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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 (201)

Thursday
May222014

Tim's Toons: Oz well that ends well

Tim here. By now, you've undoubtedly all heard the biggest news of the summer movie season so far: there’s a conspiracy by Big Hollywood to bury the little cartoon indie that could, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return.

“Legends of which, now?” I can already hear some of you asking.

Exactly the point!  As producer-fundraiser Greg Centineo so sagely put it:

We’re nobodies in this industry. And we stepped into a deep, deep ocean with some very, very big sharks. Some of those mainstream critics have not just trashed the movie, but literally tried to crush it… You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out something is wrong there.”

Damn straight!

It's a well-established fact that critics and audiences tend to agree about 100% of everything, and the movies with the best reviews always make the most money. Surely only a shadowy cabal of self-sabotaging distributors and bought-and-paid for critics could be responsible for the film’s box office failure, and I am disgusted that you might even think it’'s because a handful of con artists fleeced a whole bunch of rich idiots out of their investments on a movie whose reported $70 million budget is clearly nowhere to be seen onscreen, obvious even from the trailer.

More...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May172014

Cannes Tidbits: Deals, Toons, and Oscar Futures

I haven't organized my thoughts. I'm warning you up front. I am just collecting them like dead leaves and throwing them at you in chunks with links to related articles. I'm doing my meager part to engage with Cannes from my Harlem apartment across the ocean...

COMPETITION & UN CERTAIN REGARD
After that much maligned Monaco kick-off, not uncommon with festival openers, Cannes competition films have been collecting more fans. Well, not Atom Egoyan's Captive (which was booed) but the others. And frankly no film festival ever wins consensus "that was awesome" reviews anyway. It's part of the ritual this 'it's a terrible year for the fest!' hand-wringing.

Diana chimed in earlier today on the African film Timbuktu and Mike Leigh's artist biopic Mr. Turner which we can safely suspect will win plentiful Oscar talk. There's a ceiling for Leigh films with Oscar but the Academy adores him nonetheless. Since his mainstream breakthrough Secrets and Lies (5 nominations / 0 wins) all but 2 of his pictures have won at least a screenplay nomination with Topsy Turvy and Vera Drake (period pieces like Mr Turner) proving most popular. To date Topsy Turvy is the only Mike Leigh picture to win any Oscar statues and Mike Leigh himself, though a 7 time nominee, is still Oscar-less. That's probably good news for Mr. Turner on both the 'overdue' front and the 'it takes a period piece and a genre they love' (in this case the biopic) truth about awards bodies. If you're interested in Mike Leigh's process (and many are since it's so unusual) there's an article in the LA Times where he explains why they still do the same character creation groundwork for months before shooting even though the actors are playing real people rather than fictional ones. I think Mr Turner is also inspiring some interesting reviews (including this one from David Poland who compares it to the Grand Budapest Hotel of all things) 

More Oscar hopefuls, deals, and animated buzz after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May172014

Controversy, My Preciousssss 

I've long had a deep respect for the work Andy Serkis has done in elevating the acting in visual effects. Serkis is, in many ways, the figure head of the fusion form or acting and animation known as performance capture, Hes already given us King Kong, Gollum, and Caesar. But in interviews he's beendownplaying the efforts of animation teams in bringing these highly memorable characters to life.  It's really pissing animators off. That's kind of a shame since film is such a collaborative medium. It's also a shame that he himself doesn't get as much credit as he should with his acting peers for how good his work is in these movies. So there's enough lack of credit to go around... deficent credit for everyone. Um... hoorah?

Here's an interview he did in March with i09 about his work on the forthcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and two responses, one angry from Cartoon Brew and one measured but annoyed from the Lord of the Rings animation director Randal William Cook. Cook makes an interesting comparison with Marni Nixon's voice work on 1960s musicals in his rebuttal...

Let me state that Andy really should be considered the principal author of Gollum’s performance, but there’s a hell of a difference between principal author and sole author. The Animators who helped shape Gollum’s performance are actors of a very special type, working at a high level of achievement. They’re not like Marni Nixon singing for Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY, doing only the things that Andy couldn’t do: they were doing the same things Andy did, in concert with him...

Next up for Serkis is his debut in the director's chair, helming Warner Bros live action version of The Jungle Book in which all the animals will be performance captured. This is not, to be clear, the same Jungle Book movie that has been in the news recently with celebrity castings (the one that Lupita Nyong'o signed on for recently) which is an animated film. But with these types of feelings brewing among animators directing his first feature employing tons of them might be a tougher task than first features already always are.

Friday
May162014

Tim's Toons: Cannes competitor Shrek 2, ten years later

Tim here. Cannes is in the air, and as we do, I’ve been thinking about festivals past, when I landed on the fact that this very day is the tenth anniversary of the premier of Shrek 2 on the Croissette. And just as I started writing up a whole thing about big English-language crowdpleasers and their history of opening up the festival, talking about the toxic reception that Grace of Monaco has received in that slot (as so many of them do), when I landed on the further fact that Shrek 2 wasn’t that year’s opening night film (Almodóvar’s Bad Education was). No sir, Shrek 2 was an official selection in that year’s main competition. Which feels genuinely insane – no other American animated film, to my knowledge, has ever competed at Cannes, so how would something as unapologetically commercial as Shrek 2 get the nod? And yet it did, and somehow managed to receive not a single award from Quentin Tarantino’s jury.

Anyway, the date serves more generally as an ideal moment to look back from across the intervening decade at what remains the highest-grossing animated feature in U.S. box office history – neither the Zeitgeist explosion of Frozen (with nine years of inflation to help it) nor multiple releases of The Lion King were even been able to seriously threaten its crown – and one whose massive success caused it to influence so much of mainstream animation over the intervening years.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
May112014

Podcast: Mother's Day Special

For this very special and ultimately quite spontaneous edition of the podcast, Nathaniel calls a few of his team members to grill them about their moms & the movies. Sadly the entire team was not available -- some of them were being good kids en route to visiting their mothers so they have a good excuse -- but you get to hear from a few of us and how our moms factor into our cinephila. Expect name-droppings of Margo Martindale, Susan Sarandon, I Remember Mama, The Lord of the Rings, A Separation and much more... 

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes.

00:01 Intro
01:00 Amir
09:00 Abstew
14:00 Anne Marie
20:30 Tim Brayton
27:00 Funny Girl Interlude & Surprise Guest
32:00 The Guest of Honor, Nathaniel's Mom!
40:00 Exit Music "Baby Mine" with Bette Midler 

Nathaniel's mom & dad in 1960I can't interview each and every one of you out there listening about how your moms shaped your moviegoing but if you have any key stories, please share them in the comments. I actually teared up making this one. Keep the love a-going. And call your mama or take her to a movie today!

Further Reading To Enhance This Podcast
Anne Marie's "A Year With Kate"
Tim's Home Schooling Essay on "Mean Girls"
Amir's "Hello Cinema"
How Many Barbra Streisand's Have You Seen?
Loretta Young, Nathaniel's Mom's Favorite

 

Mothers Day with TFE

Thursday
May082014

Tim's Toons: The Best Moms Ever Drawn

Tim here. Mother’s Day weekend is just around the corner, and not just any Mother’s Day weekend: this year marks the 100th anniversary of the proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson establishing the second Sunday in May as a national day of celebration.

In the honor of the century of mothers that have come and gone since then, and since this is the Film Experience’s dedicated animation corner, I though it might be fun to pay tribute to some of our favorite cartoon mothers. Of course, with motherhood being one of the most death-prone professions in the world of animation (all those Disney princess with just a father, if they’re not orphaned outright… and let us never forget the national childhood trauma that is Bambi), there are fewer such women than we might like. These are three of the best.

Helen Parr (voice: Holly Hunter)
The Incredibles

To me, this is the easiest and most obvious answer there could ever be to the question, “who’s the best mom in the history of animated movies?” And not just because of Hunter’s fantastic performance, though I hope I don’t need to mention that it helps. We’re all Hunter fans here, right? Good.

The genius of the character lies in part in the playful metaphor behind her: taking care of her kids, household and husband requires Helen to stretch herself as thin as can be, so what of course would have to be her superpower, but infinite elasticity. But it also lies in how fully Hunter and writer-director Brad Bird commit to making the character more than just a collection of Eisenhower-era feminine tropes. Helen is a wonderfully complicated character, in fact, and complicated women are common in neither American animation nor superhero movies. The subtle interplay of emotions that she expresses over the course of the movie, and the vivid intelligence, wit, and self-reliance that she acts with at all times, makes her a fully-feeling person and not just a reactive wife and mother. And it’s precisely because we get so much more of her inner life that her considerable strength in those roles is so clear and involving.

 

Chicha (voice: Wendie Malick)
The Emperor’s New Groove

This one can, I think, be fairly described as my against-convention pick. From the Disney movie that everybody underrated until it developed a cult that is sending it merrily on the way to being overrated, Chicha isn’t one of the film’s biggest characters by any stretch (by my count, she comes in at fifth, right ahead of “guy who gets thrown out the window in the opening sequence”), but she makes a hell of an impression in just a couple of scenes as the level-headed focus of reason in a film where just about everything is operating at a high-level pitch of cartoon anarchy. It’s the “wife in a CBS sitcom” role, basically, but Malick’s warmly calming performance and the general excellence of the character’s interactions with her manic kids make her one of the highlights, for me, of a film full of highlights: the mom everybody wants and needs, who lets you goof off and be silly right up until it’s time to knock if off, a gentle totalitarian with a good sense of humor.

 

Mrs. Jumbo (voice: Verna Felton)
Dumbo

The horrifying moment when Bambi’s mother gets shot is all well and good. But for my money, the single most devastating moment of parent/child agony in the whole of the Disney canon is when the little mute elephant with giant ears goes to the cage where his mother has been locked up as a rampaging beast, and curls up on her trunk, the only part of her body she’s able to reach out to him. Something about the tenderness and cruelty intermingling in that moment is just overwhelming – and the plaintive lullaby "Baby Mine" playing over the scene doesn’t hurt matters one iota.

Here and everywhere else, the relationship between Dumbo and his mother is an absolute triumph of animation, making exemplary use of the Disney animator’s understanding of how to communicate the sensitive and emotion of physical touch through their drawings.

With neither character speaking much at all (Mrs. Jumbo has a single line, naming her child), it falls entirely to the images to create the emotional truth of their relationship, and this is done with amazing skill throughout: from the charming bath scene to the lacerating "Baby Mine," Dumbo is a film that consistently depicts gentle, loving caresses between mother and infant with a sweetness and sensitivity I can think of nowhere else in film. Not just in animation, but in live-action too.

I’ll turn it over to you now. Who are your favorite animated moms? Share with us in comments!

 

Friday
May022014

First Round Oscar Predix: Animated Feature

The first chart is up and we're starting with the toons since they're the easiest to tackle given a limited slate of contenders. Not that "easy" is a word one should use when surveying the current state of animation which is, shall we say, robust. Give or take live action superheroes, it's the single most popular film genre in the US marketplace. We'd prefer to call animation a "medium" which is more accurate given that there's no reason why there couldn't be animated dramas, noirs, westerns, horror flicks, thrillers, etcetera but in the US at least animation is not a medium but a genre (the computer generated family action comedy... with or without musical numbers).

Is Laika Animation still too unique for Oscar or are they 'thisclose' to finally winning? Could The Boxtrolls be their breakthrough?

In terms of the Oscar race ahead, I've already heard whisperings (including my own preemie voice) that this will be a slim or "weak" year but let's not get ahead of ourselves. That's what everyone was saying last year and everyone turned out to be wrong. Last year's shortlist was hardly an embarassment; Frozen, Ernest & Celestine, and The Wind Rises would be a fairly worthy trio of nominees in any year and The Croods wasn't half bad. (I never saw Despicable Me 2 but its popularity with the public was indisputable)

While I still think there's very little cause for this particular category to exist given the expanded Best Picture field, the animated genre produces its fair share of strong movies annually with most of the major studios upping their games steadily after nearly 20 years of watching Pixar horde all the loot & respect. The problem in current perception may well be Pixar itself. They've finally proven themselves fallible critically and awards-wise (they missed even a nomination in 2 of the last 3 Oscar battles) and 2015 is the first year in a decade without a new Pixar film in release. That was bound to cast weird shadows on "The State of Animation." But the sky isn't falling. If you love animation there are still a lot of films to look forward to.

first look at a fictional San Francisco in "Big Hero 6"

 

The Chart!
Which of these films are you most looking forward to and what you think will become of animation in the next few years? Do you think the race will be hotly contested this year or we'll have another slam dunk like Frozen?

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