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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 Finding Nemo (7)

Monday
Nov112013

Looking back on the 2003 Best Animated Feature nominees

Andrew Stanton with the first of his Animated Feature OscarsTim here. This November, we’ve been reflecting on the films of 2003, in preparation for the newest edition of the Supporting Actress Smackdown, and I’d like to use this as the opportunity to return us all to a simpler time. An easier time. A saner time. A time when the Best Animated Feature category at the Academy Awards wasn’t routinely filled up with five nominees because some much-too-small arbitrary threshold had been reached.

There were three nominees in the category that year, out of a field of eleven. And even that was not quite a small enough number to keep away from something a bit like a filler nomination (looking at the list, the fact that Satoshi Kon could have two eligible titles in Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers, and swing a nomination for neither of them, depresses me something fierce). But it’s not a bad mix of films at all, anchored by two films that have survived the intervening decade as bona-fide classics of the medium, and one film that… hasn’t, though it’s clung to an appreciative cult.

Fish, Bear and Other after the jump

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Thursday
Sep192013

Whither Pixar?

Tim here, with what we might call, to steal a phrase, a burning question. Or at least a terrified, desperate question with rage tears streaming all down my face:

What the hell is happening with Pixar Animation Studios?

By this point, I imagine most of you have heard the news that The Good Dinosaur, the studio’s second film out in the future, has been pushed from May, 2014, to November, 2015. This coming just a few weeks after the announcement that Bob Peterson, a writer and storyboard artist with the studio since forever, had been taken off what was to have been his solo directorial debut with that same project.

This has had all sorts of fun ramifications for the company, including the inexplicable Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory being pushed to May, 2016, to make room for The Good Dinosaur. 2014, at the moment, will end up as the first calendar year since 2005 without a Pixar feature release, while 2015 will be the first year ever with two (assuming that Disney doesn’t end up announcing that Inside Out is to be rushed out ahead of schedule). The Good Dinosaur doesn’t have an announced director yet, and nobody knows whether or not Peterson is staying with the studio in any capacity.

It will be, of course, two years and change before any of us are actually able to judge whether any of this will be for the good of the film: it’s entirely possible that there really were irreconcilable story problems that needed far too much work and fresh blood than could happen in the initial time frame. One thing that’s almost certain, given how tight-lipped Disney and Pixar are about their internal politics, we’ll never know what Peterson’s The Good Dinosaur was meant to be like. That’s not really what I wanted to rant about, anyway.

The problem is that this isn’t at all new behavior: The Good Dinosaur is at least the fifth Pixar film to have a director changeover midway through production, and the fourth one in a row. 2011’s Cars 2, this year’s Monsters University, and most noisily, 2012’s Brave all went through the same upheaval, and they are all widely, even universally, regarded as being among the worst films in the studio’s output. So if it truly is the case that the executive logic is that those films needed to be “fixed”, the earlier versions must have been problematic indeed – who wants to imagine a version of Cars 2 that was worse than the one released to theaters?

 

It is very hard, in other words, to give the studio any benefit of the doubt at all. It’s been just a handful of years since the run of movies that ended with Toy Story 3 – the platonic ideal of an apparent cash-in sequel that turns out to have been motivated by real artistry and sensitivity – but the days when a commanding majority of critics and animation fans took the name of Pixar as an ironclad guarantee of quality seem like a distant, naïve memory, and developments like this are exactly the wrong sort of thing to restore that kind of faith. Once a creative haven, Pixar has become mired in safety-tested formulas and groupthink, less invested in protecting its brand name from failure than in insulating it from any kind of unconventional thinking. Would Brenda Chapman’s Brave have been any good? Who knows? What’s certain is that it would have felt less like every other Pixar film, and it’s hard not to want to know what that would be like.

 

To be fair, this isn’t just Pixar’s problem. Big-budget filmmaking as a whole feels more indebted to safety-conscious decisions that are designed more with an eye to making sure that new movies feel as much as possible like other movies that were already hits (the careful buffering out of individual personalities in the Harry Potter films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe leap to mind), and the biggest budgets only ever go to sequels, or to adaptations of road-tested stories. In the wake of The Lone Ranger, it’s hard to feel like the studios don’t have a reason for this conservatism, but anodyne, one-size-fits-all movies (now obliged to play in cultures as widely different as the American Midwest and urban China) are boring, even the well-made ones.

Until the last couple of years, I’d have never called any Pixar film “boring”. Even Cars 2 can’t be rightfully described that way, though most other negative adjectives fit just fine. And maybe this is all paranoia: maybe The Good Dinosaur really did have huge problems, and the final result is now going to be better than any of us can possibly imagine. But that’s not what Pixar’s rhetoric is saying. Instead, they’re telling us that they needed to beat The Good Dinosaur into a form that everybody could sign off on, admitting in almost so many words that this personal project had to be run through a committee in order to make sure it felt like everything else the studio has made. Maybe the results will be worth it, but it doesn’t sound to me like it’s going to be good for the imagination of the film’s creators or the imagination of its audience, and it’s the continuation of a trend that’s made the former best movie studio of the 2000s feel increasingly industrialized and lifelessly market-driven.

Tuesday
Jan082013

Curio: Alexa's Favorite Film Moments of 2012

Alexa here with my own contribution to the year in review. Everyone seems to agree that 2012 was a great year in film, and many are dissing 2011 in the process. Was 2011 really that bad? I would argue no...but I digress.  This week is about honoring the films of last year, and we will hear from Seth MacFarlane's loud mouth on Thursday which will get the most attention in the coming weeks. So rather than add another best-of list to the heap, I thought I'd share instead my favorite film moments of 2012: my best cinematic experiences, old and new, best film celebrations, and generally the moments that reinvigorated my love of the medium.

10. Discovering the joys of reform school
After finding a musty promotional packet for So Young, So Bad at a thrift store in Georgia, I found myself down a juvenile delinquent rabbit hole, devouring many films in the reform school girl genre, including Reform School Girl (1957), Reform School Girls (1986), La residencia (The House That Screamed) (1969), and my personal favorite, Untamed Youth (1957). 

9. Drowning my Oscar sorrows in pie
Overall I was displeased with the Oscars last year, primarily because my favorite Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was passed over in the few categories for which it was recognized. (Don't get me started on Gary Oldman's loss). So in the spirit of Minny from The Help, a transferred my anger into a pie that was all but annihilated by the end of the broadcast, yet without her secret ingredient.

Take This Waltz, Silver Linings Playbook and more... after the jump

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Wednesday
Jul182012

Finding Nemo 2: Jumping the Shark

By now you've heard the news that Pixar is working on a Finding Nemo 2 with director Andrew Stanton (John Carter) returning to the fold. Someone really needs to give little Nemo a compass, poor thing. 

More distressing is the persistent rumor (not fact as far as I can tell) that Toy Story 4 is being developed. If they make it, I honestly believe that they should revoke all of Toy Story 3's reviews and its Best Picture nomination; its massive success and emotional wallop hinged on it being the finale, the moment you, like Andy, had to say a tearful final goodbye. If they make Toy Story 4 it was a lie. (It already was a fib given that the characters lived on in short films immediately thereafter.)

The Hollywood Reporter doesn't mention Toy Story 4 in their roundup of what's going on with Pixar but they do say this very very odd thing:

The move is also a safe one by Pixar, the company that once was praised for cranking out original film after original film, but now seems to trying to balance commercial prospects with unique creations.

What is there to balance?

Pixar IS the safe commercial prospect. Sequels are redundant since people go because the movies are Pixar. They don't go because they love the characters/singular franchise. Most of the time they haven't met the characters yet. All Pixar movies are already "safe commercial prospects" by virtue of the studio's reputation and marketability. So why not make original movies and keep the reputation intact, keep the legacy and critical sheen as The Greatest Movie Studio Ever?

PrincesssSS$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Frankly I don't get it. Yes, Finding Nemo 2 will make more than Brave but why sacrifice your reputation and legacy for an extra ½ billion when everything you release makes at least that much? Brave, an original that was seen as a risk given its female protagonist, has earned $244 million globally and is still going strong and Merida herself will surely generate 100s of millions more in merchandising by virtue of that billion dollar Disney Princess branding. Ratatouille, an original that was seen as a risk due to its subject matter (ewww!), earned $623 million globally. Up, an original that was seen as a risk given its old man protagonist,  earned $731 million globally and a Best Picture nomination. WALL•E, which was seen as a risk given its nearly silent movieisms, earned $521 million globally along with an instant reputation as a masterpiece and did more than most Pixar pictures to cement their reputation as a commercially minded company that also indisputably produces great art.

Didn't Cars 2 do enough to sully their reputation, making them appear as Profits-First driven as every other studio?

Tuesday
Mar202012

Burning Questions: The New Classic Quotes 

Michael C. here to see if I can blow some of the dust of the all time lists to make room for some new blood.  

If you read as much film writing as I do you know one of the most tiresome attitudes one encounters is the rose-colored “they don’t make them like the used to” mindset. This is the Pleasantville way of seeing things that insists cinema attained a sort of perfection in the forties and fifties and has been on a downhill slide towards Transformers sequels ever since. 

One of the most common forms this viewpoint takes is the lament that movies aren’t as quotable as they used to be. "Why, when the American Film Institute released its list of the 100 greatest quotes in 2005" the argument goes, "Casablanca landed six spots on the list alone, while Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz landed three apiece." The problem with this argument is that, while I wouldn’t deny those films a single one of their spots, it is meaningless to compare films that have had the better part of a century to secure their place in the cultural pantheon to those that have just been released. More often than not cinematic greatness emerges over time rather than instantly emblazoning itself on the face of the culture.

So if I’m correct and in four or five decades the films of the early part of this century do manage to slide in some lines alongside “You talkin’ to me?” and “Frankly My Dear, I don't give a damn.” what will they be?

photo src

What are the new classic quotes in the making?

Since the most recent quote on the AFI’s top 100 is “My Precious” from 2002’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers I think that would be a good jumping off point. In the decade following where the AFI list left off here are, in my best estimation, the ten quotes that have most thoroughly permeated popular culture

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