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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 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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Love Affair (1994) - as "A Year With Kate" nears its conclusion

A YEAR WITH KATE... 2 episodes left

 "A really beautiful look into the careers of one of my favorite actors, but it's made me consider the careers of so many different actors and how the great ones adapt to eras while still staying true to themselves. This is a special, lovely series. I both cannot wait for and am so sad for the end next week.-John T

 

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Entries in zoology (47)

Tuesday
Dec092014

Interview: James Chinlund's Evolutionary "Apes" Vision. (Plus a Look Back at "The Fountain")

Production Design James ChinlundThough today's film culture is as as overun with franchises as the decaying cities of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are with unchecked vegetation, franchise movies do have a few beautiful unique pleasures all their own. Chief among those, we'd argue, is the sheer scale of imaginative spectacle they can provide when the right people are hired behind the scenes. 

James Chinlund, the award winning production designer behind the fantastic world-building in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of those people.  Though his filmography was once mostly the domain of scrappy ambitious auteur indies, he's recently experienced a sort of super-size me effect. He credits Marvel's gamble in hiring him to design their biggest blockbuster The Avengers with reinvigorating his film career. This led directly to Dawn of the Apes, one of 2014's most acclaimed giant-sized hits. Though Chinlund undoubtedly has his share of film offers these days, he prefers the mix of small and large scale projects that his still-diverse career provides and opted out of superhero sequels from the time commitment. 

Apes, Avengers, and The Fountain are after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov292014

The Animated Feature contenders: Penguins of Madagascar

Tim here. I’m going to spend most of the remaining weeks of 2014 taking a look at some of the 20 films submitted to for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. These will mainly be the little underdogs that don’t really have a chance for a nomination, but deserve our attention as lovers of movies anyway.

But first, a different kind of film that doesn’t have a chance at receiving any Oscar buzz: this week’s new Penguins of Madagascar, the 30th release by DreamWorks Animation, and the last wide-release animated feature of the year. If I may confess my sins to all of you, I was actually looking forward to this, kind of: the penguins of the Madagascar film trilogy have been reliable stand-outs for as long as the franchise has existed: a wacky military squadron comprised of an ebullient Skipper (Tom McGrath), no-nonsense Kowalski (Chris Miller), wide-eyed moron Private (Christopher Knights), and demented, dangerous Rico (Conrad Vernon), executing fearless action film maneuvers with no sense of sanity or reason, and giving the gaping chasm of mediocrity of the first two Madagascar pictures precious comic energy for a few minutes at a stretch.

The thing about the penguins, though, is that they were brilliantly used as little shots of free-floating absurdity, random gag machines delighting in cartoon physics and psychology, not so much breaking the rules as ignoring their existence outright. That’s fine for comic relief, especially in a film whose idle state is so dreary as the first two Madagascars. But those little vacations from reality only work when we don’t actually need to care about the penguins beyond knowing that they are surreal and goofy. Putting them front and center over a long running time and a sustained character arc places a demand on the characters that’s totally unsustainable. These aren’t characters, they’re agents of chaos, and they can’t be used like characters.

Yet the three writers and two directors of Penguins of Madagascar go right on ahead and try to fit them into the normal beats of an American kid-focused animated film, down to the sad bit about the character who just wants to be understood for his idiosyncratic ways (“be yourself, love yourself” is a good lesson for children, of course, but it’s one of the dominate themes of, seriously, like every single DreamWorks film). The characters’ one-note personalities, and the limited number of gags that can be spun out of them, turns shrill and noisome over 90 minutes. There’s a plot behind this, but it barely matters: a James Bondian sort of deal with a penguin-hating octopus (voiced with unexpected brio by John Malkovich) on one side, a team of Arctic animal spies lied by a wolf played by Benedict Cumberbatch on the other. And in between, the four penguins whose history with the octopus spurred his rage act with all the insensible fearlessness their braggadocio can support.

It’s manic as all hell, which isn’t really the problem: it’s the routine sameness of it that drags the film down. One setpiece follows approximately the same beats as all the others, and the penguins are designed too specifically to be inflexible, unchanging characters to remain interesting over the course of everything that happens. Even their expressions barely change: the animators don’t even get to play around much with exaggerated gestures or faces. And while any ten-minute slice of the film has some level of playful, unexpected comedy, all of the slices resemble each other to the point where watching eight of them in a row is soporific.

It’s not devoid of good humor and even real wit. Werner Herzog vocally cameos as a deranged Germany documentary filmmaker in a parody of his Encounters at the End of the World, and it comes close to the “anything goes” feel that made the penguins enjoyable to begin with; and there are just enough gags that seem to have been inserted into the film largely because nobody could come up with a reason not to put the penguins in lederhosen, or to have them infiltrate Fort Knox. It’s not insufferable, but it’s awfully tiring, and the packed house of deadly quiet children and parents I saw the film with would seem to back me up that whatever this film is good for, it’s not providing more than the most generically passable entertainment.

Oscar chances: Oh, no. No, no, no. DreamWorks needs to put it all on How to Train Your Dragon 2 and pray.

Friday
Oct032014

NYFF: A Tiger and a Princess (or Two) Walk Into a Cafe...

NYFF continues. Here's Nathaniel with brief takes on three films...

Allow me to break a rule of film criticism. Rather than wag fingers at directors/films and call them "pretentious!" (a common and near-useless criticism for films with ambitions) or "opaque" (a beautiful adjective, less judgmental but still descriptive of the "ummm..." effect), I shall simply admit that sometimes I don't get it. I think we all have these cases, whether it be films/genres or even entire filmographies that are headscratchers to us whilst others drool. Most people are loathe to admit it lest they seem dumb but I don't have time to worry about that. Way too busy for that particular insecurity. Especially with all the room in my schedule I make for the other ones.

I'm pairing these three films (Ming of Harlem, The Princess of France, and Hill of Freedom) for that reason and also because they all have "of" in the title. Deep reasons. Here we go...

MING OF HARLEM 
Ming is a tiger. Harlem is Harlem.

This documentary is about a 400 lb tiger that was once living in a Harlem skyrise not too far from where I live. My cat lives with me in a Harlem skyrise, too, but he's only 11 lbs. The film is part of the "Projection" series at NYFF. That's a potentially less offputting title for a swath of moviegoers than "Views from the Avant Garde" which is what it used to be called. Having seen the picture, I'm not sure I understand what's avante garde about it?

Perhaps it's the lack of talking heads projecting emotions on to animals OR explaining the psychology of the man who housed them until he was sent to prison for doing just that. Perhaps it's the very sparse insertion of local and national news footage from the time of the scandal, of which there is surely a lot more. The movie is, in part, more of a meditative look at two animals; the tiger shared his apartment with a full grown alligator albeit not in the same room...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jul132014

Tweet of the Capsule of the Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

Of the. of the. of the. Help, stuck in a prepositional loop! I regret to inform that there is no full review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) -- you may have noticed unusually sparse off my game posting -- but I press on with this exhaustively multi-tasking post. It's a list. It's a tweet roundup. It's a review.

I can't go on. I'll go on."
-Samuel Beckett 

Were I to write a traditional review of the surprisingly strong sequel to the surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) it would essentially be some sort of fussy expansion and tangent filled detours of these 10 points:

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul102014

1973 in animation: Disney's Robin Hood

Tim here. We’re celebrating 1973 at the Film Experience all throughout July, and in terms of animation, that can mean one of only two things: the Czech-French allegorical science fiction film Fantastic Planet, a peculiar head trip of a movie made with highly-detailed paper animation, or Disney’s all-animal Robin Hood, a film regarded as one of Disney’s most perfect classics by a small group of people while being largely forgotten by most younger people, making it one of those films that’s simultaneously both over- and under-rated. All my love and respect to politically laden avant-garde Eastern European animation, but our current path seems clear enough: Robin Hood it is.

I will first confess that the film has never been one of my favorites in Disney’s canon; it exemplifies a very particular aesthetic that dominated the studio’s work for just a short while, seven features released between 1961 and 1977. These were the Xerox Years, when the old process of inking individual cels by hand over the animators’ rough pencil drawings had been replaced by simply photocopying the pencils directly onto the clear celluloid. This cut down significantly on the cost and time of putting together a feature film, and it also had the effect of giving the finished animation a much scratchier, hand-hewn look. For many fans of animation, and many animators, the direct one-to-one mapping this results in between what the artist drew and what we see makes it more valuable than the glossier, more polished, and arguably more lifeless work in Disney’s more expensive productions. For myself, all I can see is the cost-cutting.

But let's shelve the technical chatter and move on to the film itself...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul092014

Best Shot: Batman (1966)

Happy 75th Anniversary to the world's favorite f***ed-up orphan billionaire!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot returns on the evening of July 15th with a special free-for-all episode in which you choose whichever Batman feature film you want to look at and post your choice for its Best Shot. We link up. It's our way of celebrating Batman's 75th birthday. I opted to start at the beginning. No, not Tim Burton's high gothic smash but the special feature edition of the 1960's TV series, which was filmed after season 1 wrapped (the props were reused for follow-up seasons)

BATMAN (1966)


Batman (1966) has a ton of sight gags. I'm not claiming that any of them are particularly well-executed but my favorite bar none is Batman's lunatic run holding a lit bomb that he can't find a place to dispose of. It's what would happen if you crossed Batman with a Mr Bean skit. But that joke isn't freeze frameable since it's all in the montage / length. Since this is the only Batman feature that's an intentional comedy (someone will cover Joel Schumacher's movies I'm sure) I had to choose something humorous for my best shot. Nothing is funnier in 60s era Batman than the OCD labelling of everything. It's not enough to have everything shaped like the Bat symbol and called 'Bat-this' and 'Bat-that' but the Bat-name must also be displayed in big letters ON the item in case the hero forgets who he is or what props are (but remembers how to read). Even the four villains (Catwoman, Joker, Riddler and The Penguin) get in on the act with their own labelled shelves in their submarine HQ.  

In the movie's opening maritime rescue setpiece Batman dangles from the Bat-Copter on the Bat-Ladder (yes, there's a label on the last rung) when suddenly he emerges from the water with a shark dangling from his leg nine years before Jaws made that a universal nightmare. Batman tries to go all Lara Croft on its ass, but lacking her mad shark-punching skills many years later, Batman needs Robin to save him (but he's not in a hurry about it since he's Adam West and he likes to make each sentence into 3 sentences.)

Best Shot

Hand.    Me Down.    The Shark Repellent Bat Spray.

Robin climbs down the Bat-Ladder (no one is piloting the Bat-Copter. Just saying). Instead of just handing his Sugar Daddy the Bat Spray Shark Repellent --  it's not like the shark is going to leap legs for Burt Ward's chicken legs when it's already got an Adam West thigh --  the Boy Wonder pauses to be all acrobatic about it and hangs upside down to pass over the spray.

It's super dumb and I love it. 

[Gluttons for punishment can check out a few more shots I loved after the jump]

Click to read more ...