Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Titanic Involvement

I don't know why I am fascinated with 'Titanic'. Whenever it's on the tube I just have to stop and watch.

Last night was a perfect example. I was enjoying 'Big BangTheory' through to its logical, funny conclusion when I decided to channel hop. What's on HBO? What's on Cinemax? Flipping through 'Due Date' and past 'It's Complicated' and seeing that 'Valentine's Day' threatened to eat up an irretrievable portion of my viewing life, I spied 'Titanic' right there in the middle of the on screen television guide.

Wonder what part of the movie is on now…hmmm. The love scene in the car? The flirty, charcoal artist scene featuring, I believe, director James Cameron's hands actually doing the drawing? The ship scraping the iceberg? How about bitchy Billy Zane and his over plucked eyebrows?

It's a guilty pleasure, this movie. Of course I went for it.

Bam! I t's the scene with Leonardo DiCaprio playing poker. It's the beginning! I know he will win boarding tickets and set the movie in motion. Jack and Italian second banana Fabrizio move through the crowd, almost running into a team of horses. Onto the gangway. A small leap and then onto the ship and into cinema history.

I am hooked even though I know what's coming. The tragedy… the BIG disaster. The attraction is a lot like another guilty pleasure of mine, Irwin Allen's 'The Poseidon Adventure', the one with Gene Hackman, Roddy MacDowell and Shelley Winters.

I don't get why I like to watch these movies. 'Poseidon' has the definite cheese factor. But 'Titanic' is just so, epic.

Even though I have to admit, bits of 'Titanic' have always been a little confusing for me. For example, if the movie is from Rose's point-of-view, then how is it she is recollecting Jack and Fabrizio's poker game? Any scene she's not in should not be part of her memory, right? The scene where Molly Brown (Kathy Bates) dresses Jack in her son's tuxedo, the scheming machinations between Cal (Billy Zane) and bodyguard/detective Lovejoy (David Warner), Bruce Ismay (Jonathan Hyde) sneaking aboard a lifeboat, Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber) telling the Captain and pertinent crew that the Titanic will surely go under after displaying the ship's blueprints, etc.

That older Rose has quite an imagination, filling in the blanks where her eyewitness account is not enough. Brought aboard a vessel to explore the real Titanic's ruins and provide the testimonial human interest part of the tale, I guess she inadvertently provides whatever fiction she can muster as well.

But while logic says it doesn't make sense for the movie to break its own rules regarding point-of-view, the sheer magnitude of the epic visuals combined with superb storytelling bring out the emotion and drama of the situation such that other items become minuscule and just not that important. They become forgivable.

You know you can forgive a lot if the story is a good one. Setting youthful romance against the backdrop of certain disaster gives this movie a kind of 'Romeo and Juliet' quality which reaffirms love and hope and longing even in the face of tragedy. There's a kind of immortality in the notion of living in the hearts and minds of others beyond your lifetime. And by watching it, the audience gets a feeling for what the real victims went through and feels sad for the tragic, senseless loss and holds the victims in an honored reverence.

I wonder if THAT's why I find 'Titanic' irresistible. Life remembered beyond death is an attractive notion, and so surely spelled out as a theme. Good storytelling and captivating visuals to heighten the drama and really drive the emotional impact home and being held in the capable hands of director/writer James Cameron helps too - by the way.

Do you have any movies that do that to you?

Friday, September 11, 2009


"9" the new feature distributed by Focus Pictures and produced in part by Tim Burton is a worthwhile post apocolyptic story starring little burlap bag robots, fighting other, huge "War of the World" type gargantuan robots. It's an appealing movie with holes in it's simple plot which are easy enough to overlook. All you have to do is concentrate on it's stunning special effects, beautiful, steampunkish artwork and wonderful animation. Yes, there are some repetitive action sequences and one character who keeps repeating that whatever new idea they have isn't going to work (idea hater). It isn't any earth-shattering, genre shaking film but a thoughtful, morality tale with a lot of heart. Good vocal performances by Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer and Crispin Glover. Directed by Shane Acker.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

About Pixar Films: Why Are They So Fascinating

It's pretty clear to me that Pixar approaches each project without any restrictive, preconceived notions of what story to tell, which choice of characters to tell it, or how the story is 'supposed' to be told.

Pixar teams seek and decide on original solutions. They search for creative ways to tell the story and they go with the best route to fulfill whatever they decide their goals are (illuminating character, action, emotion or pushing the story along or all of these).

The Pixar aesthetic is one of high quality. It seeks to celebrate the creative, artistic and beautiful, within the framework of telling a story - without sacrifice.

Clearly, their aim is not to maximize plush sales or games or any cross-platform/cross-merchandising revenue streams. Their creative decisions are independent of such and thus not reduced to deciding on the lowest common denominator as a standard.

The trust they put in their audience is astounding. Pixar does not believe the audience needs to be spoken down to - rather, by using the basic premise that the audience has a brain and that human emotion is universal - Pixar elevates audiences. Pixar gives the audience permission to use their brains to reason and to understand and feel the emotion of the story situation at hand.

You know, you may not remember a specific character or situation in a given movie, but you WILL remember how you felt when you saw a particular Pixar film - and that sets it apart from other animated films which just seek to make you laugh. There's a fullness of emotion, an abstract dimensionality that comes from a Pixar film which audiences find particularly satisfying and attractive.

Certainly Pixar is not formulaic in their solutions and that's why they are able to deliver thrilling, original, quality content again and again and again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Phenomenon: Susan Boyle (YouTube)

The statistics are mind-boggling - as of this writing it's over 25 million hits combined on all YouTube channels displaying her performance on Britain's Got Talent. If you haven't yet seen it, watch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Not Off Topic: Clever Political Ad

I thought this political ad was very clever. And since this is political season, it deserves a look-see. What do you think? Or are you just plain sick of it and can't wait for November 4th to come and go already?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Irritation Friday: Does This Video Affect Your Will To Live?

I have seen this video and am wondering how it has affected the quality of my life. Let me know if it has affected yours. For some reason it makes me feel woozy and slightly disconnected. I think it may be the first video of an actual alternate universe or maybe a parallel world - like Bizarro World...yeah, that's it - Bizarro World, I mean, what ELSE could it be?

Friday, June 27, 2008

WALL•E Review

(NOTE: No Spoilers, read with confidence)

What does it feel like to know you are watching a masterwork unfold before you while you are experiencing it?

Well, in the movies, it happens like this. Your senses are heightened because your interest is piqued and you are leaning forward, with eyes as wide and sparkly as hubcaps, intently gathering as much info about what is happening before you because you don't want to miss a single frame of information, or the tiniest moment of humor, beauty and wonderment. You are transfixed, yet transported. You are emotionally invested in the story and characters and your eyes have welled up.

You continue watching and it dawns on you what you are witnessing. A masterpiece. You are watching a masterpiece and its name is WALL•E.

WALL•E portrays the adventures of a solitary robot who exists on earth, 700 years into the future. WALL•E is an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class and is a robot trash compactor. He diligently does what he is meant to do, stacking his cubes of compacted waste as per his programming. As the movie itself progresses, WALL•E is revealed to be resourceful, curious and lonely, having a special appreciation for a cheery, happier time filled with color, music, dance and, above all, love.

We follow WALL•E's adventures on and off earth in what is at once a carefully crafted love story and an equally adept cautionary parable. It's told in the best and most clever use of cinematic language with sound and sight holding equal importance. Its messages run so very deep and heartfelt that they almost become tangible. Our protagonist WALL•E is technology which represents the best of humanity - our determination, love, and caring, surrounded by the worst of humanity - our disrespect for the environment as evidenced by mountains and spires of trash, the detritus of our culture.

Attention Must Be Paid

From its expository epic scenes of WALL•E's world, to outer space to its compelling poignant conclusion, this is not a movie during which you can get up and go visit the snack bar or the bathroom and expect to pick up where you left off without missing anything significant. Please, don't rob yourself of the experience. Before you settle in, take care of your personal business and concentrate on this movie which deserves your attention.

You'll be rewarded with refreshing storytelling choices; non-English cues throughout which demand viewer participation. You'll quickly learn to recognize these actions and sounds and react accordingly - much like audiences did when Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish and Gloria Swanson were in their prime. Pay attention. It's all there for you. Loaded with action and especially heart, the payoff is abundant. Despite the robot at its center, WALL•E has more pathos, feeling and achingly true emotion than many a live action movie. In fact, you may find yourself heavily invested and by movie's end, touched to your core.

WALL•E is not only special, but daring. There are camera 'mistakes' in zooming and framing, intentionally made to give the film a documentary, immediate texture. Relying on mostly sight, brilliant sound effects (designed by the ultra-talented Ben Burtt), and music (thanks to composer and conductor Thomas Newman who provided the original score) audiences can identify with characters and follow key plot points. This is no easy undertaking considering the assumption is that audiences want their information spoon fed and dumbed down, being told how to think and feel. But WALL•E presents its information in an exacting and precise manner.

Throughout, there are many moments of sheer spectacle and graphic richness. Midway through WALL•E, I was struck by the beauty of a carefully choreographed sequence in which two of its main characters are so artfully propelled through space creating a pas de deux which together with lush music, was awe inspiring, beautiful, graceful and moving. Plus, it furthered character and plot development. Even adding humor. Masterful and terrific.

Can I Continue To Gush For A Moment?

How lucky we are to live in a time when technological advances have come to a point where artists like Andrew Stanton (WALL•E, Finding Nemo), Brad Bird (Ratatouille), John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars) and a host of others can see their concepts come to such fruition! We the movie going public are lucky to have Pixar in our lives. They value the art of the animated film such that in their efforts to develop interesting characters, wondrously beautiful background artwork, and groundbreaking storytelling aesthetics - elevate the genre. No other studio can touch them. Not Disney. Not Dreamworks. None of them. They are above the stratosphere while the others are standing on Everest, looking up and wondering where Pixar is. For sure, Pixar aims high and simply operates in its own league. They're driven by their own demand for excellence, which upon execution, self-propels them to seek out even more creative solutions for their next project, which inevitably leads them to their next excellent outcome.

Go See It Now (after you finish reading this)

I loved this film. It is wonderful. It is artfully done. WALL•E's gorgeous, hyper-realistic, visual richness demands repeat viewings. The film speaks to viewers of all generations with messages of finding one's life purpose, of perseverance despite the odds, of the value of cultivating natural curiosity, of never losing hope, of respecting the earth, of the dangers of blind, mass consumerism, of celebrating life and love, of clever use of your own resources, of a rejection of laziness - are timeless. It is not like any animated film which has come before it. It's technically brilliant and sophisticated but more importantly, it will grab your heart and quite possibly, move you. Go see it.