Yearly Archives: 2006

The Daily Grind

The trailer for the Tarantino / Rodriguez collaboration Grindhouse:

I suspect the trailer is more fun than the movie will be, but then I said that about Kill Bill. I like the irony of them advertising two movies for the price of one after Kill Bill gave use one movie for the price of two. Perhaps it’s their way of clueing us in that the movie will be overlong.

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Die Hungry

I believe the original Die Hard is one of the all-time classic bits of action cinema, but have no high hopes for the fourth film in the franchise, because, well, I have an ounce of common sense. It’s going to suck like the vacuum of space. Beyond that, all I will say is:

a) “Internet Terrorists” = Lame. Alan Rickman’s gloriously Eurotrashy Hans Gruber would have hung their nerdy hides out to dry.

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S-Bend Adventures

Flushed Away (David Bowers & Sam Fell, 2006)

In the opening minutes of Flushed Away, the rat Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman), who spends a life of leisure as a solitary house pet, gets flushed down the toilet. He enters the sewers of London where he finds a whole society of rats: initially horrified, he wants nothing more than to escape from the proletarian rats (proletarirats?) and to reach the surface. But with the help of the attractive Rita (voiced by Kate Winslet) he comes to savour the company of his fellow rats.

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“This Never Happened to the Other Fellow:” Bond, Vesper and Tracy

Note: the following article includes detailed spoilers for several Bond films and books, including the ending for both Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. You have been warned.

The exciting thing about the newest Bond film, Casino Royale, is that it starts the cinematic James Bond series afresh. There has been much commentary on what this means for the Bond series going forward, centring on speculation as to whether this change in tone will carry into the next film. What I haven’t seen a great deal of discussion about, however, is what the events of Casino Royale, and the associated rebooting of the series, means for our understanding of who Bond is.

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Bond is Back

Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)

The crucial line in the opening credits: “Based on the novel by Ian Fleming.”

Ian Fleming’s credit on the film Bond series has for years been simply “Ian Fleming’s James Bond in…” and then the title of the movie. There hasn’t been a Bond film that stayed anything close to one of his novels since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: in the seventies, the producers generally threw out Fleming’s plots, while by the 1980s the Bond films were taking the titles and a few incidents from his short stories but little more. All this time Casino Royale, the first Bond novel, remained unfilmed. The film rights were owned by different people to the rest of the series: they provided legal cover for a Bond spoof under the title in 1967, but yielded little else. In retrospect, given the level of farce the Bond series was reduced to through this period, the legal circumstances preventing an adaptation virtually amounted to protective custody. Now, though, corporate mergers and legal horse-trading has allowed its use as part of the “official” Bond series. And after the series hit a recent low with Die Another Day, the timing could not be better for a reintroduction of Fleming’s spirit to the series.

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Time to Leave

Time to Leave (Francois Ozon, 2006)

The latest film from prolific French writer-director Francois Ozon is Time to Leave, a sensitive, low-key drama exploring themes of mortality and interpersonal relationships. It centres on Romain (Melvin Poupard), a somewhat self-centred photographer who discovers that he has terminal cancer. Already somewhat aloof from those around him, he withdraws further, concealing his illness and lashing out at family and his partner Sasha (Christian Sengewald). As the illness progresses, however, Romain is transformed.

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Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Mad Max stands alone, the first and only film of a genre that surely could be explored and exploited, with interesting results, by action-oriented filmmakers. It is extremely probable, I believe, that if Australian filmmakers began churning out similar violent, futuristic car-motorcycle films full of spectacular chases and crashes – films in which the stuntmen are the stars – it could be the start of an international craze equal to that caused by Italian westerns and Chinese kung fu movies a few years back.

Danny Peary, Cult Movies, 1981

Looking back, the surprise is how much the Australian film industry didn’t follow the example of Mad Max. George Miller’s cult classic is often cited as one of the most profitable films ever made (in terms of proportionate return on investment), yet the flood of road-based action movies Peary half-expected never arrived, and Mad Max and its sequels remain aberrations in the history of the Australian cinema. For whatever reason – I suspect the influence of government funding bodies – the imitators never followed, and Miller was left to forge his own little mini-genre. It is probably just as well: for all the spaghetti westerns that were made, there was only one Sergio Leone, and I doubt an industry of Mad Max clones would have thrown up anybody nearly as talented as Miller.

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Life Reproduced in Drawings: Realism in Animation

This essay was originally published in a somewhat different form in Animation Journal,Volume 13, 2005.

The relative scarcity of serious theoretical writing on animation in the early years of establishing film studies as a discipline has fundamentally influenced the nature of animation theory. In this essay I wish to highlight one such oversight: the dearth of writing on realism in animation.1 By this, I mean theory that looks at the way in which the animated depiction of reality resembles the actual physical world, and the implications that the similarities and differences between the representation of the cartoon and the actual experience of life in the real world have for the way in which cartoons are understood. This is an extremely wide area of study, and I cannot attempt to outline a realist theory of animation here. Rather, I want to briefly outline some contrasts between classical notions of film realism (developed with reference to live-action cinema), and the ways in which writers on animation have discussed the subject. Much writing on animation is structured around certain assumptions and arguments about animation’s relation to the real. With a few exceptions, however, these arguments tend to be made implicitly. I wish to make explicit some of the approaches to realism that occur in writing on animation, and to extend the existing work that has explicitly acknowledged the realism question. A single unifying theory of animated realism is, I believe, no more achievable or helpful than attempts to outline a realist theory of live-action cinema. However, the study of live-action cinema was given a robustness by the variety of early theorists who posed alternative competing theories about cinema’s relation to the real. I want to outline a vocabulary, and make some preliminary comments, to allow similar approaches to animation.

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Why the Louvre was Wasted on Me

(An excerpt from my 2006 travel blog).

What I discovered at the Louvre is that basically I’m a philistine. You may have already worked this out, but exposing myself to the world’s finest art collection really rammed it home. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it: it’s all good stuff. But I just can’t get as excited about great art and sculpture as I know I should.

I mean, with the Mona Lisa, I agree that Leonardo managed a great enigmatic smile on that thing. An exceptionally good enigmatic smile even. But given the Mona Lisa is apparently valued for insurance purposes in the order of $650 million dollars – well, it’s not that good a smile.

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The Nerdiest Pub in Edinburgh

From my pass back through Edinburgh on the way out of Scotland.

The Nerdiest Bar in Edinburgh

I wonder if this guy drinks there?

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