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Entries in zoology (56)

Friday
Aug282015

Tim's Toons: Three Animated Oddities of 1954

Tim returning to duty.

August has been 1954 Month here at the Film Experience, and it now falls upon me to share with you the animation of that year. And man, it was a weird 'un. The important place to start is noting that in '54, Walt Disney - the man, not the multinational entertainment corporation - was massively obsessed with the creation of his brand-new theme park out in California, and the brand-new television show on ABC that shared its name and served as the new funnel for all his creative and commercial instincts.

With Disney - the multinational entertainment corporation, not the man - thus a bit rudderless, there was a void in American animation like there hadn't been since Mickey Mouse's 1928 debut, basically. Disney itself was beginning to experiment with form in ways that Walt did not approve of, since Walt wasn't paying attention anymore, and the result was things like the Oscar-nominated short Pigs Is Pigs, one of the very weirdest shorts in the studio's history.

More...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug122015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Chicken Run" 

With Shaun the Sheep currenty struggling at the box office, it's an ideal time to give a round of thanks to Aardman animation for all their wonderfully specific aesthetic and the painstaking stop motion or stop-motion-like CGI shorts and features they've made over the years. This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot travels back to 2000, the year before Oscar added a Best Animated Feature category, to the film that surely would have won it had they started just a year earlier: Chicken Run.

This delightfully British comedy is about a tenacious 'hard boiled' leader Ginger who wants to rescue her fellow hens from their egg-making enslavery at the farm before they become roasts. Mrs Tweedy (perfectly voiced by Miranda Richardson), tired of the farm's low profits, decides to make them pies instead. Cue slapstick action, a sly morbidity, repetitive but highly effective sight gags and lots of jokes about prisoner of war films, organized labor, groupthink, and, you know, chickens.

Here are the Best Shots chosen by our informal club. Click on any of the images to read the accompanying article. My choice is at the end of the post.

CHICKEN RUN (2000)
8 shots chosen by 10 participating blogs 

I’m impressed with their smart set and costume designs that imitate the war time, including concentration camp (the chicken farm), clothing and even the gas chamber (the pie machine)...
-Chirapat

My favorite moments are the slightly darker and somber ones that really give this film its depth...
-Sorta That Guy

I always say when I judge a comedy the number one factor is- Did it make me laugh?  The answer for Chicken Run is Yes!  I laughed back in 2000 and I laughed today watching it. 
-54 Disney Reviews 

 There's a great mastery of visual grammar at work here, and directors Park and Peter Lord show a strong hand in their feature debuts.
-The Entertainment Junkie

The mixture of round, soft and mostly appealing character designs with its detailed and bleak world is jarring at first, but the mixture of the two give the film quite a striking look...." 
-Magnificent Obsession, um blog de cinema 

A very traditional movie in terms of plot mechanics, but it becomes something much more sentimental and endearing by telling this story from the perspective of a group of claymation chickens..." 
-Coco Hits NY 

The shot above is one of the many great sight gags in the film..."
-Film Actually 


More like people than the absolute dread of the Tweedies in their midst, the chickens quite quickly caught me off-guard with their stock yet recognizable personalities...
-Movie Motorbreath

The content and framing of this shot being rather conventional, save for the chickenification of it. Which is no sin, of course..."
Antagony & Ecstasy

As for my shot...

This is not it, but I have to share it because it was my heartiest laugh in 2015 (and I didn't remember it at all from 2000). A throwaway reaction shot during Ginger's planning meeting...

Now, i know our last escape attempt was a bit of a fiasco… 

The "acting" in this super brief cutaway is nothing less than perfection.

I normally select my shot before I've seen any from the contributors but I was late this week and of all the images I saved, two of the three I was struggling to choose between were Babs with her knitted noose, a great morbid sight gag, and that beautifully eery overhead shot in the oven, which is so bold design wise and unlike much else in the movie. Amusingly they happen to be the two shots that were both chosen more than once! Or perhaps it's telling considering that the film relies heavily on highly conventional, even cliché, shot types -- see Tim's article for a good description of why this is

The best shot in Chicken Run is not a single shot but the repeated motif of entire groups of chickens staring directly at the camera, blinking round eyes, dimbulb groupthink, and unified emotions, whether its awe, hope, or hysteria. But it's so much funnier in motion, so here is my choice.

Also funnier in motion, as the farmer does a double take with his flashlight, and the real chicken, hiding under the bed making awkward chicken noises. It's a great meta joke about this entire movie; a movie painstakingly crafted by humans with anthropomorphic clay chickens as their stand-ins, with the chickens themselves play-acting animal behavior for "humans" inside of it, with their own crafted objects. It's smart but, even better, it's sublimely silly.

NEXT WEEK: ANGELS IN AMERICA (2003) - Here are the details

Tuesday
Jul282015

Curio: Evanimals

Alexa here. I was thrilled to see the announcement today that Evan Yarbrough is having his own solo show at Gallery 1988.  I've posted about Evan's prints before; among other things, he specializes in letterpress portraits of pop culture animals (hence his Twitter handle).   The show continues this theme, and opens this Friday.

Evan has been offering some tantalizing sneak peaks on his Intagram, making for a fun game of guess-the-film... After the jump, some peeks at a few 'Evanimals'. Which do you recognize?

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul232015

Tim's Toons: In celebration of Bugs Bunny's 75th birthday

Tim here. We're coming hard upon one of the most important birthdays in animation: Bugs Bunny is turning 75 this week. It was on July 27, 1940, that the world first got to see the Merrie Melodies short A Wild Hare, written by Rich Hogan and directed by the legendary Tex Avery. And it was in this short that the unnamed comic rabbit character that the cartoonists at Warner Bros. had been noodling around with for a few years reached the final form of his personality. Though not, in fairness, anything close to his final design.

An ever-changing face notwithstanding, it was here that voice actor Mel Blanc premiered the sarcastic Bronx accent and the instant catchphrase, "Eh, what's up, Doc?", that separated the one true Bugs from the Bugs-like characters tormenting the primitive form of Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd in a few cartoons up to that point. And while refinements were still to be made – he wasn't yet an effortless in-command wit, but still a manic slapstick creation; it would also be five years before he'd take his first wrong turn at Albuquerque – it's remarkable how stable the character has been through all of the intervening decades.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul082015

Halfway Menagerie: Ten Best Screen Animals 2015

½way mark - part 8 of 9 
Did you find yourself wishing that the Maloja Snake wasn't just the movement of the Clouds of Sils Maria but an actual snake? Did Channing Tatum still turn you on in dog-human hybrid form in Jupiter Ascending? Did you cringe when that cute double-headed mutant lizard met such an ignoble end in Mad Max Fury Road's first scene?

If you answered yes to any of those questions you might be an animal person and this list is for you!

TOP TEN ANIMALS FROM 2015 MOVIES
(THUS FAR)
Because Nathaniel R is a crazy cat lady

10 Paddington in Paddington
His fur may be too mangy (who needs photo realism?) but he sure is a polite amiable fellow and his movie is mostly a treat. 

 09 Cat Stevens in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I get that this movie is probably making fun of me Greg's dad's love for his cat, Cat Stevens, but I don't care because screen time for cats always improves movies. And this one needed the help. Injustice: the cat actor playing Cat Stevens is not credited.  

8 more furry friends after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun212015

Sydney Film Festival: Unconventional Creature Features

Glenn here offering some final thoughts on films at the Sydney Film Festival...

Let's talk about a couple of new documentaries and a horror-romance hybrid. 

The Russian Woodpecker
Chad Garcia’s The Russian Woodpecker is fascinating. It’s a wholly unexpected surprise from this debut director that not only presents an involving story that links the nuclear devastation of Chernobyl to the modern day revolution of Ukraine with plenty of conspiracy theory intrigue, but also presents it in a formally adventurous way. The film’s central figure is the eccentric artist Fedor Alexandrovich and he’s the sort of man that would drift through a party before promptly leaving and making everybody turn to each other and say, “Well he was a character!” If this wasn’t a documentary he would almost be too hard to believe as he rattles off his (as it turns out, not entirely absurd) theory that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a planned plot by the Russian government to disguise the failure of a nearby Soviet-built radar tower that emitted a persistent clicking sound known as “the Russian woodpecker”.

Alexandrovich’s amateur sleuth skills are hardly credible, but his growing unease at his proposed discoveries – his interviews with former workers of the radar tower seethe with barely contained tension – leads brilliantly into a navigation of the current political unrest on the streets of Kiev and his growing unease with choosing to bring these Russian grievances to light. Visually arresting, Garcia’s film is an uncomfortable must-see.

Oscar? I'd like to think it can find a general release and compete for Oscar. After a few years of music and sport films winning, perhaps last year's win for Citizenfour will turn them back to politics. Barring The Look of Silence, nothing has emerged out of the festival circuit looking like a winner so it's an open playing field.

Horror on the Italian seaside and an elephant in Hawaii after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May232015

Palm Dog. The Tradition Continues. "Woof Woof"

We're working on collecting fashions and awardage for two final big Cannes posts before tomorrow's closing ceremony awards but this one deserved it own special bone post as appetizer. The most famous recipient of the Palm Dog prize at Cannes is still Uggie from The Artist (2011) but the tradition continues each year and the lucky dogs were honored at the UK Film Centre this year, which is apparently the 15th year of the award.

Palm Dog "Dixie" from Arabian Nights (Portugal). The Canine actor's name is "Lucky" who is a Maltese terrier and poodle mix. Apparently she steals the show in the second half of the six hour (gulp) movie. You can read more about this picture in our We Can't Wait 2015 preview

Grand Jury Prize: "Bob the Dog" from The Lobster (Greece). Bob is played by father and son canine team "Jaro" and "Ryac". It's fitting that two dogs played this role since apparently Bob is a reincarnation of a man's brother in the film!? That film sounds wackier and wackier the more we hear of it though I actually don't want to hear any more before seeing what is surely one of 2015's oddest film experience. This movie from the director of the Oscar-nominated Dogtooth was also featured in our We Can't Wait preview.

Je Suis En Soldat

Palm DogManitarian Award: This special prize went to France's Je Suis En Soldat, which stars Louise Bourgoin and Jean Hugues-Anglade, and is is about dog trafficking in Eastern Europe. The award was given to the film as a way 

...to celebrate the fostering of relations between the human race and men, women, and children's best friend."

THR was mixed on this Un Certain Regard entry 

Other dogs people were rooting for this year that came up empty-handed were the sheepdog from Iceland's Rams, the labrador from China's Mountains May Depart and the rottweiler from Green Room. Congratulations to all the doggies and their trainers.

Previous Cannes-related news