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 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 (189)

Thursday
Jul032014

Tim's Toons: Celebrating Independence Day with Disney

Tim here. It’s Independence Day weekend here in the States, which means that most of you undoubtedly have something better to do than read about old cartoons. But if I promise to keep things short, hopefully you’ll indulge me in chatting up an odd little animated short perfectly timed to the holiday.

I have in mind Ben and Me, one of the oddest one-offs in the history of Walt Disney Productions. Released in November, 1953, it was the studio’s first two-reel animated short, and one of the initial releases under Disney’s own Buena Vista Distribution label, part of a package deal with the nature documentary The Living Desert. But more to the point, for our present purposes, it’s about how a mouse helps Benjamin Franklin write the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. We can wait a minute if you want to process all the ways in which that’s a perversion of history.

Okay, sure, there’s more to it than that.

Based on a 1939 children’s book by Robert Lawson, Ben and Me follows the life of Amos, a mouse voiced by Disney mainstay Sterling Holloway, who set off from his impoverished home in wall of a Philadelphia church in 1745 to make his fortune, ending up in the home of the absent-minded inventor and writer Ben Franklin (Charles Ruggles). Over the course of one night, the two are able to invent bifocals, indoor heating stoves, and the American news media.

Ben’s penchant for playing tricks on the mouse, sending him up on kites during thunderstorms and such, puts a wedge between them. Eventually, in 1776, they finally mend fences just about the time that Ben’s young colleague Thomas Jefferson (Hans Conreid) is having an impossible time finding the right opening for his otherwise-complete Declaration. More through accident than anything else, Amos ends up providing the legendary “When in the Course of human events…” The perversity having not let up, I will let you take another minute to process (it’s the 31-year-old mouse that bothers me the most).

Daft fantasy nonsense, for sure, but Ben and Me is actually pretty charming. Holloway and Ruggles are delightful in their roles, playing a kind of gentle riff on the traditional odd couple dynamic (Conreid, who voiced Captain Hook in the same year’s Peter Pan, is unfortunately distracting for that reason, but he’s not in it very much). It wasn’t an A-list project, and it lacks anything resembling the visual lushness of Disney’s contemporaneous features, like Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella – the latter of which obviously inspired Ben’s design; he looks exactly like the talking mice helpers from that film, though thankfully without their annoying pidgin English – but the simple style based on 18th Century painting brings the setting to life in a very specific, effective way. It’s not a colorful film, as such, but it has a clarity and warmth that fit the “historical bedtime story” mood.

Given Disney’s corporate proclivity for all-American nostalgia, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the story ends up being so disinterested in any kind of soaring patriotism or overwrought long-view about Great Moments in History. It’s actually quite an ordinary platonic romantic comedy between a mouse and a man. Most of its energies are dedicated to building solid but hardly revolutionary cartoon sight gags out of 18th Century material (a lengthy printing press scene is by far the most ambitious part of the movie), but that ends up being enough.

At 21 minutes, it’s short enough that having genial humor built on a playfully impossible history lesson hasn’t run out of steam, while long enough to build character relationships with a depth that isn’t possible in a 7-minute animated short that only has enough time to plow through its gags. It’s not one of the timeless masterpieces of Disney animation, or anything equally silly, but it’s one of their best ‘50s shorts and a fun 4th of July pastiche that’s not really like anything else.

Thursday
Jun262014

Tim's Toons: Remembering the Best of All Transformers Movies

Tim here. We are come to the release weekend of a new Transformers movie - this one has Mark Wahlberg replacing Shia LaBeouf and robot dinosaurs replacing the idiotically absurd lack of robot dinosaurs. And with solemn redundancy almost as predictable as the content of the movies themselves, the same critical conversations that happen every time a Transformers opens are happening once more. There's the "if you like these movies, you are objectively wrong" essay; the litany of reviews all bemoaning the length, noise, and visual incoherence of Michael Bay's latest bombardment of ugly CGI and sexism; the handful of weakly noble defenses that it's all actually fun, and don't we like having fun? And I largely agree with at least two of these, and always enjoy when they put in their appearance.

Then there are always the pieces about how the Bay movies are cynical, loud junk that entirely miss the goofy fun of the crudely-animated Japanese cartoon from 1986 that first brought the Transformers to the big screen. And since I wasn't doing this when the last movie opened, it's my pleasure to write about that one this time around.

For Transformers: The Movie (or, formally speaking, The Transformers: The Movie, but that’s a lot of definite articles in just four words) is actually pretty good, considering how crappy it is. [More...] 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun192014

Tim's Toons: Thoughts on animation's new reboot fever

Tim here. It’s been a weird week for fans of old animation. Nathaniel already said his piece (which is indistinguishable from mine) on the news that Warner is re-rebooting Scooby-Doo a mere 12 years after the first grisly first live-action/animated reboot of the ‘70s cartoon (the recent death of Casey Kasem, mere days before the announcement, now looms as some sort of grim karmic metaphor). And in the last couple of days, we’ve been hit with the first promotional artwork for an in-development Popeye feature at Sony Animation, and the news that DreamWorks has purchased the rights to Felix the Cat from the family of the 95-year-old slapstick animal’s creator.

More...

 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun042014

How To Link Your Flagon

I'm going to need a stiff drink tonight. (Should I blame the unpleasant Zorba the Greek?). Why is this week so hard? It's my birthday week

In Contention loves How To Train Your Dragon 2 and ranks all of Dreamworks Animation. God there's some dross in there but Prince of Egypt is way way too low
Variety on Jonah Hill's blooming career and recent homophobic slur 
AV Club looks back at Montgomery Clift in Red River (1948). My favorite Western
Gawker The Chicago Sun Times apologizes for a recent bit of transphobic nonsense regarding Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) that they MUST have known was unwise. People will publish anything to get clicks these days.

Playbill Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man on stage this fall
Scene Magazine interviews Jonathan Groff on his Looking / Frozen gay ascendance (great photos)
Metro a woman wants a divorce from her husband because he didn't like Frozen
MNPP ooh, a Tilda Swinton image (very conservative look for her) from Trainwreck

The Bizness
Variety interviews the Academy Chairman of The Emmys on changes and controversies including 10 episodes vs. 22 and half hour versus hour shows
Empire Inception reunion: Tom Hardy in talks to join Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (previously discussed)
Coming Soon Roland Emmerich's Stonewall finalizes its cast adding Jonathan Rhys Meyers and more
CHUD catches you up on who is directing what for Marvel including horror director Scott Derrickson taking on Dr. Strange
Awards Daily Jupiter Ascending pushed to February 2015

Today's Watch
"Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness"

This animated short, part of PBS's "Blank on Blank" series uses an interview conducted with the late actor from 2012. 

Tuesday
Jun032014

Ant-Man Shrinks, and Other Lukewarm Stories

I don't always get around to stories when they hit. Join me in the catch-up comments...

Fan made poster (if I knew who made it I would credit them, but so many blogs are bad about giving creditAnt-Man Shrinks
By now you've heard and digested or, more likely given this crowd (you didn't even comment on that juicy misogynistic She-Hulk debacle!), ignored the drama surrounding Disney/Marvel's Ant-Man movie. The long and short of it: Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead / Scott Pilgrim fame who is unarguably adept and inventive about action-comedy (a unique skill given how unfunny action 'comedies' usually are), abruptly left over creative differences. Now from the roster of potential replacements (none of them even ⅕ as interesting as Wright), one has already fallen away. Leaving us sad for Paul Rudd (probably locked into the role for a decade) and Joss Whedon's Avengers: The Age of Ultron (doesn't Joss need Ant-Man to have his story work since Ant-Man created Ultron?) 

The probable answer as to why is that Disney/Marvel, now that they've won all the moneys in the world and are surely empowered by the knowledge that audiences are lemming-like about these things and will turn out in droves for even dud superhero movies  (Thor: The Dark World, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Iron Man 2), can afford to dump directors with artistic vision and focus on generic bosses who will just keep the assembly line running with less "ideas" / back-talking. Capitalism eventually ruins everything. Marvel sadly didn't learn the inspiring lesson they could have from hiring Joss Whedon. He made The Avengers the success it was, basically rescuing The Black Widow entirely, understanding how tiresome Iron Man had become and how to limit the dose, finding a way to make Thor and Hulk work in a team format even when they've never worked on their own. You need an artist to accomplish these kinds of juggling miracles and feats of resuscitation, not hired hands. 

The silver lining? This Ant-Man debacle did inspire the parody Michael Haneke twitter account to chime in...

 

 

 

Who Stopped Roger Rabbit 2?
It's a story that never quite dies. It is... undead. The Dissolve performs the oft performed reanimation of that story corpse wondering why the sequel never happened and if it might happen now since the original people all still want it to. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) is the Movie of the Week over there which is why they're asking.

In a Hollywood culture that prizes franchises and recognizable characters above all else it is a still a SHOCK in all caps that this sequel never came to be. In many ways this movie is the movie that proved to Hollywood that people would go nuts for a mix of new envelope pushing visual effects mixed with old school nostalgia. Which you could argue led to Toy Story which you could argue led to everything. I am ultra fond of that movie (I'd have easily nominated it for Best Picture that year) but I also have a not-so secret amount of affection for the fact that it never produced a sequel.

Why would I not want a sequel to something I love that much? Well, sequels are in so many ways our collective junk food and in an era where movies produce not only sequels but reboots and straight-to-dvd spinoffs and other forms of money-grubbing self-cannibalizing, Roger Rabbit feels comparatively monumental in its mystic standalone purity.

Finally...

Big Hero 6 Teaser
I meant to share this last week and completely forgot. I don't have much to say about it other than that it is adorable despite doing nothing other than ripping off The Incredibles (2004) for its "too fat for this suit" slapstick teaser but people have very short memories about these things so everyone can LOL anew