to a daycare called Sunnyside. Woody (Tom Hanks) escapes during recess, the rest realize that Sunnyside is the exact opposite of perfect.
Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the best part of the film. Spoilers. Woody’s escape makes Buzz the de-facto leader. The latter gets caught by the Sunnyside toy cabal led by Lotso (Ned Beatty) and Ken (Michael Keaton) and is manually switched to the dark side. As a villain’s henchman, he helps to get the film into a Cool Hand Luke reference. When the toys try to switch him back, they accidentally tap into his Spanish mode. The film’s one or two detractors would call that a gimmick, but I can BS and say that the Spanish gag is about hidden talents and imagination. But I’m a sucker for physical comedy like Buzz dancing circles around Jessie. And you know, there’s gotta be a way to herd the ‘Dora the Explorer’ fans into the multiplexes.
Kristen Schaal’s in this film, playing a naughty dinosaur.
It’s kinda distracting knowing that Jessie is voiced by Joan Cusack.
Up, then Toy Story 3, then Wall-E. I have no memory of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and I don’t even think I’ve seen the latter. I have never seen Cars, but no matter how terrible it might be, it gets a conditional pass because it’s Paul Newman’s last film. Put A Bug’s Life under Toy Story 3 by a hair. If you wanna drag 1995 into this, Pocahonats is above Wall-E, and The Lion King trumps all.
Then there’s Andy, who calls the toys ‘junk,’ slightly appropriate for objects kept in the chest while Andy’s skateboarding or on his laptop. What the other toys, especially Mrs. Potatohead, hears is ‘junk,’ fueling their desire to get away from Andy in the first place. Real people of Andy’s age aren’t into ‘being a kid again’ as I imagine other people might think, and in the beginning of the film, his relationship to these inanimate objects are way apart. I also imagine that his fictional world doesn’t think ‘novelty’ when thinking about toys popular in the mid-90’s. A part of the demographic of this film are 17-year-old kids or older, like people my age who were children when the first movie came out. The story is mostly about the toys yearning for Andy’s touch, successfully getting our sympathies when they’re pretending to be inanimate. Yet it’s also about wondering whether Andy will tap into a childhood nostalgia or not, the same way our memories come back to us even if we can never fully relive them.
- Toy Story 3 : Anything Pooh can do, Buzz can do better (telegraph.co.uk)
The first shot reminds me of the first shot in Mulholland Drive, which is funny since there’s sexuality, fear, mortality, cynicism and a bit of humour in that movie and here in Fantasia. My friends first saw this when they were four and I saw this last week. I can only imagine a few kids getting confused with what they see here. Well, I am more susceptible to trauma and have a dirtier mind now than I did when I was a kid.
I thought that the faeries dancing to “The Nutcracker Suite” were the most famous images in this movie, but apparently it’s the warlock horror narrative in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – I swear I’ve never seen that one before and it’s a nail-biter. Henry Allen writes about how Fantasia in 1940 preceded and is the polar opposite to the weary American attitude towards science and high culture. I do think that “Apprentice” shows how innovation can go too far and have the destructive result that its inventor didn’t want. There is also a more popular segment with dancing hippos that I didn’t care so much about.
I also encountered the music here in other sources – Beethoven’s Pastoral in some compilation CD. Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” in high school and Schubert’s “Ave Maria” when I was going through a soprano phase when I was in high school. Just so we’re clear, Alex North and everyone else after him owes Stravinsky a royalty cheque. Watching “Printemps” with dinosaurs was a weird concept to me, especially since I’m more familiar with that ballet’s later movements. To me, that final music’s always been about violence surrounded by beauty, and Walt Disney and his interns made it look like apocalypse. Well, what do I know? Other choreographers like Nijinsky/Dominique Brun and Pina Bausch have more violent interpretations of the music. And again, the fear that what happened to the dinosaurs will happen to us. And the wind instruments in the later movements do remind me of arid landscapes. And I’ve always heard “Ave Maria” sung by either a boy/woman in German, not English. I also imagined it to me like a little voice trying to climb into a space above, preferably a church, which I guess mostly matches Disney’s visuals. But I couldn’t say that what I saw didn’t dazzle me. The animators went all out and an extra mile, animating images they’ll never show elsewhere. And I kinda wanna know what they would have done if they did “Swan Lake.”
Before I talk about the likes and dislikes about the movie, I just wanna say that Despicable Me is in between good Avatar and headache-inducing Alice in Wonderland in the spectrum of 3D films. If there’s any part of a 3D movie when I take off my glasses and don’t see anything different from watching the movie with or without the glasses, we have a little problem. I do like he sleek designof some interior/exterior spaces of the film, however.
Here, however, is the structural conundrum about Despicable Me. The first scenes are boring. I didn’t really wanna see our anti-hero Gru (Steve Carell) freeze-ray his way into getting a latte. However, I can’t think of away to cut any of them because if I do, I won’t have enough background on the characters. Basically, Gru, a worn-down villain, adopts three girls to infiltrate another villain’s lair. These tedious introductions help make the children sympathetic and make Gru’s 180 much more surprising and delightful.
Gru’s Eastern bloc accent is stage-y yet not distracting. The children even make fun of it to show him how incompetent he is at being a villain. There are also flashbacks within the film showing Gru’s childhood when his mother (Julie Andrews) shrugs off his little achievements. Most people with terrible childhoods like Gru’s have shortsighted reasons for having or adopting kids and they treat their children as terribly as they have been treated. However, Gru turns out to become a perfect parent. Maybe it’s because Gru, like many adult protagonists in animated films, are children in adult bodies who is looking for playmates. Maybe it’s because the girls are kinda bratty and sarcastic and they’re not the kind of children you lie to or mess with.
Nonetheless, it’s also very funny. It takes a while for the movie to bring on the laughs, but it’s worth the wait. This movie also has the greatest Godfather parody scene in recent memory, and there are funnier parts of the film than that.
I saw this movie at the barbershop, eleven months after its theatrical release. Can I rank that higher or lower than seeing a movie on an airplane?
I only go to the barber twice a year. Either way he’s five subway stations and two buses all the way to the East End, which is a whole ‘nother universe where I could have gotten beaten up in high school. Most of the movies my barber shows are Uwe Boll movies, which are less repulsive than their reputation but woah are they bland.
Instead he had “Up.” The shop was popular and comfortable enough for me to wait for the duration of the film. I couldn’t get half of the dialogue because there were blow dryers all over the place but you know, that’s their livelihood.
Whatever dialogue I could grasp was very sophisticated. And it’s visual enough of a movie anyway – it’s gorgeous animation and Pixar to boot – that the balloons and Mr. Fredrickson’s (Ed Asner) Spencer Tracy-esque face was enough for me. The married life sequence melts the heart. The soundtrack accompanying said sequence and the whole movie has this optimism that could only be imagined at that of an earlier time. Weight and volume are also taken into consideration in this movie – the house, the balloons and the clouds seem to be fleshed out objects instead of drawings. And it’s agenda free unlike “Wall-E.”
Then the movie finished, and I’m getting my haircut, and the barber suggests to put on a UFC fight. For a child to watch.
Through the Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival that wrapped up this past weekend, I finally saw the Oscar-winning “La Maison en Petit Cubes,” which is what I imagine what “Up” would be. Yes, I haven’t seen “Up.” It can wait when it premieres on Teletoon. Shoot me.
It’s about a self-sufficient old man who has outlived his adult children. It’s about seeing a man and as he scuba dives down to submerged foundations of his home, we come with him and see his lives the way he does and the way we never get to towards other people. He looks at the foundations of the homes around him and imagines them as the scattered farm houses of his youth. At first we ask why this fictional world exists in this state, but eventually we just go with the emotional ride. Screening this short after “Gaki” puts in context the Japanese skill in parchment, because stereotyping is faster. Or I could be an asshole and say that this movie is about global warming.
La Maison in Petit Cubes is part of a program in the festival I assume as the animated short category. Also in the program is the cute overload of “Komaneko -The Curious Cat- ‘The First Step’ ” and “Mitsuko’s Freedom,” which is by far the weirdest homoerotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.