TALES OF EARTH, SEE?
Posted on Mar 16 2011 by Greg
For those of us who cherish the films of Studio Ghibli and especially the master animator Hayao Miyazaki
, it's always something of an event when a new film comes out. Tales from Earthsea
is such an event, though it's actually the first film directed by his son, Goro, but according to the brief special feature doc, the Ursula LeGuin
fantasy book and short story series was long envisioned by the senior Miyazaki as an animation project -- with Ms. LeGuin very much in favor of the full Ghibli treatment for her creation.
And that it does. Tales from Earthsea
is a grand epic fantasy with astonishing design and scope. Though cel animated, CG is also used to enhanced the movement over ground surfaces, for depth and other imagery that would be more cumbersome (if possible) to be done by hand. It must be made clear that the CG serves the 2D animation rather than overwhelm it, much as it did in Beauty and the Beast
and The Great Mouse Detective
, only on a much bigger scale.
I'm no expert on the Earthsea
stories, but from what I can estimate from various synopses, this film takes several characters and situations and crafts its own cohesive storyline, avoiding the intense intermingling of characters and arcs that weave throughout the LeGuin works. Overall, the film stands on its own, though we are left with a few loose ends here and there.
Few movies have the layered intelligence of Tales from Earthsea
, with its musings on life, death and human existence within a very engrossing story about a youth who starts out on the run because of a murder he can't explain. He's mentored by an elder wizard and do some farming as well engage in as swashbuckling action...well you have to see it.
Perhaps in part because this Earthsea is Goro's first feature as director, it's been released at the same time as a new Blu-Ray version of Miyazaki's first feature directed for Studio Ghibli, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
(I would assume an Earthsea
Blu-ray is forthcoming).
Completely by coincidence, Nausicaa
takes on a staggeringly prophetic tone in the shadow of recent natural and man-made disasters in Japan, making it all the more hard-hitting as allegory.
Virtually all of Miyazaki's film convey this theme with varied intensity. In Nausicaa
, pollution and industrial waste is the major element as this fantasy world is plagued by a deadly poisoned jungle and the relation between people and animals, in this case bug-like creatures that young Princess Nausicaa understands and champions.
The film is lentgthy for an animated feature, yet does not flag or sag. It's an overall dark story without much humor, but the subject matter holds little room for flippancy. The voice cast, showcased on one of the bonus features, matches that of a major Hollywood live action movie, the case including Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman
and Edward James Olmos
For DVD owners, you will find that a few of the bonus features have been moved to the new disc. But again, Blu-ray especially accentuates that remarkable, meticulous detail of the world of Nausicaa and the imagination of Miyazaki.
"BAMBI DEER?" "YES, HE IS, DARLING."
Posted on Mar 09 2011 by Greg
Sorry for the Police Squad
The great thing about a great film is its ability to elicit a nostalgic response in addition to taking on a new meaning with each new viewing.
again after a few years, this time with my own family on the new Diamond Edition
, brought back the memories of each time I saw it in the past (this goes back to the 1960s) and how it resonated then and still does now. This is perhaps the closest an animated film comes to being a moving painting, a work of art in motion. Yet, Bambi
is even more than that because the effect is more than visual.Bambi
has one of the most powerful and imitated musical scores in the film industry. Let's face it, when "man in in the forest," it might as well be Jaws
. And while its last two songs are more a part of the 1940s period in which it was first released, the first two, "Love is a Song" and "Little April Shower," are masterworks, in their composition and execution.
The main observation I took away from seeing Bambi
this time around was how much it reminded me of a Hayao Miyazaki
film in tone and design. There are many held cels, pausing for emotional effect much like anime, and the environmental theme has had decade-long ramifications. I wonder if the great Japanese animator was inspired by this film in particular.
The one aspect of Bambi
that was played down over the years has been the voice cast. No voice cast received less credit in a Disney animated feature, as was Walt Disney
's plan at the time, because it was felt that knowing the voices detracted from the animated characters (which is arguably true, especially in this age of star voices). But it's nice that the cast has been revealed more recently and can be researched elsewhere, though not so much in the DVD, except for some comments on a bonus feature.
The person I would like to bring into the spotlight here is Paula Winslowe
, who embodied the warmth and strength of Bambi's mother flawlessly with impeccable diction and remarkable depth in so few lines. It may surprise fans of the golden age radio classic, The Life of Riley
, that Ms. Winslowe played the long-suffering yet loving wife, Peg, to William Bendix
's Chester A. Riley -- a fine example of her versatility.
The new Blu-ray is stunning, as the film itself is, and features a new interactive feature that allows you to access additional material on your laptop while the film plays (in addition to a few new bonus features). Most but not all of the older bonus material presented on the previous two-disc DVD, but I'm keeping my old one to keep all the features.
Props to the people at Walt Disney Home Entertainment for not being completely Blu-ray-centric for those who still cling to standard DVD by including the newly-enhanced "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" feature, which replaces Patrick Stewart
from the earlier version (another reason to keep the old DVD set) and adds about 26 additional minutes of expert, on camera commentary and a constant stream of supporting visuals that fly by on the screen as the entire film plays. This sort of feature appeared on the recent Blu-ray of Alice in Wonderland
and it is a terrific experience. Kudos to the people who worked so hard on it. Maybe this kind of feature, which is like an audio commentary only very visual, needs a catchy name like "ArchiveVision." I hope more Disney titles include this fine feature.
Posted on Mar 07 2011 by Greg
I never knew that the two actors who voiced Bambi and Thumper (Donnie Dunagan and Peter Behn) have never met -- until reunion on a recent episode of The View
. Click here
for a short clip.
REMEMBER "MATCH GAME 79?"
Posted on Feb 27 2011 by Greg
Question on an episode of Match Game '79 (not to be confused with Epcot '94):
GENE: "There was a terrible fight at Disneyland. Mickey Mouse turned Donald Duck into a BLANK duck."
ELDERLY CONTESTANT: "LAME duck."
ALL SIX CELEBRITIES: Charles Siebert, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly (huull-huuulll!), Marcia Wallace, Robert Donner and Phyllis Davis: "DEAD Duck."
We watched this on a multi disc MATCH GAME DVD set with selected shows from throughout the '70s. TV was so much more informal then. At the beginning of one show, the man who hides behind the Super Match board was late and we got to see him squeeze behind a little door to operate the game. Looooowww tech.
Then there's the time Gene Rayburn (comically?) whapped the floor manager over the head with a cue card because he missed a cue. There was also a genuinely angry moment known as the infamous "school riot." You can see this incident on You Tube
. The DVD set
is available on amazon at a reduced price.
OFF TO THE WORLD'S FAIR - IN A RIVETING NONFICTION BOOK THAT READS LIKE A THRILLER
Posted on Feb 17 2011 by Greg
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Even though this historic nonfiction story took place in the 1930's, in many ways it could be now or tomorrow. Part of the fascination, I think, is in making the comparisons. A promising future? Neat attractions with corporate sponsors? Backstabbing bureaucrats who take credit for others' ideas? A public who largely didn't want high-minded stimulation as opposed to mainstream entertainment. A cynical critical mass that scoffed at lofty dreams of a better world? Sound familiar?
It's all in this book
, written with great detail from historical sources, but in a narrative/dialogue form with occasional ironic side comments. It's a credit to Joe Mauro that a heavily researched book like this is so surprisingly breezy and readable. But by "breezy," I don't mean all happy peppiness. There are moments of terrible violence and sorrow upon which the story pivots.
The central character, so to speak, is Grover Whalen, a self-created New York media figure who made himself famous for being famous (how 21st century is that?). Whalen is the "Walt Disney" behind this early Disneyland/Walt Disney World/Epcot, from its flashy beginnings to its money-losing end. I can't help but draw parallels to the Disney parks, especially Epcot, because its the high-tech, futuristic leanings -- as well as the multinational presentations -- of World's Fairs that bear so much resemblance to Epcot, which by the way was briefly marketed in the '90s as the "World's Fair of the Future." It's to Epcot's credit, though, that it is still one of the world's most popular destinations where some of the biggest World's Fairs (New York '39 and '64) had gone into the red.
The book does not detail each pavilion because that is not its purpose, which is to tell a story that straddles Whalen's career and the stories of others who orbited the '30 Fair, including Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Moses, Albert Einstein and two "regular guy" police detectives who are among the many assigned to follow up on the many bomb threats.
All of this in the context of one of the most volatile turning point in history -- the start of World War II, the rise of fascism in Hitler's reign, the creation of atomic weaponry and the great irony of such a fair in the midst of economic depression and social chaos.
The one fair attraction that Mauro does detail, over all others, is the most popular one at the time, GM's Futurama. A symbol of the hope, irony, and subsequent trial and change, Futurama was a ride through diorama that made parkgoers feel as if they were flying over modernizing cities linked by superhighways. And like The Jetson, some of it came true, for the good and the not so good. When the fair ended, the workers rode it one last time, filled their pockets with parts of the gigantic sets, then started to tear it down.
Makes you think. As does the whole book.
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