Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy Rider (1969)

Two bikers ride their Harleys across the Southern states trying to find freedom.....and eventually get to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Easy Rider (1969) starts with friends, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) smuggling cocaine back to the States from Mexico and follows them as the ride off to New Orleans as rich men. Unfortunately no hotel or motel will let them stay because of their appearance, so they often just camp out among the stars. Wyatt is more relaxed and trusting of others, whereas Billy is more cynical and paranoid. 

The film is riddled with hippies and drugs and infused with some crazy antics of Jack Nicholson. Jack shows up about halfway through the film as lawyer and local drunk George Hanson. He seems normal, other than his alcoholism, but within a few minutes turns into the good old Jack we all know and love. I mean he's stoned too but that just makes it better. 

I found that the cuts between certain scenes were kind of weird but I've never done drugs so what do I know. The acid-trip scene is pretty intense and may or may not be what it might be like to actually be on acid but I could imagine it would relatively similar. 

Overall not a lot significant happens for most of the movie but that's the point, it's just about two guys on a journey to find freedom in America. This film boasts a phenomenal soundtrack that covers every mood and tone in every scene throughout the film. Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf plays through the opening credits and has been tied to motorcycles and general badassery ever since. Watching this movie made me simultaneously both appreciate and envy not living in the 60s.

Notes:
- AFI listed Easy Rider as #84 on their Top 100 American Films of All Time. 
- The budget of the film was less than $400,000. The costs for licensing music in the film cost more than $1 million.
- The original working title of the film was The Loners.
- Steppenwolf lead singer John Kay spent his teen years growing up in Waterloo, Ontario.
- Real marijuana was used in the smoking scenes.....the cocaine and LSD in the film was not.
- It's not until about 6 minutes left in the film when Peter Fonda's character's name is actually revealed as Wyatt. Before that he had been only referred to by his nickname Capt. America.
- The two main characters are named after Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Newsies (1992)

Singing, dancing, wonderful shots of old New York, 18 year old Christian Bale, need I say more? Okay I probably do. Although originally not successful critically or at the box office, Newsies (1992) has gained a major cult following. A live-action Disney musical very loosely based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City seems like a rather far-fetched idea but in my opinion it seems to have paid off. 

It's not the greatest acting in the world, in reality it's quite awful, especially from the veterans Bill Pullman and Robert Duvall in supporting roles as Bryan Denton and Joseph Pulitzer respectively. The good thing is the quality of the acting is not the point of the movie. Honestly, Disney has never really had to rely on acting because everything else seems to work out. It's the musical numbers and the fantastic and perhaps unrealistic atmosphere in the recreated 1899 New York setting.

Well we open the movie with David (David Moscow) and his brother Les starting work as paper carriers since their father's injury. They quickly befriend and learn the ropes from the legendary Jack Kelly (Christian Bale). When Joseph Pulitzer decides to raise the prices on the newsies, they've had enough and go on strike.  Pulitzer plots and schemes and goes to all sorts of trouble to get his way.

This movie gave  Christian Bale a solid boost to his rising stardom after his great performance in Empire of the Sun (1987). In 1993 he did a rather similar film in terms of singing and dancing in Swing Kids

If you want depth and brilliant acting this is not the movie to do it. However, if you're into a bunch of kids singing and dancing in 1899 New York then you're in luck! Seriously, though not a great movie, but I'll always love it, it reminds me of being a kid.


Notes:
- Newsies wasn't originally intended to be a musical.
David Moscow who plays the other main character David hasn't been in much but most notably was the 13 year old version of Tom Hanks' character in Big (1988).
- If you have a keen eye or just have too much time like me, you'll notice that Aaron Lohr plays one of the newsies, Mush. You may not know him by name, but he later played Dean Portman in the latter two Mighty Ducks movies.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AFI's Top 10 Animation: #1 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

I've really been slacking with pumping these out so from now on I might try these lists a little differently.

You may or may not have seen this one coming. I definitely knew it would be #1 before I saw the Top 10 list. It is personally not my favourite but you really can't ignore what it did to the entire film industry. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was Disney's very first feature length film and revolutionized the world of cinema. 

Snow White is a spoiled little princess whose jealous Queen sends a huntsman to execute. Snow White screams and whimpers as she runs off and finds herself at the home of the Seven Dwarfs. Things were different back in the 30's so Snow White may not line up exactly to the qualities that may be found particularly appealing in women today. Her voice is annoyingly high, she has the fairest of skin, she is super naive, and her only discernible abilities (other than singing) are to cook and clean. Now back then this probably would have been the perfect woman, but nowadays it would pretty much represent most of what women want to break away from. In any case, as much as I don't like about the original Disney princess, the film deserves to be at the top of AFI's Top 10 Animation. It was a great movie that changed animation in film forever. 

With this year's Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman we will see some different re-imaginings of an old classic. They each take a different perspective on the story with the latter being the darker, and probably more realistic take on the story. If you know anything about the original Grimm tales, you know they were exactly that, rather grim.

The Seven Dwarfs are the main stars of the film and because of them in my opinion, this film will always merit another viewing no matter your age.

Notes:
- Walt Disney received his second Academy Honorary Award (the first in 1931 for creating Mickey Mouse) in 1938. He was presented a full sized Oscar statuette along with seven miniatures.
- A couple times throughout the film the dwarfs exclamation of "Jiminy Cricket!" alludes to Pinocchio's conscience that would appear three years later.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Top 10 Grossing Movies of All Time (Inflation Adjusted)

Okay so I'm glad I can write about this list now after dying a little inside from writing the other post. Here we come to the Top 10 Grossing Films of All Time if we adjust for inflation. Here is a nice accurate portrayal of what has been popular at the cinemas through the ages. There are actually some great classics on here and we see a lot of representation from different eras. Some may say some of these are overrated because they are classics and they are entitled to their own opinions. They are wrong but you can't blame them for that. Actually yes you can.

I also must add that this is the list from boxofficemojo.com but instead of ranked by Worldwide grosses I'm going by the Domestic grosses. There are two reasons for this:

  1. boxofficemojo.com only has the inflation adjusted numbers for Domestic grosses
  2. This list as linked to above doesn't have Avatar (2009) on it, so that makes me happy that I don't have to talk about it again.
So without further ado,

#10 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)



Disney's very first feature film and a revolutionary catalyst in animation in the industry. Honestly not my favourite but you can't ignore what it brought to audiences, it was something novel and spectacular. Remember this was released 75 years ago.





A truly terrifying and gruesome experience back in the 70s. When first screened audience members were vomiting in the theaters. I may be horribly desensitized but the first time I watched it I was laughing pretty hard. This and The Shining were pretty hilarious, but that's just me.



#8 - Doctor Zhivago (1965)

One of two movies on this list I haven't seen yet. From IMDb I got this,
"Life of a Russian doctor/poet who, although married, falls for a political activist's wife and experiences hardships during the Bolshevik Revolution."
I'm sure it is far more fascinating than the vague outline described above and I will promptly get to watching it. Alec Guinness is in it and I wouldn't mind watching him in a role where he isn't Obi Wan Kenobi.



The world's best shark movie. Arguably one of the greatest films of all time and very deservedly gets the #7 spot. Jaws really solidified Steven Spielberg's place as one of Hollywood's finest directors and helped the term "blockbuster" newly define a genre rather than how much money it might make. This action-thriller is accompanied by John Williams' minimal but intense score and those two eerie notes we all know too well.



#6 - The Ten Commandments (1956)

As a kid I always thought it took forever and that it was actually like 10 hours long but I was an impatient child so you can't blame me too much. At a little under 4 hours it is still pretty long but it does star the late gun-lovin' Chuck Heston as Moses opposite Yul Brynner as Pharaoh Rameses. It was nominated for seven Oscars, winning one for Best Effects and it is one of my favourites of the epic genre.





I wrote something about this on my other post and it's the only one to make both lists. So you can read whatever I may have written here. I mean I may or may not have been ripping on James Cameron, I can't really remember.







The first movie I saw that didn't portray aliens as some evil, malevolent beings. It was such a heart-warming story and gave Drew Barrymore her big break. It does help that her godfather is Steven Spielberg.




A great musical telling of a nun falling in love with a widowed Austrian naval officer and his seven children, and general hatred towards the Nazi movement. Who didn't watch this all the time as a kid, it has some great songs and with a lot of kids to choose from there are little bits that almost anyone can relate to. That being said I'd say that it's mostly girls who are 16 going on 17 who get the most out of it. It stars the magnificent Dame Julie Andrews opposite the Canadian, and finally Academy Award winner, Christopher Plummer.


#2 - Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)


After I had to include The Phantom Menace on that other list I'm so happy that I can now praise the original. A New Hope, is a cinematic masterpiece that started one of the most iconic trilogies of all time. The Star Wars film series is the third most profitable in history behind Harry Potter and James Bond (but they have made 24 films so that shouldn't really count). Most notably George Lucas gave us the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, all starring Harrison Ford. So kudos to both for some jobs well done.


The oldest film on the list and isn't it much nicer to think about this film rather than Avatar in the top spot? Despite my admiration for older films, I have yet to watch this movie, I just haven't gotten around to it. If only watching every movie was my job; I could totally be the younger, Asian version of Roger Ebert. Anyway, Gone with the Wind is an epic film about the romance between Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) during the American Civil War and the Reconstruction era in the South. It won an astonishing 10 Academy Awards which stood as a record until 1960.



Now wasn't that list much nicer than the one sans inflation? Yeah, I agree. 

Notes:
  • Most of the films here held the record for highest gross of all time at the time which is nice to see such a wide variety through the decades of film. The progression in history goes as follows (* denote films not on the list above):
    • (1915 - 1940) Birth of a Nation * (some speculation about this record but it doesn't really matter for the purposes of this list)
    • (1940 - 1966) Gone With the Wind
    • (1966 - 1971) The Sound of Music
    • (1971 - 1972) Gone With the Wind (usurped the title due to a re-release)
    • (1972 - 1976) The Godfather *
    • (1976 - 1978) Jaws
    • (1978 - 1983) Star Wars
    • (1983 - 1993) E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
    • (1993 - 1998) Jurassic Park *
    • (1998 - 2010) Titanic
    • (2010 - present) Avatar *
  • E.T. was the first film, well the first important one, to be majorly affected by video-piracy. After bribing a projectionist, a group of impatient movie-goers video taped the screen of an illegally obtained master and widely distributed it afterwards.
  • Again I used the poster images from www.impawards.com, they've got a lot of good stuff, probably should check it out.




Saturday, May 12, 2012

Top 10 Grossing Movies of All Time

This is a list of the Top 10 Grossing films of all time according to a variety of sources. Due to inflation, the Top 10 movies here are some great ones but also some mediocre ones and are mostly from the last 10 years or so. As I'm writing a little blurb for each movie I find myself getting rather harsh and cynical as compared to my rather lenient self. Of course this list isn't of the Top 10 Greatest films of all time but when have people  as a whole ever been smart enough to spend their hard earned money on a film that was actually good.

This was just something to do instead as a little break from my other list. A friend suggested I write something up on this and so here it is. Soon I'll do the list of Top 10 Grossing films of all time adjusting for inflation because that one has more movies actually worth seeing but for now you'll have to live with this one.

Really this is list saddens me a little to think that we spend so much money to see some movies that are pretty subpar. Don't get me wrong there are some great ones on this list but Titanic (1997) is the oldest movie on it so that tells you something right there.

#10 - Alice in Wonderland (2010)





Decent enough, not as good as the Disney original but still pretty entertaining. Tim Burton doesn't disappoint but it seems his efforts aren't quite what they used to be. 




#9 -  Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)




Quite honestly I'm not sure if I've seen this movie the whole way through in one sitting. I'm pretty sure I've seen it all but in parts at different points in time. I am biased against any Star Wars movies other than the original three and I could rant for a while on this movie but I won't.





Sadly, the first of two Pirates of the Caribbean movies on this list. It's the only series to have more than one film in the top 10 and that makes me cry a little inside. I enjoy the movies tremendously but seriously two Pirates movies in the Top 10? 







The closest movie so far to deserve a spot on this list. I am a child at heart and always will be so I'm glad this movie made the list. It doesn't really deserve a Top 10 slot but it's better than the previous three. 








The first one had some good laughs with Johnny Depp and friends but after that things got old pretty fast. I'll still watch them but I can think of a lot better movies in the past year, let alone the last 10 years.








A grand epic finale to the LOTR trilogy. It doesn't quite live up to the book but it's probably the closest we could hope for. Peter Jackson, I tip my hat to you good sir.






Seriously?








Not surprised in the slightest. With all the Potter fans around the world I'm actually kind of surprised it didn't make more money. It was pretty good but not as good as the books, but I'm sure you're tired of hearing that.








A lot of people aren't too fond of this movie but I quite enjoy it. It really brought back the epic genre of movie back to the industry as it hadn't been mainstream for some time. It also helped launch Kate Winslet's career.





James Cameron is a such money whore. Possibly the most over-hyped movie I've ever seen. Yes the graphics were amazing and practically flawless but the acting was awful and the plot was nothing new. Other than visuals it didn't bring anything special to the film world. I have only seen it once. I tried to watch it again, not on the big screen, it didn't really work. I got about 10 minutes in and proceeded to watch something interesting.







Notes: 
- Johnny Depp is in three of these.
- I got a lot of these poster images from http://www.impawards.com/. Probably will go there from now on cause they have some pretty nice resolution images and a nice variety of posters for each film.
- This list is via boxofficemojo.com.
- Probably should have waited until The Avengers (2012) came out because right now it sits right behind Titanic and is the third highest grossing film of all-time.

Friday, May 11, 2012

AFI's Top 10 Animation: #2 - Pinocchio (1940)

Only if you are brave, truthful, and unselfish can you become a real boy. Those are apparently the only three requirements according to the Blue Fairy. So I thought I knew the whole story of Pinocchio (1940) but this was a perfect example of why you should rewatch movies every couple of years. It was a lot creepier and more disjointed than I remember. Still, it was fantastically made and introduced a couple of Disney's oldest characters.

Geppetto is a lonely old woodcarver who, one day, makes a wooden boy and wishes for him to be real. Well he's not totally alone, he has his cute tuxedo cat Figaro and his goldfish Cleo (who always seems to want to kiss everyone) to keep him company. The Blue Fairy appears at night and makes Pinocchio come to life and appoints Jiminy Cricket as his conscience. Together Pinocchio and Jiminy get into all sorts of trouble.

I found that the plot up to about 50 minutes in is relatively tame and is pretty easy to predict but after that, all hell starts to break loose. After about halfway, some creepy, rich, fat guy 'kidnaps' Pinocchio and a bunch of other little boys and takes them to Pleasure Island to turn them into donkeys. Then Pinocchio has to rescue Geppetto and the others inside the belly of Monstro, the whale. It's just sort of a couple random creepy subplots thinly tied together. Oh and of course everything ends well but honestly the whole last half could have been left out and it would still make sense as a short film.

Another thing I noticed (and hopefully I didn't miss it when I watched it again) is that at no point in the film is there any reference to the rule that if Pinocchio lies his nose grows. It's just something that happens. I'm sure it is stated somewhere in the novel The Adventures of Pinocchiowritten by Italian author Carlo Collodi.

The relationship between The Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket is a great example of the power women seem to have over men. She uses her extravagant (tasteful) beauty and charm to get Jiminy to do whatever she wishes. So in that respect the movie holds true to reality....unlike the whole magical wooden boy thing.

If you haven't seen it in a while or just not at all, I recommend brushing up with Disney's second ever feature film. The plot doesn't quite have the same innocence as perhaps newer Disney movies do, but Pinocchio is naive and pure enough to compensate. 

Notes:
- Won two Oscars, one for Best Original Score and one for Best Original Song, "When You Wish Upon A Star"
- In a scene in 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, after returning home from the mine, all the dwarfs (except for Dopey of course) shout out "Jiminy Cricket!" when they see the light on in their home. Though this was the first time the name/saying appeared in the Disney realm, it was apparently used several times in the 1930 movie Anna Christie. I say 'apparently' because I haven't seen it and I took that info off Wikipedia so who knows how reliable that is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

AFI's Top 10 Animation: #3 - Bambi (1942)

I hadn't seen Bambi (1942) in years but it was a good refresher to watch it again. At 67 minutes it's nice and short so you don't have to stay put for too long. 

There isn't really a whole lot that actually happens in this movie. Bambi is born, Bambi's mother dies, Bambi falls in love with Faline, hunters come and destroy the forest, and the creepy Great Prince of the Forest just kind of lurks everywhere. Afterwards everything is fine and Bambi's a dad, The End.

As much as Bambi's mother dying is an iconic moment in Disney film history, it doesn't really have much of an effect on the movie. She dies, and Bambi is sad for like a minute and then it cuts to a happy, bright  scene where he's all grown up. It kind of reminds me of when Simba loses his father but really slimmed down. Imagine it the same except instead of the whole interaction with Scar and meeting Timon and Pumbaa scene, it would have Mufasa dying and then Simba is instantly old. That's pretty much what happens in this movie. Not that it really matters in the long run, I mean she could have still been alive and the rest of the movie could go on just about the same.

Have you ever noticed how annoying Thumper really is? He is basically that kid in school who wasn't meaning to make you feel bad but just always seemed to be pointing out what you're doing wrong and laughing about it. I mean he's cute but if he wasn't a little rabbit you'd probably want to hit him. I just have to say that the adult voices for the animals suck, so enjoy their whiny childish voices for the first 40 minutes or so.

All in all  Bambi (1942) is still a great movie. It has an Oscar nominated score and it was just the sixth feature length Disney film ever made. I just think it's a little overrated, it's a little too short for feature length and the plot is depressing but plays that part down, so why bother putting it in at all? Still a fantastic quality movie but at #3 it's ranked a little too high in my opinion. It's a movie that you won't need to see again but I know that when I have kids I'll be watching it again.

Notes: 
- Austrian author Felix Salten wrote Bambi, A Life in the Woods upon which this movie was based. Although not conclusive, it is widely believed that Salten is anonymous author of a rather different book. He is regarded as the author of the erotic novel Josephine Mutzenbacher - The Life Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself. That`s something to think about.
- This film is also famous for Thumper`s Rule, which states that, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all", but if commonly misquoted as saying "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all", but it has the same meaning, so no point splitting hairs.
- AFI listed 'man', the off-screen threat to the forest, as #20 on their List of Top 100 Heroes and Villains.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

Yeah I know I'm a little late to the party but I've seen it now and I'll let you know what I think. 

As a kid I was pretty into comics and the Marvel and DC Universes. I was by no means an expert but I knew enough to get by. Knowing the back story for each of The Avengers is helpful but not necessary beforehand. The film does a good job at introducing each character again without making it super drawn out or boring. I think knowing a little about the Marvel's superteam is welcome knowledge so that you aren't confused at key points in the movie.

The film was directed by the brilliant Joss Whedon, who brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and more recently Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. I was a little worried that the feel of the movie might not quite fit with the Marvel design but I'm glad that those worries were misguided.

As we meet the team, we also see some supporting characters from their respective movies. The films in the past few years that The Avengers (2012) draws from are Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).

The Avengers:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Chris Evans as Captain America
Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye

Everyone else:
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill
Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Eric Selvig 
and Paul Bettany returns as the voice of Jarvis (Tony Starks' computer)

We also get cameos by Harry Dean Stanton, Ashley Johnson, Alexis Denisof, and of course you can't forget the legendary Stan Lee.

Well getting down to it, the movie starts off at a good pace, a little slow but I had pretty high expectations. Perhaps it went a little slow because they wanted everyone to be able to just pick up and watch it without necessarily having seen the other films. Not long into the film the action really picked up. I am a little biased but I'm definitely glad they had plenty of Hulk action scenes because he's my favourite. I also found that there was a lot more humour than most of Marvel's films to date, but it gave a nice contrast to the seriousness of the plot. 

Oh right, the plot.....umm let's see:

Loki is pissed and wants to rule the Earth and so The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and their ragtag team try to stop him.

How was that?

I would have to agree with most and say that it is my favourite Marvel film to date. I think it flowed quite nicely and is a must see for anyone who enjoyed any of Marvel's films so far. As I hinted to before, I suggest  watching any or all of the films from which the Avengers were assembled (I'm sure you can figure out what I mean by that). Despite having great admiration for the film, I really wouldn't bother seeing it in 3D, but I'm cheap so you can't really take my word on that. 

Update:
- I don't think I said this the first time round, nor do I care to actually check, but make sure that when you do see The Avengers, stay until the very end because there are two scenes at the end of the credits. I won't ruin it for you but I will say that comic book fans will know a little more than the general folk about the significance of the first of the two scenes.

Notes:
- Something I didn't know before, Joss Whedon was one of the writers for the Toy Story screenplay, which makes me respect him so much more than I already do.
- Alan Silvestri provides the score for The Avengers, and I'm glad they chose him. I can't say that he's my favourite film composer but he's definitely up there. He's provided the score to some great films, most notably Back to the Future and Forrest Gump.
Alexis Denisof voices The Other (the creepy guy talking to Loki). Along with being a frequent part of  Joss Whedon productions, he plays Sandy Rivers alongside  Cobie Smulders' Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother.
- Natalie Portman didn't return as Jane Foster, I can't remember why.....I probably should have done some research....oh well. Gladly, it is reported she will be reprising her role in Thor 2.

AFI's Top 10 Animation: #4 - The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King (1994) easily has one of the most iconic scores and soundtracks of our time, and by "our" I mean those that are my age. I'm sure I'm not alone in this but I know when I watch it and the songs I grew up with come on, I start belting them out or lip-syncing like an idiot.

Sir Elton John and Tim Rice (who usually doesn't get enough credit), provided us with some of Disney's greatest songs for this film. Can You Feel the Love TonightCircle of Life, Hakuna Matata, I Just Can't Wait to Be King, and every other song in the movie. Okay well it was every song other than the instrumental ones, which were done by Hans Zimmer. Lyricist Tim Rice was asked to write the songs after he had written with Alan Menken for Aladdin, but Menken was unavailable due to other projects. Rice ultimately was able to work with Elton John after suggesting him to the producers.

We hear from some amazing voices that you may or may not have associated with the movie before: James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Matthew Broderick as Adult Simba, Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Simba, Nathan Lane as Timon, Jeremy Irons as Scar, Rowan Atkinson as Zazu, Cheech Marin as Banzai, Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi, and the great Robert Guillaume as Rafiki.

I talk about all this stuff before actually talking about the film itself because I know you've all seen it before and by the off chance you haven't you know what it's about. If by some minute, infinitesimal chance you haven't seen The Lion King or don't know what it's about, I'm not sure why you're reading a blog about movies in the first place. In any case, Simba's journey from being privileged, going through hardships, finding himself again, and taking back the land that is rightfully his, is definitely an inspiring one. He has his childhood friend Nala throughout some parts, and meets the epic duo of Timon and Pumbaa when he leaves the Pride Land.

I'm not sure if there is a bad time to watch The Lion King. Some might think that watching it after you have lost a loved one may be a bad idea and they might be right. However, I'd think that after an appropriate grieving period, the message that this movie sends about our loved ones always being with us even after they have passed, is one of hope. Besides, what better than crazy antics from anthropomorphic safari animals and Disney songs to bolster one's spirits.

Notes:
- Legendary German composer  Hans Zimmer won his only Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Lion King. Honestly, if you've seen how many amazing films he has worked on you'd think a single Oscar is a snub.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight,  Circle of Life, and Hakuna Matata were all nominated for Best Original Song, with Can You Feel the Love Tonight ultimately winning.
- Disney adamantly denies they based any of The Lion King on the Japanese cartoon, Kimba the White Lion. They say that any similarities between the two were purely coincidental. I say that is some major BS but that's just my opinion. I mean the story and screenplay are entirely different but some of the artistic aspects of the film are strikingly familiar.
The Simpsons made a joke about the similarity between the two films briefly in the episode where Bleeding Gums Murphy died. If you know your Simpsons moments, you know what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

AFI's Top 10 Animation: #5 - Fantasia (1940)

Of the 10 films on the animation list, Fantasia (1940) was the only one I hadn't seen before. I mean I had seen snippets but that doesn't really count. 

Disney tried to break the boundaries with this film and did so in epic fashion. Fantasia combines classical, orchestral music and Disney animation to create a unique, mind-blowing experience. You also need to put into perspective that this film was released more than 70 years ago so just imagine the impact it had back then. 

Fantasia is a lot longer than most Disney films at 124 minutes and it crams a lot into that time. When released they actually took a 15 minute intermission because they felt that it was too long to be played in a single sitting. In the version I watched the intermission is still there but they only cut out for like 5 seconds, it'd just be a waste of time if they included the intermission in the video. 

Fantasia was written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, narration was provided by Deems Taylor, and most of the music heard throughout the film is performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by the great Leopold Stokowski. Fantasia was the first commercial to be shown with stereo sound. It was also the first appearance of Mickey Mouse in a feature length film. 

I have seen my fair share of films, not quite as many as I would like but I'm getting there, and I'd say that Fantasia is overall the most beautiful film I have ever seen. In terms of plot, acting, and scriptwriting I can't say it does well because it lacks all of those things. But what it lacks in standard movie components, it makes up with the purest audio and visual quality and the uncanny ability to tell a story without words. The soundtrack is simply phenomenal, yes it is all music of the classical persuasion but it was the 40s and a different time musically. I could write a while on all the music featured but just click on one of the "Fantasia" links above and just check the Wiki page for yourself. Let's face it that's all I really do anyways. Not downplaying the incredible music but unlike some I think my favourite part was the vivid and stunning animation, which is still great now but must have been so much more impressive when released. I have probably viewed the remastered and re-polished version but my point still stands that it was an animated marvel. The thing with this movie is that you could literally be blind and still get much of the visualization due to the tones and vivid quality of the music. Narrator Deems Taylor, plants seeds into our imagination from the brains of the artists at Disney.

Now having seen it, I probably would have put it much higher than #5 on the list, maybe even #1, due to its brilliance and innovation in movie making and animation.

With all this praise for the film, I do have some warnings. The film starts rather slowly and it is still long even by today's standards. They fit a lot of stuff into those two hours. If you are going to watch the movie you really have to put aside two hours to do it. Multitasking while watching it is not recommended because you won't get the most out of the whole experience, at least not the first time you watch it. Another big point, if you don't happen to enjoy classical music, then you might not enjoy this film....which is just two hours of it....with cartoons. I would still encourage everyone to watch it, if you don't like it you can still say you've seen it. If you've already seen it, try going back and just listening to it, maybe with your eyes closed and see what your imagination can come up with. If you've done all the above then good for you, you can now go watch something else.

Notes:
- If anyone is familiar with the music played in Professor Oak's laboratory in the first generation of Pokemon games, the first little trill is definitely a rip from the "Chinese Dance" of the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, which was featured in the dancing mushroom scene.
- Fantasia did rather poorly in theaters due to disdain for the fusion of Disney animation and classical music, as well as World War II blocking European film markets.
- There are so many different versions, edits, and remasters of Fantasia that it's hard to keep track of.....so just don't bother.
- There is a portion where they have an animated version of Zeus which definitely seems like where they drew their inspiration when animating him in the 1997's Hercules.
- Its sequel, Fantasia 2000, was released on New Year's Eve 1999 to pretty decent reviews but doesn't quite have the lasting effect as the original.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

AFI's Top 10 Animation: #6 - Toy Story (1995)

Despite all their excellent work since, I would still have to say that Toy Story (1995) is my favourite Pixar film. Computer generated animation took a big step forward that year with the help of Pixar and their success with the first feature length computer-animated film. In fact Toy Story won a Special Achievement Academy Award (the last one thus far) for just that innovation and this is one of many reasons that Toy Story was voted to #6 on AFI's Top 10 Animation list.

Everyone played with a wide variety of toys as a kid but rarely did we think about it from the toys' point of view. That simple idea blossomed into one of the greatest movie franchises of all time (all that disagree have no inner child).

As always, voice talent for animated features is a lot cheaper to come by. Tom Hanks was in the prime of his career and got a nice, yet unnecessary, boost to his star power, whereas his co-star Tim Allen got a much needed upgrade to his résumé. Of course Tim's career was never quite at the height of his cowboy counterpart and it was a pretty smart move I'd say since the Toy Story movies are the only good things I've seen from him in a while. Just to name a few of the supporting cast, we also hear from Wallace Shawn as Rex, Don Rickles as Mr. Potatohead, John Ratzenberger as Hamm, Annie Potts as Bo Peep, and the late Jim Varney as Slinky Dog.

I'm pretty biased towards this movie so I would have had it probably Top 3 due to it being awesome plus it's innovation in animation. Of course that also might be because I'm a product of 90's pop culture, so my views are pretty narrow.

I don't really know what to say about a lot of these movies because they're ones everyone has seen before but if you are ever feeling like the reality of the world is getting you down watch some magical talking toys and everything will get better. Actually they won't get any better, but you will have spent 80 minutes in childish bliss.

Notes:
- I realize that Jessie and Bullseye aren't in the first Toy Story but that was the first picture I found, so whatever.
- Laurie Metcalf voices Andy's mom throughout the series and for some strange reason the following confusing train of thought and random factoids were the very first things that I connected in my brain. Metcalf plays Nanette Guzman (Nanny G) in just a single episode of Frasier. Kelsey Grammar played the character Frasier Crane in both his title sitcom and in Cheers. John Ratzenberger who voices Hamm is best known for his character Cliff Clavin throughout the entire 11 year Cheers run.....That is what goes on in my brain when I'm thinking about movies and pop culture.