Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by Wes Anderson, written by Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, based on a children’s novel by Roald Dahl
Some people might say it’s a brave creative step for any animated film today to not use computer rendering that looks so real, it’s unreal. But is it really? It seems that cinema is once again at a theatrical crossroad trying to balance new and old. With the apparent advances seen in a movie like Avatar, a new set of possibilities seem to have opened for an even more synthetic version of performance that emulates reality (3D viewing is making a strong resurgence with its improvements, too.). Then, in the same realm of blockbusterism, we have a semi-regression by Disney to its fairy-tale wonder with The Princess and the Frog.
So in true Wes Anderson retro-esque fashion, the “outdated” technique of stop animation is used to create an entire feature titled Fantastic Mr. Fox. Despite working in a different medium, the quirk-driven director doesn’t depart too much by producing yet another offbeat comedy-induced coming-of-age existential drama. However, it is admittedly refreshing to see his writing style used in the animation realm because it opens up a new type of on-screen awkwardness that Anderson exploits very well for humor. He also uses strong characterization that works decently as the metaphorical animals. His signature caption introduction of names and locations is still in effect as well as cold direct-at-the-camera stare cuts and dramatic pans. Thus, there’s charming cinematography for an equally charming story. Using another star-studded cast of some Anderson favorites (Schwartzman, Murray, Wilson), he now has the credibility to grab veterans the likes of Clooney and Streep. The choice of Clooney to vocally play the protagonist is a particularly praiseworthy choice as well, delivering punch lines as if he wrote them himself. The soundtrack is sure to become yet another sought after compilation that fans of the director will enjoy. Composed by Alexandre Desplat, it includes an original song by Jarvis Cocker, the guaranteed Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys. It’s weaker this time around, but it’s better than an overemphasis of music that can often happen in his movies (although, nothing tops the use of The Who’s “You Are Forgiven” during the revenge sequence in Rushmore).
It’s refreshing to see Anderson’s new wave approach to filmmaking brought to the animated world. With this movie, it doesn’t seem as if he is targeting kids specifically, but moreso embracing the fact that it’s a cartoon (comedically using the word “cuss” in place of actual curse words). Also, the actual stop animation is beautifully executed, right down to the moving hair of the foxes. After somewhat confusing audiences with Darjeeling Limited, it’s nice to see the writer/director find an accessible balance with Noah Baumbach to create something funnily heartwarming.
Guilty self plug. I recently started a new side blog on wordpress aimed towards more literary goals. So if you’re bored. Err. Yeah.
Never Dream and Lay Eggs
Avatar, directed and written by James Cameron
Is this really the new Star Wars of my generation? The claims of awarding that title to this movie is surely premature, but the similarities in scale can’t be ignored. Cameron has indeed created a new world (Pandora) and a whole native race for it (Navi). The story is immediately lacking upon viewing due to its kitschy arcs that even good acting can’t save (not that the acting was good). But that type of direct good versus evil corniness can sometimes be leniently judged in sci-fi epics of this magnitude as some may even find that to be part of its attractiveness.
Cameron’s masterpiece work shows a meticulousness that will certainly let audiences become fanatics by producing an entire universe within our reality. The Navi language and unprecedented marketing has incubated so much hype that it truly reminds moviegoers of a time when the cinema was a glamorous event. And what did it take? Well, that’s the irony. It took something new age as $300 million in never-before-seen CGI to draw up a cinematic feeling of the past. The Avatar script was actually done more than a decade ago, but according to Cameron, technology needed to catch up with his vision of using synthetic actors. It looks to be the right choice, too, because the visual effects is stunning and the facial cues of the computer-generated characters really rival and, at times, even surpass those of their human counterparts.
Avatar is an epic in the truest sense. The film is definitely something for audiences to escape into. The wildlife and environment of Pandora is marvelous. However, the similarities to Dances with Wolves in storyline are noticeable, weakening the movie’s overall experience. Also, even with the superb graphics and the obvious advancements in technology, I found my initial impression fading as if I were watching a 160-minute video game commercial, rather than an interesting, rewatchable film. Nonetheless, it hints towards great strides in production and we can be sure to expect a sequel or two.
Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Anthony Peckham
It’s always a daunting task to portray history on film, especially a depiction as monumental as the early South African presidency of Nelson Mandela. But given Eastwood’s prolific track record as a producer and director, it seems any project that his involved in more ways than one is a safe bet. It’s this kind of production consistency that allow his movies draw in the same loyal film award fiends every time. And like clockwork, it has already garnered attention from peers, nabbing Golden Globe nominations for both Freeman and Damon.
Eastwood’s versatility to film almost any subject matter is undoubtedly one of the many reasons he is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. But it’s evident that he does have an affinity for a common theme. Although this particular movie is very specific by being historical, sports-related, and set outside of the U.S., it still falls in line with the director’s comfortable style. Once again, the protagonist, Mandela (Freeman), is a strong, powerful character perceived as some sort of savior but consisting of internal conflicts and secret weaknesses. This character is often paired with another character dealing with inverse circumstances, struggling with external factors, which in this film would be rugby captain Pienaar (Damon). This gravity towards this sort of material is also what makes Eastwood an “actor’s” director. His longevity in the industry seems to have given him a natural minimalism that reflects a sense of wisdom in his storytelling. Nothing in the movie is overdramatic or excessively flowery. He allows for the script and characters to merely exist, which conveys emotion across very efficiently.
Invictus is not anything surprising from Clint Eastwood, but that’s what makes it a well-respected film. Although far from a masterpiece, Eastwood retells a compelling story within his own inspirational parameters. Criticism that he would not be able to step outside those boundaries would be a mistake after his war films of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. But at the rate he is releasing his projects, it is already impressive that each is repeatedly something important, at the least, if not totally grand.
Minor meltdown, but I’m back bitch. I was lazy so I just changed the blog to a simpler theme. Anyways, I’m going to have new routinely (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) segment posts and some more social media commentaries. C’mon now, blogging is not a joke.
I hope you respect my writing here as if it were a prime example of the highest degrees of journalistic integrity.
Here’s a photoblog of things coincidentally shaped like penises.
Shit blog. It needs a break and will come back with some new things. New ideas, posts, gimmicks. Maybe even a more terrible layout. It’ll be better though. BRB 4 da res-erection.
www.twitter.com/raycloyd if ya wanna be a groupie.
A nice, short doc about critical mass in the greater Orlando area. FL hometown pride, baby. Big ups to RetroCity Cycles for the fixie wheel that I’m still lovin’. Got to make it home for critical mass one of these days…