Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Another ramble, but it's more a comment on American culture rather than the content of the films if anything. Every return home to NYC from Tokyo for me there's a culture shock. Going from one culture that can be overly self effacing---- to one that can be overly self-absorbed.
Starting in the 1970's, the hero was replaced with the anti-hero. John Wayne became "The Man With No Name". "Superman" became a lone killer called "Wolverine". Star Wars babies didn't want to be Luke Skywalker, but Han Solo. People started identifying with characters who can say or do whatever they want, get away with it, and look cool doing it.
As audiences become more sophisticated, movies must also become more sophisticated to keep their interests. Does sophistication = jaded and contentious?
The jaded, wise-ass, or bad-ass does have its appeal. To our enemies we want to be Clint Eastwood's "The Man With No Name", but when it comes to our friends, we'd rather be the powerful but benevolent, Superman.
So, "Where's the goddamn warmth?!" "It left with the money and the jobs." a friend noted. What was once "Rapunzel" has become "Tangled". (there's a pun in there somewhere) The name change for "Tangled" was a marketing decision to appeal to male audiences. Perhaps "The Princess and the Frog"' lackluster success had something to do with this. Who knows. But no one felt a need to change the title of "Beauty and the Beast" did they?
Not to sound totally negative, Ratatouille and How to Train Your Dragon were great films ----(despite having seriously contentious female leads who bully the male leads throughout the film....if people are so worried about what kids read into, why doesn't anyone say anything about that?) ------I digress---- Both had plenty of sincere and honest moments.
But there's the converse with "The Princess and the Frog" which was ham-handed with communicating a "message" to the point of being didactic.
In Japan there is an expression: "平和ボケ" (Heiwa Boke) which means "Peace stupid". Japanese are not interested in being contentious because well....things are quite peaceful and balanced in Japan. "The Dark Knight" bombed with Japanese because frankly, "the anti-hero" is just not a popular concept and people usually just don't "get it". There's nothing really people feel a pressing need to fight for.
What does that say about Americans? Rebellion, discontent is in our blood and our culture. Our government is founded on that. However, what was once "Don't Tread On Me" in American thinking, became "We Can Do It!" optimism in the 40's and 50's, but it has become "Don't Tread On Me" again.
Ramble is over. I'm looking forward to seeing Rapunz--"Tangled". I'm sure it's going to be good. This observation is more on how films are being marketed to get people's attention, not so much the content. Rapunzel in the movie poster hands down the the "toughest looking, kick-ass" Disney Princess to date.
All characters can't be the "upright hero" of course that's dead boring and lacks contrast. But all characters can't be the "bad-ass" either. That gets to be passe also after awhile. "Where's the goddamm balance?!" That's all.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I have a tendency to run off at the mouth when I get excited about the things that inspire me. Kong Xi (Confucius) said, "Truth and sincerity never needs embellished words."
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
William Fraker is not a household name, but he will be remembered by filmmakers as one of the most noteworthy cinematographers of the 1970's and 80's. Nominated for Academy Awards in Best Cinematography in films such as Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Spielberg's 1941 and Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (I didn't know that until today!). Perhaps he will be most remembered for one of the most memorable film sequences that "upped the bar" for car chases in cinema: Bullit, starring Steve McQueen.
He should be remembered for being a solid cinematographer who helped his directors visualize the story in the best and most suitable way.
His work doesn't yell and scream "William Fraker, ASC, BSC". However for me, he does define a certain look that was consistent with the cinema in the 1970's. I love that clean look of 70's cinema and those earlier film stocks that were always a little grainy (which gave it life in my opinion) and favored cooler tones.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
A trip to the Museum of Natural History back in January was particularly inspiring.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010
I SO much wanted to like this film. Especially because, yes, it was the first Disney hand-drawn animated feature with an African-American lead; yes, because this was the first time we've seen hand-drawn animation in YEARS; but mostly because....well it's Disney. But the mouse house has forgot one magic ingredient with this one: believability.
Even though this was an animated feature, an emotional sense of verisimilitude is vital to make your audience care.
This film had wayyy to many gags. Many of which involved bodily fluids, flatulence innuendos and derriere gags. I've seen Warner Brothers animated cartoons that had more sincerity and taste. And that's not sarcasm.
The meeting notes of some Disney exec., "more gags, more gags!" was throughout the film. Of all the people who really wanted to see hand-drawn animation make a comeback, this was a real disappointment.
Brad Bird's Ratatouille is a good example of what a successful animated feature should be. Ratatouille was successful not because of CG animation, but because it was a good story and emotionally, a believable story...despite being about a rat who could cook. Which is no less plausible than a prince who gets turned into a frog. But how do you handle that story is the question. Intelligently or with sight gags? "IF a rat could cook, well, this is probably the most believable way it would happen."
Ratatouille worked in CG and would have worked in hand-drawn and I even as live action film. And would have been just as compelling.
Animation is good animation when you forget you are watching animation.
Princess and the Frog didn't work not because it was a hand-drawn animated feature, but because it was a caricature of one.
In light of shows like Lost, Heroes and movies like The Hurt Locker (which I really liked), I'm wondering if this is the future of American narrative and storytelling in film.
What makes Lost work is one thing only: the relationships between the characters. Like the show or not, the relationships have been compelling.
J.J. Abrams brought this same type of "narrative" to Star Trek (2009). Paper thin, swiss-cheese plot....very well developed relationships between characters. Maybe that's why it was a disappointment for me. In my desperate childlike nostalgia for the original Star Trek, I have been addicted to the melodramatic, but clear plots, a touch of social allegory and the relationships (despite being strong, clear and consistent) were really sugar frosting for the original series. But now that is all in reverse.
The Hurt Locker came off to me as another virtual docu-drama with no "Point A to Point B" linear plot. It was structured with situations to stage character relationships, and "stream of consciousness" experiences. Virginia Woolf would have fit in this age well if she were a filmmaker.
It's not a criticism, just a question of is this the future of narrative in movies and television. In an age of docu-tainment, reality show and shakey-cam (my bane)....are people less interested in the magic and escape of a well told story?
Monday, January 25, 2010
In 1975, I begged my father and mother (I'm dating myself....I was 4) to take me to see the first movie I remember. Steven Spielberg's, "Jaws".