For all the respect and awe I feel toward recent evolutions in animation technique, I confess to a special affection for the graphic angularity and spontaneous sketchbook effect adopted by Sylvain Chomet for The Triplets of Belleville and now The Illusionist. Those boldly inked outlines and almost architectural attention to detail remind me of classic mid-century Disney draftsmanship — The Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmations, The Jungle Book.

Appropriate that Chomet turns to quaint oddball subjects that match his eccentric vintage style. As we noted a few months ago, The Illusionist is based on an unproduced 1956 screenplay by Jacques Tati. Nice homage to Tati (his youngest daughter is named Sophie Tatischeff) in the form of a silent cameo from Monsieur Hulot on the marquee poster outside the theater.

A fine example of the potential energy that can be stored up in the pose of a frozen moment is on display in the poster after the cut. (Thanks to Sƒìbasti√°n at Movielicious — where you’ll find 5 pretty clips from L’Illusioniste)

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Todd McCarthy, writing on Indiewire’s Deep Focus blog, thinks that Toy Story 3 matches the genius of the first two Toy Story films, breaking the curse that says that sequels (Godfather, etc., as notable exceptions) are never as good as the original:

Does “Toy Story 3” break the jinx? Pretty much so, yes. Attended to in every creative department with all the care that one has become accustomed to expect from Pixar, the new film, after a slam-bang action teaser, takes perhaps a bit longer than necessary to put all its pieces in place. But once it kicks in to unexpectedly become a prison-break thriller, it fires on all cylinders all the way to the finish line.

The main reason Pixar has established itself as the best film company in the world is that its top priority is story, story, story. No matter how dazzling the technique (the 3D is perfectly judged here), how funny the gags or how sly the characterizations, the narrative superstructure is as sound as the engineering for the Eiffel Tower or a 747, the plot as satisfyingly consummated as in a novel by Dickens or Hammett. There are visible formulae at work here, to be sure, especially with the emotional injections administered at the beginning and end, but they convey honest and valid sentiments lying at the heart of the attachments of characters that now have long histories, both with each other and the audience.

Meanwhile, Trailer Addict has posted three new clips from Toy Story 3, courtesy of the Pixar Blog. And the NY Times has a piece about designing the characters.

Two more after the cut.

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(Thanks to Kevin K for the tip)

Pixar escalates its relentless crusade to put smiles on our faces. (via Slashfilm)

With a few brief blurbs from Variety and Hollywood Reporter (good, not great), Indiewire/Thompson on Hollywood’s Anne Thompson writes of TS3:

My take: This movie is more than welcome, while most of the studio movies released so far this year are utterly nonessential. The third Toy Story installment is a fascinating meta-movie that works on several levels at once. We start inside the vivid imagination of child Andy as he plays with the toys we know and love, led by Woody and Buzz (voiced again by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen). We move onto teen Andy trying to decide which toys to take to college; he keeps Woody and throws the rest into a garbage bag, but is distracted from delivering them to the attic; they end up first in the trash, then at a rough-and-tumble daycare center. Right from the start, Michael Arndt’s script and Lee Unkrich’s direction manipulate us into responding to real threats to these toys, not just to their happiness but their very survival. And parents will feel a familiar pang at watching a child leave his innocence behind.

Pixar does not rest on its laurels here. This is sophisticated storytelling crammed with visual, editing and sonic cues (Randy Newman is back in fine form), as the movie veers entertainingly (not jarringly) from one genre to another and deploys more and more complex technology as it goes. And like Up, it reaches into the heart and squeezes. My bet: with a boost from 3D (which like How to Train Your Dragon and Up is an organic, immersive enhancement), this will be the movie to beat as the summer’s top performer

I think she’s right, money-wise. ¬†The Oscar is up in the air still, but so far it will be Dragon’s main competition. This is what I think about Toy Story 3 and Oscar, and I say this without yet having seen the film ¬†- Pixar is lousy with Oscars already. ¬†Let’s look at their track record:

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I’m fairly certain that a few from Cannes will also get play, specifically Javier Bardem’s performance in Biutiful, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams from Blue Valentine, and Another Year should do very well. But there is only so far that has rung that bell. It will have competition, no doubt, in Toy Story 3 which is coming soon to a theater near you. But since we’re keeping score and all of that…

“Tati started where we left off.” — Buster Keaton

3-time Oscar nominee Sylvain Chomet matches the delicate charm of The Triplett’s of Belleville with what appears to be a captivating follow-up, The Illusionist. The visual and thematic influence of Jacques Tati is immediately apparent, so it’s no surprise that Chomet’s film is based on an unproduced script by the French Buster Keaton.

“…the pic is a thrilling exercise in retro aesthetics, from the pencil-and-watercolor look to the 2D animation that harks back to mid-1960s Disney (especially 101 Dalmatians) and the delicate lines and detailed backgrounds of Gallic animator Paul Grimault, to the details that perfectly evoke Scotland in the 1950s. All the same, the backgrounds here brim with little jokes that the long takes offer a chance to catch, such as the sight of lobster thermidor (with a fried egg on top and haggis) on offer at a fish-and-chips shop.

“As much as it is a tribute to Tati (the pic is dedicated to his daughter Sophie Tatischeff, who sanctioned the film but died before she could see it), “The Illusionist” is also a love letter to Scotland and Edinburgh in particular.” (Variety)


Viewers whose heart strings resonated at the sight of WALL-E enjoying his ancient cassette tape of Hello, Dolly! will almost certainly appreciate the beautifully crafted nostalgia that permeates The Illusionist. The film is bathed in self-aware melancholy, lightened by slow-burn humour and a sensibility rooted in silent-era filmmaking. Its 2D imagery (with a smattering of 3D props) simply couldn’t be better – there is always plenty to look at, all of it magnificently rendered. (ScreenDaily)

Several exquisite still frames after the cut.

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I was invited by the kindly folks at Disney to catch The Princess and the Frog at Disney studios for their new movie and event. If you’ve never been to one of these, they generally have them at the El Capitan in Hollywood, charge a pretty penny for your kids to see the movie and then go “backstage” to either meet the princesses or engage in whatever extra activity they have set up; usually it is a very cool thing to do and worth the money. This time it was set up in the backlot at Disney, itself a fun way to spend the evening, and in the tent all of the princesses had been assembled. It is here that we get a gander of the idols our little girls are being raised to admire. Old princesses like Aurora and Snow White join new princesses like Ariel and Mulan. If you’ve raised a little girl in America chances are you are well acquainted with each and every princess they created.

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animated features
(click to enlarge)

As a tribute to this year’s remarkably strong year in animation, reader TinTinV has stitched together this wild crazy-quilt composite featuring all 20 eligible contenders in a hyperactive kaleidoscope of exotic scenes and cuddlesome characters.

AMPAS has just released the animated titles eligible for this year’s awards and lo! Five nominees (I have bolded the ones I think have the best shot right now):

“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel”
“Astro Boy”
“Battle for Terra”
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”

‚ÄúDisney’s A Christmas Carol‚Äù
“The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”
“Mary and Max”
“The Missing Lynx”
“Monsters vs. Aliens”
“Planet 51”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”
“Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”
“A Town Called Panic”

“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” “The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Planet 51,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “The Secret of Kells” and “A Town Called Panic” have not yet had their required Los Angeles qualifying run. Submitted features must fulfill the theatrical release requirements and meet all of the category’s other qualifying rules before they can advance in the voting process.

Under the rules for this category, a maximum of 5 features can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries numbers at least 16.

Just got back from a screening of A Christmas Carol. Thought it was one of the weirdest, coolest, most unusual theatrical experiences of this year. Thought it took very hefty balls to make a kids movie that was as dark and emotionally complex as the Dickens story. Somehow I knew, though, that when I started looking around at the reviews I would find a handful of wet blankets ready to remove all of my fun. And lo, a 55 rating at Metacritic.

At least a couple of them, Owen Gleiberman and Roger Ebert, liked it as much as I did. I can say this about the movie: it is way ahead of its time. I know I keep saying this over and over again about the movies I like that the groupthink doesn’t, but in this case I really do believe this film will be rediscovered by less grumpy people as time goes by.

I think to appreciate the movie, though, you have to be digging on the special effects, namely the 3-D. I think it is as good and as enjoyable probably without the glasses, but with them – a whole new world unfolds. This is digital effects as their most stunning. Since I was greatly moved by Peter Jackson’s King Kong and David Fincher’s Benjamin Button, I think I have to dub myself a bit of an f/x geek. Either way, I don’t know if it manages an Oscar nod or not, but this film is one of the best I’ve seen this year. And I’m not afraid to go up against groupthink. Just watch me. See, not afraid. Still not afraid.


Yahoo Movies has a featurette of A Christmas Carol (as far as I can tell, not on YouTube yet).

I haven’t really been meditating on a Christmas Carol much. The one thing I do like about its launch is that it is a far less hyped and anticipated one than The Polar Express. However, one hopes it is not like The Polar Express in any way, shape or form. The similarities are hard to ignore – one actor playing multiple parts, the Christmas theme and then the motion capture animation, which has improved greatly since The Polar Express. This will, no doubt, be one of the biggest hits of the year.

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You may have noticed that I’ve put Up back in the sidebar for Best Picture. I have only done this, not because I think it has a strong shot for Best Pic but because I’m sick of arguing about with you fine people. I understand how you feel – I just don’t happen to agree. I don’t feel the film has the same amount of strength and resonance as other Pixar movies, specifically, Wall-E. Or even Ratatouille. Both films were talked up for a Best Pic nod when there were five. So everyone thinks that ten slots means an animated movie is in. Not so sure, especially with Ponyo in the mix.¬† I’m trying to find something funny to say here but, well, Ryan’s the funny one. So there you go, for what it’s worth.

Found on ONTDoriginally posted in slightly different format by Ryan back in March:


Meanwhile, check out Mike Jones’ article on Taking Woodstock and the role the internet now plays in indie film production:

For the concert itself, they needed over 6,000 hippies to fill up the muddy fields of their concert set. As the open casting call made the rounds on various websites, people in the comment section began to step forward, offering cars, tie-dyeds, and themselves. On some sites, excited extras even posted news (and some armchair quarterbacking): “I just got the casting call today, I have a costume fitting tomorrow, and I think they are going to film my scene on wed. the 24th. the producers are playing it by ear, the weather has not been cooperating, and the trees are already changing color. They’ll have to pick up the pace!”

DisneyNature will release Earth on April 22nd, Earth Day, and if it makes a boatload of cash it could be a contender for the doc race, even if it isn’t particularly hard-hitting. Earth was made by the same filmmakers who did the dazzling Planet Earth, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. It also revives a Disney/nature tradition that was Oscar-friendly back in the day. So, will it be just a fun day at the movies for the kids? Or will it be something more?

More gorgeous stills after the cut.

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This was the earlier thread. But we’ve left it up in order to show the comments.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Animated Feature: WALL-E
Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire
Best Foreign Language Film: Departures (Japan)
Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Art Direction: Benjamin Button
Best Costume Design: The Duchess
Best Makeup: Benjamin Button
Best Live Action Short: Toyland
Best Animated Short: La Maison en Petites Cubes
Best Documentary Short: Smile Pinki
Best Visual Effects: Benjamin Button
Best Sound Editing: The Dark Knight
Best Sound Mixing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Music Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Song: Jai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire

The Screen Actors Guild have not had the best track record with predicting winners. In fact, you can’t entirely go on the SAG any more than you can the Globes, by and large. The SAG has a gigantic membership and half the time they reflect the more popular vote, like Johnny Depp winning for Pirates of the Caribbean. In the past few years, Best Actor and Actress were pretty much locked in and this rhythm repeated itself all the way to the Oscars. This year, for many reasons, the race seems to be wide open. Of course, we could be looking at Slumdog, Danny Boyle, Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger and Penelope Cruz. Or not.

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Hollywood Reporter’s Greg Kilday reports:

The American Society of Cinematographers will present producer-director Christopher Nolan with its Board of Governors Award at the 23rd annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards on Feb. 15 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

The award is presented annually “to an individual who has made significant contributions to advancing the art of filmmaking.” In addition to his critical and commercial hit “The Dark Knight,” Nolan has directed “Memento,” “Insomnia,” “Batman Begins” and “The Prestige.”

I can tell this season is going to be one sweaty release after another as we wait with baited breath to see what the critics think. With the odd and somewhat annoying refrain of “detachment” coming up again and again, how nice to see a critic actually give the film an unqualified rave, Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Report writes:

The fantasy element in F. Scott Fitgerald’s 1922 short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” in which a man ages backwards, does not begin to suggest the urgent drama and romantic fatalism that director David Fincher and writers Eric Roth and Robin Swicord have so strikingly brought to the screen in the movie version. Fitzgerald’s story is little more than a plot gimmick. Yet the film transforms this gimmick into an epic tale that contemplates the wonders of life — of birth and death and, most of all, love.

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Thanks to AD reader Bryan for the heads up that Peter Debrudge posted over at Thompson on Hollywood an ad for the animated contender, $9.99:

As for its Oscar chances, the Academy just loves stop motion. Maybe it’s the fact that you can see the work (fingerprints and everything), as opposed to all those new-fangled CG films where the computer does the heavy lifting (I jest, of course, since $9.99 might also have been the budget for this modest indie). Still, every stop motion toon submitted since the category was introduced has gone on to be nominated (that would be The Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit), and the Academy awarded last year’s animated short award to Suzie Templeton’s Peter & the Wolf last year (which bodes well for Coraline and The Fantastic Mr. Fox going forward).

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