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Entries in The Wind Rises (7)

Saturday
Sep062014

TIFF: Hayao Miyazaki's Swan Song

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Day 1

Are documentaries about filmmakers that are at least in part documentaries about the making of particular films, just giant infomercials? Can they ever not be even when they're good? The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Studio Ghibli in Japan made me desperate to see Miyazaki's final picture The Wind Rises. And I've already seen it

Kingdom purports to be about Studio Ghibli but is actually much closer to a profile of Hayao Miyazaki and his regimented and consistent working methods: he works from 11 AM to 9 PM exactly Mondays through Saturdayshe storyboards all of his movies in chronological order while they're in production (no actual screenplays) so no one, including him, knows how they'll develop and end; his daily routine includes a walk in which he waves to the children of the animators in the in-house nursery and a trip to the roof near sunset with his animators in tow; and so on. This routine has remained the same for decades as has, one could argue, the quality of his work.

Several darker implications or offhand remarks that Miyazaki is a pessimistic unhappy soul, that Studio Ghibli is on its last legs, or that Miyazaki is incredibly demanding and tough on his animators, particularly the best ones, are never fully explored by the smitten filmmakers but they do serve to contour the portrait a bit and prevent a hagiography. We don't hear much about other filmmakers and projects beyond two interesting business meetings about things like Spirited Away merchandise and what to do with Miyazaki's son who is also a filmmaker albeit a reluctant one. The most lively thread is arguably the ocassionally bitchy and exasperated references to Miyazaki's mentor, former partner, and creative rival Isao Takahata and his interminably slow production of The Tale of Princess Kaguya (which was meant to premiere alongside The Wind Rises but has only recently been completed and is also playing here at TIFF!).

Despite its limitations this documentary is never dull and is often extremely charming. Particularly wonderful are the many shots of a black and white short tailed cat that wanders freely around Studio Ghibli demanding doors be open for it. This cat, who almost seems like an animated character, strangely never ventures into Miyazaki's workspace as if blocked, staring, by some invisible wall. Still, Miya-san likes him. They share a brief funny moment at a picnic table outside late in the film, the cat sleeping, the filmmaker looking on with envy; Miyazaki has since retired. But this documentary practically insists (or pleads?) that the great filmmaker's new nap time can't possibly stick. B

Sunday
Feb232014

Box Office: Can a Plane Stop The LEGO Movie?

Amir with the weekend’s box office report. The LEGO Movie managed to fend off meek competition and remain in the number one spot. Three weeks at the top and the amount of money it has cashed in so far have warranted Warner Brothers to announce a sequel, already planned for 2017! But don’t expect it to stay number one next week, when the Liam Neeson no-snakes airplane thriller, Non-Stop (featuring Lupita Nyong'o in an abrupt change of pace) hits the screens. That film has taken its title as a cue for its advertising and I suspect enough people are intrigued to see it despite what sounds like a ludicrous plot.

BOX OFFICE
01. THE LEGO MOVIE $31.4M (cum. $183.1m)
02. 3 DAYS TO KILL $12.3m new
03. POMPEII $10m new
04. ROBOCOP $9.4m (cum. $43.6m)
05. THE MONUMENTS MEN $8.1m (cum. $58m)

This weekend saw two new wide openings: Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii, which managed to earn back 1/10th of its production budget and died faster than an entire city under a volcano.  When I was a child, I was absolutely obsessed with the real life story of this natural disaster - I had a large collection of books, pictures and other pre-internet Pompeii-related memorabilia. That the marketing campaign of this film managed to keep me away from the theatre tells you just how much the studio did everything wrong. 3 Days to Kill was the other offering. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about this one, which is possibly the same position McG and Kevin Costner have found themselves in since signing on.

In limited release The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki’s maybe-last-film-maybe-not, maybe-a-masterpiece-maybe-just-propaganda opened on 21 screens did modest business. (Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, reviewed here, was the only film with a better per screen average this weekend.) I’m afraid I found Miyazaki's Oscar nominee a bit underwhelming at TIFF – and I still hold a grudge because the screening kept me from guesting on Nathaniel’s festival podcast – but it’s definitely worth your time. What is not worth your time is In Secret, formerly known as Therese, that I caught up with at the same festival. In my review I called it the second worst film I have ever seen in seven years of attending the festival. I stand by that statement and advise you against spending any money on this atrocity, unless you are looking for a lot of unintentional laughs.

As you read this I'm watching Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962) for the first time. For the FIRST time! What have you watched this weekend?

Thursday
Jan162014

The Best Animated Feature 2013 nominees

It's Tim, wishing everybody a Happy Nomination Day! Obviously, the above-the-line categories hog most of our attention on this holiest of holy days (and they should – they’re kind of amazing this year), but there are 20 whole categories that have nothing to do with acting. And 19 of those don’t involve gawking at the hypnotically amateurish trailer for Alone Yet Not Alone.

So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of those other categories, and since I’m the resident animation guy, I assume it’s no surprise that I’m heading straight for Best Animated Feature. A race that is already kind of shocking because of an omission that, if not quite Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson scale in its “my God, did they really snub…” outrageousness, still pulled a pretty big gasp out of me this morning. I refer to the absence of Monsters University, only the second eligible Pixar film to ever miss out on a nod since the category’s creation in 2001. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec262013

Previewing the animated features of 2014

Tim here. It’s the last edition of my weekly animation essay for 2013, which would ordinarily be the best time for a year-in-review piece. However, the year has been so rough for animation (remember Escape from Planet Earth? Are you happy about that fact?) that it seemed better just to quickly move beyond it and pretend it didn’t happen. Let us instead look with clear eyes and hopeful hearts to the future, and take a quick preview of the animated features that will be scattered throughout 2014. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but if I missed anything big, feel free to point it out in comments.

Films to maybe hold out hope for:

-The Lego Movie (February 7). The concept, and the cameos by DC superheroes, scream “branding exercise”, but with Phil Lord and Chris Miller on-hand as writers and directors, there’s reason to be hopeful. The duo has gone 2-for-2 so far with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, and that’s not a track record to idly dismiss. Besides, the trailer reveals that its laziest sins (a “Chosen One” narrative, celebrity voice cast) looks to be applied with a more playfully ironic touch than usual. And the random sense of humor looks different from the usual family fare, at any rate: the bit with Wonder Woman’s invisible jet gets me every time.

Dragons, Boxtrolls and more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec022013

41st Annie Award Nominations

Tim here, with a quick bit of news: the International Animated Film Society has announced the nominees for the 41st Annie Awards. Unsurprisingly, it's heavily tilted towards big studio fare, with Despicable Me 2 dominating the list with eleven nominations, Monsters University and Frozen with ten nominations apiece, and The Croods just a breath behind with nine.

In the short categories (Best Animated Special Production, Best Animated Short), three of the films on the Oscar bake-off list made the Annies' cut: British TV special "Room on the Broom", the Canadian "Gloria Victoria", and Disney's tech-heavy new Mickey short, "Get a Horse!"

The full list of nominees is here. For now, I'll leave you with the nominations for Voice Acting, entirely men aside from Wiig. (The corresponding TV category is 100% male)

  • Paul Giamatti as the voice of Chet - Turbo  
  • Terry Crews as the voice of Earl – Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2  
  • Kristen Wiig as the voice of Lucy – Despicable Me 2
  • Steve Carell as the voice of Gru – Despicable Me 2  
  • Pierre Coffin as the voice of Minions - Despicable Me 2
  • Billy Crystal as the voice of Mike – Monsters University 
  • Josh Gad as the voice of Olaf - Frozen

And the seven films in contention for Best Animated Feature:

We can probably expect Oscar's list to consist of some combination of four or five of these.

Tuesday
Nov052013

The 2013 Animated Feature Oscar hopefuls

Tim here, officially taking over the Film Experience animation beat to share with everybody some news: the final list of 19 features submitted for consideration for the Best Animated Feature Film Academy Award has been announced. There's no guarantee that all 19 will end up qualifying - The Smurfs 2 is on the list, and there seems little reason to assume that it won't follow its predecessor in being disqualified - but as long as 16 make the final cut, we can look forward to 5 nominees in the category. Meaning that every animated feature released in the United States will have a 1 in 3.8 of receiving an Oscar nomination, which are not the most appropriate odds of receiving a prestigious, internationally prominent award.

We'll spend more time in the weeks to come going over all of these titles individually, but I thought it would be a good time to do some immediate sorting. Rather than just dumping the list on y'all, I decided to break it down into groups based on where the film came from and what its prospects might be going forward.

Frozen looks lock'ish

American studio releases with a good chance for a nomination
The Croods (DreamWorks Animation)
Despicable Me 2 (Illumination Entertainment)
Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios) - based on the recent wave of warm reviews, it's looking like the biggest lock of them all
Monsters University (Pixar Animation Studios)

American studio releases with little or no chance for a nomination
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sony Pictures Animation)
Epic (Blue Sky Studios)
Free Birds (Reel FX Creative Studios, dist. by Relativity Media)
Planes (DisneyToon Studios)
The Smurfs 2 (Sony Pictures Animation)
Turbo (DreamWorks Animation)

High-profile foreign productions with strong distributor backing
Ernest & Celestine (GKIDS)
A Letter to Momo (GKIDS)
The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli/Disney)

O Apostolo is a stop motion feature from Spain

Foreign productions about which I know nothing
The Fake (South Korean, unknown distributor)
Khumba (dist. by Millennium Entertainment)
The Legend of Sarila (dist. by Phase 4 Films)
O Apóstolo (Spanish, unknown distributor)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie - Rebellion (dist. by Aniplex of America)
Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury (Brazilian, unknown distributor)

UPDATED OSCAR CHART