Update time

I should have an weekly roundup article up today. However my computer is down and I’m moving today and I’m starting a new job tomorrow. So we’re going to postpone for a few days while I get my life together. Thanks for the patience non-existant audience.

(And existant audience if youre out there)

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Weekly Roundup – August 10-16

Weekly Roundup – August 10-16

This week was a little everywhere for me so there wasn’t as much writing as I would have liked. I did have one piece after the unfortunate death of Robin Williams looking at the five performances of his that stick with me the most. I also performed my first sermon yesterday which was terrifying. But through preparing for that I hit a milestone in my film watching. At the end of this post you’ll see that the last five films are numbered and that is because those are the numbers that I have hit on my total films watched list. Hitting 1500 was remarkable and I’m pretty happy with it and the films that got me there. 

The Contenders

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) dir. Michael Curtiz

Thief (1981) dir. Michael Mann

The Insider (1999) dir. Michael Mann

Boyhood (2014) dir. Richard Linklater

Happy Together (1997) dir. Wong Kar-Wai

City of God (2002) dir. Fernando Meirelles

An incredible shot from Michael Mann's first film - Thief (1981)
An incredible shot from Michael Mann’s first film – Thief (1981)

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup – August 10-16”

Robin Williams: Five Favourite Performances

Robin Williams: Five Favourite Performances

This list is a celebration of the life and talent of Robin Williams. I won’t be spreading this around on social media because I don’t want to try and generate web traffic because of this tragedy. However I do feel that, like most actors, a proper remembrance of his life involves a celebration of his film. So below are my five favourite performances from Robin Williams. I have not seen all of his films although I mean to in the future, but here are the films I remember him for.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

good morning vietnam

Did Williams make a more important film than this one? I’m not sure, but this is easily a contender for that title. Good Morning Vietnam gave us the classic Williams performance but with a potently dramatic element added. Williams provided us with the understanding of the necessity of humour in our lives, but also with the tragedy of death.

Aladdin (1992)

aladdin

Any kid born in the 90s is familiar with the Genie because he is one of the all-time greatest characters in film. He provided most of us with the first real example of accessible referential comedy. He would reference people like Rodney Dangerfield but would tell the joke in such a way that kids like me who didn’t know who he was referencing would laugh anyways. But the real strength of the Genie is the real strength found in all of Williams’ roles, he humanized his characters. He gave nuanced portrayals of the most outlandish characters so that we didn’t just laugh, we felt.

The Birdcage (1996)

birdcage

This is probably a controversial choice, but to me Williams role in The Birdcage made me understand that the effeminate stereotypes often ascribed to gay men are not to be demonized because they are stereotypes. Williams gave the performance his all and made those stereotypes something to celebrate in that film. It wasn’t funny because he was playing gay, he was funny because he was funny.

Night at the Museum (2006)

night at the museum

This is definitely the most unconventional choice on the list but it demonstrates something important about Williams’ career. Night at the Museum is not a great movie. There is an argument that it’s barely even a good movie. But it’s impossible to argue that Robin Williams’ didn’t steal every scene he was in as Teddy Roosevelt. And it’s not because he was doing the comedy that made him one of the greatest funny men of all time. It’s because he humanized a president, and gave us a touchingly beautiful rendition of history. Kids movies don’t often get the nuance they should, Williams always gave them the nuance they deserved.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

dead poets

What fan of poetry doesn’t just adore this movie? Sure it’s unrealistic in how poetry is actually studied but what Williams accomplished here was a paradigm shift in the way poetry was thought of. The study of literature for so long seemed filled with the most stuffy and pretentious of minds and voices, but Williams performance reminded us that sometimes art is meant to be experienced. I can recall going to the pier in my town one day with some friends to read poetry as our own dead poet’s society. We read about living deliberately and sucking the marrow out of life. And in that reading we understood it on the level his performance wanted of us. He was funny sure, but he taught us how to love art, how to live art; and that is surely the more important lesson of that film.

robin williams

 

Here though is the thing I want people to remember if they come across this post.

I don’t often post remembrances of celebrities who have died. But this seems more important than most celebrity mourning. This is at least the second remarkable talent to die from a mental health issue this year. Whether it is depression, addiction, or any other form of mental trauma that is under reported and under treated in society; we are not doing our part in talking about this and helping those who suffer. Depression kills, a great human being is dead, and I am mourning our collective loss.

Weekly Roundup – August 3-9

Weekly Roundup – August 3-9

This week has had a lot of writing done but none of it finished. I’ve got a piece working about The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy that I will likely put up on Sound on Sight when it is finished. I also have a piece on feminist readings of films and another looking at my favourite videos from Cracked.com that talk about film theory. On the other side of the world I have a sermon that I will be giving next Sunday (my first one ever which freaks me out) that I’ve been tweaking and editing over and over again this week. Like I said, lots of writing, very little of it completed.

On the movies end of things I saw 26 movies this week only four of which I had seen before. I also made it halfway through the filmography of David Lynch (I think its impossible to actually marathon all of his films) and finally completed that of Kathryn Bigelow (which will be getting a post of its own this week). Only two films made it on to the contenders list this week one of which I’m almost certain will move up once I re-watch it.

The Contenders

Lone Star (1996) dir. John Sayles

Strange Days (1995) dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Screenshot 2014-08-09 22.08.21
Just one of the great shots of food porn in Jon Favreau’s Chef (2014).

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup – August 3-9”

Disney’s Postmodern Period

Walt Disney Animation Studio is arguably the most prolific studio of its type that exists. Since 1937 it has released 53 animated films with another one on the way this November. Because of this prolific stature, there are certain period that are now definable when looking back at the 77 year history of the studio. Luckily for the ongoing debate, these periods are all fluid because of how Disney films are produced. Taking multiple years from conception to release, one period can begin and a film from the previous period can then be released. For clarities sake, here are the main periods.

1937 – 1942 – Classical Disney Part 1 (Snow White to Bambi)
1942 – 1949 – The Package Films (Saludos Amigos to Ichabod and Mr. Toad)
1950 – 1970 – Classical Disney Part 2 (Cinderella to The Aristocats)
1973 – 1986 – The Lost Years (Robin Hood to The Great Mouse Detectives)
1988 – 1999 – The Renaissance (Oliver and Company to Fantasia 2000)
2000 – 2008 – Digital Experiments (Dinosaur to Bolt)

As mentioned above there are problem films. Stylistically, The Sword in the Stone fits more with The Lost Years than with Classical Disney. Oliver and Company is often not listed among the Renaissance films even though it has more in common with them than The Rescuers Down Under which is chronologically part of the period but also fits The Lost Years style. Some people don’t include Fantasia 2000 in the renaissance because it isn’t a musical in the style of other renaissance films even though it also has little in common with the following period.

Mike Rugnetta of PBS Idea Channel recently made a video about the most recent WDAS film, Frozen, and how it’s popularity can, in part, be attributed to how it deconstructs the classical fairy tale.

In the following video he highlighted a comment that brought up an interesting problem in the narrative of Disney’s history. If Frozen is deconstructing the classical fairy tale as found in Disney’s classical and renaissance periods, what period is Frozen a part of?

Rugnetta then agrees with the commenter in saying that Frozen and Tangled are part of a neoclassical period of Disney films and asks when Disney will reach a post-modern period. That presents an issue for Disney scholars to fight over because of how vastly divergent the last five films from WDAS have been. The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-it-Ralph, and Frozen are wildly different from each other. The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh both broke from Disney’s experimentation with digital filmmaking with traditionally-animated musicals, while Tangled, Wreck-it-Ralph, and Frozen returned to digital animation but presented different takes on their genres.

While Mike wonders when Disney will enter a postmodern period, there is evidence that we are already in that period and it is just masquerading as neo-classicism. Tangled, Wreck-it-Ralph, and Frozen are all aesthetically post-modern especially when viewed against the obviously neo-classical Princess and the Frog. All three of these films deconstruct meta-narratives of heroism, love, and relationships.

Tangled takes the metanarrative of the mother-daughter relationship and demonstrates how love and power complicate it. Rapunzel may not be the real daughter of Mother Gothel, but she still loves her to an extent. Rapunzel respects parental power and influence until external powers show how abusive that relationship is. The character of Flynn is also used to complicate the metanarrative of heroism with his story and revelations deconstructing what heroes in a fairy tale are made of. Tangled’s best example of this is in the song I’ve Got a Dream where thugs show they are more complicated than they are often made out to be.

Wreck-it-Ralph is really an extension of the moral of that song. The support group in the beginning of the film is for villains and features the following affirmation – “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” From the studio that brought such famous baddies one-dimensional baddies as Gaston, Ursula, Captain Hook, and Doctor Facilier – Wreck-it-Ralph asks the audience to reimagine the metanarratives of heroism and villainy through making its heroes the villains of their contexts and its villain a complex character who’s backstory explains his villainy.

Frozen simply continues these ideas through its use of the fairy tale narrative while editing and complicating all the moving parts to a critical end (for more details revisit Rugnetta’s video above). And it doesn’t look like WDAS is going to stop any time soon. This fall has Big Hero 6 which even in concept complicates the idea of what a superhero film is.

Disney briefly entertained a neo-classical notion in its refrain from Digital filmmaking but has since created three post-modern animations which have all received more acclaim and attention than their neo-classical counterparts. Disney Animation has learned the lesson from Pixar that bravery is often rewarded by the public and that change, while occasionally controversial, is a good business model. We are in the age of postmodern Disney films – embrace the meta.

Weekly Roundup – July 27- August 2

Weekly Roundup – July 27- August 2

I hit 45 films this week which while scary was a lot of fun. I’m also adding a list to these roundups for documentations sake. Because my rating system has a rating that can only be achieved after a second viewing I need to keep a list of films that I will give a second viewing within six months to see if they move up the rating scale. I watched Catching Fire this week for that purpose so I think documenting those films should be good. So each week before the fold  will be a list of films to visit again soon called “The Contenders.”

Other news: There will soon be two new pages on this site. The first is the aforementioned Contenders page which has movies that I really loved and could eventually attain my top rating. The second is a personal canon. My top 100 is something I’ve been working on for a while since I realized my last one fell apart.

The Contenders

Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

Swing Time (1936) dir. George Stevens

Scarface (1932) dir. Howard Hawks

Baby Face (1933) dir. Alfred E. Green

The Philadelphia Story (1940) dir. George Cukor

Double Indemnity (1944) dir. Billy Wilder

The Great Dictator (1940) dir. Charles Chaplin

Screenshot 2014-07-30 04.40.58

So let’s dance 😀

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup – July 27- August 2”