Sunday, December 22, 2019

Klaus (2019) Directed by Sergio Pablos

This Christmas story produced for Netflix and featuring a leap forward in 2D animation might just be the thing that gets studios back into 2D animated movies. Disney's last attempt was "The Princess and the Frog" and while that film was AMAZING, it just couldn't push the ball to the top of the hill and beat the slew of 3D animated films that were taking over animation everywhere. Well, not quite everywhere. TV and independent filmmakers still were and are harnessing the magic that hand drawn animation can bring to a movie and I think while not wildly promoted like Pixar and Disney films, they lurked in the background reminding us that animation is more than one thing.

In comes Klaus, a sort of re-imagining of the Santa Claus legend with stupendous visuals and a story that really walks the line between light and dark in a way I haven't seen in a "children's" film before. It even give the late Jim Henson a run for his money in that regard. the story of never-do-well rich kid who is shipped the worst place on earth to teach him a lesson is fairly standard the stuff. It's the details that make this story stand out.

This project first released a teaser trailer in April 2015, 4 year's before it's release and all those years of work show in the final product. the backgrounds are beautiful and the characters have a depth to them not seen in even the most famous of Disney productions. Things changed from the teaser and previews, including the lead character's voice and the cutting of a series of gags where the postman keeps getting snow dumped on him while trying to make his rounds to the less than friendly population. Those cuts were a shame because they were fully animated and quite funny but I won't second guess the writer/director's choices in the final edit because the finished movie works so damn well.

This is one of the best and innovative animated films to be released in a long time. For an animator like myself, it's inspiring.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Old Man and the Sea (animation) 2000 directed by Alexander Petrov

If you have never seen anything by Alexander Petrov, this is a good starting point. his work is simply amazing. Done by painting with oils on glass - erasing and repainting sections for each frame to give the impression of movement - this painstaking technique truly looks like paintings come to life.

The short documentary below explain his work and process.

Personally this sort of work proves that no matter how advanced CGI becomes, it is not the be all end all of animation. Frame by frame, done by hand Petrov's work transcend mere technical achievement and moves animation into the real of fine art.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody 2018 directed by Brian Singer (mostly)

This is an entertaining film, that is certain. What it isn't is a good bio film of the band Queen or it's lead singer Freddie Mercury. I am no Queen expert and didn't follow the career or life of Mercury but even I could pick out the many timeline shifts and fudging of the facts in this film.

Most, if not all bio-pics, are full of inaccuracies, condensed time lines and merged characters - it's part of making a life into a 2 hour movie. This movie plays loose with the facts but in ways that really feel disingenuous to even a casual viewer. Everything comes easy to Queen, Mercury shows up, sings a minute and is the band's lead singer from then on. Songs magically get written and no one seems to need to learn instruments or practice. The film is a by the numbers drama that in many ways could have been about any band with the exception of the inclusion of Queen-centric trivia.

Performances are all good but Rami Malek runs away with his portrayal of Mercury. Even if it sounds like he is channeling Tim Curry in Rocky Horror at points, the sheer charisma of Malek in the role  captivates you throughout. It's a shame that plot points that should have been an acting tour de force are cut short or glossed over. The portrayal of Queen's lead singer is far too confident and surface ( I would say this is a script problem over and not an acting one). The editing of the film is a mess, in my opinion. There is an obvious effort to cut it in a way that made it easier to remove sections that might be controversial in other markets. A huge part of the film is spent on the relationship between Mercury and his seemingly mostly platonic girlfriend and very little with the guy who was with him until his untimely death. In fact, we learn very little about anyone and come away remembering the painstakingly reconstructed Live Aid concert at the end more than anything personal about the band and those in it. That concert was at points fun and at other points an overly ambitious CGI recreation that resembled a video game scene insert over the filming of a real event.

Then there are - the teeth. We all might remember Freddie Mercury's teeth were not great but the way the fake teeth extend Rami's upper lip makes him look like an extra in the original Planet of the Apes movie. (Thanks to my friend Keamy for that little description.)

So overall, this movie is lightly entertaining but far from enlightening. Good performances are wasted with by the numbers plot points and accuracy was jettisoned for mundane mendacity. It might be an easy film to watch, but Queen and the it's story deserves better.