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Entries in Ben Kingsley (9)

Saturday
Jan032015

Tim's Toons: The Best Voice Acting in 2014

Tim here. Year-end listmaking mania tends to skip right by animation, with only a glance in the direction of a solitary film that doesn’t tend to reveal much imagination on the part of the listmakers (probably, if you are a critic in 2014, your favorite animated feature was The Lego Movie, unless it was The Lego Movie. But I hear some folks really liked The Lego Movie). The Annie Awards do what they can, but they’re weirdly over-politicized.

All of which is to say, it’s the perfect time, before 2015 has a chance to warm up, to throw a little more light on animated film in the year that was than just rubber-stamping a Best Animated Feature award and moving on. May I present to you this unranked list of

Six Great Vocal Performances from 2014

Alison Brie as “Princess Unikitty”, The Lego Movie
Yes, the exact same Lego Movie I just complained about showing up everywhere. It’s a chronological list, it had to come first. And of the many things that make this movie so delightful, Brie’s sugary embodiment of the flightiest fantasies of children’s playtime is the one that’s stuck the most for me, all through the year. Manic enthusiasm delivered at machine-gun, and outbursts of scorching anger in the same high-pitch register: it’s a straightforward comic turn, but a singularly enjoyable one.

Will Arnett as “Batman”, The Lego Movie
Okay, so I’m a hypocrite. Anyway, Arnett’s self-amused, gravelly take on the Dark Knight is as much a parody of Christian Bale’s growly Batman as anything else, which is a big part of the joke. But it’s also a pretty great performance of the iconic comic book character by itself. Mocking and sarcastic, of course (that is the primary mode of the film’s humor), but with enough puffed-up importance and overclocked drama that it’s absolutely easy to believe that this is a entitled rich guy putting on a show to fight crime.

Cate Blanchett as “Valka”, How to Train Your Dragon 2
Not every A-list award winner has what it takes to do voice acting, and history has witnessed more dreadful celebrity roles in animated features than wonderful, revelatory ones. But Blanchett brings nuance and depth by the bucketful, making a frustratingly under-written part one of the densest animated characters of the year. The social awkwardness that comes from years away from humans, and nervous romanticism while meeting her long-lost husband are all Blanchett’s contribution, not the script’s, and she carries it off while nailing a Scottish accent.

Signe Baumane as “Narrator”, Rocks in My Pockets
Stretching a definition: Baumane is also the film’s writer and director, and it’s not entirely clear that what she’s doing is “acting”. It’s more like sitting down to hear her tell us a story. But what a storyteller Baumane proves to be! Jabbing at punchlines with ebullient good humor, clucking at tragedies with mournfulness that doesn’t turn into outright misery, and pulling out a whole ensemble of affected voices to give life to her characters, Baumane’s treatement of her family history is even more involving and energetic because of her words than her images.

Ben Kingsley as “Archibald Snatcher”, The Boxtrolls
A gutter-born Cockney accent is enough to make Kingsley’s crisp voice almost totally unrecognizable, which is impressive enough to begin with. What elevates this beyond mere success as a bit of celebrity casting gone right is the pathos with which Kingsley invests the character: villains in children’s movies aren’t known for their ambiguous shading, but Snatcher, as performed by Kingsley, has just enough self-deluding desire to fit in with a world that doesn’t want him to come across as deserving our pity as much as our scorn. If I were going to rank these performances, there’s an excellent chance Kingsley would be my #1. (With a shout-out to Sean Patrick Doyle as well who did his singing, too.) 

Takeo Chii as “The bamboo cutter”, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
The late Chii’s final performance in a career stretching longer than 40 years is a nimble execution of a stock character rather than an attempt to seriously expand the limitations of that character. He’s a blustering, overbearing dad who bullies the world in attempt to get his daughter all the things she doesn’t actually want. But even through the language barrier, the sweetness of Chii’s performance, and the desperation as he tries to impress and bluff his way into social respectability, come through with touching sincerity and simplicity, the adjectives that best describe Princess Kaguya as a whole.

Who did I miss? What were your favorite vocal performances this year? For the record the Annies nominated these four for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature:  Cyndi Lauper as the voice of Nurse Cyndi - Henry & Me; Andy Garcia as the voice of Eduardo - Rio 2 ; Sir Ben Kingsley as the voice of Archibald Snatcher and Dee Bradley Baker as the voice of Fish in The Boxtrolls

 

Tuesday
Nov252014

Quick Impressions: "Madame Frou-Frou (Singing Voice)" in The Boxtrolls

New Series! In Quick Impressions we'll be looking at the working actor in key movie scenes. Consider it a celebration of SAG card-holders everywhere and free advice for casting directors for people who aren't famous ...in some cases "yet". So many showbiz dreams wander around on every film set and are embedded in each frame of your favorite movies. 

Today, we're talking to actor Sean Patrick Doyle who sings the title song in The Boxtrolls in that great scene when Madame Frou-Frou takes the stage. Sir Ben Kingsley is the voice of Archibald Snatcher / Madame Frou-Frou so Sean Patrick makes like a modern day Marni Nixon.

NATHANIEL: What is that process of "voice matching" and how did you get the part - it's so different from your other credits. 

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  A cockney villain posing as a female Czechoslovakian show hall performer? - different indeed!  Laika had auditioned many actors in LA but Heather Vergo at Atlas Talent put a call out to their commercial office in New York, seeking performers who could interpret the song but still voice match.  My commercial agent Michael had seen me perform a soprano aria in the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles.  He also knew that imitating famous singers is my party trick of choice.

I signed a few confidentiality documents, but was never told that the spoken recordings I was listening to were Sir Ben Kingsley. A week or so later, there was a bite at the line giving me feedback on my audition track and a slew of references to listen to before re-recording: Mae West, Edith Piaf, British Show Hall performers.  They also requested that I roughen up my sound a bit.  Dario Marianelli [The Oscar-winning composer] had done some digging online and turned up a video of me playing Fruma-Sarah in the 2008-09 National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof.  He was tickled that they had cast a male in the role for the first time, and advised “a little more of that wouldn’t hurt.”

Because I was doing a show here in New York, director Anthony Stacci and producer David Ichioka flew in from the West Coast. Co-director Graham Annable listened in from Portland and Dario from a studio in London.  It was collaboration across many time zones!

NATHANIEL: It payed off. The song/scene is amazing. Did you know what it would look like?

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  I was sent an animatic, which is a moving storyboard with rough sketches of the characters and their movement, along with the spoken voice performances in the Cheesebridge Fair scene.  When we recorded, the producers put up renderings of Snatcher and Frou Frou in the booth and also showed me footage of Ben recording his tracks in a lounge chair.  When seeing the movie, the real surprise was that they had turned it into a full production number, using live choreographed dancers to aid the animators.  They also had Mark Orton re-orchestrate the song with Portland band Loch Lomond, and bent some of the higher operatic notes (the ending note was originally a soprano A), so it sounded slightly different, too.  I think the finished product is very clever, and fits Ben’s colorful spoken performance.

NATHANIEL: Proposal: If the song is nominated for an Oscar, You and Ben Kingsley do the number in full drag. He stands at the microphone and you are behind him as a curtain opens up, the Kathy Selden to his Lina Lamont. 

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  It might take some convincing to get Sir Kingsley into a frock, but, hey, sign me up!  I know the Academy often favors a pop sound, but I’d be very happy to see Eric Idle’s cheeky lyrics and Weill-esque melody recognized on that level.

NATHANIEL: Speaking of frocks, First La Cage and now you're onstage in Kinky Boots (such a fun show!). So should we expect to see you next season on RuPaul's Drag Race

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  Haha!  Well, as much as I love watching those queens battle it out, the fulfillment I get from gender-bending roles comes solely from being able to play a character wildly different from myself. Recently I was playing nebbishy Eugene in Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse, and I just filmed an episode as a heroin addict in the final season of Nurse Jackie.  The further I step away from myself, the more fun the work becomes.  But as a lithe countertenor weighing in at a buck twenty, a few of my bigger jobs have involved elements of gender illusion.  It’s not in every actor’s skill set and I’ve used that to my advantage, but of course the goal is always to do really varied, interesting work!  Still, let me tell ya - it takes a real man to pump across a Broadway stage wearing a bikini and 7 1/2 inch heels.  Come to the Hirschfeld and I’ll show you! 

The Boxtrolls will be released digitally on Dec 23rd with the DVD/BluRay release on January 20th, 2015. You can follow Sean Patrick on twitter here. He is currently on stage as "Angel" in Kinky Boots (in the top hat and red coat, third from right by football star Michael Sam below). You can also listen to Sean Patrick's insane voice reel below if you're interested.

 

Previously: "Nervous Intern" in Gone Girl
Next Tuesday: American Horror Story: Freakshow

Tuesday
Oct212014

Top Ten: Best of The Boxtrolls

Because it was so much fun last week, another all top ten tuesday to celebrate our new season as the awards will soon come rushing at us...

People aren't talking about The Boxtrolls enough. It's a true mark against the world's parents that numerous animated mediocrities, The Peabodys, Nutjobs and Rios regularly and considerably outgross inventive Laika's awesome stop-motion films. While it's true that Laika's features have elements of the grotesque or macabre that are tougher sells to nonadventurous families, one only has to look at the perennial universal love for Nightmare Before Christmas to know that people are okay with that once they acclimate.

Which is very much my personal experience with The Boxtrolls. It's less immediately sympathetic than ParaNorman, less hook-laden than The Corpse Bride, less immediately fantastical than Coraline but once you get past the initial shock of the character designs (which has undoubtedly been an obstacle): blotched, deformed, dirty, jagged teeth and so on, the movie grows on you. It's another technical triumph in the service of a story that works on both juvenile and adult levels. Sure, it's not their best film but it's still a singular one in the current animated marketplace.

Since I never reviewed The Boxtrolls, consider this one of those in top ten form and a plea for those of you who haven't seen to correct that. To any awards voters reading who are just beginning to consider the Animated Feature Film category just know that it could be very rich with variety if you choose well this year.

THE BOXTROLL'S GREATEST HITS
after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May292013

Iron Podcast

Bet you thought we were done talking about Iron Man Three. Nope. The guys at Panel Culture, a comic book podcast so good it makes me want to read comics again, invited me to talk about Marvel's latest billion dollar grosser and I gladly obliged. Some of you will have even talked to Owen, the host, in the comments right here at TFE so you know he's good people. 

me, my iron man three(d) glasses and the iron man sketch i doodled on my iphone waiting for the movie to start

While the subject is mostly the Iron Man franchise we also stray into other Marvel flicks as well as X-Men and personal comic-book lore. (The first I ever remember holding in my hands --  and I held it as it were holy scrit - was that mutant mag) Even if you are done with Tony & Pepper and don't wanna hear me yammer about them, you should definitely give other episodes of Panel Culture a listen if you're at all into comic books.

Sunday
May052013

Review: Iron Man Three*

This review was originally posted in my column @ Towleroad

When last we saw Tony Stark he was eating shawarma in New York City with his fellow superheroes in the stinger of Marvel's The Avengers (reviewed). When we last saw Iron Man, minutes before that, he was plummeting from a cosmic wormhole to his near-death having just saved the world from an alien apocalypse. (S.H.I.E.L.D's workman's comp insurance must be pricey.) I mention Tony Stark and Iron Man separately because the franchise's new writer/director Shane Black, who previously worked with Robert Downey Jr on the underappreciated comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, seems more interested in Stark than Iron Man. This is a good sign, especially for a third picture. Time to flip this tin can around.

IRON MAN THREE takes great pains to make a distinction between the impenetrable suit and the man inside it. Tony Stark's first attempt to suit up is a comic misfire since he's engineered an Iron Man suit that comes right to him when he calls. He hasn't quite worked out the speed of his flying wardrobe -imagine a metal codpiece flying 60 mph right at your Andrew Christians. The second time we see Iron Man, if I'm remembering the sequence of events correctly, Tony Stark isn't in the suit at all. He's engaging in some prankster remote control business for girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, wonderful in this role but haters gonna hate). MORE AFTER THE JUMP

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Saturday
Mar162013

Can Oscar Sustain His Unlikeliest New Love Affair?

*Not all films discussed here exist outside my head.

Amir here, to obsess about the Oscars because, you know, March is never too early to start doing that around these parts.  Recently, I’ve started to wonder whether Oscar might have started an unlikely love affair with Iran.

Stop laughing and allow me to explain. Oscar took a long while to take notice of Iranian cinema or any of the Iranians who were working in Hollywood. To be fair to the shiny gold man, he wasn’t really spoiled with choices, but still took his time before deciding that Darius Khondji was a worthy cinematographer (Evita, 1996) and Habib Zargarpour’s did fine fx work (Twister, also 1996). Oscar has taken short trips to Iran a few times since then and last year, after watching A Separation, finally decided to stay awhile... in Asghar Farhadi’s house.

No one expected Oscar to go back so soon, especially with no major Iranian films present on the festival circuit, but AMPAS had other ideas. Oscar went back and took one of Hollywood’s golden boys along with him. Famously, they had such a hard time getting out of Iran they had to fake Canadian passports. Britain aside, Oscar doesn’t really embrace any foreign countries two years back to back, let alone a Middle Eastern one. What is happening?

Could this once politically forbidden passion turn into a stable relationship? I turned to the festival circuit, but to no avail. So I've decided to take the intiative and suggest a few projects that might turn the trick again with Oscar. more...

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