Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Christmas is like that isn’t it? John Lennon got it right. There’s the implied long wait, the excitement building, then the event, and it’s over. So this is Christmas? Now it’s over, and what have we done? Well, if you’re anything like us, at our house, you’ve simply had another year run by uncontrollably past. It could be that your Christmas was like John’s old partner George's was when he was “simply having a wonderful Christmas time...ding, dong, ding, dong...” I’m certain that for many that describes it. We move from one party to the next, eating too much, drinking too much, obviously spending too much. What began as a simple birthday party for the son of God, has turned in to this big...thing.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The two movies also share one thing in common, they’re both European stories that, as a positive sign of Hollywood’s recognition that foreigners make up a huge share of the overall box office, have not been Americanized in the slightest. Of course, being big budget, special effects extravaganzas, as only Hollywood could really afford to make, they are still in English. That’s the other economic reality. Hollywood still won’t take chances on subtitles fearing turning local audiences off of their movies.
I actually grew up with the adventures of Tintin, the young intrepid Belgian reporter, created by the Belgian artist Hergé (Georges Remi), over 23 comic books, as my grandparents (who moved there from Poland) and my mother, who was born there, were from that country. When I was young, reading them in their original French, my memories of the strip were that they contained exciting, exotic adventures, were populated by eccentric/amusing characters and were drawn with a simple but effective style. That last might seem too hard to duplicate on screen but Spielberg, utilizing performance capture animation, pulls it off flawlessly.
Performance capture animation requires photographing actors, particularly their facial and physical expressions, and then grafting them as animated figures on the screen making them look like actors playing the roles. (Motion capture is the process of photographing the whole person. The use of it for film is performance capture.) Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express (2004) was one such movie but it was a rather impersonal, cold project. The Adventures of Tintin is a warmer, personality driven effort and much more pleasing and entertaining as cinema. It’s a refreshingly different looking movie, too, an animated flick that looks like it’s been bred with a live action movie, adding up to something unique on screen.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
"Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost."
Watching Wim Wenders' hauntingly poignant and unique film about the choreographic genius of Pina Bausch, I was reminded that when I was younger I didn’t want to run away and join the circus; I wanted to join Tanztheater Wuppertal, the internationally acclaimed German dance troupe that Bausch directed from 1973 until her untimely death in 2009.
I saw her extraordinary dancers, culled from all corners of the globe, for the first time in 1984 during a rare visit of the troupe to Toronto. The piece was The Rite of Spring, and the stage was covered with spoil (dirt, peat and other detritus) that turned to mud soon after the dancers started marking it with the sweat of their extraordinary effort. Together with the approximately 2,000 spectators who thronged to the theatre that night, drawn by Bausch’s reputation as an award-winning dance artist, I watched spellbound from the edge of my seat, eyes wide open, a lump in my throat.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Newspapers throughout the nation are withering away, plus Benjamin’s adventure beat becomes too difficult to maintain because it requires a lot of traveling. With two kids to raise on his own, he simply quits the job. Meanwhile, his brooding 14-year-old son Dylan (Colin Ford) has just been expelled from school for stealing and their city home is plagued by noisy neighbors. A real estate agent shows several properties to him and his precocious daughter Rosie, (Maggie Elizabeth Jones, cute enough to stop mugging for the cameras already!). But none are right for them until they spot a ramshackle country house on 18 gorgeous acres – and adjacent to an almost-defunct Rosemoor Wildlife Park, in dire need of renovation and revival. The family also desperately in need of revival suddenly must contend with lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.