(original GIF via haroldlloyds)
My 2014 Movies: Saving Mr. Banks (2013, at the theatre)
I have a soft spot for John Lee Hancock. The director of Saving Mr. Banks has a handful of directing and writing credits for solid, if unspectacular, films with good, strong performances and dependably admirable filmmaking.
But when I worked at Warner Bros., Hancock was frequently spotted around the studio lot due to the hot-writer status he’d gained as a result of the Clint Eastwood/Kevin Costner movie A Perfect World he’d written out of near-nowhere. He was suddenly a hot commodity and my company was working with him on an adaptation of a really interesting book we’d purchased. As a result, he was often in our offices and I was completely impressed and in awe by the fact that a produced screenwriter who was working with Eastwood would lower himself to talk pleasantly and earnestly with all of our company’s staff, including the man at the very lowest sub-basement of power circles - the office production assistant - who happened to be me.
At that time, he was a cool, normal guy. Talkative and friendly. And I imagined him advancing upward through his Hollywood career, wondering if he would retain that unusual groundedness, that affability.
I certainly can’t say for sure whether Hancock’s still a friendly, down-to-earth, man-of-the-little-people or not, but I can tell you that I’m certain that I’ve retained the ability to give him a critical pass on all of his movies that I’ve seen. Just because.
So that lengthy preamble is to explain at least in part why I basically enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks; enjoyed the filmmaking and the performances and the overall feel and vibe to it. Even enjoyed the chopped-up flashback structure, although it had the feeling of inevitability to me, conclusion-wise.
My 2013 Movies: Monsters, Inc. (2001, on DVD, home collection) and Monsters University (2013, at the theatre)
I’ve said this more than several times on this site: I’m a Pixar snob. Full-blooded. Saw the first Toy Story at an event at the Egyptian in Hollywood and attended an after-party where there were life-sized characters, real army guys hobbling around on their stands, a room-sized working Etch-O-Sketch, the whole bit.
So I can’t pretend to be neutral on these things. I just can’t. Pixar has, I believe, achieved the extraordinary, the sublime, the incredible(s) in filmmaking history. It’s landmark stuff, and Pixar films will forever be theatre-viewing essential as long as multiplexes exist. I actually started to get nervous and upset in the past week when I thought MU might be leaving my local theatre soon and I might be missing it. I felt like I was becoming physically ill from worry.
Yeah. I’m that guy. And will forever be.
So you shouldn’t expect to read here a very critical or deep analysis of character, theme, development or arc. I don’t have anything terribly meaningful to say. My family re-watched Inc. recently so that we’d feel properly refreshed before seeing Uni, and the 2001 version (holy wowie. 2001? That gives one pause.) was still fun and exciting. I’d kind of forgotten that it relies less on story and character like some of the studio’s other offerings, and instead a bit too much on slapstick-type humor, bug-eyes and comical fainting and all. It’s not my favorite Pixar by any means, but it makes for an enjoyable revisit.
So if anything, University improves in that area a bit, giving the characters a few more interesting things to do, some growth that, while predictable, feels earned and well-told. At the culmination (SPOILERS) of the Scare Games in the movie, I actually felt miserably let down for a moment, thinking that the movie might end there. For some reason I had no concept of how long the movie had been at that point and was convinced - from the way the scene was staged with music and climactic-y things happening - that it was ending that way, and I wasn’t at all happy.
I doubted. For a moment. Damn you, Cars! *shakes old man fist*
All of which made what followed very gratifying, and very terrific. I thought the scenes taking place in the human world were spectacular - so richly shot, with the backgrounds and lighting and overall feel rendered so differently - so purposefully differently - than the rest of the movie. Gorgeous and stunning.
So I was happy. My Pixar-Joy Containment Unit has been filled up once more.
But, what? No The Good Dinosaur teaser? *sigh*
WOW. This is spectacularly weird and so very well done.
Walt Disney’s Taxi Driver (by Bryan Boyce)
(via the entertaining-times-infinity series Thursday’s Ways Not To Die at my new plaid pants)
WHAT THE DAMN HELL ARE YOU WEARING, MICKEY? HAVE YOU EVER EVEN SEEN STAR WARS?
This is a great book and I’ll pretty much support anything created by Berkeley Breathed, but the writer/director Simon Wells’ filmography doesn’t much suggest that this will be terrific.
Joan Cusack? Okay. Seth Green? Fine. Jettisoning Breathed’s artwork for the same basic CG crank-em-out look that’s become so popular?
Bummer. I’ll wait to see a trailer, but this doesn’t fill me with hope.
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