Says Laura Lippman, “About Last Night”‘s favorite living mystery writer:
No tour of Baltimore is complete without driving past something that used to be there.
For the context of this impeccably quotable remark (plus a nifty photo), go here.
Just because I live in Manhattan doesn’t mean I always see cool things weeks ahead of the rest of the world. For example, I only just saw The Triplets of Belleville (the new French-Canadian-Belgian animated feature) last night, ten humiliatingly long days after Cinetrix ordered her readers to go and do likewise. If you haven’t done so, read her post now, then go see Triplets at once, preferably this afternoon, or tomorrow if absolutely necessary. If you’ve already seen Triplets, read her post anyway, because it’s really smart.
I do have a few small things to add:
I really liked Finding Nemo. But every time I see a Pixar movie, I think of the dead end down which the Disney animators of the Thirties and Forties charged so heedlessly. Artist for artist, the Disney team packed a greater technical punch than any animation shop in history, but its product got duller and duller, while the Warner and MGM cartoons of the same period became more vivid and witty with every passing year. What made the difference? Disney’s creative team was fixated on the chimerical goal of realism, whereas Chuck Jones and Tex Avery knew that no matter how well you drew it, an animated cartoon was going to look like drawings of a talking animal.
This sounds like a debate over modernism, doesn’t it? Well, that’s just what it is. You can’t watch a cartoon like Jones’ “Duck Amuck” or Avery’s “King-Size Canary” without understanding that what you’re looking at is a cartoon. Both men accepted the inherent limitations of their chosen medium, thereby freeing their imaginations to run rampant within those limitations. Not so Walt Disney, whose goal was to make his studio’s cartoons look as real as possible, meaning that the imagination of the artists got tied up in knots. (Unlimited virtuosity can be a trap.)
I know there’s more to animation than animation, so to speak. Pixar’s features are good not just because of the way they look but also because of the way they’re written and voiced and scored. In those departments, Pixar stands head and shoulders over just about everybody else’s stuff. But the best animated feature of the past decade, Lilo and Stitch, is just as imaginatively written and voiced and scored–but also makes generous use of hand-drawn characters and hand-painted backgrounds that don’t aspire to Pixar-like hyper-realism. I can’t help but think that this is part of the reason why Lilo and Stitch touched me, whereas Finding Nemo mostly only charmed me.
I quote that posting at length because Triplets is an eye-opening example of how highly sophisticated digital techniques can be employed in a non-naturalistic way that makes full use of the medium’s potential without falling into the trap of hyper-realism. It completely changed my feelings about digital animation–though not about the expressive limitations of the Pixar house style.
All of which, in case you hadn’t guessed by now, adds up to a hats-off rave. The Triplets of Belleville is wonderfully funny, miraculously well-made, and unoppressively clever. Thank you, Cinetrix, for being so insistent in your praise. I owe you one.
“‘And yet,’ demanded Councillor Barlow, ‘what’s he done? Has he ever done a day’s work in his life? What great cause is he identified with?’
“‘He’s identified,’ said the speaker, ‘with the great cause of cheering us all up.'”
Arnold Bennett, The Card
Do I blog when I ought to be writing for money? Sometimes. I was going to spend Sunday morning writing another chapter of my George Balanchine book, but did I? Nooooo. I had a leisurely brunch at the Fairway Café with a couple of musician friends, then came straight back here and posted a whole bunch of stuff. Shame on me.
On the other hand, I’m leaving in an hour to go see New York City Ballet dance Balanchine’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, after which I expect to be sufficiently inspired to come home and write that chapter…unless, of course, I decide instead to write my piece for The Wall Street Journal on Amtrak sleepers. (Benchley’s Law: Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.)
Either way, if I blog again today, don’t read it. That’ll teach me a lesson.
is very smart on the current condition of long-form reporting in The New Yorker:
I’ve worried, recently, about the front of the book; now I’m worried about the features. The New Yorker under David Remnick is certainly very good at timeliness, and covers foreign affairs magnificently. Newsier subjects in general are excellently done. But the kind of thing the New Yorker is famous for
From a story in the New York Times about the box-office success of several recent movies starring middle-aged women:
In 1995, the percentage of women 18 or older who went to
the movies at least once a month peaked at 27 percent,
according to the National Association of Theater Owners.
But in the late 1990’s, that percentage declined as
Hollywood delivered a string of female-oriented box-office
disasters with predictable plots. Studios then began making
more action films for teenage boys who see them in groups
over and over.
Teenagers remain the largest segment of the audience,
primarily because they are repeat customers. But in the
past 15 years, the older set has gained ground. Tickets
bought by men and women older than 40 grew to 32 percent of
overall ticket purchases in 2002, from 20 percent in 1987,
according to the National Association of Theater Owners.
By contrast, the percentage of tickets purchased by
filmgoers from 12 to 39 years old dropped from 80 percent
in 1987 to 67 percent in 2002. Much of that decline, studio
executives say, is a result of new distractions, like video
games and the Internet.
So could it be that I was wrong to predict, as I did in this space last month, that “the adventurous indie flicks of the not-so-distant future will find their audiences not in theatrical release, but via such new-media distribution routes as direct-to-DVD and on-demand digital cable”? Possibly. Nevertheless, I still think it more likely that we’re headed for a two-track system of distribution: dumb movies will be released in theaters, while smart movies will be marketed like books. The only difference is that the preferences of older boomers, who are presumably less open to new media, might well be interacting with the more media-savvy preferences of teenagers and twentysomethings to create a temporary demographic skew. We’ll see.
All of which reminds me to plug a new blog I find morbidly fascinating, Boomer Deathwatch (motto: “Because one day, they’ll all be dead”), which links to news stories and commentaries about boomer/Gen-X intergenerational strife. Very smart, very funny, very unnerving, at least for those of us born prior to 1960. Yikes!