Critics and cinephiles either love or hate Wes Anderson's films, but in the case The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which got a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, the only people griping seem to be animators. Personally, I dig Anderson's stuff and I'm also a huge animation nerd, so this could have gone either way for me.
I thought it was wonderful. It's exciting to see something so off-beat and un-Shrek-like in the world of mainstream animation.
In fact, watching it made me wonder why it took so long for Anderson to make an animated film. His work always has such distinct stylistic choices, in terms of acting, set design, cinematography, music, etc - its all got his unique "stamp." And no other medium gives you quite as much control as animation - you do, after all, have to create every little thing that will appear on screen (be it building or drawing), and then control every single frame of movement. It's movie making for obsessive crazies.
The animation community hasn't been that thrilled with the aesthetics of this film, which I can understand. When I saw the first few still images that hit the 'net I got pretty nervous; the character designs looked like a furry's wet dream. Luckily that isn't really the case, and there's a certain charm to them once they're in action. At least, that's how I feel, but animation snobs would disagree.
Here's the thing: As much as I loved Coraline, the movement was so slick I'm sure most viewers thought it was CG instead of real/tangible puppets. Mr. Fox really felt like it was hand-made, there was no escaping it. Their fur and clothing jumps around from the animators touching them in each frame, which I found exciting. So while some may call the aesthetic crude, to me it made everything feel more wild and unpredictable (a motif of the film, perhaps?) It reminded me of the stop-motion animated series of Wind in the Willows made by Cosgrove Hall, which I loved as a kid.
Unlike CG animation, when doing stop-motion you can't set "key frames" (the character poses or main action beats for a scene, sometimes on a timeline of frames). Instead, you're forced to animate straight-ahead, with only a storyboard (and probably an x-sheet if there's dialog) to guide you. In other words: stop-motion is pretty damn hard. But it looks incredible because the characters physically exists and were shot with a real camera, instead of created in a digital 3D plane.
Much like Spike Jonzes' Where the Wild Things Are adaptation, the source material for Mr. Fox already had some teeth to it, making a film that kids can certainly watch, but adults might appreciate even more. True, this is a film about a rascally fox who outsmarts a bunch of farmers via wacky hijinks, but it's somehow also about our wilder side dying out in an ever expanding (human-run) world of industrialized production. For Mr. Fox and the inhabitants of his world, the best way to deal with it all is to dance exuberantly in a grocery store, and I was ready to join in.
- NPR had an interesting segment about Roald Dahl's widow, who puts directors under rigorous scrutiny before giving them the rights for a film adaptation. Listen here.
- Some behind-the-scenes goodies via the lovely blog Drawn: a collection of amazing concept art (see above) and an interview with a storyboard artist from the film.
...but seriously, Lala.com is awesome. I've discovered more new and diverse music with it than I ever have with Pandora. I like listening to an entire album, instead of just one random song recommendation (and consequently forgetting to ever check out that band again).
I can listen to the newest indie albums, I have over 80 Django Reinhardt albums to peruse, and I have my entire iTunes Library with me wherever there's an internet connection. This is the future.
Thank you, Lala, for giving me music like this on an otherwise drab work day:
Yogi Bear: The Movie is coming! You didn't ask for it, but you're getting it!
Right now, it's looking like Dan Aykroyd will voice Yogi, and Justin Timberlake will voice Boo Boo. No, you don't have to reread. I really wrote "Justin Timberlake."
I wish I could say something like "why can't they leave Yogi untainted, the way he's always been?" Sadly, he's been in cheesy films before: the Yogi Bear musical (Hey There Yogi Bear) is pretty unwatchable, especially whenever Yogi sings like James Darren.
What really worries me about this impending film is the live action/CG combo, a la Alvin and the Chipmunks (no disrespect, Danny) or Garfield. I fear they'll go for a pseudo-realistic-looking bear with a green neck tie. You know, something like this:
But seriously folks. Check out the awesome image bellow, the sculpted Yogi from an old View-Master. It exists in all three dimensions, but doesn't lose any of the original cartoony appeal. I'd be down with a movie that looked like that.
Never gonna happen.
For more vintage cartoon 3D View-Master shots, check out this blog.
Now that Pandora costs money, I've been forced to seek out alternative music portals on the web. A lot of trusted music reviewers have started using Lala.com, so I created a free account, and it's pretty damn great.
Imagine if iTunes let you listen to an entire album (just once) before deciding if you wanted to purchase it or not. Lala takes it one step further, and lets you buy songs that you can only play through their site for a significantly decreased price. Then if you later decide you want to buy the MP3 download, you pay the difference. You can also upload your entire iTunes library, and have it with you wherever there's an internet connection.
Long story short: Lala is pretty cool, and could be at the forefront of a browser-dominant future.
So I thought I'd share one of my most recent well-crafted mixes. You might have to make an account with Lala to hear it, but in my humble opinion it's totally worth it.
I've been trying to write about this band for a while, but I'm at a loss. I can't figure out how they so accurately targets my heartstrings, or what sets them apart from every other emerging band out there.
Usually saying a new band sounds "familiar" isn't exactly a compliment, but Freelance Whales combines everything I love about indie pop and makes something both new and memorable.
There are folksy Sufjan-esque moments, mixed with synth blares, xylophone accents and banjo twangs galore. The lyrics are also fun and unique, my favorites about being "partial to the night sky/ vaguely attracted to rooftops." I've also never heard someone deem anything a "hot mess" so earnestly.
All in all, this is an incredibly strong debut. I'll be watching this band, hoping for the best.