Posts Tagged ‘Coraline’

Showbiz Kids: The Oscars, Charlton Heston and Steely Dan

February 3, 2010

Before we begin, there are two important things to remember about the Oscars. The first is the Charlton Heston Rule. That rule is that the Academy is made up of a lot of people like the late Charlton Heston—old fogeys with traditional tastes. Wonder why Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain or There Will Be Blood didn’t take best picture in 2008? It’s not a hard or fast rule, but think about what your grandmother might vote for. There are a lot of retired actors and techies out there who have a say in what wins.

The second rule has been inaugurated this year. It’s the Steely Dan Rule. What do the ‘70s jazz-funk duo have to do with the Academy Awards? You might remember in 2001, their disc Two Against Nature beat out stiff competition from Radiohead’s Kid A. The reason commonly given was that the producers, engineers and other tech-heads who made up the Recording Academy wanted to recognize the painstaking approach Fagen and Becker took in the studio. Two Against Nature didn’t win because it was filled with great tunes like “Do It Again.” It won because, to a group of voters who use their ears for a living, it sounded great.

It’s this latter rule which makes me think that James Cameron is going to have a good night. Avatar is pretty much a turkey as far as movies go and a staggering display of kitsch. There’s no denying, however, that legions of effects people have spent a lot of time making it look good. That effort will, Squally thinks, be honored by the Academy. Cameron also gets the credit for marshalling that effort. Say what you want about Avatar. Like Titanic it took a guy with a genuine Napoleon complex to put it on screen. The Hurt Locker may be the better movie, but it’s still a more modest achievement—especially in terms of box office. At least Kathryn Bigelow gets a chance to work again, which nobody was expecting after The Weight of Water Avatar’s victory, though, is somewhat bittersweet. That the movie should be honored with a best picture nod when wiser heads understood that its acting and script were somewhere around the level of that Tucker Max flick is a pop culture crime of the highest order.

So now onto the rest …

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Oscar Nominations: The Long List

February 2, 2010

Well, it’s been a learning experience. Apparently when Anne Hathaway reads out the Oscar nominations, she doesn’t have to sully herself with announcing the titles in the Best Animated Short pack.

The only real surprises here are a mixed bag for the Best Supporting Actor role (Did The Lovely Bones ever get released?), which Christoph Waltz is now a dead-cert to nab. Then there’s the Best Actor nomination for Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner (well-deserved) and In the Loop getting a Best Adapted Screenplay nod. The Yanks really liked that movie.

Here were the nominations read out at this morning’s press shindig. The list will be updated shortly.

UPDATE: The complete list of Oscar nominations is as follows. Predictions and commentary will take a little bit longer.

BEST PICTURE

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

BEST DIRECTOR

James Cameron (Avatar)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Lee Daniels (Precious)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

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DVD Debut: Watchmen, Coraline

July 21, 2009

CoralineIt’s big, blue and balls out. It’s DVD Debut on VH1.com.

Coraline is the work of another comic book maverick gone legit. Neil Gaiman is best known for his work on The Sandman. This stop-motion ‘toon turns his award-winning kids book into the darkest fable since Pinocchio. Blue-haired Coraline is bored with the rainy Northwest and her neglectful parents. A hole in the wall takes her to the family she’s always dreamed of having. As usual, what one wishes for is not what one really wants. A gripping tale filled out with great characters and lyrical flights of animated fancy.

2009 3D

April 9, 2009

3dIs 3D the future? The L.A. Times throws the idea out. On Cartoonbrew.com, Jerry Beck throws it back. It’s a time when knowing your history is instructive … or oughta be. In the 1950s, 3D was considered a TV-killer by the studios, as was Cinemascope and Cinerama. By offering audiences the sensation that things were coming out of the screen, it was hoped they’d turn off Milton Berle and spend their evening with the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Cut to half-a-century on and the threat to cinema is bigger–DVDs, films on demand, Netflix, home theatre systems which are more impressive than some hole-in-the-wall multiplexes … ugh! So again we have 3D, seen at its spiffiest in Coraline and Monsters vs. Aliens. We also have big, big screens, at least if you have access to a nearby IMAX theatre. The thing is, these tactics have been employed by the studios before and turned out to be passing fads. So does 3D, if you will, step off the screen and into our lives permanently?

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New Directors, New Films, Old Themes

March 25, 2009

ndnf-2009A few months ago, NPR ran a rather gratuitous item of how reviewer/jester Mike D’Angelo was raising money through his blog so he could go to Cannes. Why he couldn’t just stay at home and wait for the good movies to come to the United States like the rest of us was beyond this blogger, but we came to understand his dilemma on finding that there’s a Hollis Frampton retrospective on at the Anthology Film Archives this weekend. Anybody want to lend a broke blogger $9 to see Zorns Lemma? Thought not.

All of which is a way of saying that reader, we are poor. Hence, reader, we will not be attending the New Directors/New Filmsseries running at the New York’s MOMA and Walter Reade Theatre until April 5. Much to our shame, we didn’t even realize the festival was on. Fortunately, other writers are paid to pay attention. What follows is a summary of what to see if you’re seeing ND/NF 2009.

In the Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton looks at the 39th edition of the fest and decides yep, it’s old. And that you never know what you’re gonna get. But you can get a good idea via the paper’s useful interviews with film directors Ondi Timoner (We Live in Public), Esther Rots (Can Go Through Skin), So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain), Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls), and Louie Psihoyos (The Cove).

Other writers take a more structural approach. In the New York Times, Stephen Holden wants him some of that A.O. Scott/Richard Brody bloodbath, boldly affirming what he calls “social realism” as “humanistic art with an educational frisson.” That’s the keynote of this year’s fest, with something of an “internationalist tone.” Indiewire’s Howard Feinstein identifies “home” as a key theme, although the way he expresses don’t half make the head hurt:

Be it a villa or shanty, a dwelling is a sacrosanct extension of our bodies, our psyches, our values, our souls, humankind projected into architectural form.

Grab some aspirin, and take a survey of what to expect (and with trailers) after the jump.
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Selick and Rodriguez: To 3D or Not 3D?

March 5, 2009

coraline11Indiewire’s Matt Dentler passes on the info that Coraline animator Henry Selick will be talking to Robert Rodridguez at this year’s SXSW. The two are due to confab, with U of T film prof Charles Ramirez-Berg moderating, on Monday, March 16, beginning at 3 PM. Nope, don’t ask me where Room 16AB is … In Austin, somewhere.

As it was in the 1950s, 3D is seen as the latest gimmick to keep people off Rapidshare and in the movie theatre. But I’m not sure it’s always beneficial. Coraline in particular seemed like an ordinary stop-motion animated film which had the 3D applied afterwards. The curious effect was that the process made the puppets seem more like they had been generated with CGI than actual real-life materials. This isn’t to say that Selick/Rodriguez aren’t buzzing with ideas–or to overlook that Coraline tells its story with greater grace and wit than almost any other contemporary release. It should be something to watch the exchange.

Trailerama: Coraline

January 22, 2009

Fed up with her damp new life in Washington, Coraline discovers a whole better world behind the walls. Acceptance into a new family, though, comes at a price. Based on Neil Gaiman’s story, this stop-motion labor of love from Henry Selick looks like a horror film for children.