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Monthly Archives: June 2006
Ain’t It Cool brought my attention to this post by writer Bryce Zabel about the treatment he wrote with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski to “re-boot” Star Trek. You should read the treatment yourself, if you’re interested, but basically it involved starting from scratch, and doing a new television series about the original characters (Kirk, Spock, et al) on their five year voyage. Effectively, it’s giving Star Trek the Batman Begins treatment, which seems all the rage these days (what with Superman Returns and Casino Royale both on the way).
Ain’t It Cool have a very cool video showing the process used to create a three-dimensional Marlon Brando for Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, using the old footage from Richard Donner’s 1978 movie. While you have to suspect there would have been simpler ways to achieve much the same effect, it’s still pretty nifty.
Brando was used in the original Superman as a sort-of ready made icon of gravitas and respectability (in a film that was, frankly, not that good, and therefore needed help in that regard). Singer obviously wants to harness that same aura.
Cars (John Lasseter, 2006)
The latest Pixar film, Cars, is an enjoyable animated film that should leave audiences pretty happy. I want to say this up front, because this is going to sound like a negative review. For while Cars is a good film, it is also the first Pixar film that falls short of excellence. It is therefore much more interesting to talk about what doesn’t work in Cars: by now, we all know what’s good about Pixar’s films, but this is our first look at a less-than-excellent one.
Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
There is a school of thought that places Network, the 1976 collaboration between writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Sidney Lumet, as the pinnacle of Hollywood media satires. The film is a blistering attack on the culture of television, scathing in its indictment of both the people who make it and the wider population who lap it up uncritically. As Greg Ng put it at Senses of Cinema:*
Lumet’s direction and Paddy Chayefsky’s script lambaste the ills of the modern world (couched within the fast-paced soliloquies delivered by the stellar cast of Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and William Holden) and are oft times prescient, predicting the rise of ‘reality television’, and the subsequent decline of both production and social values… Chayefsky’s script is simply much more ambitious, and verbose, than anything Hollywood offers up for contention these days.
Certainly it is difficult to come up with a recent film quite as bitter and vitriolic: the film’s setup only hints at the bleakness of its vision. It centres on the fallout from the on-air declaration by network anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) that he will kill himself on air in a week. At first he is pulled off air, but the network quickly realises it has a ratings bonanza on its hands and reinstates him. Beale becomes a broadcasting phenomenon, even as he becomes increasingly deranged. Meanwhile, his fellow veteran broadcaster Max Schumacher (William Holden) embarks on an affair with Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), the ambitious executive who thinks she can rise to the top by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
Noted animation historian Michael Barrier has posted a couple of pieces by his long time collaborator Milt Gray on his website. One is a piece on Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs which is merely okay (it gets too distracted by the whole argument about the film’s racism, or lack of it, while adding too little to that discussion), but the other is a fantastic essay about Bob Clampett, which you can read here. Gray’s essay – informed by his encounters with Clampett and other figures from animation’s golden age – is the most illuminating piece I’ve read about the long time feud between the two great Warner Bros. cartoon directors, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. (My own piece on Clampett is here).