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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in animated films (209)

Thursday
Sep182014

First look at the potential new Popeye feature

Tim here. A couple of months ago, you may recall, I shared my crabby old man thoughts on the current wave of making new CG animated films based on old-school cartoons, among them being Sony Animations still-not-actually-official new Popeye movie to be directed by Genndy Tartakovsky.

Now, without having actually committed themselves to making it, Sony has basically confirmed that they're making it, releasing an animation test preceded by a short interview of Tartakovsky explaining his interest in the material. The animation itself starts at about 2:01, if you're an impatient sort.

What do you think? For myself, I find Tartakovsky's commitment to the physical illogic of vintage rubber hose animation comforting, though the character designs are still kind of horrifying, Olive Oyl's especially. The way that fully rendered images tend to insist on their tactility is completely at odds with the extreme caricature of the movements and shapes of the characters. But I am willing to be persuaded that I'm wrong, because everything else about the colors, the softness, and the slapstick feel pretty right.

Thursday
Sep112014

Tim's Toons: Some voice actors you should know

Tim here. Earlier today, we posted our Team Top 10 for the best voice performances in the movies, focusing on ten individual performances that impressed us the most. But as good as those vocal performances all are, I wanted to follow that post up by singing the praises of a different sort of voice acting. As great as any one performance in a single feature film can be, there’s also something truly exceptional about those people who have created entire careers out of voice acting without necessarily having the kind of showcase roles we were talking about today. With that in mind, I’d like to share this list of some of the most important contemporary voice actors that you should know about. 

Jim Cummings

Why you know him: He’s the current voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for Disney. 

Where else you’ve heard him: An astonishingly prolific Disney workhorse, he’s also active in television and video games, and it sometimes feels like the rarer projects are the ones where he’s not providing background voices or a small character. In recent years, his biggest featured performance was as the Cajun firefly Ray in The Princess and the Frog, but his most widely-heard turns are probably the small roles he had in helping to boost singing voices in The Lion King and Pocahontas. Ever noticed how Pocahontas’s father suddenly sounds like Pooh bear when he starts to sing? That’s why.

 

Maurice LaMarche

Why you know him: He voiced the Orson Welles-sounding mad scientist mouse Brain in Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, titles which have the status of holy text for a certain generation of cartoon watchers.

Where else you’ve heard him: He also voiced the Orson Welles-sounding Orson Welles played in the flesh by Vincent D’Onofrio in Ed Wood. Mostly, though, his best work is on TV, including his small army of characters on the voice actor lover’s paradise Futurama, where he played the miserable green alien Kit. He was the voice of Elsa and Anna’s soon-dead father in animated musical Frozen, which you may have heard of.

 

Tress MacNeille

Why you know her: She’s a supporting member of the cast of The Simpsons, with her most prominent character being miserable, abusive old lady Agnes Skinner.

Where else you’ve heard her: She voiced the leading ladies on Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs  (Gadget, Babs Bunny, Dot Warner) back in the 1990s, which on top of The Simpsons makes her perhaps the single most recognizable voice actress in history to a whole generation. She’s also Disney’s current Daisy Duck, in those rare occurrences where Daisy Duck makes an appearance, and like damn near everybody else who does voice acting professionally, she’s had a few iconic roles in Futurama


Frank Welker

Why you know him: He voiced Megatron in the ‘80s Transformers cartoon, and started voicing the mutated form of Megatron, Galvatron, in this summer’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. Now, I know you didn’t see Age of Extinction, because you are classy and have good taste, but a whole lot of other people did.

Where else you’ve heard him: Everywhere. Welker’s stock in trade isn’t voicing characters who speak words, but providing animal noises and sound effects. He was Flit the hummingbird in Pocahontas; he was the footstool dog in Beauty and the Beast; he provided the squeaky voices of the killer Martians in Mars Attacks!; he contributed to the sounds of Godzilla in the misbegotten 1998 Godzilla; he’s been more dogs than I can count. He voiced the anaconda in 1997’s Anaconda, for God’s sake. Who knew that the anaconda even had a voice? Well it did, and it was Frank Welker, and he was AMAZING.

Share your own favorite voice actors in comments!

Thursday
Sep112014

Team Top Ten: All Time Greatest Voice Performances

Amir here, with this month’s edition of team top ten. As the art of acting and our interpretation of it evolve, definitions of what we consider a good performance change. It’s become an annual tradition to discuss whether a motion capture performance or some “alternative” form of acting deserves to be in the awards race. Last year’s topic of conversation was Scarlatt Johansson’s voice work in Her and that's the topic we’ve turned our attention to. (Thanks to Michael Cusumano for his suggestion!)

Voice acting has existed since cinema found sound and it has contributed to the medium in more memorable ways than a list of ten entries can represent. We were not limited in our option to animated films or any genre. So long as the voice performance was not accompanied by visual aids from the same performer (e.g. Andy Serkis’s work in LOTR was not eligible), it was fair game. Naturally, our list is animation-heavy, but there were others firmly in the race like Alec Baldwin's exquisite narration of The Royal Tenenbaums or especialy Marni Nixon – of whom The Film Experience is a big fan – who received several votes but just not enough.

Without further ado, here the collective top ten created from the rankings of each contributor's individual ballot

Top Ten Voice Performances of All Time

10. Peter O’Toole (Ratatouille)
Peter O’Toole’s Anton Ego doesn’t have much screen time in Ratatouille but his contribution to Pixar’s best film outside of the Toy Story trilogy is immeasurable. The final monologue by Ego – what an apt name for the food critic, or any critic, really – has become a reference point for film writers. The text is definitive, reminding us that “in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” Yet, the bitter truth in the text wouldn’t strike the right chords had it not been for O’Toole’s sombre, elegiac tone. Remarkably balancing his authority with a palpable sense of resignation, O’Toole’s final words elevate the scene beyond criticism.
-Amir Soltani

9. Eleanor Audley (Sleeping Beauty)
Angelina Jo-who? While the voluptuous star brought sexiness and unnecessary warmth to the part of Maleficent in this summer's blockbuster adaptation, she still doesn't hold a candle to the incomparable work of Eleanor Audley in the 1959 animated version. The actress bookended the 1950s for Disney through two of their most iconic creations, having also voiced Cinderella's stepmother in the 1950 version. For Beauty however, she was firing on all Machiavellian cylinders as she brought a sense of immeasurable dread to what was considered to be a children's film. Her Maleficent is barely in the film, but she makes every line count. We don't need to hear her entire (or any) backstory to know that she was truly evil in ways we could only begin to imagine. In a time before villains were cool, she's the most interesting character and when she says "listen well, all of you", you couldn't pay us to ignore her command.
- Jose Solis
(more on this performance

8 more great vocal performances after the jump...

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Tuesday
Sep092014

TIFF: Two to see again in "Foxcatcher" & "Song of the Sea"

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Days Whichever.

Here are a two films that I feel I should see again, primarily because they're ambitious works and I wonder if my response would change if I had more familiarity with their visual language. You know how that goes with more complicated art.

FOXCATCHER

Bennett Miller, a remarkably consistent auteurial voice, once again demonstrates great aptitute at exploring masculine intimate true stories and mining them for larger weighty themes, without any of the glazy sentiment that tends to be slathered onto both sports movies and biopics. His best move here is to study the alien body language of wrestlers, like it's a foreign tongue for which close visual track is your only form of subtitles. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo speak this foreign tongue fluently. They play Mark and Dave Schultz, Olympic Gold Medalists in wrestling, "a low sport" (that's Mother DuPont's words as perfectly uttered by Vanessa Redgrave). Into their lives comes a would be patron and "coach" John DuPont, a filthy rich patriotic nutjob who completely takes over and irrevocably and tragically alters their fate.

I was interested the whole time, but unfortunately it never fully engrosses, and moves as if mired in grandiloquent molasses. The line deliveries follow suit with simple sentences feeling as long as paragraphs. The movie improves as it goes, though, ending with a gut punch. I'm not sure why I found it offputting, exactly, despite easily identifiable strengths, but I'm going to chalk it up to its over confidence in its own greatness and the conception and execution of the catalystic figure Steve Carell's John DuPont. It's a very prosthetics and mimicry-based performance of a very difficult role -- to say these words and bring nuance rather than "i'm a dangerous pathetic nutjob!" I can't imagine -- and it's hard to feel the inexorable gravitational pull of any of the great tragedies (which I think this wants to be) when everything is so telegraphed as to its danger and when that gravitational pull towards tragedy is so slow, that any able bodied athlete out to be able to outrun it.

Best in Show: Easily Channing Tatum, who holds his jaw and body so distinctively that you feel, at all times, the monotonous life of this character: the training, the muscle soreness, the lack of any stimulation outside of the physical. He's heartbreatking, really, unable to articulate what meager thoughts are in his easily manipulated mind and body. His body is thick but his skin is thin with easily bruised feelings. Tatum totally understands the character, a manchild who just can't wrestle himself out from under any father figure's shadow.

Honorable Mention: Mark Ruffalo, also excellent throughout, is particularly sensational in one of the movies rare scenes that plays as much for uncomfortable comedy as it does for dramatic arc. He's asked to be a talking head on a documentary and finds his lines thoroughly distasteful. B (but Channing & Mark are total "A"s)

Oscar chances: A threat in all categories but particularly Supporting Actor and maybe Director 

SONG OF THE SEA

This Irish animated film, from the team that brought you The Secret of Kells, is so visually impressive that my eyes were twice their normal size trying to take it all in. I'd need a second pass to focus on the story which might be presented a touch too juvenile, like it's an animated film for very young children when its beauty and imagination are such that it really should be thinking bigger and aim for all ages. It's the tale of a little boy who loses his mother in the birth of his sister, who he then blames for everything for years. Some time later he discovers she's a magical being which means the fairy tales his mother told him in the film's prologue were true. In this world which is our world but filtered through animation that sees everything in glorious watercolor style backdrops, two dimensional lines, bright circles, and dazzling color patterns (my god its beautiful), all the magical beings are slowly being turned to stone. But why and how can he save his sister from the same fate?

Other than the fairies, who I didn't really enjoy, the character designs are compelling, especially for the central family and any animals in the film. The two best characters are the family's giant sheepdog, all bangs and tongue and loyalty and a memorable villain in "The Owl Witch" whose motives and arc are unusually strong and fascinating for this sort of movie. B+

Oscar Chances: it's so unlike any American CG animated film that it will really stand out in the crowd. I'd call it a certain contender for the  Best Animated Feature Oscar - GKids will qualify it this year - but the category sure is getting competitive so who knows.

Also at TIFFA Little ChaosWildThe Gate, Cub, The Farewell Party, BehaviorThe Theory of Everything, Imitation Game1001 Grams, Labyrinth of Lies, Sand DollarsThe Last Five YearsWild Tales, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceForce Majeure, Life in a Fishbowl, Out of NatureThe Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessCharlie's Country, and Mommy

Saturday
Sep062014

TIFF: Hayao Miyazaki's Swan Song

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Day 1

Are documentaries about filmmakers that are at least in part documentaries about the making of particular films, just giant infomercials? Can they ever not be even when they're good? The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Studio Ghibli in Japan made me desperate to see Miyazaki's final picture The Wind Rises. And I've already seen it

Kingdom purports to be about Studio Ghibli but is actually much closer to a profile of Hayao Miyazaki and his regimented and consistent working methods: he works from 11 AM to 9 PM exactly Mondays through Saturdayshe storyboards all of his movies in chronological order while they're in production (no actual screenplays) so no one, including him, knows how they'll develop and end; his daily routine includes a walk in which he waves to the children of the animators in the in-house nursery and a trip to the roof near sunset with his animators in tow; and so on. This routine has remained the same for decades as has, one could argue, the quality of his work.

Several darker implications or offhand remarks that Miyazaki is a pessimistic unhappy soul, that Studio Ghibli is on its last legs, or that Miyazaki is incredibly demanding and tough on his animators, particularly the best ones, are never fully explored by the smitten filmmakers but they do serve to contour the portrait a bit and prevent a hagiography. We don't hear much about other filmmakers and projects beyond two interesting business meetings about things like Spirited Away merchandise and what to do with Miyazaki's son who is also a filmmaker albeit a reluctant one. The most lively thread is arguably the ocassionally bitchy and exasperated references to Miyazaki's mentor, former partner, and creative rival Isao Takahata and his interminably slow production of The Tale of Princess Kaguya (which was meant to premiere alongside The Wind Rises but has only recently been completed and is also playing here at TIFF!).

Despite its limitations this documentary is never dull and is often extremely charming. Particularly wonderful are the many shots of a black and white short tailed cat that wanders freely around Studio Ghibli demanding doors be open for it. This cat, who almost seems like an animated character, strangely never ventures into Miyazaki's workspace as if blocked, staring, by some invisible wall. Still, Miya-san likes him. They share a brief funny moment at a picnic table outside late in the film, the cat sleeping, the filmmaker looking on with envy; Miyazaki has since retired. But this documentary practically insists (or pleads?) that the great filmmaker's new nap time can't possibly stick. B

Friday
Sep052014

Finding Nemo('s back to school excitement)

Hello all, Manuel here finding ways of getting pumped for my 25th year as a student this fall (please don’t do the math); and what better way to do so than to see it through the clown-fish colored eyes of Nemo, whose excitement for his first day of school cannot be matched?

One of the joys of Andrew Stanton’s gorgeous 2003 Academy Award winning Finding Nemo is the way it builds a productive tension between the wide-eyed wonder of Nemo and Dory, and the dry cynicism of Marlin and Gill. It’s no surprise the gleeful abandon of Crush (voiced by Stanton himself!) when dealing with his own adventurous son is what propels Marlin’s attitude change that finally leads him to P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. But before all of that, Stanton establishes Nemo’s excitement and curiosity in that first scene when we meet him as he gets ready for school.

 

I mean, look at him! He’s jumping! He’s waking his dad! He forgets to brush! He literally cannot wait to go to school.

To be fair, his school (field trip gone awry notwithstanding) sounds pretty awesome. I mean, he’ll meet schoolmates from all swims of life (what diversity!) and has what seems like the coolest teacher under the sea (“Oh, knowledge exploring is oh so lyrical, when you think thoughts that are empirical”; might not we all enjoy Bio a bit more if it were indeed this lyrical?). 

So as some of us head back into campus, let's try to harness a bit of the restless eagerness that endeared us to Stanton’s Nemo back in 2003, and use that plunge into a great, if busy, semester ahead. Are you as excited as Nemo to kick-start a new school year? What are you most excited about as you leave your amnemonemomnes (“don’t hurt yourself!”) for school this Fall? 

Saturday
Aug302014

Review: Robin Wright at "The Congress"

Amir is here with your second review of the weekend...

The Congress, Ari Folman’s follow-up to his brilliant debut feature, the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, starts rather normally. The opening shot is a staggeringly beautiful close-up of a tearful Robin Wright (playing an imaginary version of herself) as her agent Al’s (Harvey Keitel) voiceover informs us that her career is in tatters. Robin has hit the film industry’s glass ceiling age of 45 and with an already troubled reputation as a difficult actress to work with, her options are quickly dwindling. Al is trying to convince her to sell her digital image rights to the Miramount studio headed by Jeff (a remarkably greasy Danny Houston). This would mean that the studio will use her scanned image to create characters in future films in exchange for a fat paycheque and her right to ever act again.

Everything about this opening setup is promising, signifying a film that is aware of the fears and tensions within the entertainment industry. The Congress is ripe with smart ideas and astute observations about the challenges that technology presents to the men and women active in cinema. [more...]

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