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Monthly Archives: January 2005
There’s something slighty perverse about getting excited by the fact that a paragraph of introductory text from a movie has been released. (I don’t think it happened with Blade Runner or Gladiator). But when it’s Revenge of the Sith… Well, I’m afraid I can’t control myself. The opening crawl is now up at www.starwars.com, and goes like this:
How good does the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie sound?
This is a book beloved by geeks everywhere: Hitchhikers is one of those franchises like Monty Python, Star Trek, and Star Wars, that attracted the nerdy and friendless like moths to the flame. The first two novels (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Restaurant at the End of the Universe) also happen to be amongst the great comic novels of the last half-century. While Restaurant is a little disheveled, narratively speaking, the first novel has a perfectly rounded story that would be perfect for a film. The only obvious difficulty would seem to be one of selection: what to put in, and what to leave out. Because it originated as a radio play, the whole script is sitting there right before you as you read (in contrast to the way that Adams’ later books became increasingly internalised, and therefore all but unfilmable).
Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
Alexander Payne’s Sideways is a small, impeccably done character study that may just get crushed under the expectations that are surrounding it. It arrives in Australia swathed in Oscar and Golden Globes buzz, and with strong reviews from some notable critics (such as David Stratton’s 5 star rave on At the Movies). Inflated hopes are the enemy of a movie such as this: while a blockbuster action picture’s sheer mass gives it some resistance to hype, a picture as slight as Sideways can be left seeming diminished if the experience is anything less than transcendent. I was left slightly underwhelmed by Sideways, which is a shame, because the film itself did nothing wrong: it’s pretty much note-perfect, and deserves to be assessed without the burden of Awards hopes. While I’m sure Alexander Payne won’t want to send his Golden Globe for Best Picture back – the award was given while I was writing this review – but it may be that the film itself would have been more comfortable quietly finding its audience.
The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles is the latest in the extraordinary winning streak of the Pixar animation studio, but it is also a film that challenges everything we thought we knew about Pixar films. In their first five features (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, and Finding Nemo) a house style emerged based largely on the sensibilities of John Lasseter, director or co-director of three of those five films, and generally we know what to expect from the studio. Their features are unashamedly kids’ films, albeit ones rich enough to entertain all ages. They use non-human characters (toys, insects, monsters, fish) for their central cast. They centre on a pair of “buddy” heroes (Woody and Buzz, Sulley and Mike, Marlin and Dory), or a troupe of friends who all work together. The tone – warm, gently sentimental, and without cynicism – strongly recalls the best of the early Disney animated films. This consistency in approach surely derives from the use of in-house directorial talent, with the directors other than Lasseter (Lee Unkrich, Pete Doctor and Andrew Stanton) having learnt the ropes working alongside Lasseter.