Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a hybrid style of animation that harkens back to silent films and MGM Technicolor musicals. Morris Lessmore …
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won the Academy Award this year for Best Animated Short Film. Of course, being the inquisitive girl I am, I watched it to know why. I have always been fond of shorts; I consider them bite-sized films with incredible stories and amazing music scores. When I saw the description from Rotten Tomatoes, I immediately had the desire to watch.
The silent film opens to a “Pop! goes the weasel” them in the background and Mr. Morris Lessmore, amiably reading one of his many books, when a Wizard of Oz-esque hurricane whirls him around and lands him in a barren place, the remnants of the storm. He looks up to see a beautiful young woman being carried away into the wind by – get this – flying books. The woman says something to a flying book, which breaks away from its companions and signals for Mr. Lessmore to follow him. When Mr. Lessmore follows, he is led to a large building full of live books. By live books, I mean books that do all sorts of things – walk, run, dance, play the piano – and indicates that they are alive and kicking (literally, for some). Mr. Lessmore then becomes their caretaker of sorts.
I loved this film for a variety of reasons, but most of all I loved how this film encapsulates the reading experience for me. While watching this short movie, I had the sudden desire to become a librarian… but then I remembered that there were very few public libraries in the Philippines, and much less that contained a lot of fiction. You couldn’t help but love reading while watching this, avid reader or not. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Lessmore shows the effect books have in one’s life. In a little less than fifteen minutes, the film managed to show the power of stories and how people can enjoy them, because there are different kinds of stories, and you’re bound to find one that you like. There is a part where Mr. Lessmore hands books to people from all walks of life. The people were shown in black and white, but one they receive their books and start to read it, they began having color, which is a simple way of showing the elaborate effect of stories, on how they enrich our lives. It’s a bit hard to explain, which is why I love how The Fantastic Flying Books showed this without words and in such little time. I highly recommend you watch this!
Note: I embedded a video of it I found in YouTube below. Enjoy!
FINALLY WATCHED IT. I can barely think of writing as objectively as I normally would, I’m just so happy. Okay. Calm down, Alexa. Here goes.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Some book and movie comparisons will also be made.
The Hunger Gamesis the first film in four movies (saysthis) based on the trilogy of the same name bySuzanne Collins. Set in dystopianPanemcomposed of twelve districts (originally thirteen, but the thirteenth was obliterated), an annual event which requires a boy and girl tribute from each district summonsKatniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) andPeeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) from District 12 to fight to the death against other tributes in an enclosed arena. Because the Hunger Games can only accept one victor, no tribute feels safe. Each of them has to fight for his or her survival, all the while being watched by everyone in Panem. As things get darker in every turn, Katniss has to learn how to outsmart the other tributes in order to emerge the victor. A lot of complications get in the way, of course, but it’s only just the beginning.
I first heard of The Hunger Games, from my best friend who loved reading YA, sometime in 2009. I was intrigued because I’d just read the short story by Shirley Jackson calledThe Lottery, and the themes were similar. When I heard that it was going to be turned into a movie, I was torn between feeling wildly delighted or worried that it might not turn out the way I expected it to. I know most people think this as well, so let me stop all that worrying by saying that: No. You have nothing to be worried about. The movie was brilliant. Let me explain. (At this point, there will be SPOILERS. You have been forewarned.)
We all have our expectations of how the movie will turn out – which scenes will be included, how they will reenact each scene, etc. – and I have found most of the movie remain faithful to the book. Some scenes were different, but they were necessary and added more to the story. I liked some of the changes they made, like how they killed off Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) at the end, and the brief scene which revealed the more sinister side of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). I think this faithfulness to the events that occurred in the book – and how Suzanne Collins was part of the team that wrote the screenplay – washow Lions Gate won the series over against bigger rivals. And despite this faithfulness to the book, they were able to show the movie from different perspectives, not merely Katniss’s – the Gamemakers, the Capitol, people from the districts, even Gale – and this was a change that I liked wholeheartedly. Seeing the Gamemakers make changes to the terrain and creatures in the arena, in addition to all the other perspectives, added a new level of understanding yo the points of view of the characters in the movie.
I absolutely, from the bottom of my heart, commend everyone’s acting. I had a different cast on my mind, but now I understand why they were chosen for their respective roles. They were perfect. Jennifer Lawrence did a terrific job playing Katniss. Despite her character’s trademark stoic expression, Lawrence managed to portray her very well. Katniss did show some emotion later on, and Lawrence managed to do that pretty well, too. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth actually really fit their roles. Stanley Tucci was convincing as Caesar Flickerman, as are Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, and Lenny Kravitz, who played Effie Trinket, Haymitch, and Cinna, respectively. I adored Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane. I especially love the design of his beard. Kind of fits him, as a matter of fact. The tributes themselves were very good. Alexander Ludwig and Amandla Stenberg as Cato and Rue were my personal favorites. The whole cast was great, really, but I would just like to say how I loved Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of President Snow best. President Snow did not have that many scenes, but he was in the last (which lasted about thirty seconds) and I personally think it made quite an impact. Sutherland’s just so amazing. He managed to show his contempt of those rebellious “star-crossed lovers” remarkably well, with expressions as subtle as the curling of a lip. Hands down, my favorite portrayal. I couldn’t imagine anybody else who could have done it better.
The effects and the score was good, too. They showed Katniss twirling her dress, flames and all, and it looked fabulous. And you know that part in the book where Katniss hallucinated due to the trackerjackers’ bites? I loved how they showed that. The Cornucopia’s not as I imagined it to be – it was more of gold and smooth in my imagination – but it worked for the final scenes, which is enough for me. I love the costume design and makeup aspect. The Capitol and its people were just as I imagined them! They all look colorful, which reminds me of the characters from Alice in Wonderland.
Overall, it was a really good film. One of the more faithful – and more impressive – book-to-film adaptations I have seen in a while. You really shouldn’t miss it. And if you haven’t read the book, please please do so as well! The movie is the perfect companion to it.
Don’t be shy to leave your thoughts below!!! 🙂
In a nutshell…
Runtime: 142 mins.
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross (screenplay), Billy Ray (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (screenplay, novel)
Producers: Robin Bissell, Suzanne Collins, Chantal Feghali, Louise Rosner, Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik, Aldric La’auli Porter, Bryan Unkeless
“Oskar (Thomas Horn) is convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet. His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him. — (C) Warner Bros”
When I settled into my seat in the cinema last night with three of my friends, waiting for the movie to begin, I honestly did not know what to expect. I have heard ofExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close as a book, and I knew all about the movie production, but I never read it and I know as much as the next person about the plot. I only knew that Rotten Tomatoes scored it asrotten, but I defiantly decided to just forget everything and just enjoy the film.
It didn’t take long for me (or for anyone else, at that matter) to realize that Oskar, the main protagonist, is, well, different. Not only in the sense of the possibility of his having Asperger’s Syndrome (it wasn’t really clarified in the film), but apparently he’s a kid who has a temper, getting away with cursing, shouting at elders, and throwing tantrums. A lot of people found issue with that, but I don’t mind. I have a soft spot for characters who are different from normal people, since I have first-hand experience with people like them every day (my brother is autistic, and my one of my college organizations, SPEED, deals with special children). I think Thomas Horn did a good job of embodying the moody Oskar, with his quirks and mannerisms and all those really annoying things that should annoy me but doesn’t.
Despite Tom Hanks’s name being placed prominently on the poster, I think he actually had more screen time in his dying moments than any scene that could have developed his character. He’s probably just there because, well, he’s Tom Hanks. It’s a shame because his character seemed like a very interesting dad. I’m not sure if it was this way in the book, but book-to-movie adaptations are known to change several things in their productions anyway, so why not? Sandra Bullock did an incredible job as the suffering surviving parent, and her character’s scenes with Oskar were among the most touching parts of the film. Max Von Sydow was brilliant in his portrayal of the mute old man who eventually became Oskar’s companion in his search within the city. The twist regarding his character was not unexpected, though.
There are some things I find skeptical in the plot. (Beware: SPOILERS AHEAD! Scroll down until you see another line in bold.)
Oskar began his search of that single Black out of 472 Blacks in the city by knocking on Abby Black’s door. Abby Black (Viola Davis), it later turns out, is the person Oskar has been looking for all along. Really, now, movie? And the poor kid had to go through hundreds of other people before he found out. And what are the odds of that happening anyway? Okay, I’m not enraged at this, but it’s something I find really weird; it totally triggers some eye-rolling here. Anyhoo, SPOILER OVER. I’m okay.
From the beginning of the film, I can’t help but notice (as I always do) the score. I really liked it. It adds to the whole Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close meaning, in a literal sense. I didn’t really listen for it, but if I’m not mistaken, there’s music all throughout the film, with the meager silences covered by Oskar’s constantly jangling tambourine. If anything, this was the aspect I loved the most. (Edit: I just found out that it was Alexandre Desplat who composed the score. He was also the composer of the score of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by the way. I am not surprised why I love it now.)
I was stumbling as usual around the Internet and found this chart from The Whole Garden Will Bow and I am marveling at how accurate it was.
I can see where people are getting at with the film getting emotionally manipulative. Believe me, I could practically feel the movie screen’s extended tendrils alighting on my face and dragging the tears down (it did not succeed, no matter how much I wanted to let it), and I can understand how people can feel enraged by that, but I don’t see much fault in it. I was totally ignorant of the events that occurred during the 9/11 incident when it happened, as I was only six years old then, and I could never imagine the full extent of how terrible it must have been to everyone who witnessed it, but somehow watching this movie made me understand a bit more. This movie is about moving on, a concept hard enough to grasp for people having to accept it, and for a kid with Asperger’s (still not sure if that what he has), it’s something that takes longer to understand. And I really can’t imagine how hard it must be for Oskar’s mother, either. I have experienced special children having problems and the emotional turmoil it causes their family (my brother is autistic, and it breaks my heart to see my mother crying over him when he has tantrums that won’t subside for days) and I know other people with this problem as well, and seeing it play out in the movie felt so real and raw and honest to me. So, weighing my earlier complaints against everything this movie made me feel, I’m more inclined to like this movie.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not without flaws, but the solid acting and the score make up for it. I am not surprised that it is an Oscar nominee. There is much to be desired in the script, so many questions I want answered, and I suppose that’s the crippling aspect for me. Otherwise, I like this film. Definitely not perfect, but it is a movie that is beautiful in its portrayal of coping with one’s loss. I may be one of the minority who liked it, but give it a try and see if you do, too.
In a nutshell…
Runtime: 129 mins.
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Written by: Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (novel)
Executive Producers: Benjamin Melniker, Sam Register, Bruce W. Timm, Michael E. Uslan
Even though “talkies”, or talking motion pictures, began in 1927, not all the filmmakers embraced it. Charlie Chaplin still managed to make three silent movies: The Circus (1928), Modern Times (1936), and this movie, City Lights (1931). This is the first Charlie Chaplin movie I have watched so I really can’t judge, but from most of the people I know who have watched his movies, this was the best. After watching the movie, I had no trouble believing them.
The film takes place in an unknown city. It could be anywhere – London, New York, Los Angeles – it’s up to your imagination. It begins with the unveiling of a group of statues, and when the mayor takes the white cloth off – lo and behold – there’s the sleeping Tramp (Chaplin)! After a series of hilariously contrived comedic sequences, the Tramp finally gets off the statues and leaves the scene. After a bit of wandering, he comes across a pretty flower girl (Cherrill) and becomes instantly smitten. He quickly decides to buy a flower, but after a while, it becomes apparent that the girl is blind. That does not deter him, however, and despite his own poverty, helps her as much as he can. Good thing he meets a millionaire who, though he only recognizes the Tramp when he is drunk, does a lot in helping him impress the blind girl. Courtesy of his wealthy friend, the blind girl now thinks the Tramp is a millionaire, which is further aided by the fact that he gives her a huge sum of money to pay her rent and send her abroad for her eyes to be cured. The ending is perhaps one of the most touching and pure and utterly beautiful scenes in movie history. I haven’t watched all of them, but I daresay you have to watch this.
Being a relative noob in the world of silent-era films, I told myself to be open-minded and ready for anything, but in reality, I wasn’t given such a hard time. The background music and the sound effects nudged the plot along when there were no dialogue lines flashing across the scene. It seems that the music would actually say what is unsaid, helping the audience understand what’s going on with its crescendoes and fluctuating tempo.There was this hilarious part when the Tramp was in a party, acting slightly tipsy, when he accidentally swallowed a whistle. Now, in real life, a person would have required the help of someone knowledgeable of the Heimlich maneuver, but Chaplin skillfully makes the most out of the sound effects. The Tramp ends up disrupting the party by making whistle sounds whenever he breathes and hiccups, ending up hailing a cab and attracting a pack of dogs.
Chaplin’s performance was superb. Good ol’ slapstick comedy at its best. I thought I’d get sick of it after a while, but not really. The film was arranged in a sort of episodic quality, much like a series of short films that featured Chaplin handling situations clumsily. There was a touch of drama with regard to the blind girl, but this movie is, more than anything, a comedy. Chaplin’s really good at this; I can’t help but be impressed that he wrote, directed, acted, composed, and whatever else he did for this film.
What I especially liked about City Lights is how, despite the lack of speech, the film still manages to evoke a lot of feelings from me. There were times I was doubled up in laughter, and there were times that I was staring so intently at the screen, the emotions were so intense. We’re currently living in a world where movies are watched mainly because of their visual effects and loud music, where Hollywood thinks louder and brighter is better, and watching City Lights is a refreshing change from that. It gently reminds us that sometimes all you need for a great film is a good story and superb acting.
This is the third Hayao Miyazaki film I’ve watched, the rest being Whisper of the Heart aka (1995) and Spirited Away aka Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001 – oh, and this won an Academy Award, by the way). By then I’ve become a fan because of the wonderful quality of the films. I know I’ve given nothing but positive reviews since the beginning of this blog, but I really have to say, this movie is quality. I don’t remember enjoying an animated adventure film this much, because for some reason, I felt like a kid again when I watched it. Watching old movies does have that effect, but now I felt it more so, probably because of the anime that used to show up in television when I was a kid.
Castle in the Sky begins with a battle onboard an airship. Sheeta is just a little girl, probably just before the double digits in age, but she knew what was going on immediately. She protected a blue crystal that seemed to be of utter importance to the people running about by wearing it in a chain around her neck, but before she could escape, she falls down, down, down to the earth below. Midway through her fall, the crystal glowed and made the unconscious Sheeta float down gently, where she was caught by a boy about her age named Pazu. Pazu was an orphan boy who grew up working at the mines, and proved to be the perfect little gentleman. He made Sheeta sleep on his bed while he slept on the floor! Chivalry still exists! Sheeta awakens the next morning to the sound of Pazu playing the trumpet. He walks her around and shows her a photograph of Laputa – a large and powerful kingdom hidden in the clouds. He explained that his father had discovered it and taken the photograph, but despite the evidence and the sketches he made afterwards, no one believed him until his death. Pazu, probably very young then, resolved to find Laputa and prove its existence. By this time, Pazu had become distracted at the sight of an automobile rolling outside the tiny house he lived in. He was fascinated, but Sheeta immediately knew that they were pirates. What follows is a wild goose chase that ended miles away from Pazu’s humble abode, with the pair hidden in an underground cave, safe from pirates and armies (you have to watch it to see what I mean). There they meed Uncle Pom, who tells them the reason why he lives underground; It’s because the rocks whisper to him. It sounds like a crackpot thing, but Pazu and Sheeta understand him once all the light are extinguished and they suddenly glow. They soon realize that it’s because of the blue gem around Sheeta’s neck. According to Uncle Pom, it was called a Volucite crystal, and only the Laputans, people of Laputa, can make them. They were very powerful stones, which was probably the reason why the rocks in the cave glowed. This affirms Pazu’s belief that Laputa did exist, but this surprise was followed up with a stunning revelation from Sheeta: her real name was Lucita Toelle Ur Laputa. She was a Laputan. It was brave of her to tell him the truth, but it was about time she really started trusting him, because what follows is a whirlwind of an adventure that takes them even farther away. They meet a lot of new people, but in the end, the burden becomes heavier as it becomes apparent that the fate of Laputa lies in their hands.
Since this is the third Miyazaki film I’ve watched, I thought I could get ahold of my emotions and amazement, since the Miyazaki formula, simply put, would be a boy and girl lead with great rapport off to complete a quest (even in Whisper of the Heart, except it was an inner type of struggle). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), this is the only simple thing. I thought I knew what to expect, but somehow this film still managed to amaze me. Laputa just seems so REAL. It’s like a sci-fi movie in animated form. It’s a very advanced city in terms of technology, and it’s certainly very wealthy. Despite that, Laputa still maintains its flora and fauna with its robots. It has been deserted for hundreds of years, but it still manages to look majestic. Later on, we see that Laputa is actually built around a huge, huge, HUGE tree, a foundation strong enough to support the whole kingdom.
I suppose what made me really love this story was because of the parallels I spotted to our own planet. When the army landed on Laputa, they went crazy with all the jewelry and precious metals they could find. They didn’t hesitate to destroy the natural environment by bombing tree roots and rocks just so they could get what they wanted. It reminded me of several other movies with a similar theme: Avatar, Blood Diamond, Pocahontas, etc. where people’s greed resulted in more harm than good. Castle in the Sky is definitely a movie with a message. More people should watch this.
The animation and art were amazing. Even though technology moves at a very fast pace, this movie is still watchable even now. Another truly notable thing is the music. The score, oh my god. I love it. It’s usually the first thing I notice when watching a film, and I really, truly love Castle in the Sky’s score. Joe Hisaishi is wonderful. It fits very well into each scene, and though most of the soundtrack is mainly a variation of the theme, it works. I replayed the credits several times despite my nonexistent knowledge of Japanese just to hear the song. I have half a mind to download it, as a matter of fact.
One thing that I really couldn’t stop thinking about it how strong Pazu is. Of course, the movie doesn’t really market itself as realistic, but how could a kid manage to hold on to something thousands of feet above the ground without falling off?! And he manages to climb anything, and survive any number of falls, no matter how high. Sheeta took about three bullets and she didn’t even look nonplussed. I know, I have to accept that this is a family movie but I really find it hard to accept. The villain, Muska, manages to massacre a whole army, after all. Hey, I don’t even know what happened to him in the end. Oh well.
Edit: I left this as a draft and fell asleep. When I woke up this morning, I realized I was perfectly fine with Pazu and Sheeta being invincible. They were animated, after all, and you don’t see Tom dying after a huge piano falls on him (which happens fairly often). I thought to mention it in case you’re picky about that sort of thing. Also, when I did a bit of research, it apparently was ranked second-highest animation film and third-highest animation overall in the list of films considered the greatest ever. If that won’t get you to watch, I don’t know what would.
Batman: Year One is an animated film released by DC and Warner Brothers Animation last year (gosh, it still feels weird saying that). It chronicles the transition of Bruce Wayne to Batman, and how Jim Gordon’s adjustments in his newly inhabited detective position in the Gotham Police Department. The movie is based on the four-part comic book series of the same name by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (see previous post). It was co-directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery, with the voices of Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Jon Polito, Alex Rocco, Katee Sackhoff, and Jeff Bennet as Jim Gordon, Batman/Bruce Wayne, Selina, Commissioner Loeb, Falcone, Det. Essen, and Alfred the butler, respectively.
If you have read the comics, you would be delighted to know that the movie follows it faithfully. It’s like seeing how you imagined it all this time – well, it was for me, anyway. If you haven’t, fear not. This is a brilliant way to ease into the series (if you ever plan to) while also serving as a good background primer for the esteemed Dark Knight.
The story begins with two of the main characters entering Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is returning to his hometown after twelve years of staying abroad; The media is in a frenzy about the return of their charming and undeniably rich “native son”, as they call it. Jim Gordon, on the other hand, arrives quietly by train, with only a Detective Flass to greet him. Despite the stark contrast between Bruce’s and Jim’s welcomes, the two men share one thing in common: they do not really hold Gotham in their highest esteem. As both men struggle with their new lives, they learn some things you would only learn in a messed up city like Gotham.
I really liked how the movie stayed faithful to the graphic novel. It serves as a good companion to the series, and it doesn’t really matter if you read the book or not. This is as complete and true to the story as you could expect of any film adaptation. Despite that almost panel-by-panel animation, I couldn’t help but miss David Mazzucchelli’s vintage style. Still, this is a tiny scruff on a spotless film. If you haven’t read it in a while, you could watch this instead if you’re pressed for time. Whether you are a comic veteran or not, I am sure this movie would prove to be a delight.
In a nutshell…
Runtime: 64 mins.
Directors: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Writers: Bob Kane (creator), Frank Miller (original story), Tab Murphy (screenplay)
Executive Producers: Benjamin Melniker, Sam Register, Bruce W. Timm, Michael E. Uslan
Producer: Lauren Montgomery
Co-Producer: Alan Burnett
Music: Christopher Drake
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment