Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 The Year of Nostalgia (Cobweb Free Edition)

     If there is something to learn about the year 2011 it is that filmmakers are having a mid-life crisis. It is no surprise that the most frequently made films in Hollywood are based on past ideas, franchise or not, but this year had so much that nostalgia is the only defining explanation. Everything considered classic from superheroes to Hemingway has been remade, rebooted, inspired or discussed at length in dozens of film with mixed success.  Many downfalls include The Green Lantern, which relied too much on the influence of Ryan Reynolds and DC Comics that no one thought to make a good script and special effects. Then there is War Horse, where Spielberg admirably attempted to recreate a David Lean epic but uses too many of his old clichés completely straight that to study it as more than a homage would make it fall apart.  Of course not everything was bad, in terms of creativity 2011 was unexpectedly better than last year, which is weird given that everything this year was a time capsule.

Winnie the Pooh
     Did you know that there was a new Winnie the Pooh film? Relax, nobody did, but it is a shame because it is 65 minutes of pure joy.  The animation is fantastic, hand-drawn with simplicity, relying mostly on the acting of the characters as the main source of comedy. Even better is how the animators provide moments of absolute surrealism that is a classic staple of early Disney. "The Backson Song" for example is a chalk drawn musical number that is as weird as "Pink Elephants on Parade" and "Heffalumps and Woozles" but with an added sense of comedic irony that will not be spoiled here.  Winnie the Pooh succeeds without corrupting the source material with pop culture jokes.  While Princess and the Frog may be Disney Studios’ return to 2D animation since 2004, Winnie the Pooh is their genuine return to form.

     Martin Scorsese is a filmmaker known for creating many films; most of them have the word “badass” as an adjective. So when news revealed that Scorsese was directing Dickensian family film called Hugo it was easy to feel perplexed, it is like Quentin Tarantino making a romantic comedy. Then the previews were shown and Hugo looked great but at the same time, uncanny. What would motivate the director of Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Shutter Island to make a film for kids? Now that Hugo is in theaters the answer is that it is about film preservation.
     What is not known about Scorsese is that he is an advocate for film preservation, so much so that he founded The Film Foundation. The common fear amongst filmmakers and film buffs is the idea of film being forgotten or lost over time. It is not uncommon, Theda Bara in spite of being one of the most popular actresses in the Silent Era, having made forty movies throughout her career, only six are left. Of all the horrifying @#$@ Scorsese puts himself and his audience through in his films this fear is the one he cannot comprehend.  Without saying too much, Hugo provides a window of opportunity to provide a passionate plea for preserving and remembering the great films of the past.
     As for Hugo itself… just think of something that is used to make a film and end it with “is majestic”.

The Artist
     While it is traditional to look back at the year, there must be a film that is forward thinking, The Artist is that film, but it may not seem so at first. The Artist is about George Valentin and Peppy Miller are respectively an adored movie star and a young film extra whose relationship helps them survive the film industry during the end of the Silent Era.  It is also a silent film...

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     Indeed The Artist is literally a silent film, with the exception of two scenes that use sound; the only thing the audience will hear is Ludovic Bource’s musical score. At face value The Artist should be considered kitsch, a film that relies on a gimmick to prove itself to be better than the average Hollywood blockbuster and how filmmakers never succeeded the Golden Age of cinema. There is some truth to that statement, The Artist is better than the average blockbuster and it is arguably the best film of 2011. Even though director Michel Hazanavicius clearly adores for the Silent Era he is far more progressive than expected.
     By not using sound in all but 10 minutes of The Artist, Hazanavicius provides something new from ideas of the olden days.  When taken away, it is surprising how someone takes not only voices for granted but also editing, music and cinematography. Guillaume Schiffman’s camerawork is like Da Vinci paintings, beautifully crafted with expressive shots that tell the story perfectly.  Bource’s musical is a classic, emotional piece that emulates and transcends the vaudeville-like tone Charlie Chaplin’s musical scores. These components mold together perfectly, and with perfect lead performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bujo The Artist proves to be not a gimmick but an epic ballet of pure bliss.
     As mentioned before the entire plot revolves around the two leads teaching each other to adapt in the early years of sound in cinema.  Many stars of the Silent Era fell into obscurity because could not or refuse to adapt to the “talkies”; yet there were the few who not only succeeded in adapting but also flourished to talking pictures and The Artist captures this moment beautifully.  The message of The Artist is that change is inherently painful, nothing may seem better than whatever the Golden Age might be; but to ignore progress would only diminish of one’s potential.  Embrace change as to not only make the world a better place to live but to become a better person as well.

     For my resolution I decided to do a project on my blog.  I’m doing a top 10 for each decade. I feel like I have watched enough movies now that I can actually write something that big.  From what is planned so far I am not doing each decade in any particular order. I also admit I will take some liberties on the idea of top 10 as well as make some unfavorable decisions because in the end, even the most objective will make personal preferences.  Anyway, cheers to another year, hope it will be as good as the last.


  1. Hey man, sorry for the ridiculously long response time. I reformatted my computer and no longer have my RSS feed of your blog to check. I'll rectify that problem immediately :P.

    So, as I'm sure you're aware, Oscar nominations all are out and I remembered The Artist but I couldn't remember why. Now I remember you posted the trailer on this blog. Even though it doesn't have a shot in hell of winning, I'm excited to see something so dramatically different be recognized. Also, Hugo, furthering the trend of an animated film getting nominated for best picture. Very nice indeed.


    1. I'm actually got a post for Saturday about the Oscars so I'll discuss about them later.

      Anyway, I think you're thinking of something else (Rango, maybe) because Hugo is not animated.

  2. My bad, I definitely only saw one trailer for it and I guess the similarities in art direction to Polar Express made me assume it was CG lol. Looking forward to your Oscar post