John Kricfalusi has staked out some idiosyncratic ground in his three decades as a working animator; and it doesn't take long to recognize his work when you see it. “The Ren & Stimpy Show” caused visible distress to Nickelodeon in the 1990s, and lingers in the memory of anyone who caught its U.K. airings on BBC Two. Before then, Mr. Kricfalusi had already worked uncomfortably for Filmation and Hanna-Barbera, and found a much more agreeable niche alongside legendary animator Ralph Bakshi. More recently, the man usually known just as John K. has directed music videos, animated the opening couch gag for an episode of “The Simpsons,” and continued to get into occasional trouble with broadcasters.
Mr. Kricfalusi came to the Encounters International Film Festival in Bristol to talk about some of his favorite animated films. We took the opportunity to ask him about the joys of old animation, why the Internet is frustratingly slow and his very dim view of motion-capture.
Continue reading "Good Old-Fashioned Happy and Joy" »
Steven Spielberg is back! After the disappointing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (which, while containing fragments of Spielbergian magic, often felt flat and labored), “The Adventures of Tintin” sees the master director back on form. Mr. Spielberg’s new collaboration with fellow fantasy filmmaker Peter Jackson is more fruitful than the last one with his old friend George Lucas. Mr. Spielberg seemed to have participated in “Crystal Skull” out of sense of (understandable) loyalty to his old filmmaking friend, with the director appearing to go through the through the motions rather than being inspired to create a new Indy movie for the 21st century. The motion-capture in this new film seems to have liberated Mr. Spielberg though, freeing him up to try new things while recapturing his old magic.
Continue reading "Around the World in Motion Capture" »
Weta Digital/Paramount Pictures
Watching “The Adventures of Tintin” reminds you that modern entertainment is increasingly driven by each move forward in technology. Images of Steven Spielberg directing scenes from his latest all-action adventure with what appears to be an oversize PlayStation controller only go to emphasize the point.
The shark may have almost driven him mad, but Mr. Spielberg’s career is littered with each leap forward in cinematic wizardry. Not to accuse such a visionary of standing on the shoulders of giants, but where would “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” be without the work of John Dykstra on “Star Wars” and “Battlestar Galactica”? Where would “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” have been without animatronics? What would “Jurassic Park” have looked like without the generational leaps in C.G.I.? And “Tintin” — well, if that doesn't owe a massive debt of thanks to Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron, then I don't know what does.
Continue reading "Boys and Their Toys" »
Borrowing a page from Darren Aronofsky's book, Tomas Alfredson takes steps to ensure that the new version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" swims with visible grain. It's a fine piece of calculated shorthand and works wonders for the ambiance. Every time Gary Oldman as George Smiley speaks from the shadows, the audience peers at him through a fog of silver halide chemistry. When Sir Alec Guinness walked this way, he also frowned through the grain but had a cast-iron excuse: It was 1979, and film grain came naturally.
Continue reading "From Chelsea With Love" »
One of the primary functions of the British Film Institute is the preservation of the BFI National Archive, the world's largest collection of film and television. Acting upon this remit, the BFI recently identified a body of work from one of Britain's most respected directors, Alfred Hitchcock, which is in desperate need of restoration and preservation. Rescue the Hitchcock 9 is designed to raise funding to support the preservation of Hitchcock's surviving silent films, including his debut feature "The Pleasure Garden" (1925), "The Manxman" (1929) and "Blackmail" (1929), a landmark feature that ran as a silent film but also as one of Europe's first talkies. In the digital age, film has a medium that can guarantee the survival of such cinematic gems for all time, and as such the importance of such preservation projects cannot be understated. The success of such initiatives, while a boon for the film industry, will inevitably put paid to the romance of rediscovering lost films, such as the remarkable story of the recent discovery of a definitive copy of Fritz Lang's dystopian classic "Metropolis" in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires in 2008.
Continue reading "'Metropolis,' Lost and Found" »
Roger Ebert recently graced Critic’s Notebook with his eminence and quoted our writer, Sarah Manvel, in his review of the documentary “45365.” Under most circumstances, this kind of exposure would be a major shot in the arm for any humble little website such as ours, where underemployed film critics are quietly plugging away for no money in hopes of slowly and steadily building an audience or landing the elusive paying gig.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ebert did not have nice things to say. He did not attribute the quote from Ms. Manvel’s review nor provide a link, but that did not spare her the public humiliation. It’s not exactly difficult to locate the original review with Google, and Mr. Ebert’s minions had little trouble finding us.
Continue reading "Roger Ebert vs. the Future of Film Criticism" »
The next time you’re idly browsing for new threads in the nearest clothing chain store, don’t underestimate the guy hawking his services for a larger commission check. Because if this were 2005, and you were in a Diesel outlet in Philadelphia, Ti West would be regurgitating his rehearsed two-pairs-for-the-price-of-one sales pitch, yet beneath the spiel would rest the foundation for what will become one of 2009’s best horror films, “The House of the Devil.”
Continue reading "Laying the Foundation Stone for a House of Horrors" »
Daryl Pittman/S&Z Productions
The Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009 ended with the news that ticket sales were up on the previous year, proving that the move from August to June was helping the festival carve out a new mid-year identity as the organizers intended. The move has also clearly raised the event's appeal to mainstream distributors arranging their summer schedules, with many of the big-ticket items using Edinburgh as a springboard for a wide release shortly after the festival closes. Whether this is putting the squeeze on the number of smaller and quirkier films here will be a point worth watching.
Continue reading "Edinburgh '09: Antichrist and Antipasto Giallo at Auld Reekie" »
The much-ballyhooed world premiere of Takashi Miike’s designated Japanese box-office hitter, “Yatterman,” drew a crowd in New York City that well exceeded the capacity of the Directors Guild of America Theater, and many found themselves literally left out in the cold. The inside of the house was a study in contrasts. The majority represented Mr. Miike’s blood-thirsty, guts-hungry cult following, whose conversion likely occurred after Film Forum imported the monumental mindfuck that was “Audition” in 2001. Also present in remarkable numbers and even more impressive vocal volume were screaming teenage girls with homemade signs who turned out for Sho Sakurai, the star of “Yatterman” who is also a member of Japan’s chart-topping boy band Arashi.
Continue reading "Speed Racing on the Cultural Silk Road" »
Photo illustration by Martin Tsai/Critic's Notebook
First of all, I am a fan. Although I loathed the mindless jingoism of "Independence Day" and the idiocy of "Wild Wild West," I think that "Men in Black" and "Bad Boys" are two of the most entertaining summer blockbusters in recent memory. I also think you are generally underrated as an actor because I remember your fine performances in "Where the Day Takes You," "Six Degrees of Separation" and even "The Pursuit of Happyness," which - let's be real - was some overwrought, Oscar-pandering shit in many ways, but your performance was good nonetheless.
Continue reading "Open Letter to Will Smith" »