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Entries in Fantastic Mr Fox (4)

Tuesday
Apr262016

Willem Dafoe: a man for all seasons

For our impromptu Actors Month, members of Team Experience were free to choose any actor they wanted to discuss. Here's Daniel Crooke on Willem Dafoe.

Willem Dafoe is a Greek god, in the most ceramic of ways. Rather than present himself as a blank canvas, Dafoe’s vessel is a malleable lump of clay that he shapes on the kiln as the character sees fit. His fire-burnt expressions, calcified in psychic scars, detail their histories in an unrelenting mask of past, present, and future. The man is drama. But his tragic side so often overtakes the comic in the cultural consciousness that his nimble lightness often sneaks under the radar. As his performances play out in the frame, he tactfully tears at their rigid façades to reveal the far more complicated, often contradictory stories within; He’s always got a secret.

The severity for which his performances are known is only half the story. Just as his luminescent Sgt. Elias in Oliver Stone’s Platoon offsets the pitch-blackness of Tom Berenger’s sadistic Sgt, Barnes, Dafoe has an uncanny ability to hide his radiant purity behind a stalwartly strict face. For God’s sake, he defined the model of a conflicted Christ in Scorsese’s Last Temptation; doing the impossible, he reconfigured the Messiah’s pop cultural characterization as a man with a pulse, who sinned and lived off the cross. He is a duplicitous study, ready to convince you that he’s a treacherous monster until he reveals on his deathbed – over a ceremonial sip of Bean’s delicious cider – that he was a misunderstood sideliner all along.

More Willem worship after the jump...

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Friday
Apr082016

The Big Not-So-Friendly Author

The full trailer for The BFG has dropped, and we’ve already looked at the teaser here which left us tingling with magic anticipation. Now that we’ve got more footage, including that of the big man himself we can feel as cosy and content Sophie under a big blanket reading a book that we’re in good hands. Spielberg was infamously interested in directing the first Harry Potter film, and perhaps this is the next best thing for him which has that splash of family friendly fantasy mixed with classic E.T. kids-on-an-adventure feel. That moment when the BFG is hiding in the shadows, obscuring the street light with his hand already feels classic.

It’s encouraging to see that Spielberg is taking the content seriously, and hasn’t resorted to making The BFG as a character a comedy act, which would have been the easy route for a kid’s film. Rylance seems to bring the soulfulness that makes the source material so rich. What is yet to be seen is whether Spielberg embraces the sneaky and dark side of notoriously prickly Roald Dahl’s writing which so many filmmakers have struggled with in the past. Dahls balance of the sinister and the joyously fantastic is what makes his legacy so beloved. Spielberg has a propensity for the earnest and sickly sweet side of cinema, so this may be a shiner version of the tale. Other filmmakers have had ranging success in capturing his style.

Previous Roald Dahl on screen after the jump…

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Friday
Jul312015

Tim's Toons: Auteurs and animation

Tim here. This week brought us the roll-out of the Venice Film Festival lineup, including one animated film, and it's a biggie. Charlie Kaufman's sophomore directorial work and first project of any kind since 2008, Anomalisa, is also his first foray into animation: it's a stop-motion feature for adults, on the same topics of loneliness and frustration that Kaufman has mined for his whole career. In celebration of the Venice announcement, the studio released the first still image from the movie, from which it is possible to draw no conclusions whatsoever.

Kaufman is the latest in a recent trend of established filmmakers dipping their toes into the world of animation. So in his honor, I'd like to share this capsule history of some of his predecessors, who made the jump into a new medium to see what they could do outside of the confines of live-action.

Richard Linklater: Waking Life (2001) & A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Using a brand new form of computer-aided rotoscoping to paint over videotaped footage with bright, unreal colors and subdued realism alike, Waking Life took Linklater's established gift for capturing moments in the lives of a huge ensemble, and amped it up. Instead of the laid-back Austin of Slacker, the setting here is the human subconscious, where the director's characteristic musings on all the little moments that happen in the gaps between plot are transformed into surreal explosions of psychologically loaded imagery. It's a great marriage of form and content, which is less true of A Scanner Darkly, a Philip K. Dick adaptation that's much more consistent and sober in its style, save for a few reality-bending moments. Still, kudos to Linklater for recognizing that a thin veneer of digitally heightened reality would create a more receptive mood for the story's druggy weirdness.

Robert Zemeckis: The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) & A Christmas Carol (2009)

Now that Zemeckis's dream of a perpetual machine of motion-capture films has fizzled out and died- nope, I still can't bring myself to say anything nice about his trilogy of dead-eyed humanoids pantomiming great works of literature, or paying obeisance to their terrifying zombie Santa-god. But we must concede that the films fall squarely in line with Zemeckis's career-wide interest in using the newest tools available (in addition to mo-cap, The Polar Express was the first film in the present 3D era) to find fresh ways into classical storytelling. That technology wasn't up to his ambitions is lamentable, but we can at least defend the films' rich fantasy design and-

Oh God, no, that's still just completely hideous.

Wes Anderson: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

The clearest precursor to Kaufman's new film, Anderson's translation of his shadow-box aesthetic into shaggy, '70s-style stop motion animation netted him a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination and rejuvenated his career: his subsequent return to live action in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel won him better reviews and box-office than he'd had for years. Still, there's nothing quite like seeing his world-building turned towards literal dioramas in which every square centimeter can be designed precisely to order. It's fussy as it gets, but perfectly matched to the intricacy of the caper narrative, and the arch tone with which Roald Dahl's children's classic is brought to life.

Zack Snyder: The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
Copious, unnecessary slow-motion, a preposterous fetish for military grandeur, overblown and idiotic internal mythology, dialogue that strives for weightiness and lands in shallow pomposity. Look, just because somebody's an auteur, that doesn't mean they have to be good at it. But hey, the owls look nice.

Tuesday
Aug052014

Top Ten: "They Are Groot" - Best Cinematic Trees

"Groot" a walking fighting talking (well, sort of) tree is easily the best character within the #1 movie in the world right now. I didn't like Guardians of the Galaxy but I loved Groot. So here's a top ten devoted to his fellow upright leafy green characters. Trees have often played key roles in dramas, fairytales, and horror alike whether as fantastical homes, formidable characters or mysterious passageways to adventure.

So herewith...

TOP TEN: BEST TREES IN MOVIES 

Honorable Mention: That tree Mowgli was hypnotized in in The Jungle Book, spooky 'Tree of the Dead' in Sleepy Hollow, the Christmas tree Gremlins wield like a weapon, the Swiss Family Robinson's main address, any tree that nimbly supports the weight of Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons on its delicate green branches, any tree that gives us opportunities to ogle various Tarzans or George of the Jungles from, uh, below (shush. You're no innocent of ogling!), or virtually any colorful tree in Disney's Alice In Wonderland but particularly the one she reads by and dozes on that dumps her into that trippy world of invisible cats, size-altering portions, and rodents having tea parties.

10  Holiday Trees in Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Located in The Hinterlands these seven trees lead you into your various Holiday towns. We only get to see Halloween Town and "what's this?" Christmas town. If only Jack Skellington could have tried them all out. Imagine him delivering Easter eggs or cupid's arrow. Imagine the production design and merchandising opportunities! For all I know these other worlds have already been exploited in bad straight to DVD follow ups but if so I am blissfully ignorant.

Nine more barking great characters / symbols after the jump...

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