Archive for November, 2010

Stanley Pickle (2010)

“Stanley Pickle” (2010)



animated reflexivity

Stop motion is a great technique. It’s a compromise between continuous motion, 24fps or even lower, and the stillness of a single image. I think this balance between both ways to represent can make a difference in what regards narrative. It lowers your ability to focus only on what the images “tell” and instead are forced to learn what the images “are”.

The interesting thing about this film is a certain reinvention of how usually this kind of stop motion is used: all the elements are real elements, from our real world, not clay models, not built out of scale sets. Usually in this kind of animation, the objects of that real world are animated on their own. bottles move alone, tables dance with chairs on their own will, and so on. Humans may be in the picture, but they will not interfere, only interact with the environment. Svankmajer has a number of incredible experiences based on this notion.

But here, we have a mixture. We have an animated world, that fully belongs to the otherworldliness of animated objects, but we also have the animator on screen. Stanley Pickle creates and mantains all the objects that surround him in his daily life, from his parents (who are objects here) to his games. Later in the film we see his laboratory, on the downside of his bed.

This falls apart when he performs his magic to a girl from outside of his confined animated world. It doesn’t work, he can only fake the life of her bird, not resume it. So, that kills the animation, to Pickle himself.

The girl has quite an interesting face, and i appreciated the self-referentiality and how it blends into the final product and the narrative. I just didn’t the film visually interesting.

My opinion: 2/5

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Hard Target (1993)

“Hard Target” (1993)


Mad cowboy

This falls in its own genre corner, with all the elements. The story is tailored to feet the marketable features of the actor, and you have all the elements that surround this sub genre of action, which is action built around an action figure, in the Stallone tradition (but in this case with different moves). Also, i was never very fond of Woo’s stylish approach. It’s the style itself that bothers me, So, this would naturally be a time spender, a forgettable experience. Something you could watch on a well spent evening with a couple of already nostalgic 26 year old guys who grew up on this stuff.

Now, my last comment was on a film i thought i’d hate, and that i actually enjoyed. This motivated a protest from a reader who’s my friend and usually trusts my judgement, but based on that comment is starting loose his faith. I suspect i’ll just make it worse with this comment, but i actually enjoyed some things in this film. Those positive things move around two things: cinematography and sets.

The first great thing is how we get into the film, the very first shots, a rainy night in a staged New Orleans, where a man is being hunted. The shots of the empty streets, from the pov of this man, these are great portals to the film. We have all the references in this first sequence: New Orleans, the moody jazz, the Leone/Eastwood western environment (Vosloo character is even named Van Cleef!). These 3 elements meet Mad Max and the rules of that world, lawless, fertile ground for outlaws and maverick justice makers. We are transported into this world in the first few minutes, that’s great, and i think we should credit Woo for how he conceived the entrance.

Than of course, Van Damme gets in and this necessarily becomes closer to another of his typical films. Yet there are some very good uses of the city’s streets, and 2 other sets that i’ll take with me: one is the house of Douvee, and its fragile robust look in the middle of the Louisiana. The other one is the final stage where the final fights occur. Now this last set is a fundamental piece for the success of this Good-Bad films. It usually is a well thought set, but not necessarily interesting. This one is, with all the props, all the colours, all the New Orleans mood transported into a film set. It’s quite good.

The action scenes themselves are boring and vulgar, even according with what was being done than.

My opinion: 4/5

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Twilight (2008)

“Twilight” (2008)



This was actually a very good surprise. I was prepared to hate this film. The books appeared as half-baked teen stuff, empty and just made to capitalize on the doors to otherworldliness as Harry Potter defined it to the XXI century: strange beings, odd variations on our real world, and a link to this same world, that makes the story and characters appear as if they could really exist, thus engaging more the audiences to whom this is intended. This Twilight series had an extra dullness that put me away: it revolved on the “fantasy” clichés, and to that, added the vampire film world. So it was playing safe twice.

The one thing that truly fails is the male character casting. Robert Pattinson is a stain here, he has no presence whatsoever. He throws his lines as if he was sitting in a toilet, his facial expression is bloodless, but not in a vampiresque fashion, his pose is artificial, although that works for his character (lucky there). I think they wanted to capitalize the actor who had had a short yet emotional character in the Potter series, and thus attract even more of the audiences of Potter. On the other hand, Kristen Stewart was a nice surprise. I don’t know if she’ll get out well of the teen movie world, but i’ll be wanting to watch new things from her. She was tense in an unstressed way that usually we don’t have in such young actresses.

But what i did like was the general mood chosen to this film. There is a very sweet and tense sense of romanticism that goes through the film, and that’s what really caught my attention. It’s a genuinely not corny melancholy, where the growing adolescent feelings between vampire and human take a sweet place at the center of the narrative. Regular readers of my comments know and appreciate such films which can convincingly build and sustain a mood, like an invisible glow which surrounds every element of the film. Wong Kar-Wai is the all-time master of this. So i care about trying to understand what produces such effect. Here i think the first anchor of this mood is Stewart and her controlled, intense performance (i wonder if she learned it from Foster). The second anchor is the cinematography and the very well succeeded choice of colors and sets. But the most important thing is the camera work. The hand held camera in the closeups while the lovers have dialogs are really something of superior class. Editing helps, but how the shots were conceived really works well. Some dialog moments are worthy of some bits of some Lumet’s films. That is saying a lot.

My opinion: 3/5

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