Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Did you see that Spider-Man made his triumphant return as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float this morning, back for the first time in ten years?
Yup. Plus, the Roots performed, so I guess I'm thankful for that.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

A match made in geek heaven

NME reports that Watchmen author Alan Moore will be working with Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett on the duo's new, as-yet-untitled opera, following last year's Monkey: Journey to the West.

Albarn and Hewlett, co-founders of Gorillaz (and Blur frontman/Tank Girl creator, respectively) have enlisted the comics god to write the libretto—or "script," to those generally unenthused about opera—for the new piece, for which Albarn has reportedly written 70 songs. In return, Moore hopes to feature Gorillaz in his new magazine, Dodgem Logic. Joy!

Incidentally, the "Ultimate Cut" of Watchmen arrived on DVD last week, which splices the animated Tales of the Black Freighter short into the film, thus staying that much truer to Moore's original creation—not that he cares...

Monday, November 16, 2009

But where's the pop culture sass-talk in 3D?

Wall St. Journal has an interesting story on the labored process of bringing next month's The Princess and the Frog, Disney's bid to revive hand-drawn animated musicals, to the screen.

Frog is a gamble for the studio, not so much for the generally accepted "reason" that today's audiences only want computer-animated movies, but because Disney has hyped the film as the return to its early '90s heyday (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King are prominently featured in Frog's original trailer), and deviated from the standard Hollywood pattern in the way that they made the picture.

As the article reports, cel-animation workstations were recreated or hauled out of storage, and writer-directors Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, Mermaid), who'd been laid off when Disney closed its traditional animation department, were rehired to make Frog. Additionally, news that the story was set in New Orleans, featuring a mainly African-American cast, was not received without controversy.

All of which sounds pretty risky for a studio not known for such behavior in recent years. No surprise that Pixar founder John Lasseter, who now also heads Disney Animation, is behind the bold moves. Pixar got to where it is by taking chances, and the Mouse House will have Lasseter to thank - or blame - for Princess and the Frog's performance at the box office.

The most important thing that Lasseter brings to Disney, though, may be his belief in the idea that story trumps everything else. In a veiled reference to Disney's relative lack of success in both hand-drawn and computer-animated fare over the past decade, WSJ quotes Lasseter as saying, "I've never understood why the studios were saying people don't want to see hand-drawn animation. What people don't want to watch is a bad movie." It's hard to believe that the average moviegoer sees a film based on what kind of animation methods it employs; whether or not the film's story is compelling and emotionally affecting is, generally, a much better gauge of why audiences connect with certain pictures.

Having said that, I trust Lasseter, and I'd like this foray back into hand-drawn animated features to do well, but I'm just not sold yet. The trailer is...a little boring and familiar:


But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. On the plus side, Randy Newman wrote the songs, so it's got that going for it. Thoughts?

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Uuuuuggh

Just in case you didn't know...
1.) Weezer's new album is called Raditude
2.) This is the cover:

It's like something you'd find in the $1.00 bin, or how the CD of your cousin's band might look. Sigh.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

It's probably some powerful allegory, but it's lost on me

A couple months ago, I speculated that, based on its first single, "The Field," Mason Jennings's Blood of Man might just be the folk singer's best album since 2000's Birds Flying Away. Now, I can confirm that that is, indeed, the case.

Blood is Jennings's darkest, heaviest record yet, as evidenced by new single, "Ain't No Friend of Mine." I can safely say that I never thought a Jennings song would remind me of Rage Against the Machine (or, at least, Audioslave). Enjoy its video below, featuring animation of drawings done by Jennings - about battling demons...or something along those lines:


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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the biopic?"

The Tribune has a fascinating, albeit brief, interview with the celebrated Angels in America and Munich scribe/controversy magnet, Tony Kushner, who comes off surprisingly restrained. No doubt the influence of Lincoln - about whom Kushner just finished a screenplay, reuniting him with director Steven Spielberg - has had something to do with Kushner's seemingly newfound pragmatism.

Famous for his unabashed liberalism, Kushner, due to receive the Tribune's Literary Prize at this weekend's Chicago Humanities Festival (a great lineup this year), has some none-too-kind words for the far left in the article. I actually think Munich is one of Spielberg's best, and I appreciated its ideological ambiguity, so, I'm looking very forward to Lincoln.

Incidentally, Kushner's partner, Mark Harris, wrote a great book last year, Pictures at a Revolution, about the ways in which American filmmaking changed in the '60s.

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