11 items from 2017
When the Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 24, some may have been surprised to find “Kubo and the Two Strings” among the visual-effects nominees. But it wasn’t a shock to those who had carefully looked at the work Oregon-based Laika had done for its latest release.
Long known as a technological and artistic pioneer for its combination of traditional stop motion and puppeteering with CG, the studio was already home to a team that pushed boundaries with such previous stop-motion releases as “Coraline.”
One member of the staff, Brian McLean, was also recognized with a Sci-Tech Award by the Academy just last year for his work in rapid prototyping.
The last time an animated film was nominated in the vfx category was 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Since then, the rise of Laika has advanced stop motion in all kinds of ways.
“When we started work on ‘Kubo’ we »
- Karen Idelson
This year’s animated feature Oscar race is considered a foregone conclusion for many. Disney’s “Zootopia,” a March 2016 release that speaks to the modern climate with socio-political, zeitgeisty elements — indeed, one of the year’s best films, full stop — is far and away the frontrunner. And with over $1 billion in global box office receipts, it’s hard not to call it the biggest pop-cultural phenomenon in the category as well.
But the Academy can’t seem to shake this instinct to spring for the hottest ticket when it comes to animated features. Due respect to “Zootopia’s” considerable merits, but brand recognition and ubiquity play a heavy hand when films like this, “Big Hero 6” and “Brave,” to name a few recent examples, walk away with the gold.
Meanwhile, the best of the nominees might arguably be Laika’s “Kubo and the Two Strings,” a meticulously crafted fable straight »
- Kristopher Tapley
Even when you live in Los Angeles, as I do, if you’re not in the network of critics groups and press screening and screener DVDs it can be a challenge to keep up with everything you tell yourself you have to see before attempting an informed roundup of the year currently in the rearview mirror. And I also try to not let more than a couple of weeks of the new year go by before checking in, regardless of how many of the year’s big presents I have left to unwrap, though in past years I have not lived well by this dictum—let’s just say that if I’m still posting stuff on the year’s best after even Oscar has thoroughly chewed over the goods, as has happened in the past, well, I’ve overstayed my welcome.
2016 was, in most ways, a disaster of a year, »
- Dennis Cozzalio
For those of us cinephiles who easily get caught up in the world of a good movie, no runtime is too extreme. We can stay up and watch all four hours of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America or all three hours of Oliver Stone’s JFK, Cimino’s The Deer Hunter, or Kubrick’s Spartacus because they’re all great movies.
But as you’ve probably learned by now, not everyone is like us. The eye-widening, masterful technique used by a filmmaker or the suspense a writer incorporates in his or her story is not always enough to keep everyone in their seats for two or three or even four hours. It’s one of the main arguments, or excuses, people use to explain why they prefer TV shows over movies.
We’ve heard it a thousand times: movies are too long (though I never really understood this contention, »
- Luke Parker
‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ (Courtesy: Laika)
By: Carson Blackwelder
If the nominations for best animated feature this year tell us anything it’s that we might be experiencing a comeback for stop-motion animation. Two of this year’s nominees are stop-motion films: Kubo and the Two Strings (a critically acclaimed letdown at the box office) and My Life as a Zucchini (which just so happens to be a foreign film, too). Let’s look at the relatively recent history of the best animated feature category to see how stop-motion is coming into its own and theorize on why that could be happening.
In addition to Kubo and the Two Strings and My Life as a Zucchini in the best animated feature category, there’s a solid showing by other styles. There are two Disney hits, Zootopia and Moana, that feature computer animation and one Studio Ghibli underdog, »
- Carson Blackwelder
Best Picture favorite “La La Land” dominated the Oscar craft categories with nine nominations — Cinematography, Production and Costume Design, Editing, Original Score and two Songs, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. “La La Land” exceeded even “Mad Max: Fury Road’s” eight nods last year.
Crafts Went Inclusive
But the bigger story was the diversity breakthroughs in Cinematography, Editing, and Sound Editing.
Bradford Young (“Arrival”) became the first African-American cinematographer nominee for his poetic imagery in “Arrival,” after being snubbed for “Selma.” In “Arrival” he envelops Amy Adams in a strange, ethereal atmosphere inside the alien ship with the heptapods, helping to convey the importance of unifying a divided world. By contrast, her time-bending moments with her daughter are shot like naturalistic portraitures.
Aside from Young’s historical nomination, “Arrival” garnered four additional honors (Production Design, »
- Bill Desowitz
The 2017 Academy Award nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and “La La Land” was expected to do well. But with 14 nods, it’s tied for the most-nominated movie in Oscar history. Meryl Streep’s nomination was a bit of a surprise but not wholly unexpected, given how much the Academy has historically loved her work.
Check out 10 fun facts and figures about this year’s nominees (compiled with some help from the Academy):
1. With 14 nominations, “La La Land” ties the record held by “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997). “Titanic” won 11 awards, tying it for the winningest film along with “Ben Hur” (1959) and “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003).
2. Meryl Streep extends her lead as the most nominated performer with her 20th nomination for “Florence Foster Jenkins.” She earned her first acting nomination for “The Deer Hunter” (1978). Her last win came for “The Iron Lady” (2011).
3. With a running time of 7 hours 47 minutes, »
- Lawrence Yee
In the most competitive animation Oscar race ever, the power of Disney still prevailed, with both “Zootopia” and “Moana” making the cut. They were joined by “Kubo and the Two Strings,”(Laika’s fourth nom), “My Life as a Zucchini” (Gkids’ ninth nom), and the Studio Ghibli co-production, “The Red Turtle.”
However, Disney was the only major studio represented, with Pixar’s “Finding Dory” sequel getting snubbed despite becoming the number one animated movie of all time. Also left out were Illuminaton’s “Sing” and DreamWorks’ “Trolls.”
Read More: Oscar Nominations Analysis: ‘La La Land’ Will Win Best Picture, Unless Anti-Trump Voters Let ‘Moonlight’ Shine
But with so many international entries, the biggest question was how many would get nominated, considering how inclusive the multi-branch animated feature film committee has been in recent years. Two other prime contenders were both Japanese hand-drawn movies: the body-switching hit, “Your Name” (honored by »
- Bill Desowitz
Next month, Netflix has a wide variety of films — modern to classic, animated to horror, Oscar winners to new indies — and we’ve picked seven that you should watch once they’re made available on the streaming service, either for the first time or as part of a nostalgic binge. Enjoy.
1. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (available February 1)
The 1993 stop-motion classic directed by Henry Slick and produced by Tim Burton tells the story of Jack Skellington, a resident from Halloween Town who stumbles through a portal to Christmas Town and decides to celebrate the holiday.
2. “The Blair Witch Project” (available February 1)
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the 1999 found footage horror film became one of the most successful indie films of all time when it was released. The movie follows three film students »
- Liz Calvario
The Oscar nominations are about 16 hours away. We’ve already declared final predictions in all 24 categories, but while we bide our time, here are a few thoughts on some unexpected nominations that could be in the cards. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Octavia Spencer has been the default honoree from the “Hidden Figures” cast so far this season, netting Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. But the film came on very strong when ballots went out in the first week of the new year, turning into a big box office story and enjoying events hosted by the likes of George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg. So don’t be surprised if the coattails extend a bit farther. I’m placing a bet on Kevin Costner in the supporting actor category, but Taraji P. Henson could surge in the »
- Kristopher Tapley
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual visual effects bake-off sees each of the 10 final contenders for the Oscar present a five-minute introduction and a 10-minute reel. For the first time ever this year, the artists behind each entry answered questions in a panel-style Q&A.
At the close of the evening, though, visual effects legend Bill Taylor closed things out with a speech urging fellow members to vote for the “best visual effects in a movie, not the best movie with visual effects.” With internal criticism of last year’s “Ex-Machina” victory still on many members’ minds, his comments struck some as a “warning,” and others as unnecessary and inaccurate.
A24’s surprise winner took down four big studio and major effects house contenders at the 88th annual Oscars: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This year, the »
- Dani Levy
11 items from 2017
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