tealin: (catharsis)
For a few minutes, let's escape to a completely fictional universe where kind, noble, intelligent people are pressed by conviction and circumstance to make a stand against violent, greedy, ignorant ones.

I've been a fan of Lemony Snicket most of my adult life, but never imagined his books would help me parse current events. How lucky we are the Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events should come along just when it should be so bafflingly relevant.

A Little Background )

I wasn't immediately excited when I heard Netflix was going to do a serial adaptation of the books. The 2004 movie got some things right, but some more important things wrong, and having worked in high-profile mainstream entertainment in the meantime, I didn't believe they'd be allowed to film the books in a manner faithful to both story and tone. Too indefinable! Too idiosyncratic! Too intelligentsia! But when the first promotional material for the show came out, they seemed to know exactly what they were doing – more came out and I lost hope again – then at last I semi-reluctantly gave the first episode a try, and within ten minutes was completely sold on it and reverted to the giddy early-twenty-something who ran around Vancouver taking blurry black-and-white photos and cracking up at apparently random things.

I'm not going to go into a point-by-point of likes and dislikes, as that will take all afternoon, and the only person interested in it is me. Instead, here are some general statements from an avowed fan and someone far more familiar with the audiobooks than any adult ought to be: Items. )

If this series has been your introduction to Lemony Snicket, then sleep easy – it's been a good one. If you like it, you'll probably like the books. Might I also heartily recommend the audiobooks, for long car journeys, or non-word-related workdays, or just a bit of company as you unwind from a day of fighting injustice and bad taste in your off-the-grid safehouse far up in the mountains. You can probably find a few of them at a local public library. Support your library!
tealin: (writing)
Well, why not make it a thing this series.

I'm going to try to be short, because I have to get back to work. (Hah! Short.)

Immediate Impressions of the Just-Aired Episode of Sherlock, Series 4 )

Back to francophone radio for me now; have fun out there, fandom.
tealin: (introspect)
The 'vintage' Disney season continues at Picturehouse, now onto films which came out during my childhood. I missed Little Mermaid last week, which I have mixed feelings about – on one hand, I don't think I've seen it in the cinema since I was seven, but on the other, I have seen it on DVD and as such I am not overflowing with regret that I missed seeing it in enormous crystal-clear detail. It's a good film, entertainment-wise, but only just coming out of Disney's 1980s slump in technical and artistic standards.

Despite having seen it on the big screen fairly recently, however, I knew I had to make an effort to go see Beauty and the Beast this week. I cannot overstate the impact it made on my childhood – Hunchback made me want to become an animator (20th anniversary and still no sign of that being rereleased, alas), but purely on the receiving end, a peculiar, bookish, independent 5th Grader getting a Disney movie about a peculiar, bookish, independent young lady was a Big Thing. I probably would have ended up much the same without it, but to have that sort of affirmation at a formative time of life meant a lot. It's experiences like that that make me symathise with the push for representation of minorities in the media – if such a small thing meant so much to me, how much more would an analogous thing mean to someone far further from what's currently considered media-mainstream?

Having watched the video to the point of memorization, seeing this movie again was almost an opposite experience to Jungle Book. I could write about surprising details or things I know now about the production that colour my viewing, but the latter you can find in Dream On Silly Dreamer and the former via an attentive eye and a Blu-Ray player. I'm coming to the end of a short lunch break so I will keep it to this: As much as Beauty and the Beast was a trip down childhood's memory lane, it was also a re-acquaintance with people who were role models and then colleagues. People love to point out how characters are designed and animated to reflect the actors providing the voices, but when I watched this film I was seeing the animators. Anyone who's worked with Ruben Aquino would find him in Maurice, and there is an undeniable Nik Rainieri-ness in Lumiere; somehow Philippe is Russ Edmonds despite being a horse (Russ also animated Phoebus in Hunchback, you may note the similarity), and Glen Keane is all over the Beast if you know what to look for. Most bittersweet of the reacquaintances was James Baxter, though – he supervised Belle when he was quite young, but his scenes stand out by a mile, and it was so good to see his 'handwriting' again. He animates in CG for Dreamworks now and does a very good job of it, but CG smooths everyone out, so that joy of finding the really special sweet in the candy bowl is a thing of the past. It made me a bit wistful to experience it again, but at the same time, there are so many really excellent up-and-coming 2d animators that I hope it will be a future joy as well. It's become clear to me in teaching and animating here in Europe that the sky is the limit and there are dozens if not hundreds of keen and talented people out there raising the bar every day – it's a little personally dispiriting to see it pulled so quickly and so far out of my reach, but fantastically inspiring all the same, and I'd rather be inspired than smug any day.

Jungle Book

Sep. 4th, 2016 03:23 pm
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This afternoon, thanks to Picturehouse's current 'Vintage Sundays' series of animated film screenings, I got to see Disney's 1967 Jungle Book on the big screen for the first time.*

I remember watching it on video a fair bit as a kid, though I don't remember particularly liking it. There was something unsatisfying about it; in retrospect I think it may have been how it was just a loosely assembled collection of episodes strung along a 'must return Mowgli to the Man Village' throughline rather than anything that builds drama or character. I liked the tune of the girl's song at the end, but I didn't like her or her unsettling coquettishness (she's what, eight? even as a small child I knew that was wrong) and I didn't understand why Mowgli had to go live with the humans when anyone would be better off with animals. I also didn't understand why there was jazz in the jungle, or the Beatles, or why the animals had English accents and Mowgli sounded like Beaver Cleaver. And I thought the art style rather too anaemic for depicting a jungle. I think the last time I watched the film all the way through was in high school, but it stuck with me so little I'm not sure.

In the intervening years, I've learned a lot about animation, worked at Disney and learned about its history, and picked up the requisite historical pop-culture background knowledge, as well as some awareness of uncomfortable racial undertones, the British presence in India, and Kipling's motivation for writing the stories. On watching the film again, this did help – though I also wondered if perhaps I knew more about the latter two than the people who made it did.

I knew that coming in with this adult perspective was going to change the film for me; I also knew that seeing it in the cinema would make a big difference, though I didn't know what to expect from that. Here is how it went )

Luckily the emotional side, which had left me so cold as a child, has been saved by an external force: not to deliver any spoilers, but the finale of Cabin Pressure makes allusion to Jungle Book, and because the former handles character arcs and emotional lives so much better than the latter, all I had to do was graft in the feelings as instructed and voilà! Some semblance of depth. Pure pixie dust.

Next week is The Little Mermaid ... I actually know people who worked on that one, should be interesting in an entirely different way ...

*Perhaps not strictly true: I was born at the end of the era in which Disney periodically re-released classic films, and I know my parents took me to a few of those, though I don't particularly remember Jungle Book being one of them.
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In 1948, Ealing Studios produced a film about Scott's Last Expedition. There were still quite a few survivors kicking around, and despite initial misgivings, most eventually came around to the idea of supporting it. Frank Debenham, who founded SPRI and was more or less the official keeper of the Terra Nova flame, did a fair amount of consultation on the film, and got a credit of thanks. Cherry, on the other hand, "was asked to sign a form permitting the film-makers to change his character into anything they liked, and he replied by giving the studio bosses a good telling-off."1 He never saw it.

The film was popular when it came out, and my impression is that it has been a staple of British television since the latter went mainstream, often getting shown around Christmas. I believe it's largely because of this film that the majority of people here will recognise the line "I am just going outside and may be some time," and all you need to do to set up a Scott-based comedy sketch is start out with the sound of howling wind and a flapping tent.

Nevertheless, despite all my obsession, I had never seen the film. It wasn't easy to find Stateside, and after I moved here there were so many other things clamoring for my attention. But, as always, the BBC loves me and wants me to be happy, so it aired the film a few days ago, and I finally got to see.

I'm afraid I have to side with Cherry on this one, but it was very interesting to see it at last, and it made me think ... A Very Partial Review, as a Twofold Insider )

1Sara Wheeler, Cherry, p. 288

Dad's Army

Feb. 21st, 2016 04:42 pm
tealin: (catharsis)
I haven't seen many films since leaving LA. In part that may be because I knew too much of how they were made and they were more transparent than I wanted them to be; in part it was frustration that basic film grammar, artful cinematography, and sophisticated writing seemed to have gone out of fashion. For the most part, those I have seen, I've seen more as a social occasion than because I was interested in the film on its own merits.

Since moving to the UK, fed up with some sense of obligation being my sole reason to see things, I've experimented with only going to the films I am genuinely interested in seeing. These have been ... remarkably few. Vanishingly few, by some standards. I did want to see Shaun the Sheep – more out of a desire to celebrate being somewhere where Aardman still had theatrical distribution – but didn't get to the cinema in time. When I found out there was going to be a film of Dad's Army, a famous BBC sitcom from the 70s about a bumbling division of the Home Guard during WWII, I made up my mind not to repeat the Shaun mistake and get to it while I could.

I am not familiar with the original show – or rather, I am, but in the sort of way you pick things up second-hand, because it's referenced in radio comedy in that 'everyone knows this reference' kind of way, so I knew the catch phrases, a couple of the characters, and the premise. It's my policy that when a book I'm interested in is being made into a film, I'll put off reading the book until after I've seen it, on the basis that a)the book is always better than the film so I may as well work my way up, and b)I don't want to spend the entire movie distracted by noticing what's been changed. So I didn't look up the original TV show, or the radio adaptation, wanting to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and appreciate it (or not) on its own merits.

And ... it's not a bad movie. Review )

While it wasn't quite the film I wanted it to be, I'm still glad I went to see it. Moviemaking is an expensive hobby and it's good that there are pockets of it around the world that are not controlled from the deep pockets in LA; like any other art form, local cinema tells us who we are and offers different perspectives on storytelling and the human experience. It seems odd to tie a goofy TV spinoff about old men in with something as lofty as 'the human experience,' but you wouldn't see a big American movie studio making a WWII film from their point of view, certainly not without a lot more Nazis, and probably less comfortable lived-in familiarity with a quaint seaside town and the sort of characters you get there.

So there you go – local films for local people, support niche productions that interest you and let's all make the movies we want to make.

And have fun.

Iron Giant

Feb. 18th, 2016 07:57 pm
tealin: (catharsis)
The UK's arthouse cinema chain has been running matinees of The Iron Giant this week, as it's a school holiday and someone out there has high standards. Even though it's crunch time, and every hour of my day ought to be spoken for, I had to make the exception – the last time I had the chance to see it on the big screen was in 2000, and who knows when I'll ever get another one. Iron Giant has mythic status in animation: an awesome film with adult depth and integrity, which got scuppered by the studio on its release, robbing it of its just acclaim (and box office) and rendering it The Greatest Film Nobody Saw. Watching it with animation people is almost a religious experience; being a studio of one here, attending a screening felt like connecting with that community in a funny sort of way, and that was even before the credits rolled and I saw how many of those people I've now met, worked with, and moved on from. It made me think ...

Self-indulgent navel-gazing within )

Anyway, in the sixteen years since I last saw The Iron Giant on the big screen, I have learned a few things:
  1. A deep and heartfelt appreciation for a kickass cleanup team (and the crew on this film were superhuman)
  2. How to make espresso in a percolator, and hence that a) Dean is not making instant, and b) he's doing it wrong. You don't pour it in the top, Dean!
  3. How underappreciated, and in some cases underutilised, some of the talent in those credits is
  4. That the compositing software used on this film – and in the 2D films from Dreamworks and James Baxter's studio – was developed here in Cambridge!!
  5. That there is always, always more to learn ... when this crunch time ends, I'll be going back to Iron Giant and soaking up a lot of art direction and cinematography that I had respected but not properly appreciated before.  I'm sure I don't really fully appreciate it even now, but I hope my appreciation will appreciate.  Here's to the future ...
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When I moved into my own place in 2006, I took my TV but didn't sign up for cable, and was surprised how I hardly even noticed not having television programming in my life anymore. Since then it's only the occasional programme I make time for, usually on DVD, and never a series that demands more than a day's worth of my time to watch from start to finish.

Moving to the UK has, unexpectedly, challenged this status quo, because darn it if the BBC doesn't keep putting out exactly the sort of quality entertainment I actually want to see, and which rewards the watching. I missed the Christmas programming this year on account of actually doing stuff, and am only just now catching up on And Then There Were None, which has been highly recommended by people whose opinion I respect. The promotional material sent up a Pretty People Casting red flag, so I'd had my reservations, but the first seven minutes proved the filmmakers knew what they were doing, and once again I found myself enjoying the small-screen output of a small nation's public broadcaster far more than any big-budget mainstream movie in recent memory. While watching Hollywood films I keep getting inordinately distracted by stupid little things – casting choices, logic gaps, makeup, what have you – which crash my suspension of disbelief. This new crop of dramatic series is happy to engage enough of the grey matter that these distractions can be easily shushed, and satisfies my desire for cinematic craftsmanship enough that I can enjoy them on all levels. Establishing shots! What a novelty! Communicating information through means other than on-the-nose dialogue! What will they think of next? That annoying dissociated corner of my brain can think things like this:

... and instead of derailing my train of thought I can carry on enjoying myself. What a relief!

With Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell last year, it's small wonder I hardly managed to drag myself to the actual cinema; And Then There Were None is getting 2016 off to a promising start, and I haven't even started War and Peace yet...
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In 2012, while I was working on Paperman, I checked my email one morning and it seemed everyone I knew had sent me the link to this trailer:

... For obvious reasons I was VERY EXCITED about this film, and stayed excited about it for the next three years – in fact it's been the only animated film I've been excited for in the whole of that time. Being acquainted with disappointment I tried not to get my hopes up, but when I found out I'd be in Viborg during the animation festival, and that as a teacher at The Animation Workshop I was invited to attend the Danish premiere, the adrenaline surged.

And, dear reader, it was better than I dared hope.

Anyone in the business will tell you it gets harder to enjoy movies, and animated movies in particular, as you gain experience. The same goes for anything polar – the more you know about it, the more apparent others' lack of knowledge is, and you want to take them aside and say 'it's great you're interested, now let me show you how much more amazing it gets the more you dig.' Well, I am happy to report that Tout en Haut du Monde delivers resoundingly on all fronts: gorgeous animation, gorgeous art, solid storytelling (with continuous pleasant surprises, for someone so used to the Hollywood paradigm), and an oblique reference to some expedition or another every ten minutes or so, which made this polar animation nerd very happy indeed.

The film has a January release in France; I don't know about other distribution plans but I expect most of Europe will see it at some point or another, and depending what their strategy is there may be an Oscar-qualifying screening in LA either this year or next. Definitely keep an eye out for it! It is worth your time!
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A few years ago, when Occupy was doing their thing and their grievances and agenda were in the news, I had this thought:

These are clever, resourceful, idealistic, fit young people in their prime, who evidently don't mind a bit of discomfort to prove a point. If they want to reject the system, why don't they pool their resources, launch a Kickstarter to cover the shortfall, buy some big property somewhere in the back of beyond, and start a self-sufficient cashless community independent of corporations and unfair government?

Then I realised the utopia I was imagining was essentially Redwall.

Before Harry Potter had crested the horizon, Redwall was my obsession. It went beyond an obsession, in fact; at a time when I was a fish miles from water, struggling in an unfriendly school, and otherwise alienated from everyday reality, the Redwall books were my refuge and salvation. I read them over and over, read almost nothing else aside from the books assigned in class, and more or less looked out at the world through Redwall's windows. They gave me somewhere to go that wasn't my own head, and I don't know where I'd be today if I hadn't had that.

Most of my childhood was spent in places that could not have been further, visually, from the verdant pastoral quasi-medieval world described in the books, so when I moved to the UK I decided I needed to reread them, now I've become more familiar with the architecture and biome described. I was also curious to find out how my perspective on them might have changed in the fifteen years or so since I cracked one open. I can't say I was necessarily expecting anything, but it was curious what I noticed ...

Having just finished 'Redwall' ... )

Sadly the re-reading experience was not as blissful a trip down memory lane as I was kind of hoping it would be ... Redwall itself is a tricky book because the author doesn't really find his groove until a third of the way through, and the worldbuilding that gives the other books in the series such a nice integrity is still a little shaky in this one – it's the only book with any suggestion of a human presence, the relative sizes of the animals are all over the place, and the history of Mossflower Country is a great big unknown. The adventure was grand and it was still pleasingly cinematic (and the set designer has improved a lot since I was 13), but I've been spoiled by an education in screenwriting and more grownup literature that has ideas and stuff in it; Redwall is sweet in its simplicity but it does kind of make me want more out of aspects of the story and characters which are probably not intended for that purpose. I am all in favour of just enjoying a good yarn sometimes so I will let it be, but it did slightly diminish my enjoyment of it on an adult level. But mainly, I think, it's that I don't really need it anymore – I no longer need to hide from the world, in fact I quite enjoy the world I'm living in now, not least because I can get to Mossflower Woods on the Tube.

I have a copy of Mossflower waiting for me, which I'm looking forward to because it's got Martin the Warrior in it and he's a good 'un, but I don't know when I'll get to it because I've got a giant stack of homework that I'm about to get started on ... It'll be good to visit for brain candy on a dark winter night, though. Boy am I ever excited for it to be winter again.
tealin: (Default)
I'm overdue for a photo post, but I'm intimidated by the number of photos to be gone through, so here is something even more overdue:


I am structuring these reviews in a simple, succinct, and highly personal way, giving a simple overview then describing a)my favourite bit and b)something that bothered me. It seems as good a formula as any other, and also results in mostly non-spoilery reviews, so ... let's go!

Captain America II: The Winter Soldier )

Grand Budapest Hotel )

X-Men: Days of Future Past )

How to Train Your Dragon 2 )

*Okay, not every film that came out, just the ones I managed to see while up to my eyeballs in work. Special mention must be given to The Lego Movie and The Wind Rises which I would have loved to have seen in the theatre, but fate did not allow, alas.
tealin: (Default)
All right, it's Saturday night, I've got a glass of wine and no homework, let's see what we can do about some movie reviews two weeks after the fact.

I went up to my sister's for a weekend, which we kicked off with Thor 2: The Dark World and followed up with Captain America (which I had not yet seen) and Megamind (which she had not yet seen), chased down with Avengers because the trailer was on Captain America and we were reminded how great that movie was and how much we wanted to watch the Blu-Ray which was conveniently right at hand. Thanks for the suggestion, Marketing Department!

Thor: The Dark World )

Captain America )

Avengers I've already reviewed and Megamind ... ahhh Megamind ... someday I will do a comprehensive list of What I Love About Megamind (or, The Love That [at Disney] Dare Not Speak Its Name) but it's my bedtime, so not tonight.
tealin: (writing)
I actively dislike Up. I know that is something of a heretical stand, and I've spent hours discussing it with people at lunch, but have never been able to go into exhaustive depth because I just couldn't be bothered to do the research (i.e. watch the movie again and waste more time thinking about it). However, a couple years ago I was in a screenwriting class at work and we had to watch it as homework one week – I did manage to get through it all, by taking breaks to do more interesting stuff like make porridge and do the dishes – and took advantage of this enforced re-watching to make a list of what I liked, what I didn't, and questions.

The little piece of paper on which I'd written this has been kicking around for ages, and as I'm finally trying to do something about the 50,000 pieces of paper floating around my apartment, I need to get rid of it. Clearly the most important thing for me to be doing with my precious free time on a Saturday morning is to type it all out for the general benefit of the internet.

For the most part I'm just going to transcribe it verbatim, without commentary, as best as I can decipher my handwriting, but I need to explain something first: Pixar's Rules )

All right, here you go, see if you can make any sense of this, because after this I am done talking about Up:

Likes, Dislikes, and Questions )

And now into the recycling with this piece of paper ... only 49,999 more to go.
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Film Crit Hulk, who brought us such classics as Hero's Journey is Crap and Five Act Structure Is Ace has turned his gamma radiation-enhanced film criticism powers on Les Miserables.




Couldn't have come close to saying it as well as that, Film Crit Hulk!

You can find the whole long but very interesting article here, complete with all-caps and occasional cursing, but dangit, this is important.

Aside from pointing out specifically where Les Mis went wrong, this article is a really good primer for people who don't know much/anything about cinematography, and why it's so important to a film, why its weakness in this department made Les Mis a weaker film than it should have been by all other counts, and why film people get so huffy about this sort of thing come awards season. Someday I'm going to put together a post with screencaps and drawings that lays out what I thought was wrong with the cinematography, but Film Crit Hulk is vastly more informed on the subject, and this article is definitely prerequisite reading.

Yeah okay I like drawing Tom Hooper.

(A thousand thanks to Stephani for pointing me at this link!)
tealin: (catharsis)
Disney screens Best Picture nominees for employees every year, and yesterday was the turn of Les Miserables. Despite being underwhelmed the first time I saw it, I thought seeing it at the back of a small theatre with the best possible projection and sound would warrant giving it a second chance, and boy am I glad I did!

It still has cinematography issues, and major editing flaws which I didn't even notice the first time around thanks to being preoccupied with the shot choices, but seeing it smaller, and louder, and for the second time, so directorial decisions weren't surprising ... I really really really really liked it.

If my first reaction to the movie was this:

Then last night it was more like this:

The oddest thing was feeling like I was watching a completely different performance from Russell Crowe. Can't even begin to explain that, but I'm not complaining.

This comes as something of a relief, because I listened to my favoured recording of the musical last week, and found myself constantly reflecting upon how much better I liked the movie, musically and dramatically. This was no small surprise, let me tell you, because I love my Complete Symphonic Recording and I do not let go of beloved things lightly. I was worried I was in an untenable middle space in which I was not satisfied to listen to my soundtrack, nor to watch the film, and would have to wait until it came out on DVD just to listen to the film ... but that has been happily resolved.

Then again, I may have been more receptive than otherwise because I was keyed up on Hamlet [unrelated story]. But that was merely an effective counter to the people sitting behind my friend and me, one of whom would mutter audibly about the characters every so often, and the other would sometimes make a noise somewhere between a snore and a grumbly off-key humming-along, which would have been annoying if it hadn't sounded so hilarious, especially during "Bring Him Home." I tried picturing what that noise sounded like and got a bad attack of the giggles.

tealin: (catharsis)
I was not terribly excited to go see The Hobbit. Not only had friends' feedback been mediocre to poor, but my own personal relationship with the book was defined by frustration and disappointment. Two of child-Tealin's favourite things were Watership Down and David the Gnome,* so naturally adults were keen to recommend I read The Hobbit, as it was in the same vein of light-fantasy adventure, but I never took to it. I was reassured that this was because I was 'too young for it'; I read it again when I was older with the same result and was told I was 'too old.' Shortly after the last disappointment I discovered a different fantasy universe and spent the rest of my teenagerhood enthusiastically immersed in Redwall.
*Did anyone else see this cartoon? I swear it was on Nickelodeon back in the day, but I am coming to think I was the only child in North America who was tuned in at that time because none of my friends has heard of it.

I thought at the time that I just wasn't compatible with Tolkien. In retrospect, I think the real problem was that I was a preteen girl who loved epic adventure: a protagonist who hated the idea of leaving home and was going through something of a midlife crisis was someone I could neither relate to nor cheer on. It is an odd choice for a kids' book, when you think about it. Perhaps instead of suggesting I read it again in a couple of years, those kind adults should have told me, 'wait until you're on the threshold of middle age and have done some travelling yourself, then watch a film adaptation in which Bilbo Baggins is played by a completely endearing actor.' Because ... contrary to expectation and experience, I really enjoyed it.

Two important cards should be laid on the table at this point:
1. I saw the film in 2D, at 24fps (normal frame rate). I believe this made an enormous difference as I was not distracted by gimmicks. The 48fps alone probably would have ruined it for me.
2. I went into it with the sage advice of a good friend, which I pass on to you in case you have not seen it yet: Don't watch it like it's a movie – pretend instead that you're having a marathon of episodes from your DVD box set of The Hobbit miniseries.

Rambling about a Rambling Flick )

And now, trying to talk about it as an actual movie... )

A curious thing, though, to send it off: As much as I enjoyed watching the film, time with the characters, and visiting Middle Earth again, I'm not really keen on seeing it again. Maybe the desire will grow – after all, I only saw it a couple days ago, and it's quite an investment of time – but usually I can tell after the first viewing whether it's a movie I'll be seeing again, and this one I was happy to have seen and enjoyed once. Take what you will from that.
tealin: (catharsis)
There was no waiting in the Noodle household: we saw Les Miserables yesterday afternoon.

As usual, my 'review' is going to make it sound like I didn't like it. I actually liked about 90% of it; the problem was that the other 10% made the 90% really hard to watch.

So, for the record, here is a list of things I love about Tom Hooper's Les Mis:

- The new orchestrations – OMG the new orchestrations – I love them and want to re-record the orchestra retroactively on my London Cast album, like, right now.
- Production design in general
- The vast majority of the acting
- The vast majority of the casting
- The location design around the ABC Café
- The lyrics changes and additions (and I don't like change usually, especially in something so close to my heart), especially ones that brought in more historical perspective and/or moments from the book.* The new verse in Gavroche's solo renders my historical costume post more or less irrelevant! Thanks, Gavroche!
- I actually liked the new song, which was a big surprise because I never like the new songs they put in old musicals. I thought it came at a good moment in the story and did a useful job of adding a dimension to Valjean's character arc, giving us a moment to let things gel before diving into a new pool, and wasn't bad musically either.
- The slight modifications to the timeline in the first half of the movie
- Foreshadowing
- Little things subtly but deliberately placed within the frame which reflect or comment upon the scene
*I have not read the book (I know, I know) but I have picked up information from various adaptations and conversation with people who have read it, so I can fake having read it well enough to recognise things from the source material.

With the exception of some of the timeline changes in the latter half of the movie, there was really only one thing I had a problem with. I am aware, though, that it might be something most people won't notice; I'm going to rant about it under a cut so that I don't plant awareness of it in your mind and ruin what might be a perfectly rewarding cinematic experience. So, no spoilers in the traditional sense of the word, but nevertheless, spoilers ahead:

Sometimes, it's all about the presentation. )

So there you go, internet, you can stop asking me if I've seen Les Mis now. :) It's definitely worth seeing, my own misgivings aside ... but you can probably expect some expansion upon what I've said above in the coming days as I process it and/or find illustrative screencaps.
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The internet was in love with it! People of my acquaintance were kind of so-so!

In keeping with my recent theme of being unable to follow through on anything, I kept finding it inconvenient to go see Rise of the Guardians in the theatre, regardless of how much I wanted to support it. But on Thursday the ASIFA screener landed on my desk so there were no more excuses, and Friday night I finally watched the thing.

I have to admit I'm on the fence about this one. )
tealin: (catharsis)
Full disclosure: I work* for Walt Disney Animation Studios (in fact that is where I am typing this, right now) so I have a vested interest in seeing this film succeed, even though I didn't work on it.** On the other, dominant hand, I have never taken the origin of my paycheque as justification to whitewash the movies my colleagues and I make, so bear that in mind when you read the following review.
**I think technically I'm listed as having done so, but it would have turned out exactly the same without me, so I don't know if it counts.

Wreck-It Ralph is really, really good.

It's focused, sharp, just the right balance of irreverent and heartfelt, well-paced, and funny. It doesn't have tremendous dramatic or philosophical depth, nor incisive satirical insight, but it clearly doesn't try to go for these things: it may have a safe comfort zone, but at least it owns it. What's more, you can tell the people working on it seemed to enjoy it; I say "seemed" because I am aware of how exhausting the production was, but the work that made it to the screen could only have been done by people who cared about what they were making, regardless of how much sleep they were getting.

The only real disappointment I had in it was that, for me at least, it didn't stand up to much rewatching. I somehow managed to miss every single work-in-progress screening, so it wasn't until about two weeks before it was wrapped that I saw the whole final version of the movie – this I liked really quite a lot, despite being prepared not to. Only a month or so later the movie was finished and they had the friends-and-family previews, which I went to see because it was in 3D and a lot of the effects shots weren't finished in the previous one. It wasn't any worse than I remembered, but I didn't feel like I got more out of it. This may just be me; I have the same problem with most Pixar movies and goodness knows those are popular enough. I can't even necessarily say it's something lacking, because I enjoyed it thoroughly the first time, and I couldn't hope to put my finger on what isn't there ... but I just don't feel compelled to spend further time with those characters in that world. Considering how few people factor 'rewatchability' into a film's pros and cons, though, this is a minor drawback, and probably only a personal one.

That's it for my review – as a diversion, I would like to point you towards Betsy Sharkey's Ralph review in the L.A. Times, not because of what it says about the film per se, but ... does it read to anyone else like it's got a secret message encoded in it somehow?

Anyway, this is all beside the point. The REAL reason to go see Wreck-It Ralph is for the short film which precedes it, Paperman. I've had my eye on this one for years, since I saw a screening of it in story reels. It was something special in scribbly marker sketches, and it's something special now; however much fuss is made about the technique and the shiny bells and whistles that went into its production, I want to take this opportunity to suggest to the moviegoing public that maybe the reason they like it so much is that it's just an incredibly good film. It's hands-down my favourite thing Disney's made since I got here, and even though it's only six minutes long, I can rewatch this one over and over. (And I have.)

So yes, Paperman and Wreck-It Ralph: At long last a double-bill which delivers on the ticket price. Should you find yourself willing to put my opinions to the test at the local multiplex, I suggest finding the loudest theatre you can – Ralph doesn't really matter much either way, sound-wise, but ironically for a 'silent' short, Paperman is noticeably better with the sound well up. I've seen it in a quieter theatre and it's still excellent, but it doesn't have the transportive power. I prefer seeing Paperman in 2D, mainly because some of the depth in the 3D doesn't make sense to me; Ralph is equally good in both media, though as usual I stopped noticing the 3D about ten minutes in. I do recommend choosing one or the other and seeing them at some point, though; they're good films that deserve a watch.
tealin: (think)
It was with great pleasure I discovered that a favourite author of mine was to revisit a favourite series of mine and write four new books which were purportedly to shed some light on favourite characters of mine, who are more or less in the background of the original series. If I could have any fanfiction in the world, I have maintained, I would have VFD fanfiction,* about the older generation, their traumas and tragedies and spurious research before, during, and after the schism ... And here it was to be, from the author himself!

Adding to the thrill was the return of Snicket weather ...

A Series of Unfortunate Events has always been an autumnal thing for me. I fell in love with it one fall, running to and from the library at lunch hour devouring audiobook after audiobook. The books that came out after I got into it always dropped in October, so yellow leaves on wet pavement became emblematic of rushing to the bookstore on laydown day to pick up the new one. It won't be Snicket weather in LA for a couple months yet, but I got a taste of it a few weeks ago when visiting my old haunts, and the seasonal appetite returned.

Because of my former ritual, when the new book was announced, I promised myself that even though there was no bookstore within walking distance and the pavement would almost certainly not be wet, I would at least walk into a bricks-and-mortar bookshop and buy a dead tree edition of the book, for old time's sake. This I did not do on laydown day (see above re: walkability) but did manage on Saturday. As of approximately 4 P.M. Sunday 28 October 2012, I have finished All the Wrong Questions: Who Could That Be At This Hour?

I suppose the most succinct (if unfair) way I could sum the book up is: Well, it's not the fanfic I would have written. Verbose but Frivolous Dispatch )

Interestingly, a word which here means "only of interest to the author of this blog post," had I picked up and read the book the day it came out, I would have missed something which amused me. I have long been of the opinion that "the city," as mentioned in this world, is rather heavily based on San Francisco (rationale can be supplied upon request). Just yesterday I caught a radio piece which introduced me to the fact (or rumour?) that San Francisco is underrun by a network of secret tunnels, which play something of an important role in The Ersatz Elevator, and make a reappearance in All the Wrong Questions. I dug a very little bit and found an article which, read through the right lens, is a Snicket story. Amusement survives.

I close with one question; I don't know if it's the wrong one or the right one, but I'm pretty sure it is at least a unique one: When did Lemony Snicket start liking coffee? Because he turned me on to macchiatos (not the Starbucks kind) and I could not be more grateful.

*So far the most satisfying VFD fic I have found is How Would the Snicket Characters Eat a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup?", which is just as deep as the title implies, but ... Jacques ... A certain author of my acquaintance keeps telling me the thing about fanfic is, if you don't see what you like (or like what you see) you write it yourself, but HOW many projects do I have on the go these days? Or rather, not on the go, because there are too many to focus on one?


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