This is what’s called serendipitous timing, folks. If you’re downloading this episode the day it drops on iTunes, then we’re just one day away from the Academy Awards, and the film we’re talking about on the new episode of Mousterpiece Cinema may very well walk away with an Oscar this year. No, we’re not going over Frozen again; instead, it’s time to discuss Hayao Miyazaki’s newest, and possibly final, film, The Wind Rises. Gabe and Josh are joined by Film School Rejects‘ Rob Hunter to debate Miyazaki’s fictionalized biopic of Japanese airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi. Did Miyazaki need to be more strident in his criticism of the man who helped Japanese fighters fly in World War II? Is this film more than just a bunch of beautiful animation, or hollow aside from the visuals? And is the English-language dub going to be worth watching aside from hearing Werner Herzog as an animated character? Find out on the new episode!
The Little Mermaid is usually credited with kick-starting Disney’s first animation renaissance, but this often-discussed period started 3 years prior with The Great Mouse Detective. Similarly, Disney’s second animation renaissance has been credited to Frozen and Tangledwhen it started years earlier. While it is convenient to think that all Disney needed was Idina Menzel and a great power ballad to rediscover their movie musical roots, the path that led to Frozen’snearly $1 billion box-office gross worldwide has been rough and messy with one major loss for the company along the way.
In its storied history of technical trailblazing and making dreams come true for those of all stripes, Walt Disney Animation Studios has been inconsistent at best when it comes to character complexity and thematic significance. That is, until recently.
Disney’s most iconic animated characters of the pre-Renaissance are marked by passivity, or, at their worst, one-dimensionality. Interchangeable heroes innocuously save the day. Archetypal villains enter frame with a single antagonistic goal and leave without having undergone legitimate arcs. We see these tropes evolve, but they are not the ones plaguing the most idolized and cherished of this canon.
Discovery is the primary point explored in Bambi. The film begins with his birth, which is particularly of interest because it holds some resonance to even the youngest viewers. This universality of reflection is the bare essence of good art for children, and even after we transition into adulthood, so far removed from the initial experience of the film and with a healthy skepticism towards the revisit, it’s hard not to be spellbound. Children can recognize each of these moments, even if they cannot explicitly remember them, from Bambi learning to walk to the standout schema-accommodation sequence (bird, butterfly, flower). The film is also composed in simple, focused, and cogent frames, cutting to a close-up of the action within the shot (in the first, youthful half, it smartly seems to disappear) to reflect childish egocentrism. Its psychological verisimilitude contextualized by an animated film with talking animals is what ultimately makes Bambi worthwhile as a legitimate art piece.
Walt Disney passed away December 15, 1966, and in the decade that followed, the Walt Disney Company struggled to define itself. Should the company stay beholden to Walt and his vision, asking themselves what Walt would do, or should they take the opportunity to try something new? The decades that followed Walt’s death were a mix of trying to recreate old magic and experimenting with new genres and styles.
Good things might happen to those who wait, but the Disney/Pixar masterpiece Ratatouille tells us great things only happen to those who act fearlessly.
“Anyone can cook,” is the quote most viewers leave the film with, and director Brad Bird lets the themes represented by this philosophy—nothing is impossible, anyone and everyone is capable of reinvention—run wild throughout the picture. But there’s another quote, one that comes very early in Ratatouille, that sums up both what the film is about and the true breadth of Bird’s accomplishment. After all, this is a film about a rat who tries and sort of succeeds in becoming a gourmet Parisian chef, and his journey is completely, objectively believable.
When the work of the Walt Disney Company is referenced in popular culture, it is often generalized and boiled down to princesses, Mickey Mouse, and fireworks over Cinderella’s castle as music swells. (“Get your Disney World vacation planning DVD today!”) Unfortunately, this is an extremely simplified image of the company and its legacy in feature films. In the 77 years since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Walt Disney Company’s feature films have gone through distinctive eras. There was the rise of Disney live-action, the decade following Walt Disney’s death, the era of acquisition (Marvel, LucasFilm), and the first and second animation renaissance periods, to name a few.
“I think we’re all glad that they changed the name to Fantasia,” states Steve Martin dryly during his introduction ofFantasia 2000 regarding the film’s predecessor, which was originally called The Concert Feature. (Fantasia may be a slightly cooler-sounding title, but it’s not much more inviting to the average audience member than The Concert Feature.) That single line of dialogue represents the key to the creative struggle at the heart of Fantasia 2000, a perfectly entertaining film with no identity of its own. Though Martin is funny in his few moments on screen (all of the celebrity introductions in this new film are mildly charming in their own way, though they vary in tone from Martin’s wacky fourth-wall-breaking humor to regal sincerity, as with Angela Lansbury’s climactic appearance), the fact that a recognizable comedian needs to be one of our ushers into a world of strange and fascinating new animation is a tip-off that Fantasia 2000 doesn’t even hope to achieve the same lofty ambitionsFantasia had. The shorts themselves do not reek of hipness and irony, but with Martin’s appearance (even though he was once a cast member at Disneyland, well before he was a stand-up), the movie appears to be catering more to a presumed audience of kids and young adults that tacitly refuses to accept sincerity in art.
The concept of the work of art that is unappreciated by the masses immediately, but gains a passionate and overwhelming following decades later is almost as old as time itself. A book, or piece of music, or painting, or sculpture, or film is unveiled to an indifferent public, save a few devout fans, and is only revived once newer generations approach it with fresh eyes. So many films we now consider to be the greatest of all time were not as warmly received (if they were received warmly at all) upon their initial release. Some classics, such as Citizen Kaneand Vertigo, benefit now primarily from home media releases, repeated airings on Turner Classic Movies, and the impassioned voices of critics and historians to emphasize to general audiences how important and daring and dramatically satisfying these films truly are. Then there are the films that received a second wind of adoration thanks to theatrical re-releases years after the fact, well before home media releases were possible. Such is the case with Fantasia, the 1940 animated film from the fledgling Walt Disney Company, a 125-minute opus that may be the most ambitious cinematic project of Walt Disney’s career, if not one of the most ambitious American films ever produced.
The opening and closing images in the Toy Story trilogy are one and the same: a picture-perfect blue sky with a couple of carefully placed, nonthreatening fluffy clouds in the middle. While both are computer-generated facsimiles, the former is a facsimile of a facsimile: the comforting wallpaper in the bedroom of a little boy named Andy Davis. The latter is closer to the real thing, greeting the teenage Andy as he drives off to college and out of the lives of the toys with whom he populated his imagination for over a decade. As the series opens, the 6-year old Andy, a suburban Christopher Robin of sorts, proves in the confines of his tiny room, overstuffed with plush animals, board games, action figures, and other toys, that his world of make-believe is limitless. As the series closes, Andy ventures into the known unknown of the real world, secretly wished an emotional goodbye by the surviving plastic and stuffed figures of his youth, who finally reached the same conclusion he once did: that anything is possible. These toys, these fully-fledged characters who display a vast well of human emotions over three films, come to appreciate that life is the very opposite of the mundane and predictable they assumed it was.
Sordid Cinema Podcast #69: ‘Escape from Tomorrow’ -‘We Are What We Are’ + ‘Big Bad Wolves,’ ‘A Touch of Sin,’ and ‘Why Don’t You Play In Hell’
This week on Sordid Cinema, Ricky, Edgar and Simon tackle Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are, a remake of Jorge Michel Grau 2010 hit of the same name, which reinvigorates the cannibal genre with an emotional portrait of a family bound by a terrible secret and driven by monstrous appetites. But first, we discuss Randy Moore’s Escape From Tomorrow, which caused quite a stir when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. To shoot his film, set in Disney World, Moore purchased a season pass to the park and secretly filmed his actors without the park’s knowledge. Also in our week in review segment, the gang briefly touches onBig Bad Wolves (recently named Quentin Tarantino’s favourite film of 2013) – Sion Sono’s outrageous action opus Why Don’t You Play In Hell – and finally, A Touch of Sin, an intricately plotted exploration of violence and corruption in contemporary China, that won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in May. All that and more!
Today’s episode of Mousterpiece Cinema is a bit different, a bit crazy, maybe even a bit surreal. Josh and Gabe decided to break from tradition even more than in the past. Yes, this episode is a first, because the film up for discussion isn’t technically…a Disney movie. But Escape from Tomorrow was shot and set in the Disney theme parks, so that kind of counts, right? Right? OK, good. To join them in talking about this highly controversial new drama, Josh and Gabe are joined by Jacob S. Hall of Movies.com, ScreenCrush.Com, andOneOfUs.Net. And if you were hoping to hear a fierce debate over the moral and legal issues surrounding this movie, well, you are in luck. But if you think Josh was the most negative on the film, think again. You may hear Gabe in a whole new light. But you’ll have to listen to find out!