Short Film Saturday: Pauvre Pierrot (1892)

It would be noteworthy enough for being the world’s first animated film, but considering when it dates from it’s rather amazing. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Short Film Saturday: The Butcher

Another short film to keep the momentum up and bring a little brightness to your Saturday. It’s funny and has some sound effects. Enjoy!

Rewind Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is the rare film that can keep the energy, verve and humor of an animated short through the course of a feature film. It is also a prime example of the modern equivalent of irreverent humor which would be better described as “random,” which would be typified by television programming such as Family Guy and the works of Dan Schneider such as iCarly, The Amanda Show, etc. The film manages to be consistently funny in an off-the-wall kind of way, which is quite difficult.

Yet simultaneously it also managed to have the things you needed to move the story along and not just the novelty of the science. There was the love interest which was instantly established with witty dialogue which shows that Sam Sparks and Flint Lockwood are meant to be as she instantly realizes the purpose of all his wild inventions. There is of course the inevitable moment where Flint’s success breeds blindness and slight megalomania and causes him to mistreat his love, but what is refreshing is that their parting doesn’t unnecessarily extend the film. As might happen in reality the reconciliation happens nearly without words needing to be exchanged and there is no undue, overly-long apology.

The father-son dynamic is also an underpinning of this humorous and whimsical tale that doesn’t in and of itself add itself as an obstacle but rather adds texture to the tale and also serves as the device that makes Flint realize that his invention that has been causing it to rain food has gone wild.

cloudy2Lg

What drives Lockwood to lose perspective is pressure applied by Mayor Shelbourne, given life by Bruce Campbell in a very good role, who wants to use the machine to make Swallow Falls a tourist attraction and in the process he becomes morbidly obese. It would be a new claim to fame for the sardine fishing island which displaces ‘Baby’ Brent, the sardine mascot, who in his-mid thirties coasts on that fame and is one of the funniest characters in the film voiced by Adam Samberg of SNL fame.

While typically a voice cast should be invisible, meaning anonymous or unrecognizable in the part, the standout was someone who was distinctive and recognizable but yet managed to play a character and not a caricature. The local police officer Cal Devereaux played by Mr. T, yes that Mr. T, was one of the better characters and the funniest performance – and he didn’t even have to say “I pity the fool.” However, most of the cast was invisible as mentioned, case in point Neil Patrick Harris was Steve the monkey with the thought-translator strapped on which was just a small example of the random humor as well as Flint saying what he’s doing, vocalizing a fake score, or a face in the crowd saying something wild like “I’ve got a macaroni on my head” when that is the case.
The only thing in the film that gives you pause is that the camera man, Manny, is a walking deus ex machina. When someone capable of being a doctor and flying a makeshift plane is needed we learn that the man who has been there but unseen can do both these things. Even though it allows for one very good joke about how he was a doctor in Guatemala it was somewhat odd that he also had emergency supplies on him and then was also able to fly. In a film this irreverent it takes a lot to say “come on” but that did it.\

CLOUDY_3_L

With the pervasiveness of 3-D it hardly ever seems worth mentioning. In this film, however, that is not the case and it in fact enhanced the experience especially the scenes within the machine-turned-meatball which were rendered much more realistic and interesting due to the fact that they were in 3-D.

All in all it is a very enjoyable experience that far surpassed this critic’s expectations and speaking as one who was unfamiliar with the tale it is likely to entertain most.

8/10

Mini-Review: Asterix and the Vikings

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Asterix and the Vikings

This is a movie that I have a rather unusual relationship with. I actually didn’t know about this fairly recent animated rendition of Asterix until I was in Orlando earlier this year. In Epcot, there was a book of the film and I got it. The book renders the movie fairly well and considering that I as a fan of Asterix was fairly disappointed in the live-action version I was excited. What it really goes to show is that putting production elements in place: music, dialogue, voice actors, the different animation techniques and effects employed made the movie so much more immersive than I imagined. From the book it seemed like standard fare: fun bordering on cute. The film that the book represents is a very fully realized version of the tale and is highly recommended to fans of this beloved character.

10/10

Short Film Saturday: Alma

It would not do too well to set this one up too much, but here’s a teaser: there is no dialogue, a simple, well-rendered premise and one brilliant cut that says it all. It’s visual, jaw-droppingly well-rendered in its simplicity, and memorable even down to the score.

The short has been optioned by DreamWorks Animation to be developed into a feature. See the short now to get a leg-up; and was created by a Pixar animator. Proof, yet again, that animation is a medium and not only for kids’ stories; but kids with an ability to deal with the macabre can see this.

Enjoy!

Short Film Saturday: How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made?

This is great contemporary newsreel look at how Disney creates its animated films. This was made in light of the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. One interesting factoid is the budget cited as $1.5 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation that’s $25 million today; I am unsure how much unionization would have ballooned that but just on raw numbers it’s an interesting tidbit. Despite its dated tone its a more entertaining explanation of the traditional animation process than I would give.

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014: Part One (Shorts)

This is the same idea as “Favorite Older Films First Viewed in” which I did since 2011. The idea was one I first saw on Rupert Pupkin Speaks. I have usually done the list in parts. This time I will find ways to group the films. I noticed I had four short films that are available to view online so I figured I’d start with them.

Les Oeufs de Pâques (1907)

I only recently discovered the works of Segundo de Chomon. He seems a worthy Spanish counterpart to Georges Méliès. This is a presentational, magic style of silent film implementing many invisible cuts, but it is very enjoyable.

His Wooden Wedding (1925)

Many thanks to Fritzi over at Movies, Silently for suggesting this film when I wanted a wedding-themed silent. I was unfamiliar with Charley Case before viewing this film, and look forward to seeing more. It’s quite funny. Enjoy!

Mickey’s Race (1933)

This is a selection that is fitting not only in light of Mickey Rooney‘s recent passing, but it also plays into my Poverty Row April theme.

This is purportedly the last of the series of Mickey McGuire shorts (back when Rooney was credited as such) that he starred in while not signed with a major studio. The story is simple escapist fare and fairly humorous. It’s more noteworthy because I had not yet seen one of these shorts. Enjoy!

Please follow the link to view the film:

https://archive.org/embed/MickeysRace1933ShortFilm

The Fly (1981)

I when watching this film preferred to take a textual approach rather than a subtextual one. Regardless, it’s one of the most impressive pieces of first-“person” perspectives I’ve seen. For more of a read and more of a background on this film check the post on The Dissolve that drew this piece to my attention.

Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan (1999)

Introduction

In 2012 the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character. Previous posts in this and other series can be found here.

As I have referenced several times in the past, there was a time when I wandered away from Disney fare but alas I have come home. In looking back it lasted maybe a decade or so. Now, having been back I am occasionally catching up. Thus, having tracked down many Tarzan titles over the past two years revisiting many and parsing them out and finding what in each typically does not work for me I figured it was time to give Disney’s rendition of Tarzan (the initial one) a shot.

As it turns out this film is a nearly unqualified success in both what it does in terms of telling a Tarzan story but also in its smooth manipulation of the standard Disney formulae. In terms of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation, as best as prior cinematic adaptations are concerned it distills merely one book, Tarzan of the Apes, and adapts that to tell its story. So far as Disney has been concerned there was no other blueprint to go off of because they were tackling the tale for the first time.

With an opening that is dialogue-free, save for Phil Collins’ source music; the film begins rather quietly and powerfully. The connection established between an orphaned babe and Kala, a female gorilla who rescues him and raises him as her own. The technique of animation allows for more exacting and concise editorial decisions about what needs to be shown. Since there are no live animals, but ones constantly under control of the animators, the temptation of cutting to something for cute factor is gone. Clearly, cultural mores changed over time, but the fact that this film deals strictly in an origin allows it to convey characters on a more human level, and avoid pitfalls some past films faced.

Tarzan (Disney, 1999)

Interesting from a Disney standpoint is that the characters do not sing, the music is played as part of the score. There’s one moment of instrumentation but they are not anthropomorphic chorus members this time. Tarzan’s sliding about as if strapped to an invisible surfboard through jungle trees gets a bit trite but it does add a controlled kinetic element and makes him seem superhuman. Also a stumbling block that is overcome is that of language. It takes some suspension of disbelief, but Tarzan and his family can talk to one another, but when he meets Jane, her father, and Clayton; he can only grunt at first and then he learns to parrot and eventually understand. This is well-covered with artful montages.

By getting away from certain conventions that other Tarzan movies set, and spinning the tale a Disney way, while also tweaking certain expectations of a Disney film the road to success is already paved. In a pleasurable surprise, however, the film also does manage to tug at the heartstrings like most Disney fare does – more strongly here. Also, Disney flips the script on a template established in The Jungle Book. A successful restructuring of a given pattern can be a joy to watch, conversely a failure of such an attempt is difficult to deal with.

Taking all that in mind, with so many other versions under my belt, and with the hallmark Disney delivery of the origin, this may be the Tarzan film I was looking for all along the one that combines adventure, emotion and the intrinsically fascinating things about this tale in one package.