Given that Hayou Miyazaki sent a shockwave through american animation, and how Pixar and Disney were influenced by him, it’s a little silly to think there could be any movement in the animation genre here. But over the years, there has been. Some of it has been noticed, but some hasn’t. How many people even saw The Congress where Ari Folman blended animation with live action for a crazy kind of abstract vision of the future. It was mostly ignored but what it was aiming for was interesting.
Inside Out is that rare film that hits both the snooty critics and mainstream audiences. It made $356 million. As a Pixar movie. With a female protag. All of that talk about how animated films with female characters could not connect. The thing about gender, though, is that our ideas about it are shifting ever so slightly. Most of us adults aren’t really paying attention to how fluid the notion of gender is becoming, so that you can’t really be certain about those “rules” that say there has to be a male lead. More than that, by making Riley female, it adds a kind of complexity you could only have if your male character could be a little more flexible with gender. For instance, Riley plays hockey. She isn’t a typical “girly girl” although that’s very much a part of her inner world too – sparkly ponies, hot teen idols, rainbows and imaginary friends all occupy various parts of her inner world. They also gave her a male “anger” and didn’t just populate her inner emotions with female personas. Sure, her Joy and her Sadness are notably different kinds of females but there is so much else going on inside that young girl’s head clearly the writers were freer with how they set about defining that inside.
Ex-Machina, Testament of Youth, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Burnt and The Danish Girl all have one actress in common, Alica Vikander. The actress has had a whirlwind year and got to visit the White House for the first time. She’s just returned from D.C and I manage to sit down with the actress who leads me into her “little lounge” that overlooks Sunset Boulevard. Vikander is dressed in a long skirt, her dark hair slicked back, she’s about to head to Chateau Marmont for a cocktail reception celebrating her latest movie, The Danish Girl.
Awards Daily: Wow! What a year for you and what a weekend.
Alicia Vikander: Yeah, it’s been busy and fun. We had the premiere three days ago, I can’t even remember. I was in D.C yesterday, so I’m a bit, “I don’t know what day it is.” It was my first time ever going there, and then I’m going back to shoot in six days.
Sight & Sound names 20 top movies of the year, as chosen by 168 critics from around the world. On the terrific S&S site you’re able to browse all the votes and comments with links to S&S reviews. It was pointed out on Twitter than the top three films feature female leads. I’m not sure that’s altogether true of The Assassin. I remember going in thinking it would be about a woman fighter but then not seeing so much of her – except as an incredibly beautiful figure in an incredibly beautiful movie. A couple of really great choices on here but I’m not sure it’s representative of the year of film. Rather, it seems a little reactionary to Oscar season overall – picking and choosing the films that are anything but Oscar favorites. Maybe it comes down to those critics not having seen many of the films people are talking about here. Probably those movies haven’t yet been released in various countries, and certainly no screeners will have been sent. They did, however, somehow manage to put Anomalisa – one of the hardest films to see – on their list. But perhaps that’s because it went to and won in Venice (deservedly so).
So I’ll just chalk the glaring omissions to their not having seen the movies rather than their being annoyed with Oscar season…
Another year almost in the can, dear readers, and some of you have actually been with me since the beginning. We’ve grown up or grown old together in a way. How weird, right? But also it’s just the greatest thing to me that you come here and read this site. Of course, other than my own loud mouth, there is much going on behind the scenes. Ryan Adams who has been with the site since 2006 is the main reason things run at all. He is a great editor and writer, and a lifesaving proofreader. Each and every time I make a career ending typo or mistake, Ryan will be there to help fix it. That has lessened the 3am freakouts. He’s a great friend and essential contributor. We’ve also gotten lucky to take on a few new contributors, like the awesome and hard working Jazz Tangcay who does interviews, records interviews, attends press events and parties like a pro. I wish I had half of her get up and go. We love you, Jazz! Thanks for the great work. And Jordan Ruimy who is also motivated to write reviews and film pieces – he works faster than Ryan and I can keep up with. So thank you, Jordan!
Of course, thanks to the always happening Paddy Mulholland for his London reports, Dr. Rob Y for his fun and instructive Simulated Oscar Ballots, intermittent OscarPodcast pal Craig Kennedy, and the prolific gang at ADTV, Clarence Moye, Joey Moser, Megan McLachlan, Robin Write, and Ryan C Showers and Kevin Klawitter. Special thanks to Marshall Flores for his Statsgasm series as well as his reliable expertise in helping us analyze facts and figures throughout the year.
The incredibly talented Dora Kappou has once again made our FYC gallery. I don’t know why she does us this favor every year. We can never repay her for her kindness. But we’re grateful. We are so grateful.
To you readers and commenters – we’ve all become kind of a family and it’s far reaching. Some of you who comment now I know and some I don’t. But we’re always grateful to have you, even when you’re riding our ass about something.
To my own blogger friends who have been there through thick and thin – who I see at every party and shoot the shit with. Jeff Wells – a better man than most people realize. David Poland, Pete Hammond, Anne Thompson, Kris and April Tapley, Scott Feinberg, Tomris Laffly, Alex Billington, Greg Ellwood, Kyle Buchanan, Ryan Lattanzio, and probably five million other people I’ve forgotten.
Anyway, wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving.
Creed is really the biggest surprise of Oscar season, 2015. Even though we wrote about it being as much back in September, still it’s surprising to see how many critics are praising Ryan Coogler’s entertaining, moving film. Why Creed works so well? It could be a film on its own without any dependence on or attachment to the Rocky myth. Creed landed an A Cinemascore, which was expected — there are two bonafide crowdpleasers released so far this year — The Martian and Creed. Both films might bridge the gap between the ever-increasing insular world of Oscar voters and the ticket buying public. The end to that story is still waiting to be told. Either way, Ryan Coogler will be having a happy Thanksgiving, without a doubt.
Ryan Coogler’s film has an unexpected grace that makes it much more than just a Rocky reboot
Sometimes when a movie does everything right, you don’t even think about how wrong it could have gone until after it’s over. Creed, out Nov. 25, could have gone wrong in so many ways.
Directed by Ryan Coogler—whose deft 2013 debut, Fruitvale Station, chronicled the last day of Oscar Grant III before he was fatally shot by a BART police officer in Oakland—Creed introduces us to the illegitimate son of heavyweight champ Apollo Creed, who first bounded into the ring in the 1976 underdog hit Rocky. In a movie landscape littered with resuscitated franchises, this runs the risk of being just more of the same. Like Rocky, a smash that spawned 1,000 sequels (or so it seems), Creed mingles go-for-broke romance with bloody pugilist thrills—but instead of feeling like a rehash, it works like gangbusters. Coogler honors and builds upon the Rocky formula so that it feels both comfortingly old-fashioned and bracingly new. Audiences instantly adored Rocky, for good reason—it’s a great date movie, and Creed is too. You won’t have to be a lover-not-a-fighter to love it.
And the New York Times’ AO Scott writes:
A boxing movie without clichés is like a political campaign without lies. “Creed,” directed by Ryan Coogler from a script he wrote with Aaron Covington, is self-aware without being cute about it. In the movie as in the world beyond it, Rocky is part of the cultural tapestry. Everyone in Philadelphia knows him. There’s even a statue! But Mr. Coogler, a 29-year-old filmmaker whose debut was “Fruitvale Station” (also starring Mr. Jordan), looks at the Rocky story and the tradition of Hollywood pugilism through a fresh prism.
“Rocky” was the story of a Great White Hope, and also a fable for an era of racial backlash. Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers, was the heavy in that movie, and Rocky was the noble underdog. Later, they set aside their differences and faced a common Soviet enemy as the series turned its attention to Cold War geopolitics. By then, Apollo was the sidekick and the sacrificial friend, an injustice that “Creed,” by its very title, seeks to redress.
And the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern on Sly:
Mr. Stallone is affecting not only as Rocky, but as Sylvester Stallone taking on, yet again, the Rocky character. I’d love to quote from his long meditation on mortality, but the scene is too good to spoil with so much as an excerpted sentence. And if ever you were moved by the series, in spite of or indeed because of its manipulativeness, you’ll be moved yet again by the moment when the young boxer and his venerable trainer climb those 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one man moving briskly and the other very slowly, but with a determination that doesn’t need, and doesn’t get, a triumphalist anthem.
From Cannes to Telluride
I saw three or four films in Cannes back in May that count as tectonic shifts where this year’s movie performances are concerned. One of the most surprising moments in Mad Max: Fury Road comes from the scene where Tom Hardy trudges through the sand towards the war rig. Up to now, we’ve only seen Charlize Theron as the driver of the rig, but once Hardy rounds the corner there emerge the women, the “breeders,” barely clothed in white gauzy material, washing themselves with fresh water. What a sight for Hardy’s Max, who can’t quite figure out what he’s seeing. But even more of a jolt is the way Furiosa approaches Max in this scene, attacking with one arm, then pulling back, then attacking again. Clearly this isn’t a woman who will be beaten. After all, she knows the passcode that enables the war rig to run. Theron as Furiosa owns Mad Max – both the film and the character, a power swap that caused a shift in how people regarded Mad Max the icon. Theron’s focuses her hold on Hardy as she battles him for the gun, all in defense of nothing any bigger than saving whatever humanity is left of the human race. When Max momentarily bests her and tries to leave (he can’t, she has the codes) her toughness flickers and briefly fades – but never much shakes her tough facade. It is a masterful, steady and ultimately brilliant performance by Theron.