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Entries in Maleficent (23)

Thursday
Sep112014

Team Top Ten: All Time Greatest Voice Performances

Amir here, with this month’s edition of team top ten. As the art of acting and our interpretation of it evolve, definitions of what we consider a good performance change. It’s become an annual tradition to discuss whether a motion capture performance or some “alternative” form of acting deserves to be in the awards race. Last year’s topic of conversation was Scarlatt Johansson’s voice work in Her and that's the topic we’ve turned our attention to. (Thanks to Michael Cusumano for his suggestion!)

Voice acting has existed since cinema found sound and it has contributed to the medium in more memorable ways than a list of ten entries can represent. We were not limited in our option to animated films or any genre. So long as the voice performance was not accompanied by visual aids from the same performer (e.g. Andy Serkis’s work in LOTR was not eligible), it was fair game. Naturally, our list is animation-heavy, but there were others firmly in the race like Alec Baldwin's exquisite narration of The Royal Tenenbaums or especialy Marni Nixon – of whom The Film Experience is a big fan – who received several votes but just not enough.

Without further ado, here the collective top ten created from the rankings of each contributor's individual ballot

Top Ten Voice Performances of All Time

10. Peter O’Toole (Ratatouille)
Peter O’Toole’s Anton Ego doesn’t have much screen time in Ratatouille but his contribution to Pixar’s best film outside of the Toy Story trilogy is immeasurable. The final monologue by Ego – what an apt name for the food critic, or any critic, really – has become a reference point for film writers. The text is definitive, reminding us that “in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” Yet, the bitter truth in the text wouldn’t strike the right chords had it not been for O’Toole’s sombre, elegiac tone. Remarkably balancing his authority with a palpable sense of resignation, O’Toole’s final words elevate the scene beyond criticism.
-Amir Soltani

9. Eleanor Audley (Sleeping Beauty)
Angelina Jo-who? While the voluptuous star brought sexiness and unnecessary warmth to the part of Maleficent in this summer's blockbuster adaptation, she still doesn't hold a candle to the incomparable work of Eleanor Audley in the 1959 animated version. The actress bookended the 1950s for Disney through two of their most iconic creations, having also voiced Cinderella's stepmother in the 1950 version. For Beauty however, she was firing on all Machiavellian cylinders as she brought a sense of immeasurable dread to what was considered to be a children's film. Her Maleficent is barely in the film, but she makes every line count. We don't need to hear her entire (or any) backstory to know that she was truly evil in ways we could only begin to imagine. In a time before villains were cool, she's the most interesting character and when she says "listen well, all of you", you couldn't pay us to ignore her command.
- Jose Solis
(more on this performance

8 more great vocal performances after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul032014

Halfway Pt. 1: What if They Voted on the Oscars Right Now?

Oscar Chart Note: I'm experiencing some coding problems with the charts so I apologize for the update delays. Until it's fixed, please to enjoy this hypothetical discussion as we begin our Halfway Mark Review...


Happy July! We're now officially done with the first half of the year. There are MANY films to come including the bulk of Oscar contenders given Hollywood's preferred release patterns. But that doesn't mean the film year hasn't already delivered enormous pleasure. All conscientous Oscar voters, cinephiles, and critics ought to keep a list so they aren't tricked into believing that the thing they saw 5 minutes ago is the only thing worth voting for six months from now.

Which naturally begs the question: If the voting was sprung on everyone right now, which films would AMPAS go for? It's worth jotting them down because they have a head start and they'd be smart to capitalize on it somehow. They need to settle in the mind and hearts as viable options as it were so that the forthcoming biggies will have to unseat them rather than trample them on their way to Oscar thrones.

I'm thinking mostly of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel and Ralph Fiennes as Best Actor. They'd both surely snag nominations if the voting were held today. But at this date, some 17 years into his career, Academy voters haven't yet fully embraced Wes Anderson. Comic performances are always trickier sells so Ralph Fiennes will need to capitalize on the fact that he's playing against type (in a way) and voters respect that. If Budapest hangs on for real Oscar play that should make the waters safe for all future Wes Anderson films (see also: David Fincher, David O. Russell, and Paul Thomas Anderson who all struggled to win attention until Oscar finally caught up with the critical passion and devout public fanbases and now they're automatically "in the conversation" before their films arrive.) 

Let's fantasize about what might be nominated if the voting were cut off right now when so few expected contenders have opened. My guesses as to the nominees go like so...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun242014

Tues Top Ten: Movie Dragons

The Podcast didn't help. The more I linger on How To Train Your Dragon 2 the less love I realize I have for it. This is not to say that it's not worth seeing -- it's good. I just wanted it to be great since I hold the original in such high esteem. The animation is truly impressive and some sequences provoke awe in a way that nothing else in the theater does at the moment outside of a few scenes in Godzilla. But plotwise the third act just doesn't work for me. I don't like the alpha-male 'you have no choice to obey' conceit... which feels like a betrayal of the first movie's very particular and atypical action movie triumphs. But I still want to see it again for reasons of DRAGONS!!!

So for today's list...

THE TEN BEST DRAGONS IN THE MOVIES
(Disclaimer: I did not see The Desolation of Smaug and have no plans to)

10 The Eborsisk in Willow (1988)
Around the web you can find a few references to this two-headed dragon (which was done with puppetry - puppets are the best) that label it a 'homage' to Siskel & Ebert, then very much the power duo of film critics. But that's rewriting history. At the time it was a diss since George Lucas was no fan of theirs. Willow is a lot of fun across the board except those stupid thumbelina sized people, the 'comic relief'. 

09 Falkor in The Never Ending Story (1984)
I don't remember this movie well at all. In fact, just about the only thing I remember was that I was really in love with it when I was much younger. But now I don't remember why. But it brought me joy then so I figured I owed it to him. And to whoever thought up a dog-like "luckdragon", more cuddly than fearsome, long before the cat-like Toothless, I salute you. 

8 more mythological beasties after the jump

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun082014

Podcast: Summer Fun Times Movie Watching

Nick & Joe & Nathaniel are surveying highlights from the summer season thus far. Nick and Joe love Only Lovers Left Alive and Nathaniel has just returned from How To Train Your Dragon 2

00:00 Intro and Lucy
02:20 Alternative Blockbusters & Action Figures
04:00 Favorite Things We Saw This Summer 
08:45 Maleficent and Villainous Backstories 
12:00 Many Tangents: Kill Bill, The Lion King, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Jude Law
19:10 Summer Releases To Come, Melissa McCarthy & Channing Tatum
25:00 Jersey Boys vs. Think Like a Man 2
and...
30:00-48:00 As an appetizer for next week's 2004 10th Anniversary Podcast. We look back at the Oscar winners: Morgan Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank and Million Dollar Baby

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes (though sometimes it takes a day to show up there). Continue the conversation in the comments.

Related Reads:
Keith Uhlich on Godzilla and Wesley Morris on Maleficent

Summer Fun Times

Wednesday
Jun042014

Maleficent Cake. Yum?

Happy Birthday Angelina Jolie! They made a cake for the megastar when Maleficent premiered in China. (More pics of her visit at Variety). Do you want some?

 

Pleez, it's not like Angelina is actually going to eat it!

You saw her with the pizza at the Oscars or, rather, you saw her without the pizza at the Oscars. I suspect we're going to get way too many Disney Villain movies now that Maleficent is a massive hit. But I really don't think they should make an Ursula cake. Seafood is not for dessert. 

Sunday
Jun012014

Box Office: Jolie's Star Continues to Shine

Amir with the weekend’s box office report. One of the things that has always fascinated me about Angelina Jolie is how she ranks among the greatest film stars in the world – possibly the biggest female star of this century? – without having ever been in a great film. Her off-screen life makes it really hard not to love her, but on screen, she’s mostly been better than her films, none of which are memorable in any way. Maleficent won’t change that at all, but it has become her biggest debut by a wide margin. Make of that what you will, but it is clear that four years away from the silver screen hasn’t taken the shine off . Will this financial success lend a hand to Unbroken in its chase for Oscars? My guess is that the answer is a yes.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
01 MALEFICENT $70 *new* 
02 X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST $32.6 (cum. $162) Review
03 A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST $17 *new* 
04 GODZILLA $12.2 (cum. $174.6) Review & Podcast
05 BLENDED $8.4 (cum. $29.6)
06 NEIGHBORS $7.7 (cum. $128.6) Review & Podcast
07 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 $3.7 (cum. $192.7)
08 MILLION DOLLAR ARM $3.7 (cum. $28)
09 CHEF $2 new (cum. $6.9)
10 THE OTHER WOMAN $1.4 (cum. $81.1)  

The weekend’s other big opening also had an Oscar connection with the pairing of former host Seth MacFarlane and former winner Charlize Theron at its centre. A Million Ways to Die in the West seemed to be targeting MacFarlane’s demographic though, and it was hard to find anything appealing for the crowd that doesn’t find his brand of crude humour appealing. The promotional material did nothing to prove the opposite and the film crashed with a disappointing $17m at third place behind X-Men. I’m interested to see where he takes his career from here.

On the limited front, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves opened in select cities this weekend. Despite the presence of three recognizable faces, distributor Cinedigm Entertainment has decided against opening the film on more than two screens. It’s a baffling strategy to me, given that the genre elements of the film could have been emphasized in advertising leading to a much bigger opening than $24k but a slower rollout seems to be the plan. Critics are comparing this to Reichardt’s previous films and calling it her weakest. I seem to be in the minority on this one, but I resolutely believe this is the director’s most accomplished work. It made my top ten list of 2013 after I saw it at TIFF. Take my word - watch it!

What did you see this weekend?

Friday
May302014

Two Quickies: How Green Was Maleficent's Valley?

How Green Was My Valley's Best Shot?
I did not forget and I'm grateful to the Best Shot participants who are so faithful and who turned theirs in on time. I fell too behind but here is my choice...

Since I can't choose "every shot of the main street" which John Ford and his cinematographer Arthur C Miller shoot in so many narratively compelling and beautiful ways with any and all the characters, I selected this one, which contains none of the main characters. Unless you stop to consider that the main character is actually the town and its people. This shot is so elegiac, like the coal miners are attending yet another funeral when it fact it's meant to be a celebratory moment. And they're actually outside the local bar... which is right next to the church...which is just down the hill from the coal mine. For all the film's sentiment -- something that threw me off the first time --  the emotional content isn't simplistic. It's generally both beautiful and barbed. The push and pull between nostalgic sentiment and brutal truth always works best in the film's silent-movie moments where no one is narrating and the dialogue is completely secondary to the images. The men look so defeated here, in prayer as they gather for a choral performance which also doubles as an impromptu depressing farewell for more fired miners, who are leaving the village behind.

Please join us next Tuesday night for Zorba the Greek (1964) -  Watch it and pick / post your best shot.

3. While You Wait For an Official Maleficent Review...
I haven't yet fully figured out my take on Maleficent. Maybe I won't? It keeps shapeshifting in my head.  Bird. Man. Dragon. Wolf. I know that many web critics can churn out 1000 words on something they saw 2 minutes ago and do it seemingly all the time. I envy them but a truth: I need more time than that to let movies percolate.  But I did manage to sift through a few of my feelings in this conversation with two movie people I adore: Mister Patches and Katey Rich on their podcast "Fighting in the War Room."

Have a listen and try out their wonderfully frequent podcast if you haven't already.