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November 11, 2009

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Paul

How the Devil did they get your quote "looks and feels like nothing you've ever seen before" into the trailer for this before it appeared for your ever-lovin' blogosphere audience?

Glenn Kenny

@ Paul: I was treated to a screening of the film some time ago, and having liked it, delivered some blurbage in exchange for the consideration, knowing that I'd have to reverse-engineer them into a proper write-up once the time came. I hope I don't shatter anyone's illusions in admitting this!

J

I've heard a lot of Wes Anderson fans dismissing The Fantastic Mr. Fox even before the film was made (that grumbling has become noisier since the trailer was released), but I don't understand it. Perhaps some people are of the belief that an animated film is somehow less respectable than a live-action film, especially for a respected director like Anderson. Or maybe it's a continuation of the backlash that began with The Darjeeling Limited (a film I quite enjoyed). It would appear that Anderson's slavish devotion to detail and the use of his repertory cast (now including George Clooney) would indicate that it's merely another unique Anderson film that will wash away the dullness of the other commercial fare this season. I for one look forward to it!

Dan

@J

It's because Wes Anderson is making a family film, and this means he must have sold out. God forbid he'd be making films because they're FUN.

Ryan Kelly

That mentality also had to do with the general attitude a lot of people take towards animation --- that it's an 'inferior' form and incapable of producing serious, or even worthwhile, art. Hence, Pixar's awful films are praised because many people, for whatever reason, have low expectations from animation.

Of course, the history of cinema and the history of animation are so closely interwoven that they are essentially one and the same.

Paul

Glenn: I am shocked. Shocked!

On the movie: it's the first movie my two-year-old daughter has been to. I couldn't have wished for a better first cinema experience for her. And she was good as gold, munching her popcorn and never taking her eyes off the screen for an instant (though when the film started, her astonished cries of "It's MISTER FOCK! MISTER FOCK!" did make me think she might be a bit young for cinema conventions. That didn't turn out to be a problem).

LondonLee

My daughter is three and I would love to start taking her to movies the way my Dad did with me but I still think she's too young. Am I wrong?

Tom Russell

"Hence, Pixar's awful films are praised because many people, for whatever reason, have low expectations from animation."

I won't defend their entire ouvere-- I never really "got" Toy Story and Cars is excrement, pure and simple-- but Ratatouille, one of the most praised of their films, more than deserves its accolades.

Ratatouille was one of the best films of the last decade, animated or otherwise: impeccable flow from sequence to sequence and within sequences, characters with actual weight and mass instead of the usual animated CGI ping-pong balls, terrific voice work amplified by delicate character work and sumptuous details (look at the scene in which the Chef runs after the soup, stops in the doorway, and his lip curls ever-so-slightly), with nary a dumbed-down pop culture reference in sight. Ratatouille is a pinnacle of animation, and the first film since the dawn of CGI where I didn't ardently wish it had been hand-drawn.

Ryan Kelly

I've certainly warmed to "Ratatouille" since the first time I saw it. Bird is definitely the best thing to happen to Pixar since "Toy Story", which I think is just about a flawless movie (but the fact that it was such an important movie to my 7 year old self probably colors my feelings about it). But discounting Bird's films, I feel that Pixar's movies range from throwaway, enjoyable junk to... as you say, excrement. And their last two movies are just awful, I thought, and I found "Up" to be especially terrible.

The CGI animation movie I really love is "Happy Feet", which I think is hands down more inventive and imaginative than even the best of Pixar. I know it didn't jibe with everyone, mostly because of its soundtrack (which, admittedly, isn't exactly my musical cup of tea either), but I just love it to pieces.

But my biggest problem with Pixar is the way they have set the standard for the modern animated movie. I've read people complaining about the stop-motion animation of this year's "Coraline" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox", because Pixar (and, to a lesser extent, Dreamworks) have defined what it is to be an animated movie in the 21st century, to the point where people are actually disturbed by something that looks like it was made by a human being.

Tom Russell

Have we had this conversation before? I remember talking Pixar with someone and then they brought up Happy Feet as a counter. Deja vu!

I liked WALL-E until they left the earth; it was so different from the rest of the film and I really loved the silent film love story that the big, actiony, humany stuff really felt like it got in the way. And UP made me cry like a baby.

They're certainly miles above Dreamworks-- which, if we have diminished expectations for animated films, is probably more their fault. (Kung-Fu Panda was the first Dreamworks animated film I saw without wanting to gouge my eyes out; I thought it worked.)

I agree that it's sad that people are slamming stop-motion films (and hand-drawn films). I've seen people slam the trailer of FANTASTIC MR. FOX because it doesn't have the relative smoothness of a CORALINE-- which, frankly, I thought was a terrible film. I kept wanting to punch that snotty little girl in the face; I'm not sure if that says more about me or the film.

I wish Don Bluth was making films again. (And by that I mean of course Pre-Rockadoodle Don Bluth.) But, damn, he had a great string of films going there for a while.

Definitely looking forward to MR. FOX, though. As I've said before-- though it's gotten me into trouble, here I am saying it again-- Anderson hasn't let me down yet, and I'd be surprised if he ever did. (Of course, I also would have said the same about Bluth.) Masterpieces all, including and especially THE LIFE AQUATIC and DARJEELING LIMITED.

LondonLee

What about Nick Park? I don't recall anyone having a problem with the "made by a human being" look of Wallace & Gromit.

Glenn Kenny

I LOVE "Up" and it hurts my feelings when other people don't like it. Just saying.

Man, the Blu-ray of the complete shorter Wallace and Gromit is a wonderful thing, showcasing the real beauty of its hand-made qualities...

Zach

Super psyched to see FMF. I don't get the hating on Pixar, though -their track record for creative excellence is practically unparalleled, and all the more remarkable for churning out financial success after success. (I didn't see Cars or Up.) Finding Nemo was a bit on the so-so side, but Toy Story? Monsters Inc.? Ratatouille? The Incredibles? For Pete's sake, they've practically got a monopoly on near-flawless storytelling, to the shame of many would-be live-action filmmakers.

And if I may squeeze a bit of educated conjecturing in, it has to do with an internal creative culture that is well-protected, supported, and given patience. Pixar doesn't engage in the mercenary writer/director/producer swapping that much of the rest of Hollywood does (including many other animated films). They've got some smart, talented folks that they keep around and keep happy - not that it's a paradise, but they've got a good system going, and it produces nuanced, singular works, the likes of which you might find when a talented autuer steps behind the animation stand, as it were - like Anderson, for instance.

Tom Russell

"Pixar doesn't engage in the mercenary writer/director/producer swapping that much of the rest of Hollywood does (including many other animated films)."

This is largely true, though Ratatouille's original writer/director was given the boot so that Brad Bird could make it his own and make it with relative speed. (Not that I'm necessarily complaining, because Bird really is a terrific animator-auteur.)

Zach

@ Tom: True - I'd like to say it's the exception that proves the rule, but I don't know enough about the inner workings of Pixar. I've heard it's a little bit cultish, also, which doesn't surprise me...

demimonde

@Ryan: Seven. Years. Old?
Mommy has to go lie down now.

Ryan Kelly

Tom, I certainly wouldn't rule out that possibility. I've had very few original thoughts in my life, so understand I tend to run with the few I have and say them over and over again.

I agree, the first half or so of "Wall-E" has a kind of poetry to it, but I don't think it represents some kind of apex of visual storytelling, as a lot of critics claimed at the time. It's gorgeous to look at, for sure, but I still think it's kind of hollow, on the whole. I certainly don't think it's good enough to justify the second half, which is just atrocious. Ignoring the fact that it's portrait of humanity is condescending and hateful, the movie suddenly becomes banal and formulaic. I liked Bluth's movies, but I haven't seen them since I was a kid --- I remember wearing down my VHS of "Rock-A-Doodle", but I probably haven't seen it since I was 4.

Your thoughts on Anderson won't get you into any trouble with me, Tom, as I at least enjoy all of his movies, and just love the two you mention. And I can't wait to see what he does with animation.

Glenn, between your most recent post where you mention that the Bastard made you cry, and now claiming I hurt your feelings, you're really showing your sensitive side. Anyway, I was trying to be diplomatic, so you see how good I am at that.

Demimonde, I swear, I was a 7 year old second grader when "Toy Story" came out. I remember, for whatever reason, my parents gave me the choice between "Jumanji" and "Toy Story". I chose wisely.

Tom Russell

"It's gorgeous to look at, for sure, but I still think it's kind of hollow, on the whole."

Well-- even with the impressive sound design-- the language of silent film it utilizes isn't one that's particularly well-suited to depth; it's more about intensity, simplicity, and Magic: emotion writ large and bold. For me, the opening of WALL-E is that-- like City Lights with robots, and that was enough-- if all art was about depth and complexity, I think human beings would tire of it. I just wish they had maintained its fable-like nature through-out.

Watch Free Movies

I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson's films. Fantastic Mr Fox is my favourite Roald Dahl book. But their styles aren't compatible - and that's what ultimately sours this movie for me.

Visually, it's brilliant. The animation is wonderful. It looks just like any other WA film. Lots of detail. Lots of camera pans and "square" shots. Title cards. Fantastic.

twitter.com/oldmanwall

Hot Cuss, this movie rocked! I wore a stupid grin from beginning to end and am looking very forward to seeing it again soon.

@LondonLee, I took my 3 1/2-yr-old, who's used to feature-length shows. she dug FMF, but got a little restless in the final third. my six-yr-old is going to love it, though.

lichman

the life aquatic in stop-motion animation truly is awesome.

and i've effectively stolen that description from vadim after seeing this.

Jandy Stone

Even from the trailer I was saying that it looked like a Wes Anderson film in the composition and framing - the use of space. When I saw it last week, the pacing and the preoccupation with flawed father-son relationships really drove home how perfectly the film fits into Anderson's oevre as a whole.

The other thing that I really noticed about it (and makes me want to go back and see Anderson's other films again to compare) is how flat the compositions are - not meaning that in a negative way, just that nearly all the movement is left-right, not forward-backward. When there are things happening at different depths, there are very clear planes that seem to exist in parallel, but don't interact with each other spatially. I'm not sure if that's an effect of the animation or Anderson's style - could someone who's seen his live-action films more recently than I have comment?

Speaking of stop-motion, I got to see A Town Called Panic and the Czech film In the Attic at AFI Fest a few weeks ago (plus Fantastic Mr. Fox last week - didn't go to AFI's gala premiere of it), and I really wish stop-motion got more respect. All three of these films are extremely different, but I loved them all - there's something both pure and abstract about stop-motion that shouldn't be lost.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jandy: Your analysis is spot-on, I think, with regard to the way W. Anderson's live-action style carries over to his animated style. Kent Jones' essay on the film in the Nov./Dec. issue of "Film Comment" does, I believe, address this as well—the "flat" compositions, the static lateral tracking shots, and so on. And I think these do show some affinities, subconscious maybe, with Czech stop-motion stuff. In any event, there's a lot here to chew on and hopefully make connections with as the movie becomes more widely disseminated.

ZZMike

I read the book recently (having devoured much of Dahl's other books in college). The previews are excellent - I didn't know until later that it's Harryhausen-type animation.

I understand that they've made a few extrapolations for the movie, but if movies were a word-for-word adaptaion, and you've read the book, why see the movie?

In the book, long about page 4, Mr Fox gets his tail shot off by one of the farmers. He takes it stoically, and it's not mentioned again.

It does look like a film you could see twice, once for the story and once for the details. (I see legions of fans stepping frame-by-frame through the DVD, looking for overlooked index pointers.)

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