“I’ve seen WALL*E and it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year,” says HE’s Austin -based correspondent Moises Chiullan. “I went into it only having seen a brief preview at last year’s Butt-Numb-a-Thon and the trailers. Do yourself the same favor and go in cold and un-influenced. I didn’t think I’d like a Pixar film more than Ratatouille, but I think WALL*E really redefines how you think about Pixar, trite as that may sound.
“Yes, the movie is fine for kids, but honestly, it’s better for adults — not more appropriate, just more of a definitive cinematic experience. The movie is a great deal closer to Modern Times than An Inconvenient Truth, even though the news media is going to sensationally mislead everyone like they have throughout the election cycle so far…in the interest of selling adverts or airtime.
“I want to take great care to not spoil one ounce of WALL*E more than others already have, and even pull back from railing against some of the accusations I’ve seen written about by both those who’ve seen it and the idiots still calling WALL*E a character design rip-off from Short Circuit (way wrong).
“The bleak, desolate planet Earth has become in the story is shown in all the trailers. The rampant consumerist devouring of resources is at fault. But the real bent of the movie is housed in the ‘little tramp’ love story at its core, even though, yes, of course, the ‘let’s not destroy the earth’ thing is in there, but there is more emphasis on hope in the human spirit.
Similar to the Chaplin-vs.-Keaton argument, the dialogue regarding “what WALL*E is ‘really’ about” may continue until all known traces of the movie are gone. From a certain perspective, you could say that Stanton and others are glossing over the ‘green’ message, but that assessment is off-base. The movie is more fundamentally about what it is to exist and believe in hope. Every science fiction film with a desolate Earth as a backdrop does not make that its main focus, and neither does WALL*E.
“I’ve let WALL*E roll around in my head for around a week and a half since seeing it, and I can’t shake it (a good thing). It would be one thing if I were exploding with praise the day after seeing it, but the factthat it’s still as captivating almost two weeks later, to me, means the movie has to be the real deal. This movie falls under the Important Cinema banner regardless of what piece of its narrative you fall in love with. This really could be one of the movies people will still argue about in 25, 50, or 100 years.”
Wednesday, 6.25, 9:05 pm. I’ll probably never eat here again (don’t ask), but every so often at night I need to pull into the parking lot and lean against the car and just stare up at the damn sign and take in the early 1950s vibe.
Wednesday, 6.25, 7:10 pm. A wee bit late to this evening’s WALL*E screening on the Disney lot, I was struck by the soothing green-lawn, tree-shade vibe just outside the Animation Building. A sweet, amusing and reasonably profound save-the-earth parable, WALL*E’s reliance on 85% visual, mostly dialogue-free storytelling (which makes it a kind of silent film) recalls the artistry of Charles Chaplin, Harry Langdon, Jacques Tati and other others whose style of performance art has been dormant for so many decades. It lives again. WALL*E is a masterpiece of its type. It’s going to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar. And the above-the-liners (Andrew Stanton, etc.) who are saying this is mainly a “robot love story” are deliberately disinforming the public. Of course, not everyone is going to understand how good this film is. A woman who saw it with me said to a young publicist on the way out, “It’s nice but I was bored.” So beware — some are going to say it’s not…whatever, snappilly entertaining enough according to current popcorn-munching standards. Anyone who says this, take my word, is a plebe and a moron. Six months into 2008 and WALL*E is one of the two or three best so far, if not the best of the year. It’s a major film and an occasion for enormous pride on Pixar’s part.
This Gary W. Tooze review of the recently-issued Blu-ray disc of Richard Brooks‘ The Professionals (1966) reminded me in a roundabout way that Lee Marvin had one of the most beautiful-sounding voices of any actor in the history of motion pictures. And I love Burt Lancaster‘s line about “nothing is harmless in this desert unless it’s dead.”
Warner Bros. publicity has given Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers an early-ish peek at The Dark Knight, and he’s responded in his usual eager-beaver town-crier way, applying lotsa passion and saliva and goo-goo gah-gah. Knight may be a good or even great film, or at least a wild slam-banger, but there’s no trusting Travers. About anything. Especially when he’s the first one out of the gate.
“Heads up — a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies,” he begins. “The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan‘s absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005’s Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There’s something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe.
“Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension. Huh? Whah? How can a conflicted guy in a bat suit and a villain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essentials of the human condition? Just hang on for a shock to the system. The Dark Knight creates a place where good and evil — expected to do battle — decide instead to get it on and dance. ‘I don’t want to kill you,’ Heath Ledger‘s psycho Joker tells Christian Bale‘s stalwart Batman. ‘You complete me.’ Don’t buy the tease. He means it.”
Opposites not only attracting but making each other feel whole? Hmmm. I’m not all that sure this is an especially rich observation.
“I remember exactly where and when I first stumbled upon The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which is even more shocking considering I was drunk. It was during my third year of law school in the fall of 2000 when, on any given night, the odds were distinctly in favor of me being drunk. But this was a rare night, however, as I didn’t immediately pass out when I got home. Instead, I found myself laying on my bed in a mildly drunken stupor, flipping through the channels in an attempt to find adequate background noise to the impending pass-out.
“And that’s when I came upon a scene with these two dudes talking in a diner. From the tone and color of the film, it was obviously a 70’s flick. And having no idea who Robert Mitchum was, it wasn’t until later that I realized he was the one giving this absolutely engrossing monologue about why he’s so careful when buying illegal guns. And as drunk as I was, I was so roped in by this simple monologue that I willed myself to a semblance of sobriety so I could stay awake for the next 80-odd minutes watching what is one of the best low-down gangster flicks out there.” — From a recent piece by Seth Freilich on Pajiba.com.
When in doubt on a slow news day, bring out Eddie Coyle!
Another debate about how much celluloid grain should be chucked or retained in a digitally-remastered disc has popped up, this time about Fox Home Video’s Patton Bluray disc, which came out on Tuesday, 6.3. 08. Restoration guru Robert Harris has written in his latest Digital Bits column (dated 6.24) that technicians have over-tweaked the grain reduction and made this 1970 Franklin Schaffner classic — particularly when viewed on a 46″ or 50″ LCD or plasma screen — look too much like digital data and not enough like the film that was released 38 years ago.
Patton image taken from a standard DVD. [Frame capture stolen from DVD Beaver.]
Same Patton image from Fox Home Video’s Bluray disc. [Ditto.]
The Patton Bluray disc looks sharp and pretty to everyone (particularly to philistines like myself), and, Harris acknowledges, has been well-reviewed on sites like DVD Beaver. But it just doesn’t have that high-grade celluloid schwing. It isn’t the 65mm movie that Fred J. Koenekamp shot, which was presented in first-rate, big-city theatres in a process that was called Dimension 150. It’s a very good approximation of it, Harris is saying, but it’s been made to look, in a very attractive way, like something else.
“I viewed [the Bluray] Patton on a 30″ Sony HD XBR CRT,” Harris writes, “and the image looked glorious. The information was so compacted, it was difficult to tell that anything was missing. Only later, when I viewed it on a larger screen, did it become apparent that all was not well.
“Faces were waxy, background detail was gone, [the textures in] clothing and on walls and the dirt on Jeeps was all missing high frequency information, and the image appeared dead, much like a video game.”
The problem, Harris says, is that very few people in the video-preparation world know how to reduce grain properly so that losses of this sort are not evident in the final remastered image.
“There are digital facilities willing to remove the unwelcome grain,” Harris says. “These facilities are all over the world. Some are extremely capable, others less so, and some not at all. You [can] get rid of grain by throwing the image out of focus. Not blatantly out of focus, but marginally…ever so slightly. Then you add a bit of digital sharpening, a touch of gamma, and a bit of basil.
“The final product? Grain reduced or gone. The verdict? Occasionally pretty, and, if no one compares it to the original, quite acceptable.
“Although every digital facility promises grain removal, and some have a quality product in incremental stages, I’ve personally seen the work of only one facility that, to my eye, has the capability to remove or reduce grain and not affect resolution, and by that I mean [making the mistake of] removing a large chunk of high frequency information along with the offending grain.”
Another DVD Beaver frame capture from Bluray Patton disc.
I wonder which facility Harris is referring to (i.e., the one that knows how to reduce grain the right way)? I’m guessing it’s in Los Angeles, but maybe not. I just need a hint, an acronym…something.
“The folks behind Blu-ray need to take a position,” Harris states. “Is their system to be used as promised, to give the home theater enthusiast the cinema experience? Or will our film heritage henceforth look like video games?
“Studio executives need to be educated about grain, whatever it is that makes up an image and how it gets to Blu-ray, or sit back and allow someone else to deal with the technical end of things.”
A perspective report from Austin’s Yunda Eddie Feng (i.e., “the Admiral”): Paramount has hit the $1 billion revenue mark faster this year than any other studio in any given year. Indeed — the studio has brought in over over $800 million from its top four grossers alone — Iron Man, Indiana Jones 4, Kung Fu Panda and Cloverfield.
But the only serious money Paramount has made is from The Spiderwick Chronicles ($71 million gross), Feng claims, since the studio is merely taking a distribution fee plus whatever it spent on p & a on the first three, and, he reports, because its Cloverfield income has been “heavily reduced by gross points going to J.J. Abrams.” I don’t know about the Abrams deal but the Iron Man/Indy 4/Panda arrangements are, as far as I’ve been told, accurate.