quinta-feira, 30 de março de 2006
segunda-feira, 27 de março de 2006
For a while, I was a sage.
Not a single animated feature was released in the U.S. in 1984, and the five released in 1985 sold less than $50 million worth of tickets combined.
Then, in a blur of blockbusters that began with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988), we saw Disney's resuscitated animation division churn out the instant classics "The Little Mermaid" (1989), "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "Aladdin" (1992), and "The Lion King" (1994), followed by Pixar's first soldier in the computer-animation revolution, "Toy Story."
In 2001, 10 years after "Beauty and the Beast" became the one and only animated movie ever nominated for Best Picture, the Academy decided to give the animated feature its own category. The first winner: "Shrek."
How healthy are animated movies today? Well, in 2004, the top five animated films sold more than $1.1 billion worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada. The three films nominated for Best Animated Feature that year outgrossed the five live-action nominees, $858.6 million to $401.5 million.
And in 2006, 22 years after the shutout of '84, the major studios, along with the new Weinstein Co., plan the wide release of at least 14 new animated features. "Hoodwinked" and "Doogal" have already been released, and animation's first box-office sure thing - "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" - opens Friday.
Where heads were down two decades ago, people in animation today are as cheery as investors in a bull market.
"I think people will look back at this period as the Golden Age of animation," says Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, whose animation division will release its first in-house computer-animated feature ("Open Season") in September. "There used to be one studio putting out animated product; now, there are multiple entities."
IDT Entertainment is one of several new independent companies dedicated to computer animation. Its first feature - "Everyone's Hero" - will be released by Fox in September.
"This is a very exciting time," says Janet Healy, IDT's president of animation. "I feel like we're at a moment where we're reinventing the medium again."
Healy has been at the forefront of every major technical breakthrough in the last 20 years. She worked for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, then worked on computer animation at Disney, and followed its animation guru, Jeffrey Katzenberg, to DreamWorks.
She says the big change driving the current boom in animation is the breakdown in resistance of veteran animators to the new computer technology.
"Technology is not even a discussion anymore," she says. "We have enough qualified, off-the-shelf software and fast machines to tell whatever story we want. Whatever images we imagine, we know we can make."
While computer animation dominates the field, it's not the only medium. None of last year's Oscar nominees were computer-animated. The Oscar winner, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," and Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" were done with models and stop-motion. The third nominee, Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle," was traditional hand-drawn cell animation.
This year, we'll see two movies - "Monster House" and "A Scanner Darkly" - where the computer animation is done over live-action performances, creating images that are both cartoonish and photorealistic.
But, as virtually everyone interviewed for this story agrees, the medium is not the message - the message is.
"Pixar's CG is fantastic, but their movies work because they know how to tell stories," says Spaz Williams, who directed the upcoming "The Wild." "Look at 'South Park.' It's the worst animation technique in the world, but the stories are great."
One reason animated movies have a higher ratio of successes to failures than live-action features is the way they're made.
"We have a longer window to get it right," says John Davis, whose first animated feature, "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," was among the inaugural slate of Oscar nominees in 2001. "We sketch out scenes and can see how they work before we commit to them. And we can go back and fiddle with them."
On a live-action film, you have actors for a certain number of days, and what you get is what you have to work with. With voice actors for animated movies, they can come back whenever they've got the time. If they can't come to you, you can go to them.
"I went to Taos [N.M.] to record Julia Roberts," says Davis of one of his voice cast for this year's "The Ant Bully."
As you scan the list of animated movies opening this year, you're struck by the star wattage of their casts.
"It's great fun for the actors," says Sandra Rabins, who heads Sony Pictures Animation. "It doesn't take a lot of time. They don't have to go through hair and makeup and sit around waiting for lighting."
And they can work in front of their kids if they want.
"Martin Lawrence has three or four kids, and he brought them to the recording sessions for 'Open Season,'" says Rabins. "He loves playing up for his children and they love looking up to their dad as his character, this 900-pound grizzly bear named Boog."
"Debra Messing had just had a baby when we got her for 'Open Season,'" adds Sony's Landau. "She came to the studio with the baby and a nanny and didn't have to get dressed up or worry about what she looked like. That was fine for us. We wanted her for her comedic timing."
Charles Solomon, an author, journalist and animation expert, knows all the cycles of animation's history and says the only thing new today is the technology.
"I'm just old-fashioned enough to think that good stories are what makes good animation movies," he says. "And good animated movies stay on the shelves forever."
As for Arlene Ludwig, the Disney exec to whom I foolishly predicted the end of animation all those years ago, she refuses to gloat.
"I knew you'd come around," she laughed when I called to offer a long overdue retraction.
1 Drinks snakebite
Former or closet goths still display a lingering thirst for snakebite - half a pint of lager with half a pint of cider, sometimes with blackcurrant. Snakebite is the worst thing the goths ever did after their invasion of the Roman Empire in 267.
2 Penchant for eyeliner
It seems everybody's wearing eyeliner these days, but a goth's make-up is a smidgen more extreme: the skin is powdered white, and black eyeliner is used on eyes, brows, lips and sometimes - to draw cobwebs, probably - the skin. NB: goths do not use bronzer, rouge, or St Tropez self-tan.
Capes have been fashionable this winter, but don't let that confuse you. A goth wears a cape so long it grazes the floor. Looks a little incongruous over a business suit.
4 Went to Leeds university
Strangely, Leeds has a nigh-on magnetic attraction for goths, and there are more cape shops per capita in the city than anywhere else in Europe.
5 Whistles Fields of the Nephilim/ Sisters of Mercy/ March Violets/ Subway to Sally songs
This is why no goth ever had a successful career as a milkman.
6 Strange hobbies
Many of your colleagues will spend the weekend at B&Q, drinking Lambrusco and playing five-a-side. Not goths. They read preposterous fantasy books, do a spot of Wicca and anything "a bit medieval".
7 Black clothing
Though both wore a lot of black, it is easy to differentiate between the goth and the 80s throwback by asking this simple question: can you imagine this outfit in a Robert Palmer video? The goth's predilection for black clothing is a reflection of the Black Aesthetic - taking those things society regards as evil or wrong and making them beautiful. Many items in the longtime goth's wardrobe may now have faded to a sort of charcoal shade.
8 Disturbing dancing at Christmas party
The goth sticks rigidly to the routine of two and a half steps to the front and back again, while gazing at the floor in an affected fashion and waving hands around mysteriously.
9 Disarmingly pointy boots
It is a little-known fact that inside their shoes, goths' feet are just as pointy as their winklepickers.
domingo, 26 de março de 2006
Russell: Gerry, you are a morality-free zone.
De Sliding Doors/Instantes Decisivos
quinta-feira, 23 de março de 2006
quarta-feira, 22 de março de 2006
segunda-feira, 20 de março de 2006
domingo, 19 de março de 2006
In their long history with Comedy Central, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never been censored, not even for their infamous "Bloody Mary episode", but Cruise throws his weight around and suddenly the boys have their mouths duct-taped? Following the news that Scientologist Isaac Hayes, who voiced The Chef on the show, quit because he was offended by the Scientology spoof, this story, if it proves to be true, doesn't really serve to make Hollywood Scientologists look like good sports, eh?
If Viacom really did censor South Park over Cruise threatening to pull advertising, shame on them for kowtowing to his demands. Scientologists have a right to practice their religion, sure. And people like Parker and Stone have a right to lampoon Scientology. The South Park folks are equal opportunity offenders; they've targeted Jews, Catholics, Fundamentalist Christians, Mormons, Muslims and starving Ethiopians, just to name a few.
Did Hayes and Cruise get their panties in a twist over any of those episodes? Nope. But when Parker and Stone turn their lens to an examination of the foundations of Scientology and put Tom Cruise and John Travolta in a closet together, Cruise suddenly brings on the threats? The irony is that you can view the funnier parts of the episode on Comedy Central's website anyhow. Parker and Stone are rumored to have been muzzled by the big dogs on the truth around the episode being pulled, but knowing those two, I wouldn't expect them to just take this sitting down. I smell a South Park episode with Cruise as a Scientology terrorist coming around the bend...
domingo, 12 de março de 2006
Se exceptuarmos as ficções algo grotescas de António de Macedo, com "Os Abismos da Meia-Noite" (1984) a dar o tom "kitsch" absoluto, não existe grande tradição no cinema português de lidar com o fantástico e o sobrenatural, talvez até porque escasseiem os meios de produção, a impedirem que tais tentativas soem a falso. "Os Canibais" de Manoel de Oliveira arriscava a adaptação do homónimo conto fantástico oitocentista de Álvaro do Carvalhal, mas fazia-o a coberto de um curioso subterfúgio, o de transformar a acção numa ópera moderna, permitindo sublinhar o artifício e elidindo muitas das complexidades que o "género" exigiria.
Só por isso, este "Coisa Ruim", estreia na longa-metragem da dupla Tiago Guedes e Frederico Serra, que, com algumas interessantes curtas no activo, fizera mão na publicidade, já revelava os seus méritos. Mas não trata apenas de uma mera curiosidade inovadora. O filme parte de um argumento bem pensado (de Rodrigo Guedes de Carvalho) e, como veremos, constrói uma apreciável rede de sentidos, criando personagens credíveis e densas e uma atmosfera de mistério que se relaciona, na perfeição, com o território que explora: o de um Portugal profundo, preso a crendices ancestrais e a catolicismos supersticiosos.
O ponto de partida é muito simples: uma família da cidade muda-se para um casarão assombrado, que o "pater famílias", biólogo de profissão (excelente Adriano Luz, a demonstrar, mais uma vez, que existem entre nós actores de cinema, com a noção da câmara e do "timing" certo), herdou de um tio-avô e confronta-se, por um lado, com a religião popular, empenhada em exorcismos e rezas expiatórias, e, por outro, com as estranhas aparições de três crianças que exercem, sobre os três filhos do casal, maléficas influências.
Em breve nos apercebemos de que as aparições (será por acaso ou em resultado de corrosivo humor que os entes vindos do além se parecem tanto com a imagem icónica dos pastorinhos de Fátima?) resultam de uma maldição, devida aos pecados de um distante antepassado que chacinara toda uma família de camponeses, a fim de lhes ficar com as terras. Nos "flashbacks" dá-se corpo visual a esse acontecimento (com a divertida participação do produtor, Paulo Branco, no "amaldiçoado" latifundiário), com uma economia de meios e uma justeza de tom que se harmoniza, às mil maravilhas, com a história contemporânea, os terrores sonoros e as suspeições adivinhadas por detrás das estranhas reacções dos membros mais jovens da família, sugerindo-se, inclusive, uma perturbante hipótese de incesto. A morte acidental (e sacrificial) do filho mais novo parece aplacar as forças do Mal, forçando o agregado familiar a abandonar o mundo em que se instituía como transgressor.
Toda esta saga, cruzada com uma análise cuidadosa dos terrores quotidianos de uma população condicionada por séculos de convivência com o oculto, oscilando entre o sagrado das missas e o profano de cerimónias secretas, paredes-meias com rituais antigos de feitiçaria, poderia resultar risível, não fora o rigor da câmara a captar os rostos e os ângulos escusos da casa, mais interessada nas texturas da paisagem do que no folclore do medo.
Vem-nos à memória o universo de um realizador como M. Night Shyamalan, no modo como se configura a zona do indizível, filmando, com intenso "realismo", o que se não pode ver, mas perfila-se um olhar original e muito português sobre um mundo de lendas e de premonições, relacionadas com nebulosas serras e perturbadores pesadelos nocturnos.
Existem algumas facilidades representativas, um excesso de desfocados e um certo maneirismo no tratamento da imagem, mas a sobriedade narrativa acaba por triunfar, pela soberba direcção de actores (para além de Adriano Luz, destaca-se a complexa mãe que Manuela Couto constrói com inexcedível contenção) e pela noção da importância dos planos de conjunto: a cerimónia espírita e as refeições ganham, assim, o valor de convocações propiciatórias, desafiando a câmara a abarcar todas as dimensões da acção. Num papel secundário, de velha criada sábia e discreta, que funciona como espécie de síntese e abstracção metonímica de toda a aldeia, surge, em grande esplendor, a força dessa enorme actriz que dá pelo nome de Elisa Lisboa: pela sua bela voz "quebrada" e pelo seu rosto, ao mesmo tempo sereno e transtornado, temos acesso às contradições profundas de um mundo antigo e imutável, oposto à lógica racional das gentes da cidade.
No cômputo geral, uma surpreendente primeira obra, simultaneamente ambiciosa e consciente das suas limitações, revelando uma concepção de cinema já amadurecida e capaz de lidar com zonas complicadas do humano em confronto com o desconhecido.