Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bones and Hair

The rabbit and I are going to see 127 Hours on the big screen tonight. It'll be my second time. Give me a break. This is how I combat the blues of losing my travel opportunity this vacation. It's also how I (in my mind anyway) reverse the effects of the popularity of illegally pirated DVDs readily available on almost every street corner in Seoul.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing this one again.

In the meantime, allow me to share a brief point about two other movies we checked out this weekend...

Winter's Bone - This one is up for a few Oscars and deservedly so, though I have to say that I would have a hard time recommending it to a lot of people. The story concerns a 17 year-old Ree (Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence) living in rural Missouri (looking like the post-apocalyptic setting of Cormac MacCarthy's The Road). She cares for her two much younger siblings as her mother appears to be in a constant catatonic state, and her father has skipped bail after being arrested for running a meth lab, posting the family house and farm as bond. He's missing, the family will lose the house unless dad shows-up at the court case, or is discovered dead. At the beginning, both possibilities seem quite likely - the guy clearly hasn't been taking care of things at home for a while, and word is that he blabbed to the cops about the other members of his backwoods "blood" who have had to put a temporary halt on their own "business" in order to avoid getting locked-up.

This movie is unpleasant as hell, which alone isn't a reason to not like it. The performances are all top-notch and frighteningly authentic. One wonders if most of the supporting players were lured out from behind rotting sheds using extras money - they are all drawls, soiled polar fleece jackets, and lips pursed into permanent expressions of hillbilly toughness. The story contains an ever-present feeling of dread as Ree roams the immediate countryside and confronts her own distant (but certainly inbred) "family" members about her father's whereabouts. Family, in this case would sooner smack Ree across the face with a frying pan than help her on her quest. "Best leave it alone, ya here!" is an oft used phrase in this film. The ending is heavy, but rather underwhelming in a way. Lawrence is remarkable as the protagonist, and she's easy to cheer for. This is just a bit bleak for me to recommend, and its bleakness runs along so evenly that the denouement feels like simply the next in a long line of ankle weights disguised as promises in Ree's sorry excuse for an existence. She's a good person, likely going nowhere.

- If The Princess & the Frog couldn't revive Disney's hand-drawn animation department to its early '90s glory days, it's unlikely that anything will. Technology moves right along, folks, so for the Disney purists out there, the next best thing is likely going to come in a form similar to the one established with Tangled. In South Korea, the film is correctly labeled as Rapunzel - the name that the studio should have stuck with instead of bowing to the fear of another "princess" failure at the box office.

I saw Rapunzel in 3D. Ebert is 100% right about the process. It's fun and exciting, but remove the glasses for a quick peek at the level of brightness that you're missing by paying the extra $5. The 3D glasses unquestionably mute the colours on screen at a rate of about 20% if not more. The colours in Rapunzel are as bold and delicious as they were in UP, but they are considerably dampened by the glasses. Oh, well. Still, some of the effects are fun, It's just a shame that such a bright picture seems to be in a permanent state of cloud cover.

Anyway, this movie is beautiful to look at. Rather than the stylized humans we have seen in Pixar tales, the aesthetic in Rapunzel is much more like the traditional Disney princess design (big eyes, well-placed locks of hair) being fed through a Pixar generator. It's all very familiar, yet updated for today's discerning animated movie going crowd. I won't say much about the story. It was light, funny, well scored and well written. It's also thankfully (aside from that awful American title) free from the of-the-moment references that make the Shrek films so desperately "clever". Most tellingly, the box office of Rapunzel is nearly double that for The Princess as the Frog. After much doubt, there is a new and viable path to a future of well-made Disney fairy tale musicals. For a lot of us, that's great news.


Kid Atomic said...

What did you think of Princess and the Frog? I actually think its lack of success had nothing to do with the fact that it's hand-drawn. I think if there's a good story and a good script, hand-drawn animation will be as big a draw (pun not intended)as cg animation. But I felt like the story in P&F was bloated and full of needless characters, songs and story elements. If Brad Bird had been at the helm, that shit would've been TIGHT.

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

You know what - I actually haven't seen it yet. I was really excited about it when I heard the announcements way back when, but then I missed seeing it in the theatre here in Korea (it was only here for a short time and I was on vacation and blah blah blah. I could check it out on DVD, but then that would be the first Disney animated film (I don't count Home on the Range) that I will have seen for the first time on DVD. I know the impact will be somewhat diminished.

Yes, Brad Bird is always grand. But, so is Glen Keane, and I thought he did a knock-up job of Rapunzel. Did you see it?

Having fairly recently become a fan of Miyazaki stuff, yes, I have to 100% agree that hand-dram can be much more artistically satisfying than the vast majority of what's gone on in the Ice-Age/Shrek world. I just think that the companies are counting their earnings and keeping an eye on trends. Hand-drawn stuff seems like a big iffy investment these days, unless you're Studio Ghibli, or unless you're French.

Did you see Rapunzel? I'm curious to know what you thought. To me it showed promise in a bridge between the two Disney animation worlds.

Kid Atomic said...

Fair enough. I don't get out to the theatre much these days (looking forward to when Miya is old enough to go!), so blu-ray was my first (and only) exposure to the Princess and the Frog. Not the same, but what can you do?

Haha, I guess why I chose Brad Bird is that he seems to have such a clear understanding of what is and is not relevant to the story. I find his movies are just incredibly well-put-together, and everything in it has a good reason to be there. Glen Keane is a brilliant, brilliant animator, but as a director I think can be a bit hit and miss. Tarzan, after all, had some gorgeous animation in it but was not a good film.

Anyway, I haven't seen Tangled yet, unfortunately, but I've heard really good things and am really looking forward to it. I'll let you know my impressions when I do.=)

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Good point about Tarzan. That movie kind of pissed me off. Brad Bird is the shiznit (Iron Giant still a huge favourite) - can't argue. I just love the Glen Keane because of the Beast. It's a sentimental thing at times.

I don't know how much you'll love Rapunzel (I'm going to call it that regardless) as the characters do have a tendency to burst into song from time to time. But I'm still curious - so let me know. I'll also try to watch P & the F for some perspective :)